Anna Comnena Criticism - Essay

William Miller (essay date 1920)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Byzantine Bluestocking: Anna Comnena," in The Quarterly Review, Vol. 233, No. 462, January, 1920, pp. 62-81.

[In the following excerpt, Miller provides an overview of Anna's life: her family history, her education, and her importance as historian and historical geographer.]

One of the differences between classical and modern literature is the rarity of female writers in the former and their frequency in the latter. While we have lady historians and poets in considerable numbers, while the fair sex has greatly distinguished itself in fiction, including that branch of it which is called modern journalism, ancient Greek letters contain the names of few...

(The entire section is 7215 words.)

Georgina Buckler (essay date 1929)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Anna Comnena: A Study, Oxford University Press, 1929, 558 p.

[In the following excerpt, Buckler summarizes the Alexiad, particularly with regard to Anna's personality and tendency towards self-pity and her access to sources. Buckler proclaims that Anna is an engaging writer.]

General Remarks

It is a well-accepted fact that Byzantine history has never, till within the last forty or fifty years, received at the hand of historians either adequate or just treatment. When Oman wrote his Byzantine Empire in 1892 for the Story of the Nations series, he thought it necessary to state that he was endeavouring 'to tell the...

(The entire section is 23811 words.)

F. J. Foakes Jackson (essay date 1935)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Anna Comnena," in The Hibbert Journal, Vol. 33, No. 3. April, 1935, pp. 430-42.

[In the following essay, Jackson describes the cultural, political, and religious conditions of the Byzantine empire before and during Alexius's reign, summarizes the books of the Alexiad, and provides evidence that Anna strived for impartiality.]

Ladies who write history are not a phenomenon in our day, when the female sex has certainly achieved remarkable success in this field, notably in England. But almost as far down as the nineteenth century a woman as an historian was indeed a rara avis. When therefore a princess arose in the eleventh century to give the world...

(The entire section is 5064 words.)

A. A. Vasiliev (essay date 1952)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Byzantium and the Crusades: Education, Learning, Literature, and Art," in History of the Byzantine Empire 324-1453, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1952, pp. 487-505.

[In the following excerpt, Vasiliev examines the strong literary background of the Comneni imperial family.]

The time of the Macedonian dynasty was marked by intense cultural activity in the field of learning, literature, education, and art. The activity of such men as Photius in the ninth century, Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the tenth, and Michael Psellus in the eleventh, with their cultural environment, as well as the revival of the High School of Constantinople, which was reformed in the...

(The entire section is 1966 words.)

R. Browning (essay date 1962)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "An Unpublished Funeral Oration on Anna Comnena," in Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological, Vol. 188, No. 8, 1962, pp. 1-12.

[In the following excerpt, Browning examines a document from the middle of the twelfth century which lends insight into Anna's quest for a philosophical system.]

The Byzantinist has one advantage over the student of classical antiquity—unless the latter happens to be a papyrologist. With a little diligence and a minimum of good luck he can easily unearth unpublished texts and find himself producing an editio princeps. And however often one has turned over the leaves of a manuscript and laboriously read words which have...

(The entire section is 5554 words.)

E. R. A. Sewter (essay date 1969)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An Introduction to The Alexiad of Anna Comnena, translated by E. R. A. Sewter, Penguin Books Ltd., 1969, pp. 11-16.

[In the following excerpt, Sewter considers various critical evaluations of Anna, as well as Anna's strengths, defects, and self awareness.]

'The life of the Emperor Alexius has been delineated by a favourite daughter, who was inspired by a tender regard for his person and a laudable zeal to perpetuate his virtues. Conscious of the just suspicion of her readers, the Princess Anna Comnena repeatedly protests that besides her personal knowledge she had searched the discourse and writings of the most respectable veterans: that after an interval of...

(The entire section is 2174 words.)

John France (essay date 1971)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Departure of Tatikios from the Crusader Army," in Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, Vol. 44, No. 110, November, 1971. pp. 134-47.

[In the following essay, France considers the departure of one of Alexius's military leaders and compares Anna's rendition with other accounts of the event.]

The departure of Tatikios, the imperial representative on the Crusade, from the Latin camp in early February 1098 is an event which has received curiously little attention from historians. The actual circumstances of the departure have not been fully explored, but more important, perhaps, Tatikios's role in Byzantine-crusader relations remains obscure....

(The entire section is 5842 words.)

Rae Dalven (essay date 1972)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: In Anna Comnena. Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1972, 186 p.

[In the following excerpt, Dalven discusses Anna's intellectual pursuits and education, the factions in her father's court, and evaluates her importance as an historian.]

Her Early Life at Court

For from childhood, from eight years upwards, I was brought up with the Queen, and as she conceived a warm affection for me she confided all her secrets to me. (Alexiad, III, 1, p. 72)

The queen referred to in the above quotation is Maria of Alania, mother of Constantine Ducas, Anna's seven-yearold royal cousin, to whom she was...

(The entire section is 16053 words.)

John France (essay date 1984)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Anna Comena, the Alexiad and the First Crusade," in Reading Medieval Studies, Vol. 10, 1984, pp. 20-2.

[In the following excerpt, France contends that the Crusades were of interest to Anna only to the extent that they affected her father, and that Anna's biased accounts are of limited value.]

Anna Comnena, the Alexiad and the First Crusade1

By her own account Anna Comnena began to write the Alexiad shortly after the death of her husband, Nicephoros Bryennios, in 1137. He had begun a life of Alexius, known to us as the Hyle, but had taken it no further than the end of the reign of Nicephoros Botaniates in...

(The entire section is 8263 words.)