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Page 179

PART III - THE PAST
CHAPTER IV - GEMISTUS PLETHO

exasperated Patriarch. The Pope's chair had trimming to it. The Patriarch put trimming on his chair, but was obliged to take it off.
It would be a mistake to suppose that Gemistus watched these proceedings with any great cynicism. Such incidents are only ludicrous to posterity ; and he probably regarded them as seriously as we regard similar incidents at the Durbar to-day. Moreover, though he was indifferent to the Greek Church, he ' was jealous for the Greek honour. Patriotism, as well as orthodoxy, demanded that the Patriarch should have trimming to his chair.
At the beginning of 1439, the plague broke out at Ferrara ; and the Council fled over the Apennines to Florence. Here Cosimo de' Medici had recently established himself, and was impressing the peculiar stamp of his dynasty upon the city. The medixval Florence of Dante had passed ; the Florence that had blindly worshipped the Antique was passing. The new Florence was bound to no one period, to the imitation of no one model. She loved things that are incompatible with each other ; and so far only was she eclectic. Illogical, not because she was weak but because she was strong, she could welcome all doctrines and all ideals, even as her merchant despots, a little later, could sing to peasants and make themselves agreeable to princes.
In such a city a scholar from Greece was.always welcome, though he now represented only one influence out of many. And Greeks hitherto had been so rude and so dirty that it was an extra pleasure. to receive Gemistus, who was at all events polite. His beautiful voice, his venerable beard and dignified manners, accorded well with his eloquence and learning. Painstaking theologians were unimportant beside a man who would give a new, if not a final, interpretation of the classical world. He explained Plato with great success, discoursing for hours upon the Beautiful to men who were then filling the world with beauty, and who listened to him with a patience which we can hardly comprehend. At the instance of Cosimo de' Medici, he wrote a tract Concerning the difference between Plato and Aristotle. Hitherto it had not been known that there was any difference ; and as the Church's philosophy was based on Arist, tle, while Gemistus

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