Doukas (historian)

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For other people of the same name, see Dukas (disambiguation).

Doukas or Dukas (c. 1400 – after 1462)[1] was a Byzantine historian who flourished under Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last Byzantine Emperor. He is one of the most important sources for the last decades and eventual fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottomans.


The date of Doukas's birth is not recorded, nor is his first name or the names of his parents. He was born probably in the 1390s somewhere in western Asia Minor, where his paternal grandfather had fled.[2] This was Michael Doukas, who is eulogized by his grandson as a learned man, especially in matters of medicine. The elder Doukas played a role in the Byzantine civil wars of the mid-14th century as a partisan of John VI Kantakouzenos. He fled from the persecution of the Kantakouzenists in Constantinople to Ephesus, among the Turks, and there he remained even after the end of the civil war, convinced that sooner or later, all of the remnants of the Byzantine state would succumb to the Turkish onslaught. Although his grandson claims so, it is unknown how, if at all, he was related to the old Byzantine imperial dynasty of the Doukai.[1][3]

The younger Doukas is first mentioned in 1421, living at New Phocaea and serving as the Genoese governor's secretary. After the Fall of Constantinople, he sought refuge in Lesbos, where he entered the service of the ruling Gattilusi family. They employed him in various diplomatic missions to the Ottoman court.[1] He was sent to embassies to the Ottoman Sultan at Adrianople in 1451 and 1452, and in 1455 delivered the taxes owed by the Gattilusi to the Sultan.[4] He was still living on Lesbos in 1462, when it was annexed to the Ottoman Empire by Sultan Mehmed II. It is known that Doukas survived this event, but there is no record of his subsequent life, and he may have died at about this time.[4]


Doukas was the author of a history of the period 1341-1462; his work thus continues that of Nikephoros Gregoras and John Kantakouzenos, and supplements George Sphrantzes and Laonikos Chalkokondyles. There is a preliminary chapter of chronology from Adam to John V Palaiologos. Although unrefined in style, the history of Doukas is both somewhat judicious and more or less trustworthy,[citation needed] and it is a valuable source for the closing years of the Byzantine empire. The account of the Fall of Constantinople is of special importance. Doukas was a strong supporter of the union of the Greek and Latin churches, and is very bitter against those who rejected even the idea of appealing to the West for assistance against the Ottomans.

The history, preserved (without a title) in a single manuscript conserved in Paris, was first edited by I. Bullialdus (Bulliaud) (Paris, 1649); later editions are in the Bonn Corpus scriptorum Hist. Byz., by I. Bekker (1834) and Migne, Patrologia Graeca, clvii. The Bonn edition contains a 15th-century Italian translation by an unknown author, found by Leopold Ranke in one of the libraries of Venice, and sent by him to August Bekker.


  1. ^ a b c Kazhdan (1991), p. 656
  2. ^ Polemis (1968), pp. 196, 199
  3. ^ Polemis (1968), p. 196
  4. ^ a b Polemis (1968), p. 199


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