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the Alexiad of Anna Comnena

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    Posted: 11 Jul 2009 at 20:38
In the Alexiad of Anna Comnena there are some vivid descriptions of various battles; some of which her father Alexius took part in. It is obvious she was not there so what were her sources? Are these sources still around or were many of them destroyed in the Fourth Crusade in 1204?   I am currently rereading the Alexiad of Anna Comnena; it is one of my favorite primary source books. I know a lot of it was embellished and a bit biased but I am only concerned about her sources.


Byz here is one for you
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jul 2009 at 20:54
She was very young around the time of the First Crusade, wasn't she? Doubtless the presence of the barbarians from the west had a great impact on her young mind (Her descriptions of Bohemond verge on the humourous at times). A lot of her work was based on recollection - after all, she was the daughter of the Emperor. I'm sure quite a bit is based on conversations she may have had with other Greeks in the city. But there is little doubt that a lot of her more colourful descriptions originate from a youthful impressionism.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jul 2009 at 21:08
Originally posted by eaglecap eaglecap wrote:

It is obvious she was not there so what were her sources? Are these sources still around or were many of them destroyed in the Fourth Crusade in 1204?
 
As the porphyrogenita daughter of Alexios I, she was educated in the classical tradition.  As you can see from her quotations and anecdotes, the classics, especially Homer, of whom she memorized the important battles and speeches, were ever present in hers and other educated Byzantines' lives.  We can be sure that she used these sources as frameworks for the encomium for her father.
 
Secondly, she most likely had some access to official imperial documents and correspondence from which she could glean valuable details.  Certain scholars have tried to maintain that she had an affair with the Norman baron Robert Guiscard.  At any rate she probably met him or at least saw him.
 
Finally, we have a rather minor history left which Anna's husband Nikephoros Bryennios wrote.  As far as I know it has not been translated and is in a Greek edition in the Bonn corpus.  Some scholars speculate as to whether or not Anna ghostwrote the history herself.
 
But yes, a good deal of classical and contemporary manuscripts were destroyed in 1204.  It is anyone's guess as to what was lost! Cry
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Jul 2009 at 19:02
Originally posted by Byzantine Emperor Byzantine Emperor wrote:

Originally posted by eaglecap eaglecap wrote:

It is obvious she was not there so what were her sources? Are these sources still around or were many of them destroyed in the Fourth Crusade in 1204?

 

As the porphyrogenita daughter of Alexios I, she was educated in the classical tradition.  As you can see from her quotations and anecdotes, the classics, especially Homer, of whom she memorized the important battles and speeches, were ever present in hers and other educated Byzantines' lives.  We can be sure that she used these sources as frameworks for the encomium for her father.

 

Secondly, she most likely had some access to official imperial documents and correspondence from which she could glean valuable details.  Certain scholars have tried to maintain that she had an affair with the Norman baron Robert Guiscard.  At any rate she probably met him or at least saw him.

 

Finally, we have a rather minor history left which Anna's husband Nikephoros Bryennios wrote.  As far as I know it has not been translated and is in a Greek edition in the Bonn corpus.  Some scholars speculate as to whether or not Anna ghostwrote the history herself.

 

But yes, a good deal of classical and contemporary manuscripts were destroyed in 1204.  It is anyone's guess as to what was lost! Cry

 


good reply - she sure hated your btother John!!

Finally, we have a rather minor history left which Anna's husband Nikephoros Bryennios wrote. As far as I know it has not been translated and is in a Greek edition in the Bonn corpus. Some scholars speculate as to whether or not Anna ghostwrote the history herself.

Byzantine Emperor- Maybe you could be the one who translates this work by Nikephoros Bryennios.

It is one of my favorite all times primary sources
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Jul 2009 at 20:43
Originally posted by Byzantine Emperor Byzantine Emperor wrote:

It is anyone's guess as to what was lost! Cry
 
 
A bit offtopic, but would you really prefer to know exactly what was lost? Imagine the names of thousands of manuscripts you see written out, and knowing that the Venetians had them destroyed (pretty much so) and you've got no hopes of seeing any of them... Plus, going to repay the favour is out of the question...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Jul 2009 at 21:01
Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

Originally posted by Byzantine Emperor Byzantine Emperor wrote:

It is anyone's guess as to what was lost! Cry
 

 

A bit offtopic, but would you really prefer to know exactly what was lost? Imagine the names of thousands of manuscripts you see written out, and knowing that the Venetians had them destroyed (pretty much so) and you've got no hopes of seeing any of them... Plus, going to repay the favour is out of the question...


I think it was the Franks, on the most part, who burned Constantiople to the ground and the Venetians provided the transport. There is a musuem in Venice where part of the stolen goods is still on display. I would love to go to Venice to see this so I can say you stole this from us-
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Jul 2009 at 23:11
I found this quote while reading the Alexiad by Anna about her father. A bit biased she seemed to really admire her father but really left little account about her brother John the Good. She paints the image of her father as being quite the man of valor.

From the Alexiad of Anna Comnena translated by E.R. A Sewter= Penguin Books:

Alexius was not a very tall man, but broad shouldered and well proportioned when standing he did not look particularly striking to onlookers, but when one saw the grim flash of his eyes as he at on the imperial throne, he reminded of a fiery whirlwind, so overwhelming was the radiance the emanated from his countenance and his whole presence. His dark eyes brows were curved and beneath them the gaze of his eyes was both terrible and kind. A quick glance, the brightness of his face, the noble cheeks suffused with red combined to inspire in the beholder both dread and confidence. His broad shoulders, mighty arms and deep chest, all on a heroic scale, invariably commanded wonder and delight of the people. The man’s person indeed radiated beauty and grace and dignity and unapproachable majesty. When he came into a gathering and began to speak, at once you were conscious of the fiery eloquence of his tongue, for a torrent of argument won a universal hearing and captivated every heart; tongue and hand alike were unsurpassed and invincible, the one hurling the spear, the other in devising fresh enchantments.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melisende Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Oct 2015 at 02:34
Anna had quite a lot of time to gather her sources during her confinement after the failed plot to replace her brother John on the Imperial throne.  Whether she had this material with her, or, considering she was writing about her illustrious father, these materials were freely given is open to question.


All historians are a little biased - human nature.  I have not yet read an entirely, unemotional, non-biased tome to date.  if one is around, please let me know.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 4ZZZ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Oct 2015 at 06:17
Originally posted by Melisende Melisende wrote:

Anna had quite a lot of time to gather her sources during her confinement after the failed plot to replace her brother John on the Imperial throne.  Whether she had this material with her, or, considering she was writing about her illustrious father, these materials were freely given is open to question.


All historians are a little biased - human nature.  I have not yet read an entirely, unemotional, non-biased tome to date.  if one is around, please let me know.


Best not read John Guy's My Heart is My Own. Hagiography at it's finest. Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melisende Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Oct 2015 at 10:11
Thanks for the tip.

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