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Definition: Anna Comnena from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


Byzantine princess

The daughter of Emperor Alexius I Comnenus, she tried in vain to secure the imperial crown, and failed in her attempt to overthrow or poison her brother (1118). Disappointed and ashamed, she withdrew from the court, and sought solace in literature. On the death of her husband (1137), she wrote a life of her father, the Alexiad, which contains an account of the First Crusade.

Summary Article: Anna Comnena
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(än'nӘ kŏmnē'nӘ), b. 1083, d. after 1148, Byzantine princess and historian; daughter of Emperor Alexius I. She plotted, during and after her father's reign, against her brother, John II, in favor of her husband, Nicephorus Bryennius, whom she wished to rule as emperor. Having failed, she retired to a convent. There she wrote the Alexiad (finished in 1148), one of the outstanding Greek historical works of the Middle Ages. Covering the reign of Alexius I and the First Crusade, it tends to glorify her father and his family; however, Anna's familiarity with public affairs and her access to the imperial archives give her work great value. There is an English translation by E. R. Sewter (1979).

  • See biography by G. Buckler (1929).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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