Maxim the Greek, St.

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(c. 14751556), Greek monk canonized in the Orthodox Church.

A learned Greek monk, translator, and writer resident in Muscovy who was imprisoned by Muscovite authorities and never allowed to return home, Maxim had great moral and intellectual authority with contemporaries and posterity and was canonized in 1988. Born Michael Trivolis (Triboles) in the Greek city of Arta some twenty years after the Turkish capture of Constantinople, he went to Italy as a young man, where he was in contact with many prominent Renaissance figures. Under the influence of Savonarola he became a monk in the San Marco Dominican Monastery (1502), but two years later he returned to Greece, entering the Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos under the monastic name of Maximos, rejecting Roman Catholicism and the humanist world of his youth, and concentrating upon the Eastern Orthodox theological tradition. In 1516 he was sent to Moscow to correct Russian ecclesiastical books. There he fell into disfavor with Grand Prince Vasily and Metropolitan Daniel, the head of the Russian Church, was twice convicted of treason and heresy (1525, 1531), and eventually died in Muscovy without being exonerated or regaining his freedom. During much of this time he translated biblical and Byzantine texts into Russian, and authored original compositions, including critical, historical, liturgical, philological, and exegetical works, demonstrations of his own orthodoxy and innocence, descriptions of the world (he was the first to mention Columbus's discovery of the New World), explication of the ideals and practice of monasticism, and a great deal else. He instructed Russian pupils in Greek, and inspired the study of lexicography and grammar.

Despite his official disgrace, Maxim's voluminous compositions were greatly revered and very influential in Old Russia; his biography and writings have been the subject of thousands of scholarly books and articles.

See also: daniel, metropolitan; muscovy; monasticism; orthodoxy; possessors and non-possessors


Haney, Jack V. (1973). From Italy to Muscovy: The Life and Works of Maxim the Greek Munich: W. Fink.

Obolensky, Dimitri. (1981). "Italy, Mount Athos, and Muscovy: the Three Worlds of Maximos the Greek (c. 14701556)." Proceedings of the British Academy 67:143161.

Olmsted, Hugh M. (1987). "A Learned Greek Monk in Muscovite Exile: Maksim Grek and the Old Testament Prophets." Modern Greek Studies Yearbook 3:173.

Sevcenko, Ihor. (1997). "On the Greek Poetic Output of Maksim Grek [revised version]." Byzantinoslavica 78:170.

Taube, Moshe, and Olmsted, Hugh M. (1988). "Povest' o Esfiri: The Ostroh Bible and Maksim Grek's Translation of the Book of Esther." Harvard Ukrainian Studies 11 (1/2):100117.

Hugh M. Olmsted