Nicetas, Acominatus

Nicetas, Acominatus (Α᾿κομινάτος), also CHONIATES (so called probably from his native place, Chonle, the ancient Colossas), was a younger brother of Michael Acominatus. Both occupy a distinguished place among the Greek writers of the 12th century. Nicetas Choniates is eminent as a doctrinal and polemical writer, and also as a Byzantine historian. He was educated at Constantinople under his brother's supervision, and, besides studying theology, applied himself especially to history and jurisprudence. Under Isaac Angelus he became imperial under-secretary (ὑπογραμματεὺς βασιλικός), then privy councelor, chief justice, and finally governor of the province of Philippopolis. In this position he had to endure many annoyances during the passage of the emperor Frederick Barbarossa in 1189; and when the Latins took Constantinople in 1203, he was obliged to flee to Nice, where he died about 1206 or later. His Histor. Byzant. libri xxi embraces the period from 1118 to 1205; the fact that the author himself bore a part in many of the events he relates gives his work great historical value. The mode of quoting this historical work is thus: Nicetas, Isaac Angelus, 1:3; Urbs Copta, c. i; Andron. Comnen. 2:5, etc. Editions: Ed. princeps, by H. Wolf, with a Latin version (Basle, 1557, fol.); reprinted, with an index and a chronology by Simon Goulartius (Geneva, 1593, 4to), by Fabrot, with a most valuable glossarium Graeco-barbarum, and a revised translation, notes, etc. (Paris, 1647, fol.), in the Paris collection of the Byzantines; the same, badly reprinted, Venice, 1729, fol. The last edition is in the Bonn collection of the Byzantines, edited by J. Bekker (1835). A Greek MS. in the Bodleian, divided into two books, and giving an account of the conquest of Constantinople, with special regard to the statues destroyed by the Latins, is ascribed to Nicetas, but it seems to have been altered by a later writer, who also made additions. The account of the statues, which is of great interest, is given by Fabricius, quoted below, and critical investigations concerning this MS. are given by Harris in his Philological Inquiries (pt. iii, c. 5). The work itself has been published by Wilken, under the title of Niceta Narratio de Statuis, antiquis, quas Franci, post captam anno 1204 Constantinopolin destruxerunt (Lips. 1803). The result of his theological studies is embodied in his θησαυρὸς ὀρθοδοξίας, written ostentatiously for the information of a friend, but evidently intended for circulation. Ullmann compares this work to the Panoplia of Euthymius, as both represent the state of dogmatic criticism, and of the knowledge of the history of dogmas at that time, but he justly gives the first place to the work of Nicetas, as the latter shows an independence of views, a soundness of criticism, and a philosophical spirit which we do not find in Euthymius. The work of Nicetas commences with an exposition of the Jewish and Greek philosophy and mythology. Then he reviews the principal doctrines of the Church, taking as a basis the dogmatic traditions of the Greek fathers, yet not without expressing some personal views, especially in anthropology and psychology. Thus he divides spiritual activity in man into three functions-the νόησις, or the highest degree of contemplation; δοχή, or the lowest degree of conception or thought; and διανοια, the connection between both, or reasonable thought. Nicetas counts six degrees in virtue: natural, moral, civil, purifying, contemplative (θεωρητική), and theurgical (θεουργική), i.e. such as brings us into a state of assimilation to God. These divisions resemble somewhat the psychological theory of the Latin mystics. With the fourth part Nicetas commences his polemics against the heretics, opening with Simon Magnus, and mentioning many previously obscure heresies and unknowni heretics. The last parts treat of Islamism, the controversy with the Latin Church, and the inner dissensions in the Greek Church. The whole is as yet unpublished. The work in its complete form is in the royal library at Paris, and a fragment of it is preserved in the Bodleian. Only the first five parts have been translated into Latin by Petrus Morellus (Paris, 1561; 1579; Geneva, 1629; Bibl. Patr. [Lugd.] 25:54); a fragment in Greek of the twentieth part, against the Agarenes, is to be found in the Sylburgi Saracenicis (Heidelb. 1595), p. 74. A description of the contents of the work is given in Montfaucon, Paloeogr. Gr. p. 326, and Fabridius, Bibl. Graec. vi. 429; but whether the complete work will ever appear is doubtful. Some minor productions of Nicetas, among which a fragment on the ceremonies observed when a Mohammedan adopted the Christian religion, are extant in different libraries in Europe. See Ullmann, Die Dogmnatik d. griech. Kirche inm 12 Jahrh. (in Stud. u. Krit. 1833); Ellissen, Michael Akominatos von Chonce; Fabricius, Bibl. Graec. 7:737 sq.; Neander, Ch. Hist. 4:530, 533, 537; Smith, Dict. of Gr. and Romans Biogr. 2:1183.

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