Laonicus (Laonikos) Chalcondyles (or Chalcocondylas) was the only Athenian Byzantine writer. The name is probably an anagram of Nicolaos.
He was a Byzantine historian, son of Georgios and cousin of Demetrios Chalcocondylas. After a quarrel between his father and the Florentine dukes of Athens, he followed his family to the Peloponnisos where, according to Kyriakos the Agonites, he lived in the court of Constantinos Palaiologos and was taught by Plithon.
After the destruction of Constantinople, he wrote his most important historical work, Proofs of Histories (Αποδείξεις Ιστοριών) (10 books). This historical work of Laonicos Chalcocondylis comprises one of the most important sources for the students of the final 150 years of Byzantine history. It covers the period from 1298-1463, describing the fall of the Greek 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 Mahommed II. The capture of Constantinople he rightly regarded as an historical event of far-reaching importance, although the comparison of it to the fall of Troy is hardly appropriate. Like that of other Byzantine writers, his chronology is defective. The work also sketches othe 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, his style 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 (Γεταί, Δάκες, Λίγυρες, Μυσοί, Παίονες etc). The extended use of the named 'Greeks' (Έλληνες), which Laonicos used to describe all the people of Byzantium contributed to the connection made between the ancient Greek civilization and the modern one.
- Editio princeps, ad. J. B. Baumbach (1615)
- in Bonn Corpus Scriptorum Hist. Byz. ed. I. Bekker (1843)
- Migne, Patrologia Graeca, clix.
- French translation by Blaise de Vigenère (1577, later. ed. by Artus Thomas with valuable illustrations on Turkish matters)
- Ferdinand Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Athen im Mittelalter, ii. (1889)
- Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. 66
- Karl Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (1897).
There is a biographical sketch of Laonicus and his brother in Greek by Antonius Calosynas, a physician of Toledo, who lived in the latter part of the 16th century: see C. Hopf, Chroniques greco-romanes, 1873.
This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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