Tomaeus, Nikolaus Laonikus
Nikolaus Laonikus Tomaeus was a Greek Renaissance scholar who taught Aristotelian philosophy at Padua for almost 10 years. His lectures on Aristotle were extremely influential since he lectured on the Greek text instead of its Latin translation. He was highly accomplished in several fields, including art. His reputation among his fellow scholars, including Desiderius Erasmus, was high.
KeywordsOriginal Text Century Scholar Latin Interpreter Greek Text Henry VIII
Nikolaus Laonikus Tomaeus was born in Northern Epirus, which nowadays belongs to Albania. He spent his life in Italy, where he studied and taught. After his studies at the University of Padua, he was appointed by the University to the position for Aristotelian philosophy (1497–1509), in an attempt of the University’s authorities to abandon the common Arabic interpretations and commentaries and teach the Greek original texts. In addition to Aristotelian philosophy, Tomaeus taught science (the Pseudo-Mechanica of Aristotle) and certain Platonic dialogues. From 1504 to 1506 he delivered lectures in Greek at the Cancelleria of San Marco. From 1521 until his death he taught privately in Padua.
Innovative and Original Aspects
Tomaeus’ lectures at Padua were innovative since he chose to teach Aristotelian metaphysics with a Platonic blend. In addition, he used several sources in order to clarify the Aristotle’s texts, such as Thomas Aquinas, Averroes, and John Philoponus, despite the latter’s harsh critique of key Aristotelian positions. He wrote a commentary on Alexander of Aphrodisias in which he defended the immortality of the individual human soul against several commentators of Aristotle. His lectures and works marked the shift of interest from the intellect to the immortality of the soul, an issue that monopolized the interest of scholars in Padua for decades. Tomaeus translated and commented Aristotle’s Parva Naturalia (1523), a work of crucial importance for the proper understanding and evaluation of Aristotelian natural philosophy. In his translation he also included De incessu animalium and De motu animalium. Most sixteenth -century scholars approved his choice and his work became popular. Later Tomaeus started to translate and comment on Aristotle’s De partibus animalium. In fact he wished to complete the task that Pomponazzi left unfinished because of his death. Until his death Tomaeus did not accomplish to finish the translation and the commentary, which would have completed his previous work on Aristotle. His nephew Magnus Leonikus found and published only a small part of his uncle’s text. Tomaeus’ texts are characterized by elegance, clarity, and philosophical precision. He did not follow the scholastic tradition, which was very strong in the Italian universities of his times. In addition, he promoted the ancient Greek commentaries and reproached the Arabic and Latin interpreters who failed to understand properly the meaning of Aristotle’s original texts. He attempted to reconstruct the original text of Plutarch’s Moralia and translated works of Pausanias, Ptolemy, Hippocrates, and Galen. He rendered into Latin Proclus’ In Parmenidem. His seminal contribution was the translation of Pseudo-Mechanica.
Impact and Legacy
Among his students was presumably Nikolaus Copernicus Richard Pace, the influential professor at Cambridge University and secretary of King Henry VIII, and many other English noblemen, since the Venetian state ordered him tutor of the English students in Padua. Tomaeus enjoyed links with Erasmus and Erasmian circles. Erasmus expressed in various letters his respect for Tomaeus’s personality and extraordinary scholarship.
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