on December 1, 2009
The historian John Kinnamos recorded Manuel Komnenos' reign. His introduction briefly goes over the reign of John Komnenos, a rather neglected ruler between the more well-detailed reigns of Alexios and Manuel. As such, the vast majority of this work is on the reign of Manuel. Although Kinnamos' ability as a historian is not being reviewed here, merely this published volume of it, he warrants a few brief notes. He is extremely favourable towards Manuel, and this work is panegyrical. Although at times Kinnamos produces vivid military detail, other scenes (notably when they involve Manuel) would not be out of place in the 'Iliad', (and were probably crafted to be seem just like that!) as Manuel seems to be capable of superhuman feats at times, and loves to rush into battle without his armour on. As a historian, his description of the Italian campaign raises a lot of questions. He records a highly-detailed and crisp account of it, and the rest of his work pales beside it. He claims to have been present although he would have been very young, and this is where my first and main criticism of this edition lies: there is very little textual analysis. While the notes are good, they are not sufficient to create a definitive edition of this text. This is not good, because many Byzantine primary sources are difficult and expensive to acquire, including this one, but its notes are lacking for a serious scholarly edition. It would also be really nice if there was a list of parallel passages from Niketas Choniates listed as well, for one cannot read Kinnamos without Choniates and one cannot read Choniates without Kinnamos.
This is a good book. The translations are quite clear, and the notes are decent. However, it is not the academic work that it could have been, and this is rather too bad, as it may be a long time before any bothers to produce a new edition of this rather neglected historian.