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Maximus Planudes (c. 1260 - 1330), Byzantine grammarian and theologian, flourished during the reigns of Michael VIII Palaeologus and Andronicus II Palaeologus. He was born at Nicomedia in Bithynia, but the greater part of his life was spent in Constantinople, where as a monk he devoted himself to study and teaching. On entering the monastery he changed his original name Manuel to Maximus.

Planudes possessed a knowledge of Latin remarkable at a time when Rome and Italy were regarded with hatred and contempt by the Byzantines. To this accomplishment he probably owed his selection as one of the ambassadors sent by Andronicus II in 1327 to remonstrate with the Venetians for their attack upon the Genoese settlement in Pera. A more important result was that Planudes, especially by his translations, paved the way for the introduction of the Greek language and literature into the West.

He was the author of numerous works, including: a Greek grammar in the form of question and answer, like the Epurlluara of Moschopulus, with an appendix on the so-called "political" verse; a treatise on syntax; a biography of Aesop and a prose version of the fables; scholia on certain Greek authors; two hexameter poems, one a eulogy of Claudius Ptolemaeus— whose Geography was rediscovered by Planudes, who translated it into Latin— the other an account of the sudden change of an ox into a mouse; a treatise on the method of calculating in use amongst the Indians (ed. C. J. Gerhardt, Halle, 1865); and scholia to the first two books of the Arithmetic of Diophantus.

His numerous translations from the Latin included Cicero's Somnium Scipionis with the commentary of Macrobius: Julius Caesar's Gallic War; Ovid's Heroides and Metamorphoses; Boethius' De consolatione philosophiae; and Augustine's De trinitate. These translations were very popular during the Middle Ages as textbooks for the study of Greek. It is, however, for his edition of the Greek Anthology that he is best known.

The public domain Project Gutenberg e-book Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology by J. W. Mackail, has this to add of him:

Among his works were translations into Greek of Augustine's City of God and Caesar's Gallic War. The restored Greek Empire of the Palaeologi was then fast dropping to pieces. The Genoese colony of Pera usurped the trade of Constantinople and acted as an independent state; and it brings us very near the modern world to remember that Planudes was the contemporary of Petrarch.

Further reading

  • Editions include: Fabricius, Bibliotheca graeca, ed. Harles, xi. 682; theological writings in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, cxlvii; correspondence, ed. M Treu (1890), with a valuable commentary
  • K. Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (1897)
  • J. E. Sandys, Hist. of Class. Schol. (1906), vol. i


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