Michael Choniates of Athens

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Michael Choniates of Athens, also Michael III of Athens, was the Metropolitan of Athens and a noted writer of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.


Little is known of his early life. Michael was born about the year 1140 in Chonae (ancient Colossae) in Asia Minor. Nicetas Choniates was his younger brother. At a young age he studied under Eustathius of Thessalonica in Constantinople. About the year 1182, he was appointed metropolitan of Athens, an office he served until about 1220. During these decades, Metr. Michael worked for the education of his clergy and their spiritual development as well as to reverse the material and moral deterioration of the tax-laden city.

Early in the first decade of the thirteenth century, Metr. Michael led the defense of Athens against the attacks by the tyrannical Leon Sgouros until the defenders of Athens were provided relief by Boniface of Montferrat of the Fourth Crusade in 1205 and to whom he surrendered the city.[1].

With the formation of the Latin centric empire after the sack of Constantinople, Metr. Michael refused to submit to the papacy and fled to the island of Ceos/Kea in the Cyclades, where he lived until 1217. Then, he retired to the monastery of Prodromos in Boudonitza near Thermopylae, where he died about the year 1220.


Metr. Michael was a man of letters and his works became an invaluable source describing the state of the times. He was a versatile writer, and composed homilies, speeches, and poems, which, with his correspondence, throw considerable light upon the dismal condition of Attica and Athens. Of note is his memorial to emperor Alexios III Angelos concerning the abuses of Byzantine administration as well as his poetical lament over the degeneracy of Athens and on his brother Nicetas and Eustathius of Thessalonica.

He is also known to classical scholars as the last possessor of complete versions of Callimachus, Hecale, and Aetia,[2]


  1. N.G. Wilson, Scholars of Byzantium 1983:204-06.
  2. A.S. Hollis, "A New Fragment on Niobe and the Text of Propertius 2.20.8". The Classical Quarterly, New Series, 47.2 (1997:578-582).
Succession box:
Michael Choniates of Athens
Preceded by:
George IV
Metropolitan of Athens
1182 - 1220
Succeeded by:
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