Maksim Grek

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Maksim Grek

 

(Maxim the Greek; pseudonym of Michael Triboles). Born circa 1475 in Arta, Greece; died 1556 at the St. Sergius Trinity Monastery, present-day Zagorsk, Moscow Oblast. Publicist, writer, and translator.

Maksim Grek studied for a long time in Italy, where he became familiar with Savonarola’s sermons. He lived about ten years in the Vatopedi Monastery on Mt. Athos, which he left in 1518 when Vasilii III Ivanovich invited him to come to Russia to translate church books. In Moscow, Maksim Grek took part in the dispute between the nestiazhateli [nonacquirers; ascetic followers of Nil Sorskii, who denied the church the right to accumulate wealth] and the Josephites [more worldly followers of the Russian monk Joseph of Volokolamsk, who supported church ownership of monastic estates]. A man of broad education for his time, Maksim Grek gathered a circle of followers (including Bersen’ Beklemishev and Vassian Kosoi) who discussed not only ecclesiastical questions but also problems connected with the domestic and foreign policies of the grand prince.

Like the nestiazhateli, Maksim Grek criticized monastery landowning and the wealth of the church. An ascetic by conviction, he harshly criticized the practices of the Russian clergy, the exploitation of the peasantry by clerical landowners, and the system of local government known as kormlenie [a system of supporting officials at the expense of the local population].

Maksim Grek’s rapprochement with oppositionist church circles led to his condemnation at the synod of 1525 and exile to the Joseph-Volokolamsk Monastery. After a second condemnation, by the council of 1531, Maksim Grek was exiled to the Tverskoi Otroch’ Monastery. In 1551 he was transferred to the St. Sergius Trinity Monastery.

Maksim Grek left a voluminous literary legacy (over 150 titles) including sermons, polemical articles, philosophical and theological treatises, and translations. Transferring the achievements of Byzantine philological learning to Russian soil, chiefly in the realm of philological interpretation and criticism of texts, Maksim Grek extolled the art of grammar and wrote a number of works about phonetics, such as “On Greek Vowels and Consonants, Syllables, and Greek and Slavonic Diacritical Marks.” His works on prosody include “On Prosody,” and “On the Newly Arrived Foreign Philosophers.” His “Interpretations of Names According to the Alphabet” served as the chief source for later Russian azbukovniki. Maksim Grek was recognized as an outstanding grammarian. The Moscow edition of M. Smotritskii’s grammar (1648) contains articles taken partly from Maksim Grek’s works and partly misattributed to him.

WORKS

Sochineniia, 2nd ed. parts 1-3. Kazakhstan, 1894-97.

REFERENCES

Kazakova, N. A. Ocherki po istorii russkoi obshchestvennoi mysli: Pervaia tret’ XVI v. Leningrad, 1970.
Ivanov, A. I. Literaturnoe nasledie Maksima Greka. Leningrad, 1969.
Iagich, I. V. “Rassuzhdeniia iuzhnoslavianskoi i russkoi stariny o tserkovnoslavianskom iazyke.” In Issledovaniia po russkomu iazyku, vol. 1. St. Petersburg, 1885.
Rzhiga, V. F. “Opyty po istorii russkoi publitsistiki XVI v.: Maksim Grek kak publitsist.” Tr. Otdela drevnerusskoi literatury In-ta russkoi literatury AN SSSR, 1934, vol. 1.
Budovnits, I. U. Russkaiapublitsistika XVI v. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947. Pages 136-66.
Klibanov, A. I. “Kizucheniiu biografii i literaturnogo naslediia Maksima Greka.” Vizantiiskii vremennik; 1958, vol. 14.
Denissoff, E. Maxime le Grec et l’Occideni. Paris-Louvain, 1943.