An investigation of the change in position of George Scholarios from pro-union of the Western and Eastern churches to anti-union

Penel, Victor H. A. (2014) An investigation of the change in position of George Scholarios from pro-union of the Western and Eastern churches to anti-union. Doctoral thesis, Anglia Ruskin University.

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This thesis presents an examination of the change in position of George (Gennadios) Scholarios on the question of the Union of the Roman and Eastern churches. The question I will address concerns the reason for Scholarios’ dramatic change of position from pro-Union to anti-Union, within a few years of the Council of Florence 1438-1439, where the Union of churches had been agreed. I will argue that Scholarios’ changed position on Union is best explained by political factors that influenced his decision, and was not simply governed by the theological questions debated at the Council of Florence. In Chapter One, the Introduction, I will introduce a critical analysis of the existing field of research, to set the thesis in the context of Scholarios scholarship that has previously been undertaken. In Chapter Two, Research Questions and Methodology, I will outline the scope of this thesis, discussing the crucial questions that need to be addressed and the method I will use to develop my arguments. In Chapter Three I examine the key cultural role that the philosophy of Aristotle and Aquinas played in the fifteenth century, and the extent to which Scholarios’ views were formed and shaped by this philosophical context. This chapter will argue that these philosophical influences provided the initial motivation that moved Scholarios towards Union. As the implications of such political aspirations warrant further investigation; I go on to examine Scholarios’ writings, not only on philosophy, but also on theology. I will explore whether the political guidance offered in taking up the study of philosophy was also to be discerned in the study of theology. In Chapter Four, I will examine how Aristotelian philosophy was deployed as an explanatory tool in interpretations of polemics, debates, and panegyric and rhetoric works of the period. I will suggest that Byzantine preambles, poems, sermons and theological panegyrics were also subject to general imperial legislation. In Chapter Five, I will argue that Scholarios’ study of Aristotelian philosophy allowed him to form a view of how the political future of the Empire might to be developed. I explore Scholarios’ visionary ideas of reform and contrast these with Plethon’s political perspective. I suggest that the acrimonious relationship between Scholarios and Plethon was due to their political and philosophical differences, which defined the way they viewed the future of the Empire. In Chapter Six, I argue that the primary key to comprehending the relationship between East and West lies in understanding the vested commercial interests. I argue the Byzantine state had deteriorated owing to foreign powers—the Italian city states, Catalonians, Franks and the Ottoman Turks—attempting to acquire and dominate the commercial and strategic political domains of the Eastern Roman Empire. This was initially driven by trade and commercial rivalry between the Latins; commercial interests also prompted the development of naval and military power by the Latins at the expense of the Eastern Roman Empire, which eventually left the Empire militarily and financially destitute. One result of this deterioration in the commercial and military power of the Empire was to allow the progressive rise in dominance of the Ottoman Turks. In light of the dangerous situation the Empire was facing, Scholarios—in the service of the imperial bureaucracy and under the dominance of the Emperor’s political policy—sought to solve the dilemma and reconstruct the Empire's political power. In Chapter Seven, I will argue that these political events, together with the political aspirations of Scholarios, led to his change of position from pro-Union to anti-Union. I will suggest that examination of the cultural, commercial and political influences in play leads to the conclusion that Scholarios’ pro-Union position was primarily motivated by the objective of obtaining military aid. When it became apparent that such aid was not forthcoming, his position changed from pro-Union to anti-Union, as it was politically expedient for him to do so in light of the growing dominance of the Ottoman Turks. I argue that Scholarios followed the political policy concerning pro-Unionism proposed by Dimitrios Kydonis, and it was not until the political event of the Battle of Varna in 1444, when the Latin military forces lost to the Ottoman Turks that Scholarios formally openly declared his anti-Union stance. In the conclusion, I will argue that, following my presentation of the evidence as outlined above, the political motivations constitute the strongest reasons for Scholarios’ decision to change his stance on the Union. This conclusion allows us to understand the vested commercial and political interests at stake, since the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine state), had deteriorated owing to the dominance of foreign powers. The ramifications are to be seen in the outcome of the Council of Florence where the Byzantines sought the aid from the West, but also demonstrated its dependency upon them. In the light of the growing power of the Ottoman Turks, the Emperor’s political policy sought to solve the dilemma and reconstruct the Empire's political power.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Citation: Penel, V. H. A., 2014. An investigation of the change in position of George Scholarios from pro-union of the Western and Eastern churches to anti-union. MPhil. Anglia Ruskin University..
Faculty: Theses from Anglia Ruskin University
Depositing User: Repository Admin
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2015 09:23
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 19:02

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