Selected Papers from the XV Oxford University Byzantine Society International Graduate Conference
Khoniates’ Asia Minor: Earthly and Ultimate Causes of Decline
Niketas Khoniates’ Khronikē Diēgēsis [hereafter Khronikē] is the only surviving eyewitness Byzantine account of the Fourth Crusade, and the central historiographical source for the twelfth-century Empire. Born in c. 1155–1157 in the Phrygian city of Khonai, Khoniates was educated in Constantinople, began an administrative career which included both central-government and provincial positions sometime before 1182, and reached the height of his career in the 1190s under the Angeloi, becoming logothetēs tōn sekretōn.1 A central figure until 1204, in the crusade’s aftermath he first fled to Selymbria in Thrace, and thence to Nicaea in 1206, after a brief return to the City. Though Khoniates attempted to join the Laskarid court, he was unsuccessful, and died in poverty amongst other refugees living by Lake Askania in 1217.
The Fourth Crusade is therefore of paramount importance when approaching any aspect of the Khronikē. A recent re-evaluation of the manuscript tradition has evidenced the narrative’s incomplete revision and re-orientation, changing from a history of imperial reigns from John II Komnenos onwards, to a unified work seeking to explain the City’s fall.2 This paper therefore will investigate Asia Minor’s place within this explanation, asking how and why it was utilised. I will argue that Khoniates’ ← 215 | 216 → Anatolian discussions introduce key vocabulary, and an important and idiosyncratic rhetorical tropos, lamentation. The repeated use of vocabulary, tropoi, or themes in different contexts in the narrative, integrates specifically Anatolian discussions with others elsewhere. This process of re-use...
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