Niketas Choniates was in Constantinople when it was burnt and looted by the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade and he wrote a history which has always been the mainstay for anyone wishing to learn about the Comnene dynasty and the Byzantine Empire of the twelfth century. Yet it is a very difficult and puzzling text and, given its significance for the period, is understudied. The author says at the start that he wrote his work hoping that even workers and women would be able to profit from it, yet he wrote those words, and the rest of the history, in a highly convoluted, literary and at times opaque style and language.
This examination is an introduction to the history of Niketas, and to the author’s views of why this period saw such catastrophe for the Byzantines. It looks at Niketas’ thoughts about history-writing, the emperors, and the Comnene dynasty in particular, about the presence of God in man’s affairs, and the historian’s attitudes to the women of the imperial family.
Table of Contents
1. The puzzle of the History of Niketas Choniates 2. ‘A history for workers and women’: Statements of intent in the Preface 3. The world of Byzantine women 4. Hellenism and Classicism in the History 5. The influence of the Old Testament 6. Niketas on the emperors 7. Conclusion Appendix 1 Appendix 2
Theresa Urbainczyk taught in the School of Classics, University College Dublin from 1992 to 2017. She is the author of Socrates of Constantinople: Historian of Church and State (1997), Theodoret of Cyrrhus: The Bishop and the Holy Man (2002), Spartacus (2004), and Slave Revolts in Antiquity (2008).