Anna Komnene

Anna Komnene (Greek: Ἄννα Κομνηνή, Ánna Komnēnḗ; 1 December 1083 – 1153), commonly latinized as Anna Comnena,[1] was a Byzantine princess, scholar, physician, hospital administrator, and historian. She was the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and his wife Irene Doukaina.[2] She is best known for her attempt to usurp her brother, John II Komnenos,[3] and for her work The Alexiad, an account of her father's reign.[4]

At birth, Anna was betrothed to Constantine Doukas,[5] and she grew up in his mother's household.[6] She was well-educated in "Greek literature and history, philosophy, theology, mathematics, and medicine."[5] Anna and Constantine were next in the line to throne[7] until Anna's younger brother, John II Komnenos, became the heir in 1092.[8] Constantine died around 1094,[9] and Anna married Nikephoros Bryennios in 1097.[10] The two had several children before Nikephoros' death around 1136.[8]

Following her father’s death in 1118, Anna and her mother attempted to usurp John II Komnenos.[11] Her husband refused to cooperate with them, and the usurpation failed.[5] As a result, John exiled Anna to the Kecharitomene monastery, where she spent the rest of her life.[12]

Comnena - Alessiade, 1846, tomo primo (Rossi).djvu
Title page of the first Italian translation of Alexiad, 1846.

In confinement there, she wrote the Alexiad.[4]

She died sometime in the 1150s; the exact date is unknown.[13]

Anna Komnene
Anna Comnena profilsayfasi
Born1 December 1083
Porphyra Chamber, Great Palace of Constantinople, Constantinople, Byzantine Empire
Died1153 (age 70)
Monastery of Kecharitomene, Constantinople, Byzantine Empire
SpouseNikephoros Bryennios the Younger
IssueAlexios Komnenos, megas doux
John Doukas
Irene Doukaina
Maria Bryennaina Komnene
HouseHouse of Komnenos
FatherAlexios I Komnenos
MotherIrene Doukaina

Family and early life

Anna was born on 1 December 1083[1] to Alexios I Komnenos and Irene Doukaina.[7] Her father, Alexios I Komnenos, became emperor in 1081, after usurping the previous Byzantine Emperor, Nikephoros Botaneiates.[6] Her mother, Irene Doukaina, was part of the imperial Doukai family.[14] In the Alexiad, Anna emphasizes her affection for her parents in stating her relationship to Alexios and Irene.[15] She was the eldest of seven children; her younger siblings were (in order) Maria, John II, Andronikos, Isaac, Eudokia, and Theodora.[16]

Anna was born in the Porphyra Chamber of the imperial palace in Constantinople, making her a porphyrogenita,[17] which underscored her imperial status. She noted this status in the Alexiad, stating that that she was "born and bred in the purple."[18]

According to Anna's description in the Alexiad, her mother asked Anna to wait to be born until her father returned from war. [19] Obediently, Anna waited until her father came home.[19]

At birth, Anna was betrothed to Constantine Doukas,[5] the son of Emperor Michael VII and Maria of Alania.[20] The two were the heirs to the empire until sometime between c.1088 and 1092, after the birth of Anna's brother, John II Komnenos.[21] Various scholars point out that the betrothal was probably a political match intended to establish the legitimacy of Anna's father, who had usurped the previous emperor.[22]

Starting around 1090, Constantine's mother -- Maria of Alania -- raised Anna in her home.[23] It was common in Byzantium for mothers-in-law to raise daughters-in-law.[24] In 1094, Maria of Alania was implicated in an attempt to overthrow Alexios I Komnenos.[21] Some scholars argue that Anna's betrothal to Constantine Doukas may not have ended there, as he was not implicated in the plot against Alexios,[10] but it certainly ended when he died around 1094.[8]

Some scholars have also now started to look at Anna's relationships to Maria of Alania; Anna Dalassene, Anna's paternal grandmother; and Irene Doukaina as sources of inspiration and admiration for Anna.[25] For example, Thalia Gouma-Peterson argues that Irene Doukaina's "maternal ability to deal with the speculative and the intellectual enables the daughter to become the highly accomplished scholar she proudly claims to be in the opening pages of the Alexiad."[26]


Anna wrote at the beginning of the Alexiad about her education, highlighting her experience with literature, Greek language, rhetoric, and sciences.[18] Tutors trained her in subjects that included astronomy, medicine, history, military affairs, geography, and mathematics. Anna was noted for her education by the medieval scholar, Niketas Choniates, who wrote that Anna "was ardently devoted to philosophy, the queen of all sciences, and was educated in every field."[27][28] Anna’s conception of her education is shown in her testament, which credited her parents for allowing her to obtain an education.[29] This testament is in contrast to a funeral oration about Anna given by her contemporary, Georgios Tornikes. In his oration he said that she had to read ancient poetry, such as the Odyssey, in secret because her parents disapproved of its dealing with polytheism and other "dangerous exploits," which were considered "dangerous" for men and "excessively insidious" for women. Tornikes went on to say that Anna "braced the weakness of her soul" and studied the poetry "taking care not to be detected by her parents."[30]

Anna proved to be capable not only on an intellectual level but also in practical matters. Her father placed her in charge of a large hospital and orphanage that he built for her to administer in Constantinople. The hospital was said to hold beds for 10,000 patients and orphans. Anna taught medicine at the hospital, as well as at other hospitals and orphanages. She was considered an expert on gout. Anna treated her father during his final illness.[31]


In roughly 1097, Anna's parents married her to Caesar Nikephoros Bryennios.[10] Nikephoros Bryennios a member of the Bryennios family that had held the throne before the accession of Anna's father, Alexios I.[8] Nikephoros was a soldier and a historian.[5]

Most scholars agree that the marriage was a political one -- it created legitimacy for Anna's paternal family through Bryennois' connections to past emperor's family.[32] The two were an intellectual couple, and Nikephoros Bryennios tolerated and possibly encouraged Anna's scholarly interests by allowing her to participate in various scholarly circles.[13] The couple had six known children: Eirene, Maria, Alexios, John, Andronikos, and Constantine.[33] Only Eirene, John, and Alexios survived to adulthood.[33]

Claim to the throne

In 1087, Anna’s brother, John, was born. Several years after his birth, in 1092, John was designated emperor.[34] According to Niketas Choniates, Emperor Alexios "favored" John and declared him emperor while the Empress Irene "threw her full influence on [Anna's] side" and "continually attempted" to persuade the emperor to designate Nikephoros Bryennios, Anna’s husband, in John's place.[35] Around 1112, Alexios fell sick with rheumatism and could not move. He therefore turned the civil government over to his wife, Irene; she in turn directed the administration to Bryennios.[36] Choniates states that, as Emperor Alexios lay dying in his imperial bedchamber, John arrived and "secretly" took the emperor’s ring from his father during an embrace "as though in mourning."[37] Anna also worked in her husband's favor during her father's illness.[1] In 1118, Alexios I Komnenos died.[38] A cleric acclaimed John emperor in Hagia Sophia.[12]

According to Smythe, Anna "felt cheated" because she "should have inherited."[39] Indeed, according to Anna Komnene in the Alexiad, at her birth she was presented with "a crown and imperial diadem."[40] Anna’s "main aim" in the depiction of events in the Alexiad, according to Stankovich, was to "stress her own right" to the throne and "precedence over her brother, John."[41]

In view of this belief, Jarratt et al. record that Anna was "almost certainly" involved in the murder plot against John at Alexios’s funeral.[42] Indeed, Anna, according to Hill, attempted to create military forces to depose John.[12] According to Choniates, Anna was "stimulated by ambition and revenge" to scheme for the murder of her brother.[42] Smythe states the plots "came to nothing."[34] Jarratt et al., record that, a short time afterward, Anna and Bryennios "organized another conspiracy."[42] However, according to Hill, Bryennios refused to overthrow John, making Anna unable to continue with her plans.[12] With this refusal, Anna, according to Choniates, exclaimed "that nature had mistaken their sexes, for he ought to have been the woman."[1] According to Jarratt et al., Anna shows "a repetition of sexualized anger."[42] Indeed, Smythe asserts that Anna’s goals were "thwarted by the men in her life."[43] Irene, however, according to Hill, had declined to participate in plans to revolt against an "established" emperor.[12] Hill, however, points out that Choniates, whom the above sources draw upon, wrote after 1204, and accordingly was "rather far removed" from "actual" events and that his "agenda" was to "look for the causes" of the toppling of Constantinople in 1204.[12]

In contrast, Leonora Neville argues that Anna probably not involved in the attempted usurpation.[44] Anna plays a minor role in most of the available medieval sources -- only Choniates portrays her as a rebel.[44] Choniates' history is from around 1204, almost a hundred years after Alexios I's death.[45] Instead, most of the sources question whether John II Komnenos' behavior at his father's deathbed was appropriate.[46]

The plots were discovered and Anna forfeited her estates.[1] After her husband's death, she entered the convent of Kecharitomene, which had been founded by her mother. She remained there until her death.[47]

Historian and intellectual

In the seclusion of the monastery, Anna dedicated her time to studying philosophy and history. She held esteemed intellectual gatherings, including those dedicated to Aristotelian studies.[48] Anna's intellectual genius and breadth of knowledge is evident in her few works. Among other things, she was conversant with philosophy, literature, grammar, theology, astronomy, and medicine. It can be assumed because of minor errors that she may have quoted Homer and the Bible from memory when writing her most celebrated work, the Alexiad. Her contemporaries, like the metropolitan Bishop of Ephesus, Georgios Tornikes, regarded Anna as a person who had reached "the highest summit of wisdom, both secular and divine."

The Alexiad

Anna wrote the Alexiad in the mid-1140s or 1150s.[49] Anna cited her husband's unfinished work as the reason why she began the Alexiad.[50] Before his death in 1137, her husband, Nikephoros Bryennios the Younger, was working on a history, which was supposed to record the events before and during the reign of Alexios I.[50] His death left the history unfinished after recording the events of the reign of Emperor Nikephoros Botaneiates.[50] Ruth Macrides argues that while Bryennios' writing may have been a source of inspiration for the Alexiad, it is incorrect to suggest that the Alexiad was Bryennios' work edited by Anna (as Howard-Johnston has argued on tenuous grounds).[51]

In what is considered to be a sort-of statement on how she gathered her sources for the Alexiad, Anna wrote, “My material ... has been gathered from insignificant writings, absolutely devoid of literary pretensions, and from old soldiers who were serving in the army at the time that my father seized the Roman sceptre ... I based the truth of my history on them by examining their narratives and comparing them with what I had written, and what they told me with what I had often heard, from my father in particular and from my uncles … From all these materials the whole fabric of my history – my true history – has been woven.”[52] Beyond just eyewitness accounts from veterans or her male family members, scholars have also noted that Anna used the imperial archives, which allowed her access to official documents.[53]

In the Alexiad, Anna provided insight on political relations and wars between Alexios I and the West. She vividly described weaponry, tactics, and battles. It has been noted that she was writing about events that occurred when she was a child, so these are not eye-witness accounts. Her neutrality is compromised by the fact that she was writing to praise her father and denigrate his successors. Despite her unabashed partiality, her account of the First Crusade is of great value to history because it is the only Byzantine eyewitness account available. She had the opportunity to gather information from key figures in the Byzantine elite; her husband, Nikephorus Bryennios, had fought in the clash with crusade leader Godfrey of Bouillon outside Constantinople on Maundy Thursday 1097; and her uncle, George Palaeologus, was present at Pelekanon in June 1097 when Alexios I discussed future strategy with the crusaders. Thus, the Alexiad allows the events of the First Crusade to be seen from the Byzantine elite's perspective. It conveys the alarm felt at the scale of the western European forces proceeding through the Empire, and the dangers they might have posed to the safety of Constantinople. Anna also identified for the first time, the Vlachs from Balkans with Dacians, in Alexiad (Chapter XIV), describing their places around Haemus mountains: "...on either side of its slopes dwell many very wealthy tribes, the Dacians and the Thracians on the northern side, and on the southern, more Thracians and the Macedonians". Special suspicion was reserved for crusading leader Bohemond of Taranto, a southern Italian Norman who, under the leadership of his father Robert Guiscard, had invaded Byzantine territory in the Balkans in 1081.

The Alexiad was written in Attic Greek,[54] and the literary style is fashioned after Thucydides, Polybius, and Xenophon.[55] Consequently, it exhibits a struggle for an Atticism characteristic of the period, whereby the resulting language is highly artificial.[55] Peter Frankopan argues that the lapses in some of the chronology of events can in part be attributed to errors in, or lack of, source material for those events.[56] Anna herself also addressed these lapses, explaining them as a result of memory loss and old age.[57] But regardless of errors in chronology, her history meets the standards of her time.[58]

Moreover, the Alexiad sheds light on Anna’s emotional turmoil, including her grief over the deaths of her father, mother, and husband, among other things. At the end of the Alexiad, Anna wrote "But living I died a thousand deaths … Yet I am more grief-stricken than [Niobe]: after my misfortunes, great and terrible as they are, I am still alive – to experience yet more … Let this be the end of my history, then, lest as I write of these sad events I become even more resentful."[59]

Depictions in fiction and other media

  • Anna Komnene plays a secondary role in Sir Walter Scott’s 1832 novel Count Robert of Paris.
  • Fictional accounts of her life are given in the 1928 novel Anna Comnena by Naomi Mitchison, and the 1999 novel for young people Anna of Byzantium by Tracy Barrett.
  • She appears prominently in the first volume of the trilogy The Crusaders by the Polish novelist Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, written in 1935.
  • A novel written in 2008 by the Albanian writer Ben Blushi called Living on an Island also mentions her.
  • The novel Аз, Анна Комнина (Az, Anna Komnina, in English: I, Anna Comnena) was written by Vera Mutafchieva, a Bulgarian writer and historian.[60]
  • She is also a minor character in Nan Hawthorne's novel of the Crusade of 1101, Beloved Pilgrim (2011).
  • Anna appears in Medieval 2: Total War video game campaigns as a Byzantine princess diplomat, under the name Anna Comnenus.
  • In Julia Kristeva's 2006 murder mystery Murder in Byzantium, Anna Komnene is the focus of the villain's scholarly and amorous fantasy of the past. The novel includes considerable detail on Anna Komnene's life, work, and historical context.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Videssos cycle of novels the character Alypia Gavra is a fictionalized version of Anna Komnene.
  • In the board game Nations, Anna Komnene is an adviser in the Medieval Age.


Ancestors of Anna Komnene
8. Manuel Erotikos Komnenos
4. John Komnenos (brother of Isaac I Komnenos)
2. Alexios I Komnenos
10. Alexios Charon
5. Anna Dalassena
11. Dalassene
1. Anna Komnene
24. Andronikos Doukas
12. John Doukas (brother of Constantine X Doukas)
6. Andronikos Doukas
13. Irene Pegonitissa
3. Irene Doukaina
28. Ivan Vladislav of Bulgaria
14. Troian of Bulgaria
29. Maria
7. Maria of Bulgaria


  1. ^ a b c d e EB (1878).
  2. ^ Kazhdan 2005, "Komnene, Anna."
  3. ^ Hanawalt 1982, p. 303.
  4. ^ a b Larmour 2004, p. 204.
  5. ^ a b c d e Hanawalt 1982, p. 303.
  6. ^ a b Neville 2016, p. 2.
  7. ^ a b Laiou 2000, p. 3.
  8. ^ a b c d Smythe 2006, p. 126.
  9. ^ Smythe 2006, p. 126.
  10. ^ a b c Neville 2016, p. 3.
  11. ^ Larmour 2004, p. 203-205.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Hill 2000, p. 47.
  13. ^ a b Neville 2016, p. 5.
  14. ^ Laiou 2000, p. 11-12.
  15. ^ Smythe 2006, p. 130.
  16. ^ Frankopan 2009, p. 479.
  17. ^ Frankopan 2009, p. 536.
  18. ^ a b Komnene 2009, p. 3.
  19. ^ a b Comnena 2001, p. 152.
  20. ^ Garland and Rapp 2006, p. 115.
  21. ^ a b Garland and Rapp 2006, p. 110.
  22. ^ Hanawalt 1982, p. 303; Neville 2016, p. 2.
  23. ^ Garland and Rapp 2006, p. 108.
  24. ^ Garland & Rapp 2006, p. 108.
  25. ^ Gouma-Peterson, Thalia (2000). "Gender and Power: Passages to the Maternal in Anna Komnene's Alexiad". In Gouma-Peterson, Thalia. Anna Komnene and Her Times. Garland Publishing, Inc. p. 109.
  26. ^ Gouma-Peterson, Thalia (2000). "Gender and Power: Passages to the Maternal in Anna Komnene's Alexiad". In Gouma-Peterson, Thalia. Anna Komnene and Her Times. Garland Publishing, Inc. p. 118.
  27. ^ Choniates 1984, p. 8.
  28. ^ Connor 2004, p. 255.
  29. ^ Laiou 2000, p. 4; referenced from Kurtz, Ed. "Unedierte Texte aus der Zeit des Kaisers Johannes Komnenos." Byzantinische Zeitschrift 16 (1907): 69–119.
  30. ^ Browning 1990, p. 404-405.
  31. ^ Windsor, Laura Lynn (2002). Women in Medicine: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-57607-392-6.
  32. ^ Jongh 1953, quoted in Smythe p. 126.
  33. ^ a b Neville 2016, p. 4.
  34. ^ a b Smythe 2006, p. 126.
  35. ^ Choniates 1984, p. 5.
  36. ^ Hill 2000, p. 46.
  37. ^ Choniates 1984, p. 6.
  38. ^ Smythe 2006, p. 127.
  39. ^ Smythe 1997, p. 241.
  40. ^ Komnene 1969, p. 197.
  41. ^ Stankovíc 2007, p. 174.
  42. ^ a b c d Jarratt 2008, p. 308.
  43. ^ Smythe 2006, p. 125.
  44. ^ a b Neville 2016, p. 111.
  45. ^ Hill 2000, p. 47.
  46. ^ Neville 2016, p. 112.
  47. ^ Jarratt 2008, p. 305.
  48. ^ Browning 1990, p. 397-399.
  49. ^ Neville 2016, p. 5.
  50. ^ a b c Komnene 2009. Prologue, section 3, p. 5.
  51. ^ Macrides, Ruth (2000). "The Pen and the Sword: Who Wrote the Alexiad?". In Gouma-Peterson, Thalia. Anna Komnene and Her Times. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. p. 70.
  52. ^ Komnene 2009. Book XIV, section 7, p. 422.
  53. ^ Neville 2016, p. 78.
  54. ^ Dalven, Rae (1972). Anna Comnena. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc. p. 155.
  55. ^ a b EB (1911).
  56. ^ Frankopan, Peter (2002). "Perception and Projection of Prejudice: Anna Comnena, the Alexiad, and the First Crusade". In Edgington, Susan B.; Lambert, Sarah. Gendering the Crusades. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 63.
  57. ^ Komnene 2009, Book V, section 9, p. 151.
  58. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia
  59. ^ Komnene 2009, Book XV, section 11, p. 472-473.
  60. ^ (Retrieved August 2010)


Primary sources

  • Niketas Choniates, O City of Byzantium: Annals of Niketas Choniates (Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 1984)
  • Anna Comnena (2001). Dawes, Elizabeth A., ed. "The Alexiad." The Internet Medieval Sourcebook. Fordham University. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
  • Anna Komnene, The Alexiad, translated by E.R.A. Sewter, ed. Peter Frankopan, (New York: Penguin, 2009)
  • Georgios Tornikes, 'An unpublished funeral oration on Anna Comnena', English translation by Robert Browning, in Aristotle Transformed: The Ancient Commentators and Their Influence, ed. R. Sorabji (New York: Cornell University Press, 1990)

Secondary sources

  • Carolyn R. Connor, Women of Byzantium (Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2004)
  • Dalven, Rae (1972). Anna Comnena. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc.
  • Frankopan, Peter (2002). "Perception and Projection of Prejudice: Anna Comnena, the Alexiad, and the First Crusade." Chapter 5 in Edgington, Susan B.; Lambert, Sarah. Gendering the Crusades. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Gouma-Peterson, Thalia. "Gender and Power: Passages to the Maternal in Anna Komnene's Alexiad." In Gouma-Peterson, Thalia. Anna Komnene and Her Times. New York: Garland Publishing Inc. p. 107-125. ISBN 0815336454
  • Hanawalt, Emily Albu (1982). "Anna Komnene". In Strayer, Joseph R. ed. The Dictionary of the Middle Ages. 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 303-304. ISBN 0684167603
  • Hill, Barbara (2000). "Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Anna Komnene's Attempted Usurpation". In Gouma-Peterson, Thaila. Anna Komnene and Her Times. New York: Garland Publishing Inc. p. 45-62. ISBN 0815336454
  • Jongh, Suzanne Wittek-De (1953). "Le César Nicéphore Byennois, l'historien, et sese ascendants". Byzantion. 23: 463-468., cited in Dion C. Smythe (2006), Garland, Lynda ed. "Middle Byzantine Family Values and Anna Komnene's Alexiad". Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Limited. ISBN 9780754657378
  • Lynda Garland & Stephen Rapp, "Maria ‘of Alania’: Woman & Empress Between Two Worlds," Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience, ed. Lynda Garland, (New Hampshire: Ashgate, 2006). ISBN 9780754657378
  • Kahzdan, Alexander (1991). "Komnene, Anna". In Kazhdan, Alexander. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504652-8.
  • Angeliki Laiou, "Introduction: Why Anna Komnene?" Anna Komnene and Her Times, ed. Thalia Gouma-Peterson, (New York: Garland, 2000). ISBN 0815336454.
  • Larmour, David (2004). Margolis, Nadia; Wilson, Katherina M., eds. "Comnene, Anna". Women in the Middle Ages: an encyclopedia. 1. Westport: Greenwood Press. p. 203-205. ISBN 0313330174.
  • Macrides, Ruth (2000). "The Pen and the Sword: Who Wrote the Alexiad?." In Gouma-Peterson, Thaila. Anna Komnene and Her Times. New York: Garland Publishing Inc. p. 63-82. ISBN 0815336454
  • Neville, Leonora (2016). Anna Komnene: the life and work of a medieval historian. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0190498177.
  • Reinsch, Diether R. (2000). "Women’s Literature in Byzantium?—The Case of Anna Komnene." Translated from German by Thomas Dunlap. In Anna Komnene and Her Times, ed. Thalia Gouma-Peterson. New York: Garland Publishing Inc.
  • Dion C. Smythe, "Middle Byzantine Family Values and Anna Komnene’s Alexiad," Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200, ed. Lynda Garland, (New Hampshire: Ashgate, 2006). ISBN 9780754657378.
  • Wikisource Baynes, T.S., ed. (1878), "Anna Comnena", Encyclopædia Britannica, 2 (9th ed.), New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, pp. 59–60
  • Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911), "Anna Comnena", Encyclopædia Britannica, 2 (11th ed.), Cambridge University Press, p. 59
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Shahan, Thomas Joseph (1913). "Anna Comnena". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

Further reading

  • Georgina Buckler, Anna Comnena: A Study, Oxford University Press, 1929. ISBN 0-19-821471-5
  • Anna Comnena, The Alexiad, translated by Elizabeth A. Dawes in 1928
  • Anna Comnena, The Alexiad of Anna Comnena, edited and translated by E.R.A. Sewter. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969. (This print version uses more idiomatic English, has more extensive notes, and mistakes).
  • John France, "Anna Comnena, the Alexiad and the First Crusade", Reading Medieval Studies v.9 (1983)
  • Ed. Kurtz, 'Unedierte Texte aus der Zeit des Kaisers Johannes Komnenos, in Byzantinische Zeitschrift 16 (1907): 69–119 (Greek text of Anna Comnene’s testament)
  • Thalia Gouma-Peterson (ed.), Anna Komnene and her Times, New York: Garland, 2000. ISBN 0-8153-3851-1.
  • Jonathan Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades, Bloomsbury, 2nd ed., 2014. ISBN 978-1-78093-767-0
  • Barbara Hill, "Actions speak louder than words: Anna Komnene’s attempted usurpation," in Anna Komnene and her times (2000): 46–47.
  • Levin, Carole, et al. Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000.
  • Magoulias, Harry J., ed. (1984). O City of Byzantium: Annals of Niketas Choniatēs. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8143-1764-8. 5–6.
  • Ellen Quandahl and Susan C. Jarratt, "'To recall him…will be a subject of lamentation': Anna Comnene as rhetorical historiographer" in Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric (2008): 301–335. JSTOR 10.1525/rh.2008.26.3.301
  • Vlada Stankovíc, "Nikephoros Bryennios, Anna Komnene and Konstantios Doukas. A Story of Different Perspectives," in Byzantinische Zeitschrift (2007): 174.
  • Paul Stephenson, "Anna Comnena's Alexiad as a source for the Second Crusade?", Journal of Medieval History v. 29 (2003)
  • Dion C. Smythe, "Middle Byzantine Family Values and Anna Komnene’s Alexiad," in Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience (2006): 125–127.
  • Dion C. Symthe, "Outsiders by taxis perceptions of non-conformity eleventh and twelfth-century literature," in Byzantinische Forschungen: Internationale Zeitschrift für Byzantinistik (1997): 241.
  • Varzos, Konstantinos (1984). Η Γενεαλογία των Κομνηνών [The Genealogy of the Komnenoi] (PDF) (in Greek). A. Thessaloniki: Centre for Byzantine Studies, University of Thessaloniki. OCLC 834784634.

External links


The Alexiad (Greek: Ἀλεξιάς, translit. Alexias) is a medieval historical and biographical text written around the year 1148, by the Byzantine historian and princess Anna Komnene, daughter of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos.

In the Alexiad, Anna describes the political and military history of the Byzantine Empire during the reign of her father, the Byzantine emperor, which makes it a reference on the Byzantium of the High Middle Ages. The Alexiad documents the Byzantine Empire's interaction with the First Crusade and highlights the conflicting perceptions of the East and West in the early 12th century.

The text was written in a form of artificial Attic Greek and shows the Byzantine perception of the Crusades.

Alexios Charon

Alexios Charon (Greek: Ἀλέξιος Χάρων, fl. early 11th century) was a Byzantine official in southern Italy and the maternal grandfather of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (reigned 1081–1118), the founder of the Komnenian dynasty.

Very little is known about his life. The only references to him come from the history of Nikephoros Bryennios the Younger, who married his great-granddaughter Anna Komnene. Bryennios reports that "Charon" was a sobriquet given to him for his bravery, referring to the ferryman of the underworld in Greek mythology, but the name is attested as an actual surname as well.On Alexios' career, Bryennios only reports that he "handled the emperor's affairs" in the Byzantine provinces of southern Italy (the Catepanate of Italy) some time in the first half of the 11th century. The exact office that Alexios held is unknown; it has been suggested that he may have been the governor (catepan) of Italy, but his name appears in no other source. The historian of Byzantine Italy Vera von Falkenhausen suggested that he might be identical with Alexios Xiphias, who was catepan in 1006/07, but Xiphias died in 1007, and Charon's daughter—and mother of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos—Anna Dalassene was not born until sometime between 1020 and 1030.

Andronikos Angelos Palaiologos

Andronikos Angelos Komnenos Doukas Palaiologos (Greek: Ἀνδρόνικος Ἄγγελος Κομνηνός Δούκας Παλαιολόγος, ca. 1282–1328), was a Byzantine aristocrat and military leader.

He was born ca. 1282 to Demetrios Doukas Komnenos Koutroules, son of the ruler of Epirus, Michael II Komnenos Doukas, and Anna Komnene Palaiologina, the daughter of the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos. By 1326 he held the post of protovestiarios and the rank of protosebastos. In 1327–28, Andronikos was military governor of Velegrada (modern Berat). During the Byzantine civil war of 1321–28, he initially sided with Andronikos III Palaiologos against his grandfather Andronikos II Palaiologos, but then switched sides. As a result, when Andronikos III Palaiologos ousted his grandfather in 1328, he arrested his family and confiscated his property and his extensive estates in Macedonia. Andronikos was thereby forced to defect to Serbia, dying in exile at Prilep in 1328.He was married to an unnamed daughter of a certain Kokalas. The couple had at least two daughters, the future queen-consort of Epirus Anna Palaiologina and another, unnamed daughter, who married John Angelos.

Anna Komnene (disambiguation)

Anna Komnene or Comnena (Greek: Ἄννα Κομνηνὴ) may refer to:

Anna Komnene (1 December 1083 – 1153), daughter of Alexios I Komnenos.

Anna Komnene Angelina (c. 1176 – 1212), Empress of Nicaea

Anna Komnene Doukaina (d. 4 January 1286), known in French as Agnes, Princess-consort of the Principality of Achaea.

Anna Megale Komnene (6 April 1357 - after 30 November 1406), Queen consort of Georgia

Anna Komnene Angelina

Anna Komnene Angelina or Comnena Angelina (c. 1176 – 1212) was an Empress of Nicaea. She was the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios III Angelos and of Euphrosyne Doukaina Kamatera.

Anna Komnene Doukaina

Anna Komnene Doukaina (died 4 January 1286), known in French as Agnes, was Princess-consort of the Principality of Achaea in 1258–1278 and regent for some time between 1259-1262.

Anna was a daughter of the ruler of Epirus, Michael II Komnenos Doukas, and his wife, Theodora. In 1258, she was married to the Prince of Achaea, William II of Villehardouin, at Patras, while her sister Helena was married to Manfred of Hohenstaufen, King of Sicily. These marriages were part of a web of alliances directed against the eastern Roman Empire of Nicaea, whose expansion threatened both the interests of the Epirote ruler, who claimed the Byzantine imperial heritage for himself, and the very existence of the Latin states of Greece. The diplomatic and military manoeuvring that followed led to the eventual defeat of the Epirote–Latin alliance in the Battle of Pelagonia in 1259.Anna, after the imprisoment of William by the Roman Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos, assumed the regency of the Principality of Achaea and tried to organise the resistance of Frankish Greece against the onslaught of the victorious eastern Roman troops. She also called all the noble ladies of Morea, at the absence of their husbands, to a convent in her palaces at Nikli, urging them to find a common solution for the future of Morea, with her presiding over the discussion. This event is known as "the Parliament of the Ladies" (Παλαρμάς των Κυράδων)Anna, known as Agnes in French, was William's third wife. William was childless with his first two wives, but Anna bore him two daughters, Isabella and Margaret. After William II's death in 1278, per the Treaty of Viterbo, the princely title passed to the King of Sicily, Charles of Anjou. Anna inherited the Villehardouins' patrimonial domain, the Barony of Kalamata, and the fortress of Chlemoutsi, which she had received as a dowry from William. She also became guardian of her youngest daughter Margaret, while Isabella had been married to Charles' son Philip and had gone to Italy, where she remained even after her husband died in 1277.In 1280, Anna married a second time, to the rich lord of one half of Thebes, Nicholas II of Saint Omer. This worried King Charles, who was uneasy to see Chlemoutsi, the strongest castle in Achaea, and Kalamata, which comprised some of the principality's most fertile lands, in the hands of an already powerful vassal. Thus, after negotiations, in 1282 Anna exchanged her possessions with lands elsewhere in Messenia. Anna's marriage with Nicholas remained childless, and she died on 4 January 1286, being buried alongside her first husband in the church of St. Jacob in Andravida.

Constantine Dalassenos (thalassokrator)

Constantine Dalassenos (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Δαλασσηνός, fl. ca. 1086–1093) was a prominent Byzantine military leader on land and sea during the early reign of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118), especially in the campaigns against Tzachas of Smyrna. His life is only known from the Alexiad of Anna Komnene.

Demetrios Doukas Komnenos Koutroules

Demetrios, later renamed Michael, Doukas Komnenos Koutroules Angelos (Greek: Δημήτριος (Μιχαήλ) Δούκας Κομνηνός Κουτρούλης Ἄγγελος; fl. 1278–1304) was the third son of the ruler of Epirus, Michael II Komnenos Doukas (ruled 1230–68), also surnamed Koutroules, and his wife Theodora of Arta.In 1278, he married Anna Komnene Palaiologina, the daughter of the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1259–82), and received from his father-in-law the supreme dignity of Despot. From this marriage, he had two sons, Andronikos and Constantine. From a second marriage to a daughter of George I Terter, Tsar of Bulgaria, he had several children more.He is mentioned as fighting in the ranks of the Byzantine army against the troops of Charles of Anjou in the Siege of Berat, as well as twenty years later against the Alans. In 1304, he was accused of conspiring against Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (r. 1282–1328) and was imprisoned. Nothing further is known of him.

George Palaiologos

George (Georgios) Palaiologos or Palaeologus (Greek: Γεώργιος Παλαιολόγος) was a Byzantine general, one of the most prominent military commanders and supporters of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118).

He was the son of the first known member of the Palaiologos family, the strategos of Mesopotamia Nikephoros Palaiologos. His wife Anna Doukaina was the sister of Eirene Doukaina, the wife of Alexios I Komnenos, making him the emperor's brother-in-law. As Alexios Komnenos’ leading general and close friend, he played an important role in his campaigns, especially the Battle of Dyrrhachium against the Normans or the Battle of Levounion against the Pechenegs. He was the chief source used by Anna Komnene in her Alexiad on her father’s battles, and is very favourably portrayed by her in her book as both capable and loyal.

Hugh, Count of Vermandois

Hugh (1057 – October 18, 1101), called the Great (Latin Hugo Magnus), was a younger son of Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev and younger brother of Philip I. He was Count of Vermandois in right of his wife (jure uxoris). His nickname Magnus (greater or elder) is probably a bad translation into Latin of a French nickname, le Maisné, meaning "the younger", referring to Hugh as younger brother of the King of France.

Irene Doukaina

Irene Doukaina or Ducaena (Greek: Εἰρήνη Δούκαινα, Eirēnē Doukaina; c. 1066 – 19 February 1138) was a Byzantine Empress by marriage to the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos, and the mother of the emperor John II Komnenos and of the historian Anna Komnene.

Irene of Hungary

Saint Irene of Hungary (1088 – 13 August 1134), born Piroska, was a Byzantine empress by marriage to John II Komnenos. She is venerated as a saint.

John Doukas (megas doux)

John Doukas (Greek: Ἰωάννης Δούκας, c. 1064 – before 1137) was a member of the Doukas family, a relative of Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118) and a senior military figure of his reign. As governor of Dyrrhachium, he secured the imperial possessions in the western Balkans against the Serbs. Appointed megas doux, he scoured the Aegean of the fleets of the Turkish emir Tzachas, suppressed rebellions in Crete and Cyprus, and then recovered much of the western coast of Anatolia for Byzantium.

Manuel Boutoumites

Manuel Boutoumites or Butumites (Greek: Μανουὴλ Βουτουμίτης, fl. 1086–1112) was a leading Byzantine general and diplomat during the reign of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118), and one of the emperor's most trusted aides. He was instrumental in the Byzantine recovery of Nicaea from the Seljuk Turks, in the reconquest of Cilicia, and acted as the emperor's envoy in several missions to Crusader princes.

Pecheneg language

Pecheneg is an extinct Turkic language spoken by the Pechenegs in Eastern Europe (parts of Southern Ukraine, southern Russia, Moldova, Romania and Hungary) in the 7th–12th centuries. It is also possible that the language was spoken by the Cumans, per Byzantine princess Anna Komnene.It was most likely a member of the Oghuz branch of the Turkic family, but poor documentation and the absence of any descendant languages have prevented linguists from making an accurate classification; most experts would be fairly confident in placing it among the Oghuz languages, but would refuse to classify it further.

Siege of Dyrrhachium (1107–1108)

The Siege of Dyrrhachium took place from November 1107 until September 1108, as the Italo-Normans under Bohemond I of Antioch besieged the Adriatic port city of Dyrrhachium, held for the

Byzantine Empire by its doux Alexios Komnenos, a nephew of the reigning Byzantine emperor, Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118). The siege is described at length in the Alexiad of Anna Komnene, daughter of Emperor Alexios. Emperor Alexios, who had been heavily defeated while trying to relieve a previous Norman siege of the same city in 1081, now allowed the siege to wear on and avoided a pitched battle, while dispatching detachments of his army to occupy the passes in the Normans' rear, thus preventing them from foraging. As the siege continued, with the defenders using Greek fire to burn down the Norman siege engines, famine and disease spread in the Norman camp. Finally, Bohemond sought term. The resulting negotiations led to the Treaty of Devol, whereby Bohemond and the Principality of Antioch became Byzantine vassals.

Thalia Gouma-Peterson

Thalia Gouma-Peterson (died 2001) was Professor Emerita of English at Oberlin College and artist and art historian. She taught at Oberlin College from 1960-1968, before taking a full professor position at the College of Wooster, where she chaired the art department.

Her books include Miriam Schapiro: Shaping the Fragments of Art and Life on the work and life of feminist artist, Miriam Shapiro; and Anna Komnene and Her Times (2000), on a Byzantine princess (that was co-edited by Marcia Colish. Gouma-Peterson also served as the Wooster College Museum Director.

Treaty of Devol

The Treaty of Devol (Greek: συνθήκη της Δεαβόλεως) was an agreement made in 1108 between Bohemond I of Antioch and Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, in the wake of the First Crusade. It is named after the Byzantine fortress of Devol (in modern Albania). Although the treaty was not immediately enforced, it was intended to make the Principality of Antioch a vassal state of the Byzantine Empire.

At the beginning of the First Crusade, Crusader armies assembled at Constantinople and promised to return to the Byzantine Empire any land they might conquer. However, Bohemond, the son of Alexios' former enemy Robert Guiscard, claimed the Principality of Antioch for himself. Alexios did not recognize the legitimacy of the Principality, and Bohemond went to Europe looking for reinforcements. He launched into open warfare against Alexios, laying siege to Dyrrhachium, but he was soon forced to surrender and negotiate with Alexios at the imperial camp at Diabolis (Devol), where the Treaty was signed.

Under the terms of the Treaty, Bohemond agreed to become a vassal of the Emperor and to defend the Empire whenever needed. He also accepted the appointment of a Greek Patriarch. In return, he was given the titles of sebastos and doux (duke) of Antioch, and he was guaranteed the right to pass on to his heirs the County of Edessa. Following this, Bohemond retreated to Apulia and died there. His nephew, Tancred, who was regent in Antioch, refused to accept the terms of the Treaty. Antioch came temporarily under Byzantine sway in 1137, but it was not until 1158 that it truly became a Byzantine vassal.

The Treaty of Devol is viewed as a typical example of the Byzantine tendency to settle disputes through diplomacy rather than warfare, and was both a result of and a cause for the distrust between the Byzantines and their Western European neighbors.


Tzachas (Greek: Τζαχᾶς), also known as Chaka Bey (Turkish: Çaka Bey) was an 11th-century Seljuk Turkish military commander who ruled an independent state based in Smyrna (present-day İzmir). Originally in Byzantine service, he rebelled and seized Smyrna, much of the Aegean coastlands of Asia Minor and the islands lying off shore in 1088–91. At the peak of his power, he even declared himself Byzantine emperor, and sought to assault Constantinople in conjunction with the Pechenegs. In 1092, a Byzantine naval expedition under John Doukas inflicted a heavy defeat on him and retook Lesbos, while in the next year he was treacherously slain by his son-in-law Kilij Arslan I. Smyrna and the rest of Tzachas' former domain were recovered by the Byzantines a few years later, in c. 1097.

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