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The Alexiad (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 29, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a relatively recent edition of the 'Alexiad'. While the core of E.R.A. Sewter's 1969 translation remains in place, many changes have been made and they are all good. The first, and most visually obvious, is the jacket. The 2003 edition of the Alexiad featured a figure in mosaic, which the book identified as Alexios Komnenos, as depicted in a 12th c. mosaic in the Hagia Sophia. This isn't entirely wrong, in that the mosaic is of Alexios Komnenos, it's just the wrong one. The figure depicted was Alexios, son of John II Komnenos and heir-apparent until his early death. His mosaic is attached but is rotated 90 degrees from the famous mosaic panel of his parents, making the mis-identification understandable for a badly-informed tourist guide, but not a serious publication. Thankfully, Penguin has fixed this issue and replaced the cover image with a high-quality picture (the coin it is a picture of is about the size of a thumbnail) of one of Alexios I Komnenos' hyperpyra (meaning: fire-refined) coins. The new editor, Oxford's Peter Frankopan has also adopted a more regular transliteration style based upon that used in the The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (3-Volume Set), in place of Sewter's original Latin-based transliteration style. These changes extend into the text as well, which generally seems to be mostly unchanged, although Frankopan's updates allow for more precision. Titles and important Greek terms are left transliterated.
The book's appendices are also much overhauled.Read more ›
Excellent book for history buffs and people looking for examples of great leadership.
I came away from this book with a deeper understanding of the various nuances of the word 'Byzantine': religiosity bordering on fanaticism, cruel palace intrigues (I lost count keeping track of how many people got their eyes gouged out when they fell out of favour) and shrewd double-timing diplomacy in a turbulent world.
I'm really not sure what I was expecting. If you're a scholar or hugely interested in Byzantine history around the 11th century, then this is a good choice, full of battle facts and city locations. Otherwise, it's pretty slow reading. There are some bits that are interesting insights into the character and views of the author herself (which is rare and interesting, considering when she wrote her history) but unfortunately, most of the book is a very dry recitation of facts.
But Anna is a biased source. Her scorn of the enemies of Byzantium should be considered. Here are a couple examples of her selective testimony. The introduction of Robert Guiscard and Pope Gregory VII is a little too concise and filled with much prejudice. The story that she gives of Robert Guiscard's rise to power may or may not be true, but she certainly left out the more important acts of Robert. She also neglects to mention that Robert Guiscard had driven Byzantium out of Italy only 7 years earlier. This is what lead to Emperor Michael VII Ducas suing for peace with Robert with the marriage proposal. Late in the book, she professes the greatness of her mother Irene, saying that Alexius never let her leave his side.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The translator does and excellent job and Anna seems quite candid in her writing.Published 1 month ago by L. M Pistor
This book is not for everyone. It is a history of a Byzantine emperor written by his daughter, Anna Commena, over a 1000 years ago originally in Greek and translated into English. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Henry
slow reading.... it was research.... gave me insights to the Crusades. Authors have to do the homework, so every bit helped. Read morePublished 20 months ago by MALISSA
I bought this as a reference book while writing my book "The First Crusades: The Untold Story". It provided me some information but was not exactly what I was looking for. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Astrovel
It is not unusual daughters speaking well about her fathers but , in the Alexiad, Anna add to the undoubt admiration for Alexius ! Read morePublished on December 26, 2013 by JLuiz Alquéres
The Book gives an interesting look at another viewpoint of a contentious period of history and reminds one that there were many peoples and small nations that existed that most... Read morePublished on March 10, 2013 by Roland E Burgess