In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Greek Visitors

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Tools

Renaissance and Reformation Greek Visitors
Jonathan Harris
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0304


During the 14th and 15th centuries, while Italy enjoyed prosperity and cultural ascendancy, the Greek-speaking lands of the Balkans and eastern Mediterranean faced increasing insecurity. The Byzantine Empire was in terminal decline as the Ottoman Turks occupied its former territories. Its capital city of Constantinople fell in 1453 and its last territories in the Peloponnese (Morea) in 1460. Other former Byzantine territories such as the islands of Crete, Cyprus, and Negroponte (Euboea) had come under the rule of Venice; but these also proved vulnerable to Ottoman expansion, with Cyprus falling in 1571. Consequently Greek visitors to Europe were often traveling in connection with the troubles of their homeland, as ambassadors seeking Western help against the Turks, as refugees and as economic migrants in search of a better life. In the secondary literature, the foremost interest has always been on émigré members of the educated Byzantine elite and the impact that they had on the development of Greek studies in Renaissance Italy. More recent attention has been paid, however, to those who moved west in these other capacities.

General Overviews

Three works provide an introduction to Greek visitors to western Europe, although the focus tends to be on intellectuals and scholars. The website Byzantines in Renaissance Italy gives a basic introduction, whereas Geanakoplos 1962 and Harris 1995 provide detailed (though by no means exhaustive) surveys with plenty of references to primary sources.

  • Byzantines in Renaissance Italy.

    Brief introductory overview, but it does include a bibliography.

  • Geanakoplos, Deno J. Greek Scholars in Venice: Studies in the Dissemination of Greek Learning from Byzantium to Western Europe. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962.

    Geanakoplos surveys the Greek community in Venice, the largest in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, and the prominent intellectual figures among the Greek émigrés in the same period.

  • Harris, Jonathan. Greek Émigrés in the West, 1400–1520. Camberley, UK: Porphyrogenitus, 1995.

    While Geanakoplos focuses particularly on intellectuals and on Italy, this work also investigates refugees and craftsmen and those who reached further afield, especially into northern Europe.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.