Alexius Comnenus

Byzantine Emperor

Alexius Comnenus
Portion of a miniature of Alexius Comnenus by an unknown artist, c. 1300. Public Domain

Alexius Comnenus was also known as:

Alexios Komnenos, Alexis Comnenus

Alexius Comnenus was known for:

Seizing the throne from Nicephorus III and founding the Comnenus dynasty. As emperor, Alexius stabilized the government of the empire. He was also Emperor during the First Crusade. Alexius is the subject of a biography by his learned daughter, Anna Comnena.

Occupations:

Emperor
Crusade Witness
Military Leader

Places of Residence and Influence:

Byzantium (Eastern Rome)

Important Dates:

Born: 1048
Crowned: April 4, 1081
Died: Aug. 15, 1118

About Alexius Comnenus:

Alexius was the third son of John Comnenus and a nephew of Emperor Isaac I. From 1068 to 1081, during the reigns of Romanus IV, Michael VII, and Nicephorus III, he served in the military; then, with the help of his brother Isaac, his mother Anna Dalassena, and his powerful in-laws the Ducas family, he seized the throne from Nicephorus III.

For more than half a century the empire had suffered from ineffective or short-lived leaders. Alexius was able to drive the Italian Normans from western Greece, defeat Turkic nomads who'd been invading the Balkans, and halt the encroachment of the Seljuq Turks. He also negotiated agreements with Sulayman ibn Qutalmïsh of Konya and other Muslim leaders on the empire's eastern border. At home he strengthened the central authority and built up military and naval forces, thus increasing imperial strength in portions of Anatolia (Turkey) and the Mediterranean.

These actions helped stabilize Byzantium, but other policies would cause difficulties for his reign. Alexius made concessions to powerful landed magnates which would serve to weaken the authority of himself and future emperors. Although he maintained the traditional imperial role of protecting the Eastern Orthodox Church and repressed heresy, he also seized funds from the Church when necessary, and would be called to account for these actions by the ecclesiastical authorities.

Alexius is well known for appealing to Pope Urban II for help in driving the Turks from Byzantine territory. The resulting influx of Crusaders would plague him for years to come.

More Alexius Comnenus Resources:

Dark Legacy: Origins of the First Crusade
How a plea for help from Alexius Comnenus triggered centuries of warfare.

Alexius Comnenus in Print

The link below will take you to an online bookstore, where you can find more information about the book to help you get it from your local library. This is provided as a convenience to you; neither Melissa Snell nor About is responsible for any purchases you make through this link. 

The Alexiad of Anna Comnena
by Abba Comnena; translated by E. R. Sewter


Byzantine Studies
The Crusades

 

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