CHAPTER I. CAUSES OF THE REFORMATION
The revival of Greek in Italy, where Greek literature was practically unknown, is due in great measure to the arrival of Greek scholars, who were induced to come by promises of a salary and position, or who travelled thither on political or ecclesiastical missions. Of these the principal were Manuel Chruysoloras engaged at work in Florence from 1396, Cardinal Bessarion (1403?-72) who came westward for the Council of Florence and ended his days in Venice to which he bequeathed his library, Gemistos Plethon (1355-1450) the principal agent in the establishment of the Platonic academy at Florence, George of Trebizond, Theodore Gaza, Lascaris, Andronicus Callistus, and others who fled from Greece to escape the domination of the Turks. With the help of these men and their pupils a knowledge of Greek and of Greek literature was diffused through Italy, and in a short time throughout the Continent. Everywhere collections of Greek manuscripts began to be formed; agents were sent to the East to buy them wherever they could be discovered, and copyists and translators were busy at work in all the leading centres of Italy. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 tended to help the Greek revival in the West by the dispersion of both scholars and manuscripts through Italy, France, and Germany.
Humanism owes its rapid development in Italy not indeed to the universities, for the universities, committed entirely to the Scholastic principles of education, were generally hostile, but rather to the exertions of wandering teachers and to the generous support of powerful patrons. In Rome it was the Popes who provided funds for the support of Humanist scholars, for the collection and copying of manuscripts, and for the erection of libraries where the great literary treasures of Greece and Rome might be available for the general public; in Florence it was the de' Medici, notably Cosmo (1429-64) and Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-92), by whose exertions Florence became the greatest centre of literary activity in Europe; in Milan it was the Viscontis and the Sforzas; in Urbino Duke Federigo and his friends; and in Ferrara and Mantua the families of d'Este and Gonzaga. Academies took the place of universities. Of these the academy of Florence, supported by the de' Medici and patronised by the leading Greek and Italian scholars, was by far the most influential and most widely known. The academy of Rome, founded (1460) by Pomponius Laetus, was frankly Pagan in its tone and as such was suppressed by Paul II. It was revived, however, and patronised by Sixtus IV., Julius II., and Leo X. Similar institutions were to be found in most of the Italian States, notably at Venice and Naples. In nearly all these cities valuable manuscript libraries were being amassed, and were placed generously at the disposal of scholars.
Another important aid to the popularisation of the works of the Greek and Latin writers was the invention of printing and its introduction into Italy. The first printing press in Italy was established at the Benedictine monastery of Subiaco, whence it was transferred to Rome. From this press were issued editions of the Latin classics, such as the works of Lactantius, Caesar, Livy, Aulus Gellius, Virgil, Lucan, Cicero, and Ovid. Aldo Manuzio, himself an enthusiastic student of Greek literature, settled at Venice in 1490, and established a printing press with the intention of bringing out editions of the principal Greek authors. His house was the great centre for Greek scholars from all parts of Italy, and from the Aldine Press were issued cheap and accurate editions of the Greek classics. Later on when Florence and Milan were disturbed by the invasion of Charles VIII. of France (1483-98), and when Naples was captured by the Spaniards the Humanist movement found a generous patron in Leo X., a scion of de' Medici family. From the press founded by Leo X. many classical texts were issued till the pillaging of the city by the imperial troops in 1527 dealt a death blow to the revival in Italy.
That there was no opposition between the study of the classics and the teaching of Christianity is evidenced by the friendly attitude adopted by the Papacy towards the Humanist movement. The Avignon Popes, Benedict XII. (1334-42) and Clement VI. (1342-52), heaped honours and emoluments upon Petrarch and provided him with the means of acquiring manuscripts and of meeting scholars likely to assist him. A similar attitude towards the movement was adopted by Urban V. (1362-70). The leading classical scholars such as Coluccio, Salutati, Francesco Bruni, Lionardo d'Aretino, etc., were employed at the Papal court, and the apostolic college of secretaries became one of the greatest centres for the propagation of Humanism. The troubles that fell upon the Church during the Great Western Schism diverted the attention of the rival Popes from literary pursuits; but as soon as peace had been restored by the Council of Constance Martin V. (1417-31) assembled around him in Rome many of the ablest classical scholars, and vied with his cardinals in his protection of the Humanist movement. Eugene IV. (1431-47) was, if anything, more favourable, but yet his sympathies did not blind him to the dangerous tendencies of the revival as manifested in the books of men like Beccadelli.