Choniates, Michael


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Choniates, Michael:

see Acominatus, MichaelAcominatus, Michael
, or Michael Choniates
, c.1140–1220, Byzantine writer and metropolitan of Athens. Acominatus' speeches, poems, and letters give much information about medieval Athens, which he, a classicist, found barbarous and degenerate.
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Choniates, Michael

 

(sometimes incorrectly called Michael Acominatus). Born circa 1138, in Chonae, Asia Minor; died circa 1222, in Vodonitsa, near Thermopylae. Byzantine author. Brother of Nicetas Choniates.

From 1182 to 1204, Choniates was metropolitan of Athens. After the seizure of Athens by the Crusaders in 1204, he moved to the island of Ceos; about the year 1217 he moved again to a monastery near Thermopylae. A pupil of Eustathius of Thessalonica, Choniates was well versed in the culture of the ancient world; he was the author of speeches, letters, and theological works. His letters and speeches are an important source of Byzantine economic and political history at the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries. Choniates condemned the despotism of the Byzantine monarch and the policies of Constantinople’s bureaucratic officials. He defended the interests of provincial cities.

As an author, Choniates is noted for his keen sense of observation, rare among medieval writers, and for his interest in the details of everyday life. In his works light irony alternates with violent accusations. Choniates was one of the first to raise the question of the purpose of the artist. He opposed democratic tendencies and insisted that the artist should express his inner emotional state, or “soul,” rather than attempt to cater to the tastes of the crowd. Choniates believed that the artist’s work must be guided by his inner life.

WORKS

Ta sozomena, vols. 1–2. Athens, 1879–80.

REFERENCE

Stadtmüller, G. “Michael Choniates, Metropolit von Athen.” Orientalia Christiana, vol. 33, part 2. Rome, 1934.
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