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Chalcoco'ndyles

or, by contraction, CHALCO'NDYLES, LAO'NICUS or NICOLA'US (Δαόνικος ορ Νικολάος Χαλκοκονδύλης ορ Χαλκονδύλης), a Byzantine historian of the fifteenth century of the Christian aera, of whose life little is known, except that he was sent by the emperor John VII. Palaeologus, as ambassador to the camp of Sultan Mürad II. during the siege of Constantinople in A. D. 1446. Hamberger (Gelehrte Nachrichlten von berühmten Männern, &ξ. vol. iv. p. 764) shews, that he was still living in 1462, but it is scarcely credible that he should have been alive in 1490, and even later, as Vossius thinks (De Historicis Graecis, 2.30).


Works


History

Chalcocondyles, Who was a native of Athens, has written a history of the Turks and of the later period of the Byzantine empire, which begins with the year 1298, and goes down to the conquest of Corinth and the invasion of the Peloponnesus by the Turks in 1463, thus including the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453. Chalcocondyles, a statesman of great experience and of extensive learning, is a trustworthy historian, whose style is interesting and attractive, and whose work is one of the most important sources for the history of the decline and fall of the Greek empire.

His work, however, which is divided into ten books, is not very well arranged, presenting in several instances the aspect of a book composed of different essays, notes, and other materials, written occasionally, and afterwards put together with too little care for their logical and chronological order. Another defect of the author is his display of matters which very often have nothing to do with the chief subject, and which he apparently inserted in order to shew the variety of his knowledge.

But if they are extraneous to his historical object, they are valuable to us, as they give us an idea of the knowledge of the Greeks of his time, especially with regard to history, geography, and ethnography. Among these episodes there is a most interesting description of the greater part of Europe, which had been disclosed to the eyes of the Greeks by the political travels of several of their emperors' in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. (ii. pp. 36-50, ed. Paris.)

He says that Germany stretches from Vienna to the ocean, and from Prague to the river Tartessus (!) in the Pyrenees (!!); but he observes with great justness, that if the Germans were united under one head, they would be the most powerful nation; that there are more than two hundred free towns flourishing by trade and industry; that the mechanical arts are cultivated by them with great success; that they have invented gun-powder, and that they are fond of duelling. The passage treating of Germany is given with a Latin translation and notes in Freherus' "Corpus Script. Rer. Germ."

As to England, he says that it lies opposite to Flanders--a country but too well known to the Greeks--and is composed of three islands united under one government; he mentions the fertility of the soil, the mildness of the climate, the manufacture of woollen cloth, and the flourishing trade of the great metropolis, London (Λονδύνη). His description of her bold and active inhabitants is correct, and he was informed of their being the first bowmen in the world; but when he says that their language has no affinity with that of any other nation, he perhaps confounded the English language with the Irish. He states that their manners and habits were exactly like those of the French, which was an error as to the nation at large, but tolerably correct if applied to the nobles; the great power and turbulence of the aristocracy were well known to him. At that time strangers and visitors were welcomed by the ladies in England with a kiss, a custom which one hundred years later moved the sympathizing heart of the learned Erasmus Roterodamus, and caused him to express his delight in his charming epistle to Faustus Andrelinus : the Greek, brought up among depraved men, and accustomed to witness but probably to abhor disgraceful usages, draws scandalous and revolting conclusions from that token of kindness.

MSS

The principal MSS. of Chalcocondyles are those in the Bodleian, in the libraries of the Escurial, and of Naples, in the Bibl. Laurentiana at Florence, several in the royal library at Munich and in the royal library at Paris, and that of the former Coislin library now united with the royal library at Paris.

Editions

Latin Editions

The history of Chalcocondyles was first published in Latin translations, the first of which is that of Conradus Clauserus of Zürich, Basel, 1556, fol.; the same corrected and compared with an unedited translation of Philippus Gundelius appended to the edition of Nicephorus Gregoras, ibid. 1562, fol.; the same together with Latin translations of Zonaras, Nicetas, and Nicephorus Gregoras, Frankfort on-the-Main, 1568, fol.

Greek Editions

The Greek text was first published, with the translation and notes of Clauserus, and the works of Nicephorus Gregoras and Georgius Acropolita, at Geneva, 1615, fol. Fabrot perused this edition for his own, which belongs to the Paris collection of the Byzantine historians (1650, fol); he collated two MSS. of the royal library at Paris, and corrected both the text and the translation of the Geneva edition; he added the history of Ducas, a glossary, and a Latin translation of the German version, by John Gaudier, called Spiegel, of a Turkish MS. work on the earlier Turkish history.

The French translation of Chalcocondyles by Blaise de Vigenère, was edited and continued at first by Artus Thomas, a dull writer and an equivocal scholar, and after him by Mézerai, who continued the work down to the year 1661. This latter edition, which is in the library of the British Museum, is a useful book.

Assessment of the editions

None of these editions is satisfactory : the text is still susceptible of corrections, and there is a chance of getting important additions, as the different MSS. have not all been collated. Besides, we want a good commentary, which will present the less difficulties, as the materials of it are already given in the excellent notes of Baron von Hammer-Purgstall to the first and second volumes of his work cited below. From these notes and other remarks of the learned Baron we learn, that he considers Chalcocondyles as a trustworthy historian, and that the reproach of credulity with which he has been charged should be confined to his geographical and historical knowledge of Western Europe. We venture to hope that the editors of the Bonn collection of the Byzantines will furnish us with such a commentary.


Further Information

Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. vii. pp. 793-795; Hammer-Purgstall, Geschichte des Osmanischen Reiches, vol. i. p. 469, ii. p. 83.

[W.P]

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