A Profile of Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus

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

Alexius Comnenus, also known as Alexios Komnenos, is perhaps best 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.


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.

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Snell, Melissa. "A Profile of Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/alexius-comnenus-profile-1788347. Snell, Melissa. (2023, April 5). A Profile of Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/alexius-comnenus-profile-1788347 Snell, Melissa. "A Profile of Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/alexius-comnenus-profile-1788347 (accessed June 6, 2023).