Anna Komnene: The Life and Work of a Medieval Historian by Leonora Neville

By Leonora Neville

Byzantine princess Anna Komnene is understood for 2 issues: plotting to homicide her brother to usurp the throne, and writing the Alexiad, an epic heritage of her father Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118) that may be a key ancient resource for the period of the 1st Crusade. Anna Komnene: the lifestyles and Work of a Medieval Historian investigates the connection among Anna's self-presentation within the Alexiad and the tale of her bloodthirsty ambition. It starts off by means of asking why girls didn't write background in Anna's society, what cultural principles Anna broke by means of doing so, and the way Anna attempted to answer these demanding situations in her writing. the various idiosyncrasies and surprises of Anna's Alexiad are pushed via her efforts to be perceived as either a great historian and an outstanding lady. those new interpretations of Anna's authorial character then spark an intensive re-thinking of the normal tale which defines Anna's existence through the failure of her meant political objectives. the second one 1/2 this paintings studies the medieval assets with clean eyes and re-establishes Anna's basic id as an writer and highbrow instead of as a failed conspirator.

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Anna provides a second external motivation for her historical activity in describing it as a continuation of her husband’s work. She describes her husband, the Caesar Nikephoros Bryennios, in glowing terms, and relates that he was working on a history of Alexios in between accompanying emperor John (1118–​1143) on military campaigns. Nikephoros had taken up task of writing a history of Alexios at the request of Anna’s mother, the Empress Eirene. Anna explains that Nikephoros wrote a history about Alexios’s early years, but was unable to complete the work before his death.

The existence of that ideology does not mean that women were in fact always disempowered, passive, and subordinate to men. Yet women seem to have wielded authority more by upholding than disputing 18 A Good Historian and a Good Woman the dominant gender ideas of their culture. Ideals of female subordination to men were reinforced by depicting particularly virtuous women as having overcome the problems inherent in their femaleness: some women could be good because they became like men. Women were invited to practice the masculine virtue of self-​control and hence to become, through training, more like men.

Anna creates an external impulse for the need to write history by emphasizing the dangers of oblivion. She forcefully describes the destructive power of time to erase memory, and extols the ability of history to oppose it: The art of history is the strongest bulwark against the stream of time and, to some extent, it stays time’s irresistible stream…. 25 The dramatization of the risk time presents to memory provides a strong compulsion for Anna to commemorate the memory of Alexios. 27 The necessity of preserving her father’s memory from oblivion compels her to write, not a desire to show off her learning and authorial power.

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