Aurispa, Giovanni (ca. 1369–1459)

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Aurispa, Giovanni (ca. 13691459)

An Italian scholar and renowned book collector, Aurispa was born in the town of Noto, on the island of Sicily. In 1413 he traveled to the island of Chios, where he unearthed works by the ancient Greek scholars Sophocles, Euripides, and Thucydides that were still unknown in western Europe. On two occasions he visited the city of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, to search for ancient Greek books and manuscripts. He gathered 238 volumes before returning to Italy in 1423, but finding himself without financial means, he had to pawn many of his finds. Among these ancient works were the plays of Sophocles and Aeschylus, the ancient epic known as the Iliad, and works of Xenophon and Plato. Aurispa taught Greek in Bologna and Florence, Italy, and became secretary to Pope Eugene IV in 1441. He was kept in this post by Eugene's successor, Nicholas V. Aurispa produced several Latin translations of ancient Greek writers, including Archimedes. He was a key figure in the rediscovery of classical literature in Renaissance Italy.