James of Venice also known as Iacobus Veneticus Grecus

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James of Venice also known as Iacobus Veneticus Grecus

(d. after 1147)

philosophy, law, Aristotelian translations.

The available evidence suggests that James was born in Venetia—not necessarily in Venice—and the qualifications “Grecus “could mean either that he spent much of his life in some Greek-speaking part of the Byzantine Empire or that he was of Greek descent. There are only three known dates relevant to his life. On 3 April 1136, he attended, in the Pisan quarter of Constantinople, a theological debate between Anselm, Catholic bishop of Havelberg, and Nicetas, Orthodox archbishop of Nicomedia. When Moses of Vercelli, archbishop of Ravenna, claimed in Cremona, 7 July 1148, the privilage of sitting at the right hand of the Pope, he was supported by a legal advice written for him by James. In 1159 John of Salisbury quoted James’s translation of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics as being older than another version of the same treatise.

James was probably the most important of the scholars on whose work the knowledge of Aristotle’s writings in the Latin Middle Ages depended. He was the first to translate the Physics, De anima, Metaphysics (at least books I-IV.4, possibly all fourteen books), and most of the shorter treatises which go under the title of Parva naturalia, that is, De memoria, De longitudine et brevitate vitae, De iuventute, De respiratione, and De vita et morte. He was perhaps the first to translate the epistemological treatise Posterior Analytics; Boethius’s translation, if it was ever made, does not seem to have been known by anybody. He translated anew the Sophistici elenchi and probably the Prior Analytics and Topics. Fragments of Alexander of Aphrodisias’ commentary on Posterior Analytics and Sophistici elenchi, translated by James, still survive, as does his version of an anonymous introduction to the Physics (published under the title De intelligentia Aristotelis) and of scholia to Metaphysics I. He himself wrote a commentary on the Sophistici elenchi and perhaps on other Aristotelian works.

James provided the link between the Greek philosophical schools in Constantinople and those of the Latin West. At this time the study of Aristotle was prospering in Constantinople after the revivals of the ninth and eleventh centuries, which in turn were based on the work done in the schools of the second to sixth centuries. The philosophy masters in Constantinople frequented the same circles as James, whose commentary on the Sophistici elenchi contains clear evidence of its connection with the Greek teaching on this subject; there is no other place in the Greek world where, at that time, it would have been possible to have access to so many works of Aristotle. James’s work on sophisms, extensively quoted and discussed in logical treatises, was most probably written in northern Italy in the second half of the twelfth century. At the same time, his translations reached Normandy; copies of some of them, written in Mont-Saint-Michel before the end of the century, still survive. John of Salisbury knew at least one of them and asked for others.

James’s translations (particularly of the works on philosophy of science) and Boethius’ translations of most of the logical works formed the main body of work, to which were added, during the next four generations, all the other latinized texts of Aristotle. Some of these translations, either in an unaltered form like the Posterior Analytics, or in a form slightly revised by William of Moerbeke (?)—like the Physics, De anima, and De memoria—were the recognized “authentic” texts for over three centuries. They contributed in considerable measure to the formation or establishment of the technical language of philosophy and, indirectly, of the scientific and common language of the Western world. The several hundred manuscripts, the dozens of printed editions of the original or revised translations, and the vast number of commentaries, elaborations, and quaestiones by Roger Bacon, Grosseteste, Albertus Magnus, Aquinas, Ockham, and many other philosophers testify to the importance of James’s work.


I. Original Works. The translation of Posterior Analytics, anonymous until 1500, was printed either by itself (Louvain, 1476), or with commentaries (the first being with Grosseteste’s commentary [Naples, before 1479], or as part of Aristotle’s so-called Organon, 1st ed. (Augsburg, 1479). From 1503 to 1891 it was either wrongly ascribed to Boethius or still anonymous in a text revised by Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, repr. in Migne, Patrologia Latina, LXIV, cols. 711-762. The translation is ascribed to James in the critical ed. by L. Minio-Paluello and B. G. Dod in Aristoteles Latinus IV. 1-4 (Bruges-Paris, 1968), 5-107.

James’s translations of De anima and De longitudine et brevitate vitae, edited anonymously by M. Alonso, are in Pedro Hispano, obras filosoficas, III (Madrid, 1952), 89-395, 405-411.

Translation of the Metaphysics I-IV. 4 appears anonymously in R. Steele, Opera adhuc inedita Rogeri Baconi, XI (Oxford, 1932), 255-312, and ascribed to James in the critical ed. by G. Vuillemin-Diem in Aristoteles Latinus XXV.1-1a (Brussels-Paris, 1970), 5-73.

The translation of the introduction to the Physics was printed twice, anonymously, in Venice (1482, 1496).

The translation of the scholia to the Metaphysics I has been edited twice: by L. Minio-Paluello, “Note,” VII (below), 491-495, and G. Vuillemin-Diem, op. cit., 74-82.

For the extant fragments of James’s commentary on the Sophistici elenchi and of his translations from Alexander of Aphrodisias, see L. Minio-Paluello, “Note” XI and XIV, and De Rijk, Logica modernorum (see below). See also R. W. Hunt, “studies on Priscian in the Twelfth Century,” in Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies, 2 (1950), 43.

No edition exists of the original texts of James’ translations of the Physics, De memoria, and other minor treatises, but there are several editions of these texts as revised by William of Moerbeke (?).

James’s “Legal Advice to Archbishop Moses” was edited by A. Gaudenzi in Bullettino dell’Istituto Storico Italiano, 39 (1919), 54-55; E. Franceschini, “ll contributo . . .,” in Atti della XXVI Riunione della Societa Italiana per il Progresso delle Scienze, 1937 (Rome, 1938), pp. 307-308; and L. Minio-Paluello, “lacobus” and “ll chronicon”(see below).

II. Secondary Literature. All the scanty information and speculation on James previous to 1952 is critically revieewd in L. Minio-Paluello, “Iacobus Veneticus Grecus; Canonist and Translator of Aristotle,” in Traditio, 8 (1952), 265-304.

See also L. Minio-Paluello, “ll chronicon altinate e Giacomo Veneto,” in Miscellanea in onore di Roberto Cessi, I (Rome, 1958), 153-169; “Giacomo Veneto e l‘Aristotelismo Latino,” in A. Pertusi, ed., Venezia e l‘Oriente fra tardo medioevo e rinascimento (Florence, 1966), pp. 53-74; and “Note sull’Aristotele Latino medievale,” I, in Rivista di Filosofia Neo-Scolastica, 42 (1950), 222-226; VI-VII, 44 (1952), 398-411, 485-495; IX, 46 (1954), 223-231; XIV, 54 (1962), 13-137. All of these articles have been reprinted in L. Minio-Paluello, Opuscula: The Latin Aristotle (Amsterdam, 1972).

For additional information, see the introductions to vols. IV.1-4 and XXV.1-1a of Aristoteles Latinus; and L. M. De Rijk, Logica modernorum, I (Assen, 1962), esp. 83-100, and passages listed in the index nominum, p. 643.

Lorenzo Minio-Paluello

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James of Venice also known as Iacobus Veneticus Grecus

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