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School of Nikephoros Blemmydes in Nicaea

Author(s) : Katsiampoura Yanna (5/31/2003)
Translation : , Koutras Nikolaos

For citation: Katsiampoura Yanna, "School of Nikephoros Blemmydes in Nicaea",
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Asia Minor
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=10369>

Σχολή ανωτέρων σπουδών Νικηφόρου Βλεμμύδη στη Νίκαια (2/15/2011 v.1) School of Nikephoros Blemmydes in Nicaea (9/3/2011 v.1) 

1. Foundation and operation of the school

The school of higher education of Nikephoros Blemmydes was founded in c.1248 in the monastery of the Lord-Christ-Who-Is in the area of Ematha, close to Ephesos. The school was intended for hermit monks and organized according to the pedagogical views of its founder. Although it trained future monks, classes were offered on all the subjects of the liberal arts and not only theology.

The rules of the school were codified in a Typikon, part of which has survived.1 According to it, youths could enter the school at the age of ten, because, according to Blemmydes, at that age they were prepared enough to begin theological training.

2. Content of the studies

For the needs of teaching, Blemmydes composed a series of treatises, scientific as well as theological. At a first stage the school offered instruction in theology. A treatise of Blemmydes containing a commentary on the Psalms has survived, as well as a series of encomia, lives of saints etc. The students then received training in more demanding courses of philosophy and the sciences of the quadrivium. It is characteristic of the school that the students there were first trained in philosophy and subsequently in mathematics, a reversal of the normal order that prevailed in other institutions of that time.

The basic textbook for the teaching of philosophy was the Epitome logicaΕισαγωγικής επιτομής βιβλίον πρώτον, περί λογικής») which was a synopsis of the Aristotelian Organon (it was based, that is, on the Aristotelian works Categories, On Interpretation, Posterior Analytics, Prior Analytics, Topics and Sophistic Refutations). For the teaching of the mathematical sciences the textbook was the Epitome physica («Εισαγωγικής επιτομής βιβλίον δεύτερον, περί φυσικής»)which was also based on the Aristotelian tradition. Its contents follow the Aristotelian distinction of physical philosophy in the following headings: Physics, On Generation and Corruption, On the Heavens, Meteorology. Judging from Blemmydes’ surviving works, geography was also taught in the school (through the textbooks Ιστορία περί της γης εν συνόψει [mean. «Concise History of the Earth»] and Γεωγραφία συνοπτική [mean. «Concise Geography»)or Σύνοψις γεωγραφική (mean. «Geographical Compendium»), containing basic geographical information of the roundness of the earth, the types of climate, Earth’s dimensions etc.), as well as physiology courses (main textbook the Λόγος περί σώματος [«Discourse on the Body»])and ethics (textbook was the Λόγος περί ψυχής [«Discourse on the Soul»]).

3. Pedagogical principles

According to its founder, the school aimed at making better men, by the cultivation of proper character through training and education. The aim of its courses was to aid people to replace their irrational desires with an ethical will, something achieved through the acquisition of knowledge and the development of sound judgement. The basic method for the achieving virtuousness, the moral will, is constant exercise. At this point the pedagogical principles are apparently affected again by Aristotle’s views on the matter, who argued that continuous practice aids the acquisition of the ‘habit of virtue’.

Blemmydes’ school had become so renowned that it could no longer accept all those wishing to study in it, as in the case e.g. of Georgios Kyprios. It remained in operation in Hemathia after the Recapture of Constantinople (1261), for Blemmydes refused to relocate to the capital. Blemmydes wanted the school to continue to operate within the monastery, independently of the ecclesiastical power and the other monasteries. For this reason in his will he assigned an endowment amounting to 100 litra, which had been given to him as a gift by the emperor, to provide for the upkeep of his institution. After his death (1272), however, the Patriarchate of Constantinople appropriated Blemmydes’ endowment, while the monastery became a metochion of the Monastery of the mount Galesios.

1. Partial edition in Νικηφόρος Βλεμμύδης, Του αυτού Νικηφόρου μοναστού και πρεσβυτέρου, του κτήτορος, περί των κατ' αυτόν διήγησις μερική, Heisenberg, A. (ed.), Curriculum Vitae et Carmina (Leipzig 1896), pp. 93-99.


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