Nicetas Choniates was born to wealthy parents around or after 1150 in Phrygia in the city of Chonae (near the modern Honaz in Turkey). Bishop Nicetas of Chonae baptized and named the infant; later he was called "Choniates" after his birthplace. When he was nine, his father dispatched him with his brother Michael to Constantinople to receive an education. Niketas' older brother greatly influenced him during the early stages of his life. He initially took up politics as a career, and held important appointments under the Angelus emperors (amongst them that of Grand Logothete or Chancellor) and was governor of the theme of Philippopolis at a critical period. After the capture of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, he fled to Nicaea, where he settled at the court of the Nicaean emperor Theodore I Lascaris, and devoted himself to literature. He died c. 1215–16.
His chief work is his History, in twenty-one books, of the period from 1118 to 1207. In spite of its florid style, it is of value as a record (on the whole impartial) of events of which he was either an eyewitness or which he had heard of first hand (though he should be balanced with the other Greek historian for this time, John Kinnamos). Its most interesting portion is the description of the occupation of Constantinople in 1204, which should be read with Geoffroi de Villehardouin's and Paolo Rannusio's works on the same subject.
His little treatise On the Statues destroyed by the Latins (perhaps altered by a later writer) is of special interest to the archaeologist and art historian.
His theological work, (Thesaurus Orthodoxae Fidei), although extant in a complete form in manuscripts, has only been published in part. It is one of the chief authorities for the heresies and heretical writers of the 12th century.
Here are some texts on Choniates as source for historical events:
- The Urban Image of Late Antique Constantinople, S. Basset
- Death in Byzantium, G.T. Dennis
- City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas
- Byzantine hagiographical and historiographical metaphraseis, M. Hinterberger
- A History of Byzantium (Blackwell History of the Ancient World)