1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Acominatus, Michael

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ACOMINATUS (Akominatos), MICHAEL (c. 1140–1220), Byzantine writer and ecclesiastic, was born at Chonae (the ancient Colossae). At an early age he studied at Constantinople, and about 1175 was appointed archbishop of Athens. After the capture of Constantinople by the Franks and the establishment of the Latin empire (1204), he retired to the island of Ceos, where he died. He was a versatile writer, and composed homilies, speeches and poems, which, with his correspondence, throw considerable light upon the miserable condition of Attica and Athens at the time. His memorial to Alexis III. Angelus on the abuses of Byzantine administration, the poetical lament over the degeneracy of Athens and the monodes on his brother Nicetas and Eustathius, archbishop of Thessalonica, deserve special mention.

Edition of his works by S. Lambros (1879–1880); Migne, Patrologia Graeca, cxl.; see also A. Ellissen, Michael Akominatos (1886), containing several pieces with German translation; F. Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Athen im Mittelalter, i. (1889); G. Finlay, History of Greece, iv. pp. 133-134 (1877).

His younger brother Nicetas (Niketas), sometimes called Choniates, who accompanied him to Constantinople, took up politics as a career. He held several appointments under the Angelus emperors (amongst them that of “great logothete” or chancellor) and was governor of the “theme” of Philippopolis at a critical period. After the fall of Constantinople he fled to Nicaea, where he settled at the court of the emperor Theodorus Lascaris, and devoted himself to literature. He died between 1210 and 1220. His chief work is his History, in 21 books, of the period from 1180 to 1206. In spite of its florid and bombastic style, it is of considerable value as a record (on the whole impartial) of events of which he was either an eye-witness or had heard at first hand. Its most interesting portion is the description of the capture of Constantinople, which should be read with Villehardouin’s and Paolo Rannusio’s works on the same subject. The little treatise On the Statues destroyed by the Latins (perhaps, as we have it, altered by a later writer) is of special interest to the archaeologist. His dogmatic work (Θησαυρὸς Ὀρθοδοξίας, Thesaurus Orthodoxae Fidei), although it is extant in a complete form in MS., has only been published in part. It is one of the chief authorities for the heresies and heretical writers of the 12th century.

Editions: History, editio princeps, H. Wolf (1557); and in the Bonn Corpus Scriptorum Hist. Byz., 1st ed., Bekker (1835); Rhetorical Pieces in C. Sathas, Μεσαιωνίκη Βιβλιοθήκη, i. (1872); Thesaurus in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, cxxxix., cxl.; see also C. A. Sainte-Beuve, “Geoffroy de Villehardouin” in Causeries du Lundi, ix.; S. Reinach, “La fin de l’empire Grec” in Esquisses Archéologiques (1888); C. Neumann, Griechische Geschichtsschreiber im 12. Jahrhundert (1888); Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. lx.; and (for both Michael and Nicetas) C. Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (1897).