Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Barbara Newman reviews ‘Anna Komnene’ by Leonora Neville

Byzantium also produced a female historian, Anna Komnene (1083-c.1155). Her Alexiad, with its deliberately epic title, is considered an invaluable source for the reign of her father, Emperor Alexios Komnenos. Like most Byzantine histories, it is a tale of wars, conspiracies and heresies. Anna could describe a battle as vividly or refute a heretic as scornfully as any of her male peers. Western historians prize her account of the First Crusade, the only eyewitness view from Byzantium, in which she portrays the Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemond with horrified fascination. In a period that witnessed the gradual loss of Asia Minor to the Turks, the emergence of Venice and Pisa as maritime powers and the formulation of holy war ideologies in western Christendom and Islam, our knowledge of the Byzantine response to these changes comes largely from the Alexiad. Like all histories, it has its gaps and silences, but also its odd inclusions, such as an excursus on Aristotelian philosophers in the capital. Anna herself would commission the first commentaries on the Nicomachean Ethics.

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See Also:
Anna & the First Crusade @ De Re Militari

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