1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chalcondyles, Laonicus

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CHALCONDYLES[1] (or Chalcocondylas), LAONICUS, the only Athenian Byzantine writer. Hardly anything is known of his life. He wrote a history, in ten books, of 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. The work incidentally gives a quaint and interesting sketch of the manners and civilization of England, France and Germany, whose assistance the Greeks sought to obtain against the Turks. Like that of other Byzantine writers, Chalcondyles’ chronology is defective, and his adherence to the old Greek geographical nomenclature is a source of confusion. For his account of earlier events he was able to obtain information from his father, who was one of the most prominent men in Athens during the struggles between the Greek and Frankish nobles. 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.

Editio princeps, ed. J. B. Baumbach (1615); in Bonn Corpus Scriptorum Hist. Byz. ed. I. Bekker (1843); Migne, Patrologia Graeca, clix. There is a French translation by Blaise de Vigenère (1577, later ed. by Artus Thomas with valuable illustrations on Turkish matters); see also F. Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Athen im Mittelalter, ii. (1889); Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. 66; C. 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 gréco-romanes, 1873).

His brother, Demetrius Chalcondyles (1424–1511), was born in Athens. In 1447 he migrated to Italy, where Cardinal Bessarion gave him his patronage. He became famous as a teacher of Greek letters and the Platonic philosophy; in 1463 he was made professor at Padua, and in 1479 he was summoned by Lorenzo de’ Medici to Florence to fill the professorship vacated by John Argyropoulos. In 1492 he removed to Milan, where he died in 1511. He was associated with Marsilius Ficinus, Angelus Politianus, and Theodorus Gaza, in the revival of letters in the western world. One of his pupils at Florence was the famous John Reuchlin. Demetrius Chalcondyles published the editio princeps of Homer, Isocrates, and Suidas, and a Greek grammar (Erotemata) in the form of question and answer.

See H. Hody, De Graecis illustribus (1742); C. Hopf, Chroniques gréco-romanes (1873); E. Legrand, Bibliographic hellénique, i. (1885).

  1. A shortened form of Chalcocondyles, from χαλκός, copper, and κόνδυλος, knuckle.