Philosopher, Scholar, Printer (c.1470 – 1517)
Marcus Musurus was one of the greatest humanists and most important representatives of the Renaissance. An erudite philosopher with profound knowledge on the Greek and Latin literature, he exerted extraordinary influence in Italy, where he worked as an academic in the most prestigious universities. As a long-life collaborator of Aldus Manutius, Musurus helped disseminate the works of the ancient Greek philosophers throughout Europe and preserve the ancient wisdom throughout the dark ages.
He was Cretan. He studied Greek language in the school of St. Catherine of Sina and continued his studies in Florence next to his teacher Janus Lascaris. In 1494 he settled in Venice where he met Aldus Manutius, the founder of the Aldine Press and the leading printer of all Italy. The two became close affiliates and would eventually publish numerous works of the Ancient Greek philosophers making them widely available to the public. These included the works of Aristophanes, Euripides, Sophocles, Manuel Chrysoloras, Pindar, Callimachus, Aristotle, Homer, all the works of Plato as well as 25 other Classical and Christian writers.
Musurus worked incessantly to promote the ancient Greek philosophy and sciences to the West. Besides his work as a printer, he taught Greek language and philosophy in the New Academy of Carteromachus and Gregoropoulus and in the Platonic Academy of Venice. As a professor of Greek language, philosophy and literature, he held the department of Greek language in the University of Padua where he also taught Homer, Hesiod and Theocritus. He was appointed the title of “Publica Graecarum Literarum Officina” by the Council of Venice. In this way, he was in charge of approving which Greek book would get published. In addition, he served as bishop of Hierapetra of Crete and of Monemvasia, appointed by the Pope himself.
Musurus envisioned a free Greek nation. He wrote a Platonic ode and dedicated it to Pope Leo X, whose father was a student of John Argyropoulos, in an attempt to persuade him to help the subjugated Greeks. In 1513, he helped his teacher Janus Laskaris organize the Greek Gymnasium of Rome, where he also taught Greek. In 1515, the Council of Venice entrusted Musurus with 800 of Bessarion’s manuscripts. These he taxonomized together with Battista Egnazzio and placed them in the newly founded Library of St. Mark, which formed the basis of Biblioteca Marciana.
His unexpected death in 1517 caused great sorrow to the humanists of the West. He was honoured and respected for his tireless struggle to enlighten the world with the works of the ancient Greek philosophers. He had a vast number of eminent students who continued his work and founded departments of Greek language and philosophy in European universities. Among them were Johan Conon, Girolamo Alexandro, Lazaro Bonamico, Germain de Brie and the famous Desiderius Erasmus, who said about Musurus:”… a polymath and panepistemon, key-holder of the Greek language and an excellent connossoir of the Latin voice”.
- Condylis, Thanos. Μουσούρος Μάρκος. Αργολική Αρχειακή Βιβλιοθήκη Ιστορίας και Πολιτισμού. Argolikivivliothiki.gr. Web. August 2, 2011.