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Laonikos Chalkokondyles

Early modern painting of Laonikos Chalkokondyles.

Laonikos Chalkokondyles, Latinized as Laonicus Chalcondyles (Greek: Λαόνικος Χαλκοκονδύλης, from λαός "people", νικᾶν "to be victorious", an anagram of Nikolaos which bears the same meaning; c. 1430 – c. 1470) was a Byzantine Greek historian from Athens. He is known for his Histories in ten books, which record the last 150 years of the Byzantine Empire.

Contents

  • Life 1
  • The Histories of Chalkokondylas 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Life

Chalkokondyles was a member of a prominent family of Athens, which was ruled by the William Miller "leaving his retinue, tents and beasts of burden behind him", but after leaving Constantinople by ship, he was captured by an Athenian ship and taken back to the Sultan, who pardoned him.[1]

George with Laonikos and the rest of the family relocated to the Hexamilion wall on the Isthmus of Corinth and after bombarding it for three days, destroyed the fortifications, massacred the defenders, then pillaged the countryside, ending all hopes of independence.[2] According to Miller, Laonikos was "evidently" an eye-witness to this battle, although the historian Theodore Spandounes claims Laonikos was the secretary of Murad II and present at the Battle of Varna in 1444..[1]

The one glimpse we have of Laonikos himself is in the summer of 1447, when Herotodus: Laur. Plut. 70.6, written in 1318, with corrections by Plethon, and later used by Bessarion in 1436 to make another copy, contains a subscription written by Laonikos.[4]

Laonikos' movements and actions after 1447 are not known with certainty. Internal evidence has led Anthony Kaldellis to put the date Laonikos stopped writing his Histories as 1464.[5] In writing this work, his account of the circumcision of Sultan Mehmed II's sons in 1457 suggest he was an eye-witness to the event, and his account of Ottoman finances indicate he interviewed the Sultan's accountants.[6] Other speculations about Laonikos Chalkokondyles' life are not as widely accepted.

In the movie The Great Warrior Skanderbeg, Laonikos Chalkokondyles is portrayed as an official historian at the Ottoman Court with opportunistic views on politics who tries to discourage Skanderbeg from an anti-Ottoman insurrection. After Skanderbeg leaves the Ottoman army and becomes leader of Albania on his own right, Chalkokondyles is brought as a hostage to his court to witness the First Siege of Krujë.

The Histories of Chalkokondylas

After the destruction of Constantinople, Chalkokondyles wrote his most important historical work, Proofs of Histories (Ἀποδείξεις Ἱστοριῶν). This historical work comprises one of the most important sources for the students of the final 150 years of Byzantine history, despite being defective in its chronology. It covers the period from 1298–1463, describing the fall of the Byzantine empire and the rise of the Ottoman Turks, which forms the centre of the narrative, down to the conquest of the Venetians and Mathias, king of Hungary, by Mehmed II. The capture of Constantinople he rightly regarded as an historical event of far-reaching importance and compared it to the fall of Troy. The work also sketches other manners and civilization of England, France and Germany, whose assistance the Greeks sought to obtain against the Turks. For his account of earlier events he was able to obtain information from his father.

His model is Thucydides (according to Bekker, Herodotus), his language is tolerably pure and correct, and his style is simple and clear. The text, however, is in a very corrupt state. The archaic language he used made his texts hard to read in many parts, while the antiquarian names, with which he named people of his time, created confusion (Γέται, Δάκες, Λίγυρες, Μυσοί, Παίονες, Ἕλληνες). The extended use of the name "Hellenes" (Ἕλληνες), which Laonikos used to describe the Byzantines contributed to the connection made between the ancient Greek civilization and the modern one.

Chalkokondyles' History was first published in a Latin translation by Conrad Clauser at Basel in 1556,[2] although the translation itself bears the date of November 1544. A French translation was published by Blaise de Vigenère in 1577 with a later edition by Artus Thomas, with valuable illustrations on Turkish matters. The editio princeps of the Greek text had to wait until 1615 for J. B. Baumbach's printing.

The two best editions are: Historiarum Libri Decem, ed. I. Bekker, Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae (Bonn 1843) and Historiae Demonstrationes, 2 vols., ed. E. Darko, (Budapest 1922-7). The text can also be found in J.-P. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, volume 159.

A complete English translation (by Anthony Kaldellis) of The Histories was published in two volumes in 2014 by Harvard University Press, as volumes 33 and 34 of The Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library. Partial translations include one of Books I-III in Laonikos Chalkokondyles. A Translation and Commentary of the Demonstrations of Histories, trans. Nikolaos Nikoloudis (Athens 1996) and another of Book VIII in J. R. Melville Jones, The Siege of Constantinople: Seven Contemporary Accounts (Amsterdam 1972), pp. 42–55.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Miller, "The Last Athenian Historian: Laonikos Chalkokondyles", Journal of Hellenic Studies, 42 (1922), p. 37
  2. ^ Franz Babinger, Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time, edited by William C. Hickman and translated by Ralph Manheim (Princeton: University Press, 1978), pp. 48ff
  3. ^ Cyriac of Ancona: Later Travels, edited and translated by Edward W. Bodnar (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), pp. 298-301
  4. ^ The Histories of Laonikos Chalkokondyldes, translated by Anthony Kaldellis (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014), vol. 1 pp. viiif
  5. ^ Kaldellis, "The Date of Laonikos Chalkokondyles’ Histories", Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, 52 (2012) 111–136
  6. ^ Kaldellis, The Histories, p. x
  • E. Darko, 'Zum Leben Laonikos Chalkondyles', Byzantinische Zeitschrift 24 (1923-4) 29-39.
  • Anthony Kaldellis, A New Herodotos: Laonikos Chalkokondyles on the Ottoman Empire, the Fall of Byzantium, and the Emergence of the West, Harvard University Press, 2014.
  •  

Further reading

  • There is a biographical sketch of Laonicus and his brother, Demetrius Chalcondyles in Greek by Antonius Calosynas, a physician of Toledo, who lived in the latter part of the sixteenth century: see C. Hopf, Chroniques Gréco-romanes (Paris 1873), pp. 243–5.
  • Jonathan Harris, "Laonikos Chalkokondyles and the rise of the Ottoman Empire", Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 27 (2003), 153-70.
  • Nikolaos Nikoloudis, "Laonikos Chalkokondyles on the Council of Florence", Ekklesiastikos Pharos 3 (1992) 132-4.
  • Speros Vryonis, "Laonikos Chalkokondyles and the Ottoman budget", International Journal of Middle East Studies, 7 (1976), 423-32, and reprinted in Vryonis, Studies on Byzantium, Seljuks and Ottomans, No. XII.

External links

  • Opera Omnia by Migne Patristica Graeca with analytical indexes
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