John Cananus

John Cananus or John Kananos (Greek: Ἰωάννης Κανανός) was a Byzantine Greek historian who lived during the first half of the 15th century.


He wrote an account of the failed siege of Constantinople by the Ottomans under the sultan Murad II in 1422. Cananus attributes the survival of the Byzantine capital to the miraculous intervention of Theotokos. The account differs from the contemporary history of John Anagnostes, who described Murad's sack of Thessalonica in 1430, chiefly in Cananus' frequent religious polemic, and in his willingness to write in the vernacular Greek, as opposed to the Atticism of Anagnostes and Critobulus. Their use of Greek, while "artificial in the extreme," is intended as an "imitation of the classics;" an ideal which had been "the governing principle for all writers who aimed at a good style not merely under the Roman empire but right to the end of the Byzantine period."[1]

John Cananus is sometimes identified with Lascaris Cananus, who travelled to Scandinavia and Iceland around 1439: "Laskaris Kananos (ca. 1438–1439) has paid attention to coinage in Stockholm and Bergen, the subordination of Sweden and Norway to the Danish king, to the residence of the King of Denmark in “Kupanava”, Copenhagen, the supervision of the cities of Riga and Revel in Livonia by the archbishop and Great Master of the Order, etc. In his description of his voyage to Iceland Laskaris Kananos identified this island with the above-mentioned Thule, the inhabitants of which he calls “ichthyophags”, i.e. fish-eaters. This Byzantine traveller visited — penetrating into Venedicos Kolpos, i.e. the Baltic Sea — Norway, Sweden, Livonia, Prussia, Pommern, Schleswig, Denmark and Britain, whereafter he made a trip to Iceland." [2]




  1. Reynolds, L. D., & Wilson, N. G. (1991). Scribes and scholars: a guide to the transmission of Greek and Latin literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-872145-5. p. 46, 47
  2. Mikhail Bibikov: Byzantine sources for the history of Balticum and Scandinavia. Byzantino-Nordica 2004.
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