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or PHRANZES (Φραντζῆ or Φραντζῆς), the last and one of the most important Byzantine historians, was born in A. D. 1401, and was appointed chamberlain to the emperor Manuel II. Palaeologus in 1418, at the youthful age of sixteen years and six months, according to his own statement (1.36). From this circumstance, from his subsequently rapid promotion, and from the superior skill he evinced in his public life, we may conclude both that he was of high birth, and must be possessed of eminent talents. In 1423 he accompanied Lucas Notaras and Melanchrenos Manuel on an embassy from the dowager empress Eudoxia to the Sultanin, wife of Miirad II. Manuel recommended him, when dying, to his son John VII.; but Phranza attached himself especially to the new emperor's brother Constantine, afterwards the last emperor of Constantinople, and then prince of the Morea. In his service Phranza distinguished himself as a diplomatist, a warrior, and a loyal subject. At the siege of Patras he saved his master from imminent death or captivity, and not being able to effect his purpose without sacrificing his own person, he nobly preferred the latter, and thus fell into the hands of the enemy. During forty days he suffered most cruel privations in a deep dungeon, and when he was at last ransomed, he was so emaciated that Constantine shed tears at his sight (1429). Some time afterwards he was sent, together with Marcus Palaeologus, as ambassador to Sultan Miirad II.; and it is a characteristic feature of the time, that at a banquet given by him and his colleague to some Turkish ministers. he contrived to make the latter so drunk that he was able to rob them of some important papers, which, however, he conscientiously put back into their pockets after he had read their contents. Shortly afterwards he was taken prisoner by the Catalans, but ransomed himself with 5000 pieces of gold. In 1434 he was again ambassador at the court of the sultan. In the following year prince Constantine despatched him to take possession of Athens and Thebes, but he was anticipated by the Turks, who seized those cities for themselves. In 1438 he married; his daughter Damar, whose name will appear hereafter, was born in 1441 ; and in 1444 his wife was delivered of a son, whose ignoble and lamentable fate made afterwards such a deep impression upon the mind of the unhappy father. In the following years we find him entrusted with important negotiations at the sultan's court, and he also held the governorship of Selymbria, and afterwards Sparta. In 1446 he went as ambassador to the court of Trebizond, and after the accession of Constantine to the imperial throne, in 1448, he was appointed Protovestiarius. At the capture of Constantinople, in 1453, Phranza escaped death, but became a slave, with his wife and children, to the first equerry of the sultan. However, he found means of escaping with his wife, and fled to Sparta, leaving his daughter and son in the hands of the Turks. Damar died a few years afterwards, a slave in the sultan's harem, and his son was kept in the same place for still more abominable purposes. He preferred death to shame, and the enraged sultan pierced his heart with a dagger. From Sparta Phranza fled to Corfu, and thence went as ambassador of the despot Thomas, prince of Achaia, to Francesco Foscari, doge of Venice, by whom he was treated with great distinction. After his return to Corfu he entered the convent of St. Elias, and his wife also took the veil, both broken-hearted and resolved to devote the rest of their days to a holy life. In the monastery of Tarchaniotes, whither he subsequently retired, Phranza wrote his Chronicon, for which his name is justly celebrated in the annals of Byzantine literature; and since that work finishes with the year 1477, we must conclude that he died in that year or shortly afterwards.


This Chronicon extends from 1259 till 1477, and is the most valuable authority for the history of the author's time, especially for the capture of Constantinople. Phranza has many of the defects of his time; his style is bombastic, and he indulges in digressions respecting matters not connected with the main subject of his work; but the importance of the events which he describes makes us forget the former, and one cannot blame him for his digressions, because, though treating on strange matter, they are still interesting. In all contemporary events, he is a trustworthy, well-informed, and impartial authority ; and as the greater portion of his work treats on the history of his own time, the importance of his work becomes evident. The Chronicon is divided into four books. The first gives a short account of the first six emperors of the name of Palaeologus; the second contains the reign of John Palaeologus, the son of Manuel; the third the capture of Constantinople, and the death of the last Constantine; and the fourth gives an account of the divisions of the imperial family, and the final downfall of Greek power in Europe and Asia.


The first edition is a bad Latin translation of an extract of the work, divided into three books, by Jacob Pontanus (ad calcem Theophyl, Symocattae), Ingolstadt, 1604, 4to, and this bad edition Gibbon was compelled to peruse when he wrote the last volume of his "Decline and Fall." He complains bitterly of it. "While," says he (vol. xii. p. 88. ed. 1815, 8vo), "so many MSS. of the Greek original are extant in the libraries of Rome, Milan, the Escurial, &c." (he might have added of Munich, which is the best), "it is a matter of shame and reproach that we should be reduced to the Latin version or abstract of J. Pontanus, so deficient in accuracy and elegance." While Gibbon thus complained, professor Alter of Vienna was preparing his edition of the Greek text, which he published at Vienna, 1796, fol. This is the standard edition. Immanuel Bekker published another in 1838, 8vo, which is a revised reprint of Alter's text, with a good Latin version by Edward Brockhof, and revised by the editor; this edition belongs to the Bonn Collection of the Byzantines. Hammer has written an excellent commentary to Phranza, which is dispersed in his numerous notes to the first and second volumes of his Geschichte des Osmanischen Reiches.

Phranza wrote also Expositio Symboli, a religious treatise printed in Alter's edition of the "Chronicon."

Further Information

Alter's Prooemium to the Chronicon ; Fabric. Biblioth. Graec. vol. viii. p. 74, vol. xii. p. 132, Hankius, Script. Byzant.)


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