Michael Panaretos

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Michael Panaretos (Greek: Μιχαήλ Πανάρετος) (1320 – c. 1390) is a Greek historian. His primary work is a chronicle of the Trapezuntine empire of Alexios I Komnenos and his successors from 1204 to 1426. This chronicle, the only direct source on the history of this medieval empire, also contains much valuable material on the early history of the Ottoman Turks from a Byzantine perspective, but was almost unknown until its discovery by Jakob Philipp Fallmerayer among the papers of Cardinal Bessarion in the nineteenth century.[1]


Very little is known about Panaretos himself, save what little he tells us in his chronicle. He was a protosebastos and protonotarios in the service of Alexios III Komnenos. Panaretos makes his first appearance in an entry for 1351 when he records that he went with the mother of the emperor Alexios III, Irene of Trebizond, against Limnia to break the power the rebel Constantine Doranites held there.[2] What Panaretos' exact position was at this time is not certain, but his next appearance does not come until the Trapezuntine civil war was over when he records he went with the emperor Alexios III in a disastrous attack on Cheriana, which he himself barely escaped from with his life.[3] Thereafter, he frequently alludes to himself in the annals by using the first person plural in recording many of the events. But it is not until his entry dated to April 1363, when he was included in the embassy, which included the megas logothetes, George Scholaris, that was sent to Constantinople to arrange a marriage alliance between one of the daughters of his master and one of the sons of the emperor John V Palaiologos. Besides the emperor, they also met with the emperor-monk John VI Kantakuzenos, the Venetian podestà, and Leonardo Montaldo the capetan of Genoese Galata in order .[4]

We know that he had at least two sons, both of whom died in 1368 while Penaretos was away in Constantinople: Constantine who was fifteen, had drowned; Romanos who was seventeen, died from disease. Panaretos was obviously greatly affected by their deaths because it is the only personal event that he mentions in his chronicle.[5]

The Chronicle[edit]

His Chronicle is very short, covering twenty printed pages, though about half of the chronicle is devoted to the years between 1349 and 1390; the rest of the chronicle to 1426 was written by an anonymous contributor. As Anastasius Brandy notes, "Although this Chronicle is generally described as drab, meagre, and sketchy, nevertheless, it constitutes a valuable and reliable narrative for putting in order historical events and personages which otherwise would have remained unknown."[6] Throughout the chronicle, Panaretos never refers to his countrymen as Greeks, as was the custom in Byzantium, but always as Romans, or more often than not Christians.

This work is preserved in a single manuscript, The Codex Marcanius, Although it was discovered by Fallmerayer, the editio princeps was the work of T. L. F. who published the Greek text in 1832 but without translation or commentary. Fallmerayer published an edition of the Greek text with a German translation and commentary in 1844. The first scholarly, critical text of the Chronicle was done by Spyrindon P. Lambros, a Greek scholar, in 1907. The most recent edition was by Odysseus Lampsides in 1958.[7]


  1. ^ George Finlay, The History of Greece and the Empire of Trebizond, (1204-1461) (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1851), p. 307 n .1
  2. ^ Panaretos, Chronicle, ch. 16
  3. ^ Panaretos, Chronicle, ch. 20
  4. ^ Panaretos, Chronicle, ch. 32
  5. ^ Panaretos, Chronicle, ch. 40
  6. ^ "Introduction" to the 1969 reprint of William Miller, Trebizond: The Last Greek Empire of the Byzantine Era, 1204-1461 (Chicago: Argonaut, 1969), p. viii.
  7. ^ "Michael Panaretos: Concerning the Great Komnenoi", Άρχἔιον Πόντον 22 (1958), pp. 5-128 (in Greek)

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