Anna Comnena

Historian and Byzantine Princess

Resurrection Seal of Alexius Comnenus
Resurrection Seal of Alexius Comnenus, Anna's father. There is no known contemporary image of Anna Comnena. Copyright Classical Numismatic Group, who has shared the image under the conditions of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

This profile of Anna Comnena is part of
Who's Who in Medieval History

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 

Anna Comnena was also known as:

Anna of Byzantium; her name is also spelled Anna Komnene or Anna Komnena.

Anna Comnena was noted for:

Writing the Alexiad, a biography of her father that also offers important information about the Eastern Roman Empire and the First Crusade. Her writings make her the first woman historian.

Occupations:

Crusade Witness
Royalty
Woman of Note
Writer & Historian

Places of Residence and Influence:

Byzantium (the Eastern Roman Empire)

Important Dates:

Born: Dec. 1, 1083
Died: c. 1148

Quotation from Anna Comnena:

"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity. . . . But the tale of history forms a very strong bulwark against the stream of time, and checks in some measure its irresistible flow, so that, of all things done in it, as many as history has taken over it secures and binds together, and does not allow them to slip away into the abyss of oblivion."

About Anna Comnena:

Byzantine Princess Anna Comnena was the daughter of Emperor Alexius Comnenus of the Byzantine Empire (or Eastern Roman Empire). Educated in astronomy, medicine, philosophy and poetry, she may have expected to follow her father to the throne; but the birth of her brother, John, made her succession unlikely.

Still, she took a keen interest in events at court. When the first Crusaders reached Constantinople, Anna was there to witness their arrival and their alien customs, and she would later record her observations for posterity.

Married in her early teens to the nobleman Nicephorus Bryennius, who was a writer and historian as well as eligible for the throne, Anna joined forces with her mother to convince Alexius to name Nicephorus as his heir in place of her brother.

This intrigue failed, but it did not discourage her from conspiring to overthrow her brother after her father died. The failure of this plot could have ended her life, but John showed her mercy and allowed her to give up her property and retire to a convent.

In the convent, Anna wrote a history of the life and reign of her father known as the Alexiad. This 15-volume work was an admiring biography, but it also became a valuable source of information about the Crusades. For this work, Anna Comnena is considered the world's first female historian. She also wrote works on astronomy and medicine.

Little is known of Anna's life after she completed the Alexiad sometime around 1148. The exact year of Anna Comnena's death remains unknown.

More Anna Comnena Resources:

Anna Comnena on the Web
Encyclopedia Article on Anna Comnena
Profile of Anna Comnena at About Women's History

Anna Comnena in Print
The links 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 these links.

Anna Komnene and Her Times
edited by Thalia Gouma-Peterson

The Alexiad of Anna Comnena
(Penguin edition)
translated by E. R. Sewter

Is there a book about Anna Comnena that you'd like to recommend? Please contact me with the details.

Byzantine Studies
The Crusades


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