« Anna Anna Comnena Annas »

Anna Comnena

ANNA COMNENA, cɵm-nî´nɑ: A Byzantine princess of both literary and political importance, daughter of Alexius Comnenus; b. Dec. 2, 1083; d. after 1148. Brought up in a circle of highly cultivated women, and betrothed in early youth to the heir-presumptive of the empire, the son of the last emperor of the house of Ducas, she seemed to have a brilliant future before her. But the prince died, and his place was taken later by Nicephorus Bryennius, the son of a conquered pretender. It became plain that the emperor intended to make Anna’s brother John his heir, instead of his daughter or her husband. When Alexius died (1118), Anna was the soul of a conspiracy against John. It failed, and military rule suppressed the court cabals. Anna recovered her confiscated property; but on the death of her husband, ten years later, she fell gradually into disfavor at court and lived much alone, solacing herself by literary interests, her taste for which was the result of the brilliant literary epoch of which Michael Psellus was the chief representative. She wrote a remarkable history of her father’s reign, with the title Alexias, which professes to be a continuation of the unfinished history of the Comneni by her husband. Her style is typical of literary classicism, being full of quotations from standard authors, and affecting to despise the barbarisms of the living tongue. This affectation is carried so far that she apologizes for mentioning barbarian names as for an offense against the customs of polite society. Allied to this is the haughty assertion of the primacy of Byzantium over all uncivilized foreigners, whether popes, Turks, or crusaders. Its strong personal bias, its prejudice against the two successors of Alexius, and its constant revelation of the bitterness of disappointed ambition detract from the historical value of the work. Yet the wealth of information contained in it makes it the principal source for the history of Byzantium at the epoch of the first crusade. It is in MPG, cxxxi.; the best edition is by A. Reifferscheid, in the Bibliotheca Teubneriana (2 vols., Leipsic, 1884).

(C. Neumann).

Bibliography: Gibbon, Decline and Fall, vols. v. and vi., passim (by the only thorough student of Byzantine literature as a whole); H. von Sybel, Geschichte des ersten Kreuzzuges, pp. 460-468, Leipsic, 1881 (on the chronology of Anna Comnena); C. Neumann, Griechische Geschichtschreiber im 12 Jahrhundert, Leipsic, 1888; T. A. Archer and C. L. Kingsford, The Crusades, pp. 49, 52, 191-192, 358, New York, 1895; Dieter, Zur Glaubenswürdigkeit der Anna Komnena, in Byzantinische Zeitschrift, iii. (1894) 386-390; Krumbacher, Geschichte, pp.274-279.

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