- Series: The Penguin Classics
- Paperback: 560 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; 1st edition (1969)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140442154
- ISBN-13: 978-0140442151
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,368,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Alexiad of Anna Comnena (The Penguin Classics) 1st Edition
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Also this was the start of the crusading movement in the west. The Roman Emp. appealed to the Pope for mercenary troops; it was, of course, misunderstood in the west but brought on the two centuries of the crusader kingdoms.
Keep in mind Anna was born in the purple but she was not shielded from events. You get a woman's perspective but that does add to the appeal.
Anna Komnena is certainly prey to the prejudices of her rank and station in the Byzantine Empire, and her account is clearly intended as an elegy and panygeric to her adored father - the Emperor Alexios I Komnenos. Nevertheless, the Alexiad is also a closely detailed and informed account of a pivotal period in the history of medieval europe and the middle east.
Together with Michael Psellos and Niketas Choniates, Anna represents the cream of middle-Byzantine historiography. Do not let the clearly deranged review posted earlier on this site put you off.
The perspective not only of a member of the court but also a woman's view point makes this an interesting and exceptional view of the Crusaders, often describing them more realistically than some of the histories that were commissioned by the lords.
Ms. Comnena is perceptive in her observations. She notes details that are overlooked in other historical accounts. She starts with the history of her father the Emperor, the revolt that placed him on the throne, various families and their relationship with her father.
She then gives accounts of the wars with the Normans, the Scyths, the Turkish wars, and the First Crusade.
Ms. Comnena has a very good grasp of those things we would not expect a young lady of the court at that time to have. She knows politics, diplomacy and has a good grounding in science and mechanics.
Her accounts are dramatic but show a good grasp of the situations she is describing. We do not expect this from a woman of this time, but this book clearly illustrates we are not as aware as we thought we were about woman at that time and place. She has a strong writing style and presents us with a picture of a well educated and aware woman who knows well her position and the positions of those in her court.
We also experience first hand her hatred of her younger brother, whom she seems to resent and whom she actually tries to assassinate.
Court intrigues, physical accounts of the Crusaders as they appear in her fathers court, the feeling of the life and politics of the time are all preserved in this book as a slice of culture in Byzantine Empire at the time of the First Crusade. A good reference book and a wonderful read for those interested in a different perspective of the Crusades. medievalcrusadesbabe
The literary convention of using archaic language is hardly new with Comnena, and although one might argue its effectiveness, one can hardly say that all books must be written in the "language . . . in common usage at the time."
Personally, as a scholar in the field of medieval women writers, I found Comnena's epic, and especially her (inadvertant) revelations of her own personality so fascinating, that I wrote a young-adult novel based on her life (_Anna of Byzantium_). More than one teenage fan has written to tell me that reading the novel had inspired her to attempt to read the _Alexiad_. None of them made it very far, but several said they were going to try again when they were older!