Michael Critobulus

Michael Critobulus (Greek: Μιχαήλ Κριτοβούλος, c. 1410 – c. 1470) was a Greek politician, scholar and historian. He is known as the author of a history of the Ottoman conquest of the Eastern Roman Empire under Sultan Mehmet II. It is one of the principal Greek sources for the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, besides the works of the historians Ducas, Laonicus Chalcondyles and George Sphrantzes.

Critobulus' birth name was Michael Critopoulos. He changed this modern Greek family name to the more classical-sounding "Kritoboulos" in reference to a figure of that name in the dialogues of Plato.

He belonged to a family of landowners on the island of Imbros. In the 1450s he was a local political leader of the island and played an active role in the peaceful handover of Imbros, Limnos and Thasos to the Ottomans after the final breakdown of the Empire. He later wrote a historical account of the rise of the Ottomans and the final conquest of the remainder of the Eastern Roman Empire. Its main part is a biography of the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II, the Conqueror, to whom the work was also dedicated. Writing under Ottoman rule, Critobulus expressed admiration for Mehmet in his work, and combined mourning for the Greek loss with an acceptance of the shift of power to the Ottoman Turks, which he interpreted as a divinely ordained world historic event.

In doing so, he took as a literary model the works of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish-Roman historian of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. His text is the most detailed historical account of the first decade of Turkish rule in Constantinople, including the Ottoman efforts of rebuilding and repopulating the city. The autograph of his text has been preserved in the Library of the Serail in Istanbul.

Critobulus is a Romanization of the name, which is alternatively transliterated as Kritoboulos, Kritovoulos, Critoboulos; sometimes with Critobulus' provenance affixed (e.g. Critobulus of Imbros).

Editions

  • Diether R. Reinsch (ed.), Critobuli Imbriotae historiae. (Corpus fontium historiae Byzantinae 22). Berlin: de Gruyter, 1983.
  • Diether R. Reinsch and Photini Kolovou (ed. and transl.), Κριτοβούλου του Ιμβρίου Ιστορία. Athens: Ekdoseis Kanaka, 2005.
  • Charles T. Rigg (ed. and transl.), History of Mehmed the Conqueror. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1954.

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