previous next

Ducas, Michael

Μιχαὴλ ό Δοῦκας), the grandson of another Michael Ducas, who lived during the reign of John Palaeologus the younger, and a descendant of the imperial family of the Ducases, lived before and after the capture of Constantinople by Sultan Mohammed II. in 1453. This Michael Ducas was a distinguished historian, who held probably some high office under Constantine XII., the last emperor of Constantinople. After the capture of this city, he fled to Dorino Gateluzzi, prince of Lesbos, who employed him in various diplomatic functions, which he continued to discharge under Domenico Gateluzzi, the son and successor of Dorino. In 1455 and 1456, he brought the tribute of the princes of Lesbos and Lemnos to Adrianople, and he also accompanied his master Domenico to Constantinople, where he was going to pay homage to Sultan Mohammed II. Owing to the prudence of Dorino and Domenico, and the diplomatic skill of Ducas, those two princes enjoyed a happy dependence; but Domenico having died, his son and successor, Nicholas, incurred the hatred of Mohammed, who conquered Lesbos and united it to the Turkish empire in 1462. Ducas survived this event, but his further life is not known.


The few particulars we know of Ducas are obtained from his "History." This work begins with the death of John Palaeologus I., and goes down to the capture of Lesbos in 1462; it is divided into forty-five extensive chapters; the first begins with a very short chronicle from Adam to John Palaeologus I., which seems to have been prefixed by some monk; it finishes abruptly with some details of the conquest of Lesbos; the end is mutilated. Ducas wrote most barbarous Greek, for he not only made use of an extraordinary number of Turkish and other foreign words, but he introduced grammatical forms and peculiarities of style which are not Greek at all. He is the most difficult among the Byzantine historians, and it seems that he was totally unacquainted with the classical Greek writers. His defects, however, are merely in his language and style. He is a most faithful historian, grave, judicious, prudent, and impartial, and his account of the causes of the ruin of the Greek empire is full of sagacity and wisdom. Ducas, Chalcondylas, and Phranza, are the chief sources for the last period of the Greek empire; but Ducas surpasses both of them by his clear narrative and the logical arrangement of his matters. He was less learned than Chalcondylas, but, on the other hand, he was without doubt thoroughly acquainted with the Turkish language, no small advantage for a man who wrote the history of that time.


The editio princeps of the work is by Bulliaud (Bullialdus), Historia Byzantina à Joanne Palaeologo I. ad Mehemetem II. Accessit Chronicon breve (χρονικὸν σύντομον), etc. Versione Latina et Notis ab Ismael Bullialdo, Paris, 1649, fol., reprinted at Venice, 1729, fol.

It has been also edited by Immanuel Bekker, Bonn, 1834, 8vo. Bekker perused the same Parisian codex as Bulliaud, but he was enabled to correct many errors by an Italian MS., being an Italian translation of Ducas, with a continuation in the same language, which was found about twenty years ago by Leopold Ranke in one of the libraries at Venice.

This MS. was first published by Mustodoxi in the 19th volume of the "Antologia." It also forms a valuable addition to the edition of Bekker.

Further Information

Fabric. Bibl. Graec. viii. pp. 33, 34; Hankins, Script. Byzant. pp. 640-644; Hammer, Geschichte des Osman. Reiches, vol. ii. p. 69, not. b. p. 72.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: