The term ‘Renaissance’ is sometimes so vaguely used that it tends to represent a period of history rather than a historical development. In its strictest sense, at least for the literary world, the ‘Renaissance’ is the rediscovery of the ancient classics of Greece and Rome which scholars edited, translated, and wrote commentaries on. With the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 the drift of Greek scholars to Italy was accelerated. Increasingly manuscripts were transferred from Byzantium to the west and copied. It must be recalled that the Emperor Constantine (288–337) had transferred his capital to Byzantium in 328 and renamed the city ‘Constantinople’. After the death of the emperor Theodosius the Great (c.346–395) the Roman Empire was split into two halves, one of Theodosius’s sons ruling from Rome, the other from Constantinople. As Rome declined and ceased finally in 476 to be the seat of an emperor, Constantinople remained for nearly a thousand years an imperial centre capable of defending its culture against invaders.
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