GEMARA. See Talmud.

GEMISTOS PLETHON, gê-mis'tus plê'then, GEORGIOS: Byzantine philosopher; b. at Constantinople c. 1355; d. in the Peloponnesus 1450. His early years were spent at the court of Sultan Murad I. at Adrianople and Brescia. There he was a pupil of the rationalistic Jew Elissmus, who inspired him with anti-Christian views, so that he later assumed the name of Pletho, in an attempt to approximate his ideal Plato. From the Turkish court Gemistos went to Sparta, where, with a few interruptions, he spent the remainder of his life as teacher, author, and statesman. He was on intimate terms with the despots of the Peloponnesus, one of whom, Theodore the Younger, bestowed certain estates upon him. As a member of the imperial council he attended the Council of Florence (see Ferrara-florence, Council of) in the interests of a union of the Greek . and Roman Catholic Churches, and there advocated the cause of orthodoxy for political reasons. There too he strengthened the bond with the philosophical representatives of the Italian Renaissance.

Gemistos can scarcely be regarded as a theologian. He was a modern pagan, deeply influenced by Neoplatonism and devoid of sympathy with Christianity. He was one of the protagonists of Platonism in its struggle with Aristotelianism, and at his suggestion Cosmo de' Medici drew up the scheme of a Platonic academy in Florence. The decline of the Greek Church and the conquest of the Roman Catholic Church by the Renaissance led him to see no hope for the future save in a return to classic paganism with the Neoplatonistic coloring which his ideals postulated. In his view, the summum bonum lay in the knowledge of the all, to which reason and the sages of antiquity, such as Zoroaster, ,Plato, and the Neoplatonists, were the guides. The supreme god, the author of the all, bore the name of Zeus, and was absolute existence and absolute goodness. From him proceeded, in a manner not altogether clear, the gods of the second rank, the world of ideas, comprised under the name of Poseidon. Thus differentiation of concepts continues in an analogous manner, always under a mythological terminology, until the phenomenal world is reached. Man shares in ideas and matter, and his soul is eternal, preexistent, and immortal, and is perfected by transmigration through various human bodies. Final blessedness is gained through the virtues of which Gemistos gives a detailed scheme, of which the chief are thought and the contemplation of deity. The religion of his ideal state was to be conducted by priests, who, were to be required on certain days to hold services consisting of the recitation of prayers and the singing of hymns with symbolic ceremonies, all of which were detailed by Gemistos in full.


The concepts of Plethon are contained chiefly in his "Laws," which were first edited by C. Alexandre (Paris, 1858). His theological works are of minor importance, although they include a treatise on the procession of the Holy Ghost.

(Philipp Meyer.)

Bibliography: Most of the works of Gemistoe are in MPG,

ex= Consult: W. Gass, Gennadioe and Pletho, Breslau, 1844; F. Schultze, Geschichte der Philosophic der Renaissance, vol. i., Georgios Gemiew Plethon, Jena, 1874; H. F. Tozer, in Journal of Hellenic Studies, vii (1886), 353-380; J. Drbseke, in ZKG, xix (1898), 265-292; Krumbacher, Geschichte, pp. 121, 429 et passim.


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