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Byzantium between East and West: Competing Hellenisms in the Alexiad of

Anna Komnene and her Contemporaries, in East Meets West in the Middle Ages
and the Early Modern Period, vol. 12 of series: Fundamentals of Medieval and
Early Modern Culture, ed. by Albrecht Classen and Marilyn Sandidge (Berlin and
New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2013), 263-87.

Chapter3
GlenM.Cooper
(BrighamYoungUniversity,Provo,Utah)

ByzantiumbetweenEastandWest:CompetingHellenismsin
theAlexiadofAnnaKomneneandherContemporaries

Introduction
Inrecentyears,theAlexiadofAnnaKomnene(1083ca.1153)hasundergoneamuchneeded
reassessment. Long held to be either Annas merely edited version of her deceased
husbands research notes and drafts, or the distorted production of an hysterical, bitter
woman,undermorecarefulscrutinytheworkhasbeenshowntobeavaluablehistorical
resource,authoredbyahighlyeducatedandintelligentwoman.Theworkrequirescareful
andnuancedinterpretation,however,consideringboththecontextofthetimewhenitwas
composed(midtolate1140s),aswellasitsrhetoricalfeatures.Thepicturethathasemerged
inrecentscholarshipisofacarefullycraftedworkwithathreefoldpurpose(atleast):a
rehabilitationofherfatherAlexiosIs(r.10811118)memoryontheonehand,acriticismof
hernephewManuelIs(r.114380)policiesontheother,andanoveralldepictionofwhat
theidealByzantineruleroughttobe.Inaddition,heraccountoftheWesterncrusaders
providesvaluableinsightintoEastWestperceptions.
Oneaspectofthiscriticismhasnotreceivedmuchattention,however.Itiswellknown
thatemperorManuelcultivatedmedicineandastrologyathiscourt,andthatheactually
practiced medical treatment successfully. It is also well known that Anna included a
medicallyinformedanddetailedaccountofherfathersdeathintheAlexiad.Whatseemsto
haveescapednoticeisthatsheactuallystructuresmuchofhernarrativearoundacomplex
medicalanalogythat,togetherwiththedeathaccount,supportthetwofoldpurposeofthe
text.
Furthermore, there was a contest over which form of Hellenism, i.e., revived Greek
culture,wouldnotonlydominatetheByzantinecourt,butthewholeofChristendomaswell:
apurelyGreekHellenismontheonehand,orsomemixtureofGreek,Arabic,andLatin

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Hellenism that was being imported from the West on the other. For the sake of this
discussion, the former will be called Eastern Hellenism, and the latter, Western
Hellenism.IshalldemonstratehowtheAlexiadwasastrategicmoveinthiscontest.Atthe
Byzantinecourt,thiscontestwaspartofanideologicalstruggleoverwhichbranchofthe
Komnenos family was most suited to rule. Tied up in this were Annas and Manuels
fundamentally different attitudes toward the western Latins. Manuel is known for his
opennesstotheLatinsandtheirways,whilestillassertinghimselfastheirintellectualand
ideological superior, one whom they ought to recognize as the rightful leader of the
Christian world. Greek learning, and especially expertise in medical and astrological
knowledge,werehighlyvisibleelementsofthatpersona.Anna,ontheotherhand,presents
herfatherashandlingtheLatins,whoareunquestionablydangerousbarbarians,witha
morecannydistrust,holdingthemandtheircultureatarmslength.Asshemakesclearon
nearly every page, via her Atticizing language and frequent classical allusions, Greek
learningrightfullybelongsonlytothesophisticatedByzantineculture.
Iargueherethat:1)inthefaceofEmperorManuelsflamboyantandpublicdisplaysof
medical knowledge, Anna asserts in the Alexiad her own medical competence and
knowledgeofnaturalphilosophytoshowthatshe,too,isfittorule,perhaps,asakindof
philosopherking.Implicitinheraccountistheassumptionthattheidealruleroughtto
havemedicallearning.And2)eventhoughAlexiosisnotknowntohavehadanymedical
knowledgeperse,Annaarguesthathefunctionedassomethingfarmoreimportantforthe
healthoftheEmpire:hewasaphysicianfortheillsofstate.
Myargumentshallproceedasfollows:afterreviewingthehistoricalcontextfortwelfth
centuryByzantineintellectuallife,includingdiscussingtheflavorsofHellenism,Annas
biographywillbediscussedbriefly,withthemostattentiondevotedtoherabortiveattempt
toseizepowerafterherfathersdeath.Hersubsequentcareeristhendescribed,including
thecompositionoftheAlexiadaswellastheintellectualcircleshefostered.Thecareerof
Manuel is reviewed, with focus on his interests in medicine and astrology. In the main
sectionofthisarticle,theAlexiaditselfisconsidered,intermsofthemedicalconceptsthat
structureit,aswellasthemedicalknowledgeexhibitedinAnnasdescriptionofherfathers
finalillnessanddeath.

HellenisminTwelfthCenturyByzantineSociety
TheKomnenianperiodwasoneofrevivalofByzantineculture,continuing,inlargemeasure,
therevivalbegununderthepreviousMacedoniandynasty(8671056),duringwhichperiod
the career of Michael Psellos (1018ca.1078), the restorer of philosophy, was especially
important. The intellectual activity of the Komnenian period, moreover, was significant

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265

enoughtobelabeledtheThirdSophisticinarecentstudyoftheperiod.1Centraltothat
revivalwasarenaissanceofinterestintheintellectuallegacyofclassicalantiquity,namely,
Hellenism,anemulation,toonedegreeoranother,ofancientGreekwritersandthinkers.
Thisrevivalwas,however,temperedwithareligiousdimensionaswell,apurgingofthe
sinsofcourt,suchasastrologyandimmorality,inanefforttocourtthefavorsofheavenin
ordertoensurethesurvivaloftheEmpire,whichhadbeenendangeredbysuch,asitwas
thought. The heresy trials that occurred throughout, however, as well as the associated
condemnationsofspecificGreekphilosophicaldoctrines,indicatethatnoteveryaspectof
Hellenismwastolerated.Nevertheless,astrologycontinuedtobepracticed,even,asIshall
show,byanemperor(Manuel),moreover,animperialprincess,AnnaKomnene,studied
unapprovedclassicalliterature,againstherparentswishes.Thus,therewerecompeting
versionsofHellenisminByzantium,whichdifferedintheirdegreeofcompatibilitywiththe
OrthodoxChristianestablishment.

GrecoArabicTranslationsandtheRevivalofHellenism
AnArabicformofHellenismdevelopedintheeighthtoninthcenturiesintheAbbasid
Caliphate,asaproductofthetranslationmovementthatwasthenoccurringinBaghdad.In
effect, Arabic thinkers had translated much Greek philosophical literature, studied it
carefully,andtransformeditintoamoreusefulform.Whileitispresentlyunclearprecisely
howthismovementaffectedByzantium,itdoesseemtohavebeenacontributingfactor
spurringontheMacedonianRenaissance,bothonanideologicallevel:Howcanweallow
theinfideltooutdouswithourownlegacy?,aswellasonapracticallevel,byproviding
amarketforGreekmanuscripts,somecopyingeffortofwhichseemstohavebeendirected
towardpatronsintheCaliphate.2D.Gutashasobservedacorrelationbetweentheearliest
extantGreekminusculemanuscriptsandtheearliestGreektextstranslatedintoArabic,
whichisprobablynotmerecoincidence.
AnimportantquestionishowmuchdidIslamicintellectualactivitiesaffectByzantium,
andbywhatmeans?WhiletherewereArabsinByzantium,astradersanddiplomats,the
evidencefortheirinvolvementasintermediariesisslimandunderexplored,unlikethatof
the later Palaiologan period.3 Other more promising leads are found in the imperial
embassiesthathaddirectexchangesbetweenConstantinopleandBaghdad.4Anotherfeature

AnthonyKaldellis,HellenisminByzantium:TheTransformationofGreekIdentityandtheReceptionoftheClassical
Tradition(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,2007),Chapter5,i.e.,225316.
Dimitri Gutas, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The GraecoArabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early
AbbasidSociety(2nd4th/8th10thcenturies)(LondonandNewYork:Routledge,1998),17586.
MariaMavroudi,ExchangeswithArabicWritersduringtheLateByzantinePeriod,Byzantium,Faithand
Power(12611557):PerspectivesonLateByzantineArtandCulture,ed.S.T.Brooks(NewYork:TheMetropolitan
MuseumofArt;NewHaven,NJ:YaleUniversityPress,2006),6275.
Someoftheseexchangesarediscussedin:PaulMagdalino,TheRoadtoBaghdadintheThoughtWorldof

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oftherivalrybetweenBaghdadandConstantinopleisthatembellishedaccountsofsuch
exchanges exaggerate the intellectual level of the Byzantines, suggesting that they were
agitated by the situation, since Baghdad and what it represented as a creative center of
intellectuallifeseemstohaveexcitedtheirenvy.
Weareonfirmergroundwithwelldocumentedcasesofinfluenceandexchange.For
example,SymeonSeth(fl.2ndhalfoftheeleventhcentury)wasaconduitforsomeideas
fromtheEast,includingastrologicalideas.5SethwasfromAntioch,andhadacareerasa
translatorfromArabictoGreek,translatingtheKalilawaDimnastory,6andalsoauthoring
amanualofdietforEmperorMichaelDoukas(r.107178),whichincludesmaterialderived
fromArabic.7HeissaidtohavetraveledtoEgypttoobserveaneclipse(1058).Howeverthat
mayhavebeen,bythetwelfthcentury,HellenismwasaliveissueforByzantineintellectuals.
ThereisasmatteringofevidencesuggestingthatastronomicalideasfromtheIslamicworld
hadenteredtheByzantineintellectualworldevenbeforethecareerofMichaelPsellos.8
The peculiarly Arabic Hellenism that developed in Baghdad was more than simply a
translationofGreektreatisesintoArabic.Rather,itwasanoriginalcreationoutofexisting
materials. The Arab thinker alKind (d. ca. 873) has been credited with discovering
philosophy and founding an original, Arabic, school out of the texts that were being
discovered and translated. He could not have been part of an ancient philosophical
traditionPeripatetic,Epicurean,Stoic,orAcademic,sincetheseschoolshadalldiedoutin
lateantiquity.Instead,modelinghisapproachafterthattakenbyEuclidinhispresentation
ofgeometricalconcepts,heassembledwhateverpiecesoftheGreektraditionsuitedhis
researchneeds.9Apolymathwithuniversalinterests,however,alKindsthoughtwentinto
decline within a century of his death, when Aristotles texts appeared in Baghdad.
Nevertheless,thegroundworkthathelaidmadeArabicAristotelianismaswellasthewhole
Arabicscientificandphilosophicalenterprisepossible.

NinthCentury Byzantium, Byzantium in the Ninth Century: Dead or Alive?, ed. L. Brubaker (Aldershot:
Ashgate,1998),195213.
AccordingtoAlexiad,6.7:AnnaComnena,AnnaeComnenaeAlexias,ed.A.KambylisandD.R.Reinsch,vol.
XL.1,CorpusFontiumHistoriaeByzantinae.SeriesBerolinensis,(BerlinandNewYork:WalterdeGruyter,
2001),18182.Englishtranslation:AnnaKomnene,TheAlexiad,trans.E.R.A.Sewter;rev.PeterFrankopan,
reviseded.PenguinClassics(London:Penguin,2009),16465.
SimeonSeth,StephanitesundIchnelates:berlieferungsgeschichteundText,trans.LarsOlofSjberg(Uppsala:
Almqvist&Wiksell,1962).
MarcmileProsperLouisBrunet,SimonSeth,mdecindelempereurMichelDoucas;savie,sonoeuvre.Premire
traductionenfranaisdutraitRecueildespropritsdesalimentsparordrealphabtique(Bordeaux:Delmas,1939).
NigelG.Wilson,ScholarsofByzantium,Reviseded.(LondonandCambridge,MA:DuckworthandMedieval
AcademyofAmerica,1996),165.
DimitriGutas,GeometryandtheRebirthofPhilosophyinArabicwithalKindi,Words,TextsandConcepts
CruisingtheMediterraneanSea:StudiesontheSources,ContentsandInfluencesofIslamicCivilizationandArabic
PhilosophyandScience,ed.R.ArnzenandJ.Thielmann(Leuven:Peeters,2004),195209;here195.Seealso:
Gutas,OriginsinBaghdad,TheCambridgeHistoryofMedievalPhilosophy,ed.RobertPasnau(Cambridge:
CambridgeUniversityPress,2010),1125.

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The career of alKind finds a curious parallel in the figure of the Byzantine Michael
Psellos.AproductoftheMacedonianRenaissance,Psellostowersoverhiscontemporaries
inthebreadthofhisphilosophicalunderstanding,andinhisvastcorpusofworksonvaried
subjects.Inhisownassessmentofhisachievementofrevivingthepursuitofphilosophyin
Byzantium,hesaysthatIfoundphilosophyonlyafterithadbreatheditslast,andthatI
alonereviveditwithmyownpowers,havingfoundnoworthwhileteachers.10(Thisself
assesssmentwasnoidleboast,butissupportedbytheextentandcharacterofhissurviving
writings). So, even though there may have been a linguistic continuity between the
ByzantinesandtheancientGreekphilosophicalschools,thesetraditionshadalsodiedout
there as well. Psellos, in reinventing philosophy could not have avoided creating
somethingnew,whichsuitedhisowninterestsandtheneedsofthetime.Thewholenotion
ofwhatisinvolvedinrevivinganintellectualtraditionfromscratchhasbeenunderexplored
as yet. This issue is highly significant in Annas career, as I shall show later, since she
fosteredtherebirthofAristotelianstudiesinByzantium,andpossiblyalso,throughcontact
withJamesofVenice,ofWesternEurope.
The complexity of conflicting Hellenisms became even more complicated with the
increasedpresenceoftheLatinsintheEmpire,andespeciallywithManuelIspersonal
interestandinvolvementwiththem.TheWesthadbeenundergoingaclassicalrevivalofits
own already for a few centuries, and was in the midst of another, the TwelfthCentury
Renaissance.AnextensionofthepoliticalrivalrybetweenRomeandConstantinople,there
wasdevelopinganintellectualrivalrybetweenEastandWest,mostapparentbetweenthe
multiethniccourtoftheNormanSicilyofRogerII(r.11301154),andtheByzantiumof
ManuelI.ThefactthattheLatinrevivalwasbeingmostrecentlyfueledbyArabicinfluences
fromSpainandSicilymeantthattheirHellenismwasdevelopinginadifferentdirection
fromthatofByzantium,namely,perpetuatingtheradicalchangesthatIslamicthinkershad
introduced.Thisseemstobemostapparentinthedisciplineofastrology,whichhadbeen
completelyreshapedunderArabicinfluenceduringtheninthcentury.11Asaresult,the
LatinswieldedyetanotherformofHellenism,onethat,initsoriginalArabicform,claimed
priority over the Byzantine form, due to the volatile political circumstances and rivalry
betweenByzantiumandtheCaliphateduringtheeighthninthcenturies.12
ThecontestoverHellenism,itsproperform,andwhohastherighttoitextendsbackat
least to the period of the GrecoArabic translations. The caliphs and their intellectuals
recognizedmuchofgreatvalueintheHellenisticlegacy,andcametoconsideritsfruitasthe
properpossessionoftheworldofIslam.Afterall,theByzantineswhohadlongneglected

10
11

12

Psellos,Chronographia6.7,quotedin:Kaldellis,Hellenism(seenote1),193.
Paul Magdalino, The Porphyrogenita and the Astrologers: A Commentary on Alexiad VI.7.17,
Porphyrogenita: Essays on the History and Literature of Byzantium and the Latin East in Honor of Julian
Chrysostomides, ed. Charalambos Dendrinos, Jonathan Harris, Judith Herrin, and Eirene HarvaliaCrook
(Aldershot:Ashgate,2003),3031.
DimitriGutas,GreekThought(seenote2),8395.

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thislegacy,wereadefeatedpeople,havinglosttwothirdsoftheirterritorytothearmiesof
Islam, and it was only a matter of time before some Muslim prince would capture
Constantinople, putting an end to the Christian Empire, and fulfilling the Prophet
Muhammadsprophecyandpromise.13ThingsnaturallylookeddifferentfromtheByzantine
pointofview.ThelegacyofHellenismhadalwaysbeentheirs,andhowwasitthatthe
upstart,infidelArabshavebeensosuccessfulwithit?Therewasafeltneedtofindoutwhat
theMuslimswereupto,butdiscreetly.
Moreover,theLatinspresentedyetanotheropponentinthiscontest.Anewandvigorous
rivalfromtheWest,thiswesternLatinHellenismhadbeenformativelyshapedbytheArab
enlightenment.WhileourknowledgeoftherelationshipbetweenArabicandByzantine
thoughtisstillmurky,thereisnodoubtthattheinfluxandstudyofArabicversionsofGreek
textsrevolutionizedwesternLatinthought,makingitapowerfultoolinthehandsofLatin
thinkers,moredynamicandfreshinsomewaysthantheHellenismofByzantium.

TheChallengingEleventhCentury
In spite of the contributions of Michael Psellos and others to the Byzantine intellectual
revival,thepoliticalandmilitaryreversesoftheeleventhcenturythreatenedtobringthe
Empiretoanearlyend.Furthermore,theantagonisticresponseoftheChurch(aswellasof
the Komnenos regime) to Pselloss Neoplatonizing, as typified by the 1082 trial and
condemnation of John Italos (ca. 1025after 1082), one of his students, seems to have
encouraged intellectuals to pursue the more earthcentered Aristotelianism. This latter
schoolofphilosophy,beingfundamentallyempiricalinorientation,hadmoreincommon
withancientGreekmedicine,andmayhavebeenanencouragingfactorintherecultivation
of medical science as well as for the dramatic shift in Byzantine attitudes toward
physicians.14 At the beginning of the period, physicians are routinely lampooned in
literature, and their greed and incompetence are emphasized. However, by the time of
ManuelsreignandAnnascompositionoftheAlexiad,theoccupationofaphysicianhas
becomearespectedprofession.Itmustberemembered,however,thatAristotelianism,too,
containedelementsthatwerecontrarytoChurchdogma,thatwouldeventuallyneedtobe
dealtwith.Infact,asdiscussedbelow,suchaprojectofreconcilingAristotlewithChristian

13

14

Discussedatlengthin:NadiaMariaElChaikh,ByzantiumasViewedbytheArabs(Cambridge,MA:Harvard
UniversityPress,2004);see,e.g.,4345.
Alexander P. Kazhdan and Ann Wharton Epstein, Change in Byzantine Culture in the Eleventh and Twelfth
Centuries(1985;Berkeley,LosAngeles,andLondon:UniversityofCaliforniaPress,1990),15456;seealso
Alexander Kazhdan, The Image of the Medical Doctor in Byzantine Literature of the Tenth to Twelfth
Centuries,SymposiumonByzantineMedicine,ed.JohnScarborough.DumbartonOaksPapers(Washington,
DC:1984),5051.

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theology was undertaken by Byzantine intellectuals under Annas sponsorship, which


anticipatedtheprojectofThomasAquinasbyacentury.

TheNewModelofGovernment
WiththeusurpationofAlexiosKomnenosin1081,however,therecameanewmodelof
imperialgovernment,towhichcanbeattributedmuchofhissuccessinrevitalizingthe
Empire,butwhichcanalsobeunderstoodassowingtheseedsofthelaterunravelingof
those gains during the late twelfth century.15 Alexios came to rely on members of his
extendedfamilytoassistinruling,fromhismother,tohiswife,andallhisvariedmale
relations. In effect, he created a family franchise in which virtually any member of the
imperialfamilymightfeelthathe(orshe)hadasmuchrighttothethroneasanyother.
WhilethisseemedtoworkunderAlexios,underhissuccessors,however,itspawnedrivals
andrebellions,themostdevastatingofwhichwastheseizureofthethroneandmurderof
Manuelsyoungson,AlexiosIIin1183byamemberofacollateralbranchoftheKomnenos
family,AndronikosI(r.11831185).Annasownattempttoseizethethroneafterherfathers
deathisanimportantpartofmypresentstory.

AnnaKomnene:BirthandEducation
Asherhistoryshows,AnnawasacarefulstudentoftheancientGreekhistorians,especially
Thucydides,aswellofHomer,asliberalquotesfromtheIliadandtheOdysseythroughout
show.Herfirststatementabouthereducationoccursinthefirstparagraphofthebook,
where she identifies herself as a (purpleborn), and mentions her
thoroughknowledgeofGreek,rhetoric,Aristotle,Plato,andthetraditionalQuadriviumof
thehighersciences(arithmetic,harmonictheory,geometry,andastronomy).16
SeveralfactsaboutAnnaslifecontributedtoherrivalrywithherbrotherandnephew.She
wasbornonDecember2,1083,notlongafterherfatherhadusurpedtheImperialthrone.
Shewasthusa,atitleassumedbyimperialchildrenborninthepurple
stonedchamberofthepalace.Thisdesignationwassometimesusedasanadditionaltoken
oflegitimacytorule,orasaclaimonthethrone.Beingbornafteronesfatherwasfirmlyon
the throne suggested both stability and hope that the dynasty would continue. It even
providedasenseofhavingbeenpreordained.Annadescribesthechamberinconnection

15

16

SeePaulMagdalino,TheEmpireoftheKomnenoi(11181204),TheCambridgeHistoryoftheByzantineEmpire
c.5001492,ed.JonathanShepard(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,2008),65763.
Alexiad,15.7(seenote3),trans.455;ed.48485.

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withrelatingthestoryofherownbirth.17Alexios,asausurperwithquestionablelegitimacy,
washimselfkeentouseeveryavailabletokenoflegitimacy.18
Annasfuneraloration,deliveredbyGeorgeTornikes,atwelfthcenturyintellectualand
Metropolitan of Ephesus, only recently brought to light, relates that Annas parents
encouragedherinterestsinGreeklearningtoapoint.Shewasforbiddentostudygrammar
andrhetoric,subjectsthoughttocorrupttheyouth,becausetheyweretaughtviapassages
drawnfrompaganGreekliterature,muchofwhoseethos(e.g.,theimmoralbehaviorofthe
Olympiandeities)wasnotwhataChristiangirloughttobeexposedto.19Nevertheless,Anna
managedtostudytheseforbiddensubjectswithpalaceeunuchsonthesly,andacquired
morethanamerelysuperficialunderstandingofmedicaltheory.Choniatesdescribesheras
ardentlydevotedtophilosophy,thequeenofallsciences,andeducatedineveryfield.20
Inthecontextoflamentingthedeclineofclassicalstudies,whichforherweregrammar,
poetics,andhistoryallmendonowisplaydraughtsandgambleshedescribedhowshe
hadstudiedrhetoric,history,poetryandphilosophy.21Shescornedthelearningofthese
skillsthroughthethenpopularmethodofschedography,orthestudyandimitationofshort
excerptsdrawnfromtheclassicalcorpus.Thiswasaquick(butsuperficial)waytoacquire
theessentialelementsofaclassicaleducation,andtoappeareducated,andsecureajobin
theimperialadministration.Annainsisted,rather,thatworksbereadintheirentirety.

BetrothalsandMarriage
Animperialfemale,Annawasapoliticaltoolofherfathersashesoughttostrengthenhis
ownlegitimacyandtoextendhisfamilysinfluenceinthestate.So,asayounggirl,shewas
betrothed to Constantine Doukas (ca.1074ca.1095), a representative of one of the most
powerfulfamiliesintheEmpire,andshewassenttohishometoberaisedbyhismother,
MariaofAlania(ca.1050after1103),aformerempress.Constantine,himselfa
,sonofthepreviousemperor,MichaelVIIDoukas(r.10711078),wasalsoapolitical
tool,representingalegitimizinglinktothepreviousdynasty,andhadbeenbetrothedto

17

18

19

20

21

Alexiad,6.8(seenote3),trans.167;ed.18384.SeealsoBook2,Ch.21ofConstantineVIIPorphrygenitos,De
CeremoniisAulaeByzantinae,ed.JohannJacobReiske,CorpusScriptorumHistoriaeByzantinae(Bonn:Weber,
1829),61519,foradescriptionoftheceremoniesaccompanyingthebirthofaporphyrogennetoschild.
JudithHerrin,Byzantium:TheSurprisingLifeofaMedievalEmpire(Princeton,NJ:PrincetonUniversityPress,
2008),23234.
RobertBrowning,AnUnpublishedFuneralOrationonAnnaComnena,AristotleTransformed:TheAncient
CommentatorsandtheirInfluence,ed.RichardSorabji(Ithaca,NY:CornellUniversityPress,1990),40405.
NiketasChoniates,NicetaeChoniataehistoria,parsprior,vol.11.1,CorpusFontiumHistoriaeByzantinae.Series
Berolinensis,ed.J.vanDieten(BerlinandNewYork:WalterdeGruyter,1975),10.Englishtranslation:Niketas
Choniates,OCityofByzantium,AnnalsofNiketasChoniates,trans.HarryJ.Magoulias(Detroit,MI:WayneState
UniversityPress,1984),8.
Alexiad,15.7(seenote3),trans.455;ed.48485.

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otherpoliticallydesirablewomenbeforeAnna.SinceAlexioshadnomaleheirsatthattime,
ConstantinewascrownedasCaesartheheirdesignate.Thus,atleasttheregimecould
continue via a smooth transition, in the event of Alexioss premature death. In 1087,
however, a son, John, was born, and so the need for Constantine evaporated, and he
vanishedfromtherecordperhapshediedyoung,beforeanyactualmarriagehadbeen
formalizedbetweenhimandAnna.Tenyearslater(1097),Annawasactuallymarriedto
another eligible young man, Nikephoros Bryennios, a descendant of his namesake, the
formerdouxofDyrrachion,whohadrevoltedagainstMichaelVIIagenerationearlier,and
hadbeendefeatedandblindedbyAlexioshimself.22Thismarriageappearstohavebeen
anothermeasurebyAlexiostoneutralizeapotentialthreat.

TheSuccessionfromAlexios
Thehistorian,NiketasChoniates(ca.11551215/16),reportsthatAlexioshadnointention
thatanyoneotherthanhisson,John,shouldsucceedhim,inspiteofEmpressEirenesovert
favorforAnnashusband,Bryennios.23Whatkingdomallowsthethronetopasstoanelder
daughter,whentheresaperfectlycapableson?Suchapracticehadneverbeenfollowedin
theRomanEmpiresinceitsbeginning.Furthermore,Alexioswroteapoetichandbookof
statecraftforJohn,butweknowofnothingsimilarpreparedforAnna.24Evidently,Alexios
had given the succession much thought, and it didnt include Anna or her husband,
althoughthelatterheldthetitleCaesar,normallyreservedforanemperorintraining.

TheAttemptedCoup
Annahadtremendousselfconfidence.Apparently,shefeltthatherwholelifeshehadbeen
preparedtosucceedhermotherasempress,aswifetoastrongleader,whohadbeenchosen
byherfather.Shewas,afterall,Alexiossoldestchild,andofallhischildren,sheresembled
himmostclosely.25Shecamefromafamilyofpowerfulwomen,andhadbeennamedafter
herpaternalgrandmother,AnnaDalassene,whosepoliticalmaneuveringshadbroughther
familytopowerinthefirstplace.26Shewasa.Shealsohadafirstrate

22
23
24

25
26

Alexiad1.6(seenote3),trans.2324;ed.27.
Choniates,Historia(seenote20),trans.5;ed.5.
P.Maas,DieMusendesKaisersAlexiusI,ByzantinischeZeitschrift22(1913):34859.Seethediscussionin:
PaulMagdalino,TheEmpireofManuelKomnenos11431180(1993;Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,
2002).,2730.
Asshesays:Alexiad,6.8(seenote3),trans.167;ed.184.
Alexiad2.2(seenote3),trans.5253;ed.5758;and2.5,trans.5960;ed.6566.SeealsoBarbaraHill,Actions
SpeakLouderThanWords:AnnaKomnenesAttemptedUsurpation,AnnaKomneneandHerTimes,ed.Thalia
GoumaPeterson(NewYorkandLondon:GarlandPublishing,Inc.,2000),50.

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classicaleducation,andshecouldhardlyhavefailedtolearnfromPlatosRepublicaboutthe
philosopherking.Annaseemstohavefanciedherselfasthephilosopherandherhusband
asthetalentedorator,andapopulargeneralaformidablerulingpair.Shewasfarmore
learnedthanherbrother.However,asAlexiosknew,itrequiresmorethanbooklearningto
ruleanempire,anditwasJohn,whoactuallysucceededinsecuringthethrone.
WhileAlexioslaydying,thequestionofwhowouldsucceedhimseemstohaveremained
unsettled.TheviewofChoniateswasthatAlexioshadintendedJohntobehisheirallalong,
and that Anna and her mother were rebelling against his wishes. Choniates states that
AlexioshadgivenJohnthetokensofsuccession,theredbuskins,andhadpermittedhimto
beacclaimedascoemperor.EmpressEireneDoukaina,however,supportedherdaughter
and her soninlaw, the Caesar, and systematically attempted to undermine John with
Alexioswho, according to Choniates, feigned to listen, but deliberately ignored her
advice.27Thisreport,however,seemsdifficulttotakeatfacevalue,sinceAlexiosisknown
tohavereliedheavilyonhersupportandcounselthroughouthisreign.Indeed,whenhis
health began to fail some years before his death (ca.1112), Eirene assumed some of the
responsibilityofruling.TheempresscontrastedthesuperiorqualitiesofBryennioswiththeir
son John. Choniates claims that when Alexios had enough of this, he chided her, citing
earlierRomanprecedent:WhendidanyRomanemperorsetasideaperfectlygoodsonfor
asoninlaw?28ChoniatescalledAlexiosadissembler:nooneeverknewhistrueintentions,
andthecircumstancesaroundthesuccessionbearthisup.
WhileAlexioslaydying(August,1118),Johnbegantogatherthesupportofhisextended
relatives,ashisfatherhaddoneingainingandmaintainingpower.Choniatesdescribeshow
John,whilevisitinghisstrickenfatheronhisdeathbedandpretendingtoembracehim,
secretly slipped the signet ring from his fathers hand.29 John then hurried to the Great
Palace,thecenterofimperialgovernment,tosecurehisposition,whereheremainedbarred
inforseveraldays.Hetherebymissedthefuneralofhisfather,inspiteofhismothersorder
forhimtobepresent.30
DuringthefirstyearofJohnsreign,anumberofhisrelatives,organizedbyhissister
Anna,revoltedinfavoroftheCaesarBryennios.TheyplannedtomurderJohnwhilehewas
encamped outside the city walls. Bryennios, however, stalled, and the zeal of the
conspirators withered, and so the revolt died. The rebels were not maimed nor
flagellatedtheusualpunishmentforinsurrectionbuttheirpropertywasseized,though
mosthaditrestoredbeforelong.Asawoman,Annacouldnotleadtherebellionoutsideof
the womens quarters, and without Bryennios as agent, her masterminded plot failed.
AccordingtoChoniates,Annawassoangrywithherhusbandfornotleadingtherevoltthat

27
28
29
30

Choniates,Historia(seenote20),trans.5;ed.5.
Choniates,Historia(seenote20),trans.5;ed.56.
Choniates,Historia(seenote20),trans.6;ed.6.
Choniates,Historia(seenote20),trans.67;ed.8.

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273

shepubliclycalledhimanobscenewordforthefemalegenitalsimplyingthatheactedlike
awoman,andshewonderedwhyshehadntbeenbornwiththemaleorganinsteadofhim.31
AsforAnna,Johnhadcollectedallofherwealthandclothes,andwasabouttogiveit
awaytohisfriend,theTurkishbornGrandDomesticJohnAxouch.Johnisreportedtohave
observedthatNaturehadreversedthings,sothathenowhadtheupperhandoverhis
knowitallschemingsister.ButAxouchrefusedtoacceptthegift,andpersuadedhimto
forgiveAnna,andrestoretheproperty.32Bryenniosremainedfaithfultotheemperoruntil
hisdeath(1137).Anna,however,nodoubtperceivedasdangerousforherlearningand
unwomanly character, was confined, along with her mother, under house arrest in the
KecharitomeneMonasteryontheedgeofthecity,whichhadbeenfoundedbyhermother.
Eirenehadbuiltapartmentstherefortheuseofimperialwomen.Thismusthavebeena
terriblepunishmentforawomanaccustomedtotheintellectualandpoliticalexcitementsof
courtlife.HeraccesstovisitorswaslimitedshecomplainsintheAlexiadhowmeanher
brotherandnephewweretoher.SheblamesJohnforwearingoutherhusbandonmilitary
campaignsthatledtohisfinallethalillness,probablycancer.33
ThehistorianChoniatessassessmentisthatwomensimplydonothavewhatisneeded
torule,whichheillustratedinhisaccount:themanwhousesallofhisconnections(mostly
outsideofthepalace:thearmy,thecrowd,extendedfamily)tosecurepowerhere,Johnis
naturallymorefittorule.Incontrast,women,cloisteredinpalacesandhomesbynature,
cannotsecurethenecessarysupportoutsidepalacewalls,andsomustrelyonmen.

AnnasLaterCareer:AristotleasanIdeologicalWeapon
Asfarasweknow,Annaremainedinconfinementfortherestofherlife.Althoughshe
complainsof hersituationintheAlexiad,shewaspermittedtohavevisitors.Moreover,
accordingtotheevidenceinhereulogy,shecultivatedacircleofintellectualswhorevived
Aristotelian studies.34 The eulogist reports that she continued her own studies, which
Browningsuggestsinvolvedspecialiststoguideherreadingandpossiblyalsotoprovide
lectures,andthatsheorganizedandprobablypatronizedotherscholars,suchasMichaelof
Ephesus,whopreparedcommentariesonAristotlestreatises,withemphasisonthetreatises
forwhichtherewerenosurvivingancientcommentaries.
BrowningnotesthatthetraditionofcommentingonAristotleceasedwithStephanusof
Alexandriainthesixthcentury,nottoberesumeduntiltheeleventh/twelfthcentury,with
theeffortsofscholarssuchasEustratios,MetropolitanofNicaea(whohadbeenapupilof

31

32
33
34

Choniates,Historia(seenote20),trans.8;10.Notemycorrectedtranslation.Noconditionofpeniscaptivusis
referredtointhispassage.
Choniates,Historia(seenote20),trans.8;ed.11.
Alexiad,Prologue(seenote5),trans.57;ed.810.
Browning,UnpublishedFuneralOration(seenote19),399400;seealsoWilson,Scholars(seenote8),18184.

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GlenM.Cooper

Psellosspupil,JohnItalos),andMichaelofEphesus(bothfl.earlytwelfthcentury).Mostof
thelateantiquecommentariesweredevotedtothelogicalworksoftheOrganon.So,the
focusofAnnascirclewasontheRhetoric,thePolitics,andthezoologicalandanthropological
treatises,whichhadnocommentaries,afactsuggestingthattheyhadbeenneglectedinLate
AntiquityandearlyByzantium.
IntheprefacetoEustratiosscommentarytotheNicomacheanEthics,hecreditsapowerful
imperial female patron, though unnamed. Browning speculates that Anna was meant.
Eustratios had been disgraced in 1117, and so two fellow exiles from Byzantine society
workedtogetheronaprojecttoadvancenaturalphilosophy.35Annawasevidentlyatough
taskmaster:theeulogistreportsthatMichaelofEphesuscomplainedthathelosthiseyesight
becauseshekepthimupallnightwritingbycandlelight.36Browningalsosupposes,quite
plausibly,thatJamesofVenice(fl.ca.11361150)hadcontactwithAnnascircleinthe1130s,
wherehelearnedofthePhysicsandtheDesophisticiselenchis,whichhelatertranslatedinto
Latin.37
ThisJameswasanextremelyimportantconduitofAristotelianlogicaltreatises,thelogica
nova(newlogic)thatcompletedtheOrganon.38Ofthetextsthatheacquiredandtranslated
fromGreek,thePosteriorAnalyticswasthemostinfluential,andhelpedtoshapetheradical
developmentsinEuropeanlogicandscienceafterthetwelfthcentury.So,ineffect,Annas
circlehelpedspuronthedevelopmentofAristotlestudiesinWesternEurope.
Inrecentyears,JamesofVenicewasatthecenterofanattempttoshowthatmedieval
EuropeowednothingtotheAraboIslamiccivilizationforitsknowledgeofAristotleand
Greeklearningingeneral.39AccordingtoS.Gouguenheiminacontroversialbook,onthe
basisofnoevidence,JameswastheheadtranslatorofavastGrecoLatintranslationeffort,
centeredatMontSaintMichelinnorthernFrance.Hefurtherassertsthattheintellectual
development of Western Europe would have occurred in essentially the same way had
Europe been completely cut off from Islamic civilization. This thesis, against which
numerouscounterexamplescouldbegiven,iscompletelyfalse,andfliesinthefaceofmuch
recentscholarshipthatprovestheopposite.PannedbyhisFrenchcolleagues,whoexposed
GouguenheimsmotivationsasbeingdeterminedbypresentFrenchpoliticalissues,thebook
alsogarnerednegativescholarlyreviews.40Thepassionsthatthisbookhassparked,bothfor
andagainstitsfantasticthesis,showhowquestionsofinfluenceacrossEastandWestcan
generatemorethanacloisteredscholarlyinterest.

35
36
37
38

39

40

Browning,UnpublishedFuneralOration(seenote19),400.
Browning,UnpublishedFuneralOration(seenote19),406.
Browning,UnpublishedFuneralOration(seenote19),401.
LorenzoMinioPaluello,JacobusVeneticusGrecus:CanonistandTranslatorofAristotle,Traditio8(1952):
265304.
Sylvain Gouguenheim, Aristote au MontSaintMichel: Les racines grecques de lEurope chrtienne, LUnivers
Historique(Paris:ditionsduSeuil,2008).
SeeStevenJ.Livesey,Reviewof:SylvainGouguenheim.AristoteauMontSaintMichel:Lesracinesgrecquesde
lEuropechrtienne.LUniversHistorique(Paris:ditionsduSeuil,2008),Isis100.3(2009):64850,forinstance.

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275

Even though he questions the value of the eulogists account of Annas philosophy,
Browningsummarizesherbasicphilosophicalposition.41Hercirclesoughttoadaptancient
philosophy (sc. Plato and Aristotle) to make it compatible with Christian doctrine. She
favoredAristotle,butdidnotaccepthisdoctrineoftheuncreatedcosmos.Sheborrowed
someideasfromPlato,suchasthetripartitesoul,butrejected,ofcourse,thetransmigration
ofsouls.Ineffect,AnnaandhercirclewereattemptingaThomistprojectacenturyearlier
thanAquinas.
Morerelevanttothepresentstudy,however,isthatAnnawrotetheAlexiad,amasterpiece
withacomplexpurpose,asnotedearlier.Thedetailswillbediscussedinthefinalsection
ofthisarticle.

ManuelKomnenos(r.11431280)
ManuelwasbornonNovember28,1118,severalmonthsafterthedeathofhisgrandfather,
Alexios.AstheyoungestsonofJohnII(r.11181143),hisascensiontothepurplewasnot
aforegoneconclusion.NotlongbeforeJohnsdeath,however,histwooldestsonssuddenly
diedinquicksuccession.ManuelwasproclaimedemperorinCiliciawhilehiselderbrother
Isaacwasstillalive,andsohehadtorushtoConstantinopletosecurehissuccession.John
supposedlysaidonhisdeathbedthatManuelwouldmakeabetteremperor,moreover,that
ithadbeenforetoldthathewouldrule.42
ManueldevelopedareputationasaLatinophile.HewasthesonofaHungarianmother,
andbetrothed,andlatermarriedaGermanimperialprincess,whichmusthavecontributed
tothisinterestinpeoplestotheWest.Heemployedforeignersinhisarmies,and,morethan
anypreviousEmperor,useddynasticmarriageallianceswithnonByzantinerulingfamilies
aspolicy.HeevenemployedmanyTurksinhisarmyandadministration,andnegotiated
withtheTurkishSultanofRum,KilijArslanII(r.11561192).Anaptcharacterizationofhis
attitudeisthis:hedealtwithWesternerswithaconfidenceinByzantinesuperiority,and
failedtorealizehowpowerfulanddangeroustheyreallywere.43Nevertheless,hehada
broadintellect,andwascapableinphilosophyandtheology,andenjoyedparticipatingin
debatesinthesesubjects.44
Manuelsreignhasbeencharacterizedasdecadentandasanexpressionofanempirein
decline,basedmainlyontheperspectivepresentedbyNiketasChoniates,whofoundboth
his fascination with astrology and his sensualitynot to mention his inappropriate

41
42
43

44

Browning,UnpublishedFuneralOration(seenote19),40102.
Choniates,Historia(seenote20),trans.26;ed.4546.
WarrenTreadgold,AHistoryoftheByzantineStateandSociety(Stanford,CA:StanfordUniversityPress,1997),
638.
Choniates,Historia(seenote20),trans.30;ed.5051;andtrans.12023;ed.21219.

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GlenM.Cooper

familiaritywithwesternbarbarianstohavebeenagreatliabilities.45AsP.Magdalinohas
argued,however,thisviewisinaccurate,andbiasedbythefactthattheEmpiredidinfact
decline and fall to the Latins in the generation after Manuels death. On the contrary,
Manuels reign was one of great brilliance, and represented an apogee of Byzantine
civilizationinmanyways,inparticular,ofintellectualactivity.46Sincethefocusofthisarticle
isonAnnaandtheAlexiad,IcoveronlythemainpointsofManuelsreign.
InManuelscareer,Hellenismwasusedasatoolofdiplomacy.Inheritingarelatively
stableandwealthystatefromhisfatherandgrandfather,Manuelcultivatedtheancient
sciences,especiallyastrologyandmedicine,andemployedthemaspartofthepersonahe
presentedtoforeignrulers,especiallytheLatinrulersoftheWest.Thiswaspartofacontest
ofculturaloneupmanship,especiallywiththeNormanKingdomofSicily.Inparticular,
RogerII(r.11301154)cultivatedtheancientsciencesathiscourt,and,moreover,wasaided
byArabscholars.47Manuelexportedbookstoandsoughtknowledgefromotherprinces,in
P. Magdalinos expression, to blind his adversaries by science.48 For example, a
diplomaticgiftofPtolemysAlmagestwassentfromManueltothecourtatPalermo(ca.
1160).Thesewerecalculatedhegemonicmeasurestoshowhissuperioritytothem.Tothe
Normans of Sicily the message was: dabble in Arab science, but know that the best
astronomyandmedicineistobefoundinConstantinople.Furthermore,whywouldthe
emperorofByzantiumbeinterestedinaskingHenryIIofEngland(r.11541189)aboutsuch
an out of the way place as Wales, except to exhibit himself as the most inquisitive (sc.
scientific)rulerinChristendom?49ManuelsembassiestotheWesthavebeencharacterized
asmutualexchangesofknowledge,evenasattemptstoremovetheobstaclesbetweenEast
andWest.50IpreferP.Magdalinosreading,however,namely,thattheseembassieswere
viewedbytheByzantinesasasymmetricalexchanges,sinceIdontbelievethatManuel
thoughthemightfindmuchusefulknowledgeintheWest.
Inmedicine,Manuelpossessedconsiderableexpertiseanddelightedtopracticehealing
foreign rulers and dignitaries, among them Baldwin III of Jerusalem (r. 11431163) and
ConradIIIofGermany(r.11381152).ThefactthatnolessapersonthantheEmperorcould
practicemedicineshowsthattheimageofthephysicianinByzantineculturehadalready
shiftedfrombunglingorunscrupulousquackstothatofahighlyrespectedprofession.51
The fact that Emperor Manuel practiced medicine and exhibited a profound medical

45
46
47

48

49
50

51

Choniates,Historia(seenote20),trans.32;ed.54.
Abrilliantreassessmentofhisreign:Magdalino,TheEmpireofManuelKomnenos(seenote24)..
HubertHouben,RogerIIofSicily:ARulerbetweenEastandWest,trans.GrahamA.LoudandDianeMilburn,
CambridgeMedievalTextbooks(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,2002),98113.
Magdalino,TheEmpireofManuelKomnenos(seenote24),379;andMagdalino,Porphyrogenita(seenote11),
2831.
Magdalino,EmpireofManuelKomnenos(seenote24),379.
CharlesHomerHaskins,StudiesintheHistoryofMediaevalScience(Cambridge,MA:HarvardUniversityPress,
1924),19495.
KazhdanandEpstein,ChangeinByzantineCulture(seenote14),155.

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277

knowledgeshowsthatmedicinewasnolongerthedomainoftherudemechanicals.52This
can also be observed in the Alexiad, where in the final death scene, Anna describes the
professionalclassofphysiciansattendingherfather,eventhoughshedisagreeswiththeir
diagnosesandprescriptions.ManuelsetBaldwinsbrokenarmafterafallfromahorsein
1159. He personally administered to Conrad, who fell ill on the Second Crusade, after
inviting him to convalesce in Constantinople. Manuel was even observed to apply
bloodlettingandtoprescribedmedicationswhentheprofessionalphysicianswereabsent.
Tobeabletodothisrequiredadeepunderstandingofmedicalprinciples,forexample,to
knowwhatsimples,orbasicelements,tocombineintoadrugforspecificailments,aswell
aswhentoletblood(usuallydeterminedbyrecoursetoastrology)andhowmuch.
AstrologywasalsoakeeninterestofManuels.Hewroteadefenseofastrology,toprove
thatitwascompatiblewithChristiandoctrine,53inresponsetoaletterfromananonymous
monkwhohadaccusedManuelofheresyforhisinterestinastrology.Hisdefensesetsforth
some of the standard arguments in support of the Art.54 He was aware of the parallels
betweenthetwoancientdisciplinesofastrologyandmedicine,andappealedtotheirshared
conjecturalcharacterinhisdefense.TheEmperorspositionwasattackedbyMichaelGlykas,
a theologian who seems to have previously suffered punishment at Manuels hand for
sedition.
Theemperorsdefensebeginsbydifferentiatingbetweentwokindsofastrology:1)akind
thattakesthestarsasintelligentandlivingbeings,whocanbeentreatedthroughprayers
andamulets.Thiskind,Manuelaffirms,isrightlytobecondemnedasaformofidolatry.
And,2)akindthattakesthestarstohavebeencreatedbyGod,andtoserveasmessengers
andsignsofhiswillandmysteries.This,accordingtoManuel,wasgivenbyGodtomankind
forourbenefit,andoughttobecultivated.55
Manuel also argues that, because medicine and astrology are related, and both are
conjecturalartsi.e.,theyrelyonacertainamountofguessing,56thenneitherartshouldbe
faulted if it occasionally leads to undesirable or incorrect results. Glykas mocks this
reasoning:arguingthatwhilemedicineisarational,empiricalscience,astrologyisirrational
andunscientific,citingHippocratesandGaleninsupport.57

52
53

54

55

56
57

SeeMagdalino,EmpireofManuelKomnenos(seenote24),361.
Manuelsdefense:ImperatorisManuelComnenietMichaelGlycaedisputatio,inFranzCumont,andFranzBoll,
eds.CatalogusCodicumAstrologorumGraecorum.Vol.V.1(Brussels:HenriLamertin,1904),10825.Glykass
responseisonpages12540.
DemetraGeorge,ManuelIKomnenosandMichaelGlycas:ATwelfthCenturyDefenceandRefutationof
Astrology,CultureandCosmos5.1(2001):348;here25.
DemetraGeorge.ManuelIKomnenosandMichaelGlykas:ATwelfthCenturyDefenseandRefutationof
Astrology,M.A.Thesis,UniversityofOregon,2000,Chap.2,24.
Astandardcomparisonsinceantiquity.SeeGeorge,ManuelIKomnenos(seenote57),Chap.2,13.
George,ManuelIKomnenos(seenote57),24.GlykasappearsnothavebeenfamiliarwithGalensDediebus
decretoriis,whichadvancesastrologicalargumentsinconnectionwithsoundlyscientificmedicalprognosis.
SeeGalen,Dediebusdecretoriis,fromGreekintoArabic:ACriticalEdition,withTranslationandCommentary,and
HistoricalIntroductionofH. unaynibnIsh. q,Kitb(ayymalbuh. rn,MedicineintheMedievalMediterranean,ed.

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GlenM.Cooper

ItisinthearenaofmedicinethattherivalrybetweenAnnaandherbrothersfamilywas
furtherdeveloped.Manuelattemptedtopresenthimselfineverypossiblewaythemodel
prince, the proper heir of his grandfather Alexioss legacy. Possessing knowledge of
medicineandtheexpertisetopracticehealingwasonlyoneofthevisiblemanifestationsof
this.Thekingashealerisamotifwithancientorigins,eventakingonareligiousdimension
intheintellectuallylesssophisticatedWestoftheearlyMiddleAges.58Tohavepersonally
treatedWesternrulersduringtheSecondCrusadewasahighlyvisiblestatementofthe
superiorityofByzantinecivilizationandofitsenlightenedemperor.

TheAlexiad:Opening
NowthatIhavedescribedthecontextofthemidtwelfthcenturycontestofHellenisms
betweenbranchesoftheKomnenosfamily,Imovetopresenttheheartofmyarticle,namely,
thedetailsofAnnasargumentsassetforthinherepicbiographyofherfather.
TheopeningoftheworksetsforthAnnasreasonsforwritingthislengthybiographyof
herfather.Inaclassicizingsentiment,shenotesthat,wereitnotforthescienceofhistory
the stream of time would bear all things off to oblivion.59 She notes, in particular, how
importantitisthatthegreatdeedsofherfathernotbeforgotten.Yet,ithasrecentlybeen
arguedthatAlexiossmemorywasnotlikelytofade:hissuccessorskeptitalivetobolster
theirownlegitimacy.60ThefactthatAlexiossmemorywascontestedterritoryinthe1140s
furthersupportstheargumentthattheAlexiad,whichwascompletedatthattime,wasa
moveinthatcontest.
Annaproceedsbydescribingthegenesisofherproject.Herhusbandhadbeenrequested
byEmpressEirenetowriteahistoryoftheKomnenianperiod.TheresultwashisMaterials
foraHistory,coveringtherisetopoweroftheKomnenosfamily,10571081,whichwas
unfinishedatthetimeofhisdeath.61Annaconceivedofherprojectaspickingupwhere
Bryennioshadleftoff.TherelationshipbetweenhisprojectandtheAlexiadhasbeenthe

58
59
60

61

andtrans.GlenM.Cooper(London:Ashgate,2011).Galenstreatisewasthesubjectofacenturieslongdebate
over the validity of astrology, which began in the twelfth century and extended into the Renaissance.
See Concetta Pennuto, The Debate on Critical Days in Renaissance Italy, AstroMedicine: Astrology and
Medicine,EastandWest,ed.AnnaAkasoy,CharlesBurnett,andRonitYoeliTlalim(Florence:SismelEdizione
delGalluzzo,2008),7598.
MarcBloch,TheRoyalTouch,trans.J.E.Anderson(NewYork:DorsetPress,1989).
Alexiad,Prologue(seenote5),trans.3;ed.5.
PaulMagdalino,ThePenoftheAunt:EchoesoftheMidTwelfthCenturyintheAlexiad,AnnaKomneneand
herTimes,ed.ThaliaGoumaPeterson(NewYorkandLondon:GarlandPublishing,2000),1543,17;alsoPaul
Stephenson,AnnaComnenasAlexiadasaSourcefortheSecondCrusade?,JournalofMedievalHistory29
(2003):4154;here45.
Nicephorus Bryennius, Nicphore Bryennios histoire: introduction, texte, traduction et notes, ed. Paul Gautier
(Brussels:Byzantion,1975).

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subjectofdebateinrecentyears.DidAnnaplagiarizehisnotesandsketchesforthehistory
ofherfathersreign?Or(morelikely,inmyview)didshemerelyrelyonsomeofhisnotes
foreventsthatshecouldnothavewitnessed,suchasbattles,butthefurtherresearch,via
interviewsofparticipants,and,aboveall,thewritingishers?62
Throughouthernarrative,shetellsreadershowshefeelsaboutspecificpersons,events,
or policies. As such, she pioneered a new kind of writing: prose with an unconcealed
subjectivity. Edward Gibbon, not one for less than the masculine, objective history,
denigratedherworkastherantingsofanemotionalwoman.63

TheEpicDimension
TheAlexiadselfconsciouslyevokestheepicsofHomer:Howcouldthestoryofthesalvation
oftheRomanEmpirefrombarbarianhordesduringherfathersreignnotbeepic?Anna
frequentlyquotesHomer,andhertitlerecallstheIliad.Characterdevelopmentissimilarto
Homers,andherbattledescriptionsremindusofthesame.AlexiosisheroiclikeAchilles,
thoughfarlessdestructive.Hisdeedsarelargerthanlifehislifesmissionandhislabors
weretosaveGodschosenpeople,theOrthodoxGreekRomanChristianEmpirefromits
enemies.InsteadofthefallofthecityTroy,asintheHomericstories,theAlexiaddepictsthe
salvationofacity(Constantinople),althoughexpressingfearthatcurrentimperialpolicies
wouldleadtomoretrials.Andso,inadditiontoextollingherfathersdeeds,theworkisa
critiqueoftheimperialpoliciesofhernephew,Manuel,atthetimeitwaswritten,nearthe
endofherlifeinthelate1140s.64

TheAlexiadasaCritiqueofAlexiossSuccessors
HistorianshavequestionedthehistoricalvalueoftheAlexiadforseveralreasons,including
that it was written by a less than objective woman, and is colored by emotion, but also
becauseherchronologyisincorrectinsomeplacesandherdescriptionsofsomekeyevents,
suchasheroftquoteddescriptionofthearrivalofthecrusadersduringtheFirstCrusade,

62

63

64

Foradiscussionoftheauthorshipquestion,see:JamesHowardJohnston,AnnaKomneneandtheAlexiad,
AlexiosIKomnenos,ed.MargaretMullettandDionSmythe(Holywood,NorthernIreland:PrioryPress,1996),
260302.
EdwardGibbon,TheHistoryoftheDeclineandFalloftheRomanEmpire,ed.J.B.BurywithanIntroductionby
W.E.H.Lecky,12vols.(1776;NewYork:FreddeFauandCo.,1906),vol.8(Chapter48):287Yet,insteadof
thesimplicityofstyleandnarrativewhichwinsourbelief,anelaborateaffectationofrhetoricandscience
betraysineverypagethevanityofafemaleauthor.Seealso:EllenQuandahl,andSusanC.Jarratt,To
RecallHimWillbeaSubjectofLamentation:AnnaComnenaasRhetoricalHistoriographer,Rhetorica:
AJournaloftheHistoryofRhetoric26.3(2008):30135;here308.
Magdalino,PenoftheAunt(seenote62),1516.

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are inaccurate. However, it has recently been shown that Annas treatment of several
subjects,includingthearrivalofthecrusaders,reflectstheconcernsofthetimewhenshe
was writing her book, in the 1140s rather than the 1090s.65 Her description fits the
circumstances of the Second Crusade, which had passed through Constantinople in the
1140s,ratherthantheFirst.Herdescriptionofthoseeventswasanimplicitcriticismofhow
Manuel had handled the later crusaders.66 Moreover, she emphasizes her fathers
condemnationofastrology,hiskeendistrustofthewesternKelts(i.e.theFrenchand
Germancrusaders),andhisChristianvirtuesasavehicletocriticizethereignofhernephew,
Manuel.ManuelwasnotorioustomanyByzantinesforhisfavortowardwesternbarbarians,
foreignbrides,andgivingawaytoomanyprincessesinpoliticalmarriagestowesterners,his
obsession with astrology, and his many mistresses. Some of these vicesthe love for
astrology,condemnedbytheChurch,andtheWestlovinginparticularwerelaterblamed,
by Choniates and others, for provoking the divine judgment that fell on the Empire,
resultinginitstragiccaptureandsackbytheVenetianledcrusadersduringtheillfated
FourthCrusadein1204.
Inanextendedpassage,Annaprovidesanoverviewofthehistoryofastrology,apractice
ofwhichshedisapproves.Theoccasionwastorelatehowanastrologer,namedSeth,had
foretoldthedeathoftheEmpiresarchenemy,theNormanRobertGuiscard(d.1085).She
makesadigression,whereshestatesthattheartofdivinationbyastrologywasarecent
invention,nothavingexistedintheancientworld.Sheclaimsthattherulesandconceptsof
thisformofastrologywerearecentinvention.Thisis,ofcourse,mistaken,sincewenow
knowthathoroscopicastrologywasdevelopedinHellenisticEgyptfromelementsthatwere
much older.67 P. Magdalino interprets Annas divination as oracular astrology,
connectedwithforecastingthedeathsofrulersandthefuturesofdynasties.Thisformof
astrology was associated with Sassanian Persia, and had been mingled with Greek
astrologicalideas duringthecreativeperiodoftheGrecoArabictranslations,especially
thoughthewritingsofAbMashar,towhomInextturn.68
Rather than dismiss Annas account completely, there is some truth in it: the kind of
astrology that was being studied and practiced in her day had been thoroughly
revolutionizedbytheArabicwritingsofAbMashar,theninthcenturyastrologer(Latin:
Albumasar;Byzantine:Apomasar).Thedifferenceissignificantenoughtobenoticedwhen
one compares the most scientific treatise of astrology from antiquity, namely, the
TetrabiblosofPtolemy,withthesystemdevelopedbyAbMasharinhisGreatIntroduction

65

66
67

68

PaulStephenson,AnnaComnenasAlexiadasaSourcefortheSecondCrusade?,JournalofMedievalHistory
29(2003):4154;here4244.
Stephenson,AnnaComnenasAlexiad(seenote67),44;53.
GlenM.Cooper,Astrology:TheScienceofSignsintheHeavens,TheOxfordHandbooktoScienceandMedicine
in the Classical World, ed. Paul T. Keyser and John Scarborough (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
Forthcoming).
Magdalino,Porphyrogenita(seenote11),1719.

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toJudicialAstrology.69AbMasharhadintegratedalloftheancientsciencesintohissystem,
andtreatedastrologyasanAristotelianMasterScience.70AMasterScienceembracesall
other disciplines in a special way: 1) all other sciences are but preparatory for it
(propaedeutic),e.g.astronomyprovidestheplanetarypositions,butisincapable,withinits
ownterms,toexplainwhattheconfigurationsmeanintermsofnaturalphilosophyfor
whichastrologyisbothnecessaryandsuperiortoastronomy;and2)itoffersproofsofthe
basicprinciplesthataremerelyassumedinthelowersciences.Aristotlesawaprogression
here:weacceptsomeoftheprinciplesassumedinthelowersciencestentatively,untilwe
movetothemasterscience,fromwhichvantagepointwecansurveythemallandseehow
thewholesystemfitstogether.MetaphysicswasforAristotletheMasterScience,which
includesbothmaterialandnonmaterialsubstancesandtheirchanges.ForAbMashar,
medicineandastrologyaremostcloselyrelated:heevenstatesthatastrologyistheprinciple
(awwal,awwaliyya)ofmedicine,suggestingthatmedicineisaformofappliedastrology.
Annaclaimstohavelearnedtherudimentsofastrologyaspartofhereducation,butonly
inordertorefuteit.Shenotesthatastrologywasverypopularintheperiodbeforethereign
ofherfather,whoexertedmuchefforttoeradicateit,andtopromotetherealsciences.She
mentions Sethperhaps the same person as Symeon Seth discussed earlierand a few
others by name, some with connections to the Arab world. Faith in the stars she calls
simpleminded.ItiseasytoseeinthispassageacriticismofManuel,who,accordingto
Choniates,wasasdevotedtotheartofastrologyasanyrulercouldbe.

TheControllingMedicalAnalogyoftheAlexiad
AnnashowsherknowledgeofGreekhumoralmedicineviaagrandmedicalanalogythat
structureslargeportionsofhernarrativeintheAlexiad.AsfarasIknow,thisfeaturehasnot
beennoticedbefore.Sheinvokestheancientanalogyofthebodypolitic,andconsidersthe
factorsthatmakeitill,orkeepithealthy,aswellasthesymptomsofitsinternalillnesses.
ThisnotonlyshowsherownknowledgeofancientGreekmedicine,butalsoimpliesthatshe
expectedasophisticatedgraspofancientmedicalandpoliticalconceptsfromherreaders.
Theanalogyisasfollows:theEmpireislikenedtoabody,withsocialandpoliticalfactors
takentobecausesofhealthorillness.Adisruptioninthestateisdescribedintermsofa
physicalillness.Restoringsocialorpoliticalorderisdescribedintermsofmedicaltherapy.
This ancient bodily political analogy was expressed most eloquently in Platos Republic,

69

70

I.e.,KitbalMadkhalalkabr )al )ilmah. kmalnujm.AbMasharalBalkh[Albumasar],Liberintroductorii


maiorisadscientiamjudicorumastrorum,ed.R.Lemay(Naples:IstitutoUniversitarioOrientale,19951996).
Ptolemy,Tetrabiblos,trans.F.E.Robbins,vol.435.LoebClassicalLibrary.Rpt.(1940;Cambridge,MA:Harvard
UniversityPress,1980).
PeterAdamson,AbMa)shar,alKindandthePhilosophicalDefenseofAstrology,RecherchesdeThologie
etPhilosophieMdivales69.2(2001):24570;here24749.

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whereitservestherhetoricalandanalyticalfunctionofallowingtheelementsofhisideal
statetobeexaminedmoreclosely.71Annawouldalsohavenotedthefrequentdiscussionof
medicineandphysiciansinthecontextofthepoliticalphilosophybeingdevelopedthere,
aswellasthenotionoftheGuardianorphilosopherking,inwhosecarethestateistobe
placed.
InAnnascase,theEmpireisafflictedfromwithinandwithoutbydangerousenemies,
bothmilitaryaswellasideological.Alexios,withhissuperiorunderstandingoftheartof
imperialstatecraftontheonehand,andDestinyontheother,wasthephysician,under
whosecarethestatecouldbecured,i.e.restoredtoorderandsetonceagainonafirm
foundation.LargelysuccessfulindefeatingimperialenemieswithinandoutsidetheEmpire,
thefinaltragedyisthatAlexios,whohasspenthiswholelifeintheserviceofhispeople,is
finally brought down by an actual illness, exacerbated by the misguided efforts of
incompetent physicians. By including a description of his final illness, Anna, whose
biographytothatpointhasassumedheroicdimensions,addsthetragicelement:theGreat
Manisbroughtlow.Shesensestheincongruityherself,whenshestatesthatbysodoing,she
transgresses the laws of history.72 Nevertheless, the tragic is appropriate in a classical
context,sinceclassicaltragedyconcernedlargerthanlifefigures,suchastheAlexiosofthe
Alexiad.
Thispoliticamedicalanalogyispresentedimmediatelybeforeweareintroducedtothe
NormanRobertGuiscard(d.1085)whoalongwithhissonBohemondofTaranto(d.1111),
arelongtermthreatstothehealthoftheEmpireAnnaclassifiesRobertasanincurable
disease.73InaccordwithGreekmedicaltheory,Annaobservesthatdiseasescanhavetwo
broadclassesofcauses:externalandinternal.Whilethelatteraremoredangerous,because
they threaten the internal organs, the dangers of the former are impossible to control,
precisely because they are external (and, she adds, are brought on by Fatea strange
comment for one who believes astrology is foolish). Guiscard and his son are external
afflictions,whereasBasiltheBogomil(andotherrebelswithintheEmpire,suchasRoussel,
Basilakios,andallpretenderstothethronefromwithintheEmpire)areinternalafflictions.
TheproperformoftreatmentfortheseafflictionsinthelongtraditionofGreekmedicine
is:fortheformer,onemusttrytoremovetheexternalfactor.ThisAlexiosdoesthrough
warfareagainsttheNormans,andotherbarbarians.Forthelatter,thephysicianmustinduce
thepatientsbodytopurgetheafflictionasquicklyaspossible,inordertominimizeinternal
damage. Alexios seeks to neutralize these threats either via military action or through
negotiations,showingclemencytomostrebels,ifrepentant.Nosuchmercy,however,is

71

72
73

Plato,Republic,368e369b;434din:Plato,PlatosRepublic,trans.G.M.A.Grube(1974;Indianapolis,IN:
HackettPublishingCompany,1987),3839;99.Platostripartitedivisionofthesoulintoarational,spirited,
andappetitivepart,correspondsinthebodytothehead,chest,andabdomenandsexorgans,respectively,
andinthestatetotheguardians(philosopherkings),thesoldiers,andthefarmersandlaborers,respectively.
Alexiad15.11(seenote5),trans.46364;ed.494.
Alexiad1.10(seenote5),trans.2930;ed.3435.

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extendedtoBasiltheheretic,who,inspiteofAlexiosspersonalefforts(Annaemphasizes)
refusestorecanthisheresy,andsoisconsignedtotheflames.74Themedicalanalogyis
applicable at this level also: since fiery fevers prepare the body to expel the diseased
substance,purgationofheresyfromthestatebyburningtheunrepentanthereticwould
seemtobethemostappropriateprocedure.Ifthiswerenotso,andthedeathoftheheretic
wastheprimaryobjective,thenwhynotsimplydecapitateorexecute himinsomeless
ritualisticmannerthanbyburning?
Alexioswasnotcompletelywithoutinvolvementinmedicalmatters,asshownbythe
attentionhegavetorestoringandrefoundingofthenotedOrphanage(orphanotropheion),
whichhadfacilitiestocarefortheelderlyandinfirm.75Hisson,JohnII,continuedthefamily
traditionofmedicalcharity.InthePantokratorMonastery,whichhefounded,heincluded
hospital facilities, which are described in its foundation charter. His facility was a
sophisticatedhealinginstitution,thelargestintheEmpire.76

TheDeathofAlexios:AnnasCritiqueofthePhysicians
InowturntoAnnasaccountofherfathersfinalillnessanddeath,whichisoneofthemost
detailedmedicaldescriptionsinmedievalliterature.Inthisaccount,Annasimultaneously
exhibitsherownmedicalknowledge,anddemonstratestheincompetenceofthephysicians
entrustedwithherfatherscare.Sheprovidesasystematicaccountoftheprogressofthe
illness,sometimesnotingthedaycountedfromthebeginningonwhichchangesoccur,in
amannersimilartotheHippocraticEpidemics,thetreatisewhichbegantheGreektradition
of tracking the daytoday progress of illnesses. Only one of the physicians, Nicholas
Kallikles(fl.midtwelfthcentury),wastrulycompetentinherview.77Hecorrectlysurmised
Alexiossconditionaswellasthepropertreatment,buthisviewswerevoteddown.
Alexiossfinaldeclinebeganaboutayearandahalfafterhehadreturnedfromhisfinal
militarycampaigns(aroundFebruary,1118).AviolentwindblastedConstantinople,which
caused a shift in Alexioss humors, causing them to settle in his shoulder and neck.78
AccordingtoGreekmedicaltheory,dramaticmeteorologicalchangestendedtoaffectthe
internalstatesofpatients.AlthoughAnnadoesntmentionastrology,astrologicalinfluences
werethoughttobeofthesameorderastheweatherininfluencingpatients.Asalready

74
75
76

77

78

Alexiad15.9(seenote5),trans.45963;ed.48993.
Alexiad,15.7(seenote5),trans.45456;ed.48185.
KazhdanandEpstein,ChangeinByzantineCulture(seenote14),15657;TimothyS.Miller,TheBirthofthe
HospitalintheByzantineEmpire(BaltimoreandLondon:TheJohnsHopkinsUniversityPress,1997),9,14.
Kallikles was also an important poet, and some scholars think he authored the Timarion, the famous
anonymous satirical work. Kazhdan and Epstein, Change in Byzantine Culture (see note 14), 139. For the
Timarion,seeKaldellis,Hellenism(seenote1),27783.
Alexiad15.11(seenote5),trans.464;ed.494.

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noted,Annasattitudetowardastrologywasdismissive,andformsoneofthepointsof
criticismofhernephew,Manuel.
ThedangerinAlexiosssituationwasthoughttoarisefromthehumorsbeingconcentrated
inanunnaturalmanner,inonepartofhisbody.Thehumorswereelementalfluidsblood,
phlegm,yellowbile,andblackbilethemixtureandflowofwhichwereusedtoexplain
illnessandhealth,andtoindicatestrategiesoftherapy.Thenaturalconditionofahuman
bodyisforhumorstoflowthroughandoutofthebodywithoutobstruction.Concentration
ofhumorsindicatedanobstructionofsomekind,andthepossibilitythatthehumorswould
putrefyandbegintodestroyvitaltissuethattheycontact.Therefore,thepropertherapywas
to evacuate the humors before damage could occur, and this could be done either by
draining,orbyencouragingthebodytoconcoct(cook)thebadhumorsandexpelthem
as sediment in the urine, or in the excrement, or perspiration, or via some other bodily
secretion.Thisprocesscouldbeencouraged,whenurgent,throughemeticorcatharticdrugs,
whichexpelleddangeroushumorsthroughvomiting.Thisexpulsiveeventwascalleda
crisis.79
Annawasnotedforhermedicalknowledge,therudimentsofwhichsheobtainedaspart
ofherclassicaleducation.80Forthisreason,hermother,EmpressEirene,appointedheras
a medical liaison between the doctors council and the imperial family, to interpret the
doctorsdiagnosesanddeliberations.81Althoughshewasnotallowedtoparticipateinthe
decisionmaking, nor to diagnose nor prescribe anything, she was permitted to prepare
mealsfor,andfeedherfather.82
KallikleswastheonlyoneofthedoctorswhonoticedthedangerAlexioswasinfromthe
concentration of humors. Either he had himself observed a swelling on Alexios, or the
Emperorhadcomplainedofpainthere.Kalliklesknewthatthehumorsmustbeevacuated
immediately.Asnotedearlier,drugswereusedtohastentheexpulsionoftheaccumulated
humors. The proper order of treatment, according to the Hippocratic school and
recommendedalsobyGalen,wasdietfirst,thendrugs,andonlyafterthesemethodsfail,to
resorttosurgery,suchasbleeding,andifthatfails,cautery.83Sometimesregulatingthe
patientsnourishmentwassufficienttoinduceabeneficialcrisis.Inthepresentsituation,
however, Kallikles surmised that more urgent measures must be taken. However, the
imperialpatienthadnevertakendrugs.Purgativescouldbetraumaticonthepatient,so,

79

80

81
82
83

For detailed discussion of the medical concept of crisis, see: Galen, De diebus decretoriis, ed. Cooper,
Commentary(seenote59),39094.
GeorgeTornikes,14.logedAnneComnne:DiscourssurlamortdelaPorphyrognte,KyraAnnela
Kaisarissa,GeorgesetDmtriosTorniks.LettresetDiscours.Introduction,Texte,Analyses,TraductionetNotes
parJeanDarrouzs.LeMondeByzantin(Paris:ditionsduCentreNationaldelaRechercheScientifique,
1970),220323;here307.Seealso:Browning,UnpublishedFuneralOration(seenote19),396.
Alexiad,15.11(seenote5),trans.46465;ed.494.
Alexiad,15.11(seenote5),trans.468;ed.49798.
Hippocrates,Aphorisms,7.87,HippocratesVolumeIV:LoebClassicalLibrary,ed.W.H.S.Jones(1931;Cambridge,
MA:HarvardUniversityPress,1992),21617.

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withoutknowingwhateffecttheymighthaveonAlexios,thecouncilofdoctorsdecidedit
besttoavoidthem.Kalliklesswarningthatifthehumorswerenotimmediatelyevacuated
bydrugs,thediseasedmaterialmightflowintooneofthevitalorgans,suchastheheart,and
begintodestroyit,wasignored.
Tothegreatreliefofeveryone,theillnessapparentlyvanishedafteranexpectednumber
ofdays.Annaalludestotheancientmedicalschemeofthecriticaldays,accordingtowhich
specifickindsofillnesseshaveexpectedlifespans,andtheircharacter,whetheracuteor
chronic,aswellaswhethertheywillendinrecoveryordeath,canbeinferredfromhowthe
illnesschangesonspecificdays,measuredfromitsbeginning.Thisschemeisagainreferred
toneartheendoftheaccount,whenAnnanotesthatAlexiosdiedtheeleventhdayofthe
illness.84However,thiswasafalserecovery,andKalliklessdiagnosiswasvindicated,since
sixmonthslatertheillnessreturnedinadeadlyform(August,1118).Thefirstsymptomsof
thefinalillnessappearedinthechest:thedangeroushumorshadmovedfromtheshoulders
to the chest cavity, as Kallikles had predicted. Alexios felt a heaviness in his chest, and
difficultybreathing.
Alexios was no ordinary privileged patient, for whose diseases one could blame an
unhealthy lifestyle, such as too much of the wrong sorts of food, and lack of physical
exercise.Toomuchofthewrongkindsoffoodscouldproduceaplethoraofbadhumors,
andlackofactivitycouldhinderthefreeflowofthehumors,soimportantformaintaining
goodhealth.Helivedthesimple,almostascetic,lifestyleofasoldier.Theancientdoctors
counseledtheirpatientstomaintainaregimenthatwouldtendtoproduceanidealbalanced
bodyinabalancedlifestyle.Annaobservesthatstressandworrycanalsodamageapatients
health,andAlexioshasspenthislifeinperpetualstressovertheaffairsofstate.85Indeed,
AnnaattributesanearlierseriousillnessofAlexiostothestresscausedbytheinnumerable
KeltswhowereinvadingtheEmpire.86Alexioscertainlyhadthefinancialmeansto
followahealthyregimen,supervisedbyanynumberofthebestdoctorsintheEmpire.But
hedidnot,whichwashissacrificeforhispeople,forthatwouldhavemeant,inhismind,
neglectingthedireemergenciesofstatewithwhichhewasconstantlyfaced.
Astheillnessprogressed,Alexiossbreathingbecameextremelydifficult.Moreover,he
couldnotreclineonhissideonaccountofpainthere,andsohadtoremainupright.No
remedy,includingbleeding,wastoanyavail.Bloodlettingwasacommonformofsurgery
toaffectthedispositionofthehumors.Sincebloodwasthemostaccessiblehumortodrain,
physiciansthoughtthatbyalteringthehumoralbalance,theotherhumorswouldrespond,
causingthedangerousplethoratodissipate.87

84

85
86
87

Fordayeleven,seeGalen,Dediebusdecretoriis,ed.Cooper,K793(seenote59),13839;andCommentary,413;
423.
SeeGalen,Dediebusdecretoriis,ed.Cooper,K826(seenote59),19899;andCommentary,434.
Alexiad,14.4(seenote5),trans.41011;ed.43840.
SeePeterBrainsusefulstudy:GalenonBloodletting:AStudyoftheOrigins,DevelopmentandValidityofHis
Opinions,withaTranslationoftheThreeWorks(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1986).

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Whenbleedingfailed,thephysiciansresortedtopepperasakindofpurgative.88Pepper
wasthoughttoprovokeasmallartificialcrisis,viasweating,whichmightexpelthediseased
humors. The result was hopeful, as some of the symptoms temporarily lessened. This
improved condition lasted only three to four days, after which the painful symptoms
returned.Annaexplainedthatthepepperactuallymadehisconditionworse,bynotonly
failing to expel the corrupt humors, but dispersing them into the spaces in his arteries,
where,lurking,theyremainedadangertohim.
The next symptoms to appear were swelling of the abdomen and lower extremities,
accompaniedbyfever.Thedoctorsattackedtheswellingfirst,throughcautery,buttono
avail.Toattempttodissipateaconcentrationofhumorswithhotironssuggestsdesperate
measures.89Furthermore,thismeasuremusthavehorrifiedAnna,sincethehotironwas
oftenusedtoputouttheeyesofpretenderstothethrone,torenderthemunfittorule,asa
kindermeasurethanexecution.ShedescribesseveralepisodesofblindingintheAlexiad.90
Soontheswellingspreadtohismouthandthroat,sothatthepatientcouldnotswallow
withoutdifficulty.Annawasentrustedwithfeedinghim,oneoftheonlymedicaltasks
availabletoawoman,evenoneofAnnaslearning.Afterelevendays,thepatientdied.The
eleventhdaywasacriticaldayonwhichonemightexpecttoseechangesintheillnessthat
wouldleadeithertorecoveryortodeath.AlthoughAlexiossuffereddiarrhea,atypical
criticalsymptom,whichoftenindicatedthatabeneficialcrisiswasoccurring,hedied.The
patientwassoweakenedbytheillnessthathecouldnotsurviveacrisis,evenifhehad
experiencedone.

Conclusion
IncontrasttoManuelsverypublicdisplaysofhismedicalknowledge,Annaexpressedher
medicalknowledge,bothinthefabricofherhistory,aswellasintheextendeddescription
and analysis of her fathers final illness. Manuels displays were not without a political
messagetoforeignrulers,namely,thatthebestmedicineistobefoundinConstantinople.
NeitherisAnnasaccountwithoutapoliticaldimension.Inhercase,sheisculminatingthe
personathatshehasbeendevelopingofherselfforfifteenbooksasoneeducatedinancient
Greekcultureandconversantinphilosophy.Shedoesthis,Ibelieve,asawaytostrengthen

88

89

90

Galen,OnthePropertiesofFoodstuffs(Dealimentorumfacultatibus),trans.OwenPowell(Cambridge:Cambridge
UniversityPress,2003),38;Galen,Dealimentorumfacultatibus,OperaOmnia,vol.6,ed.C.G.Khn(Leipzig:
CarlCnobloch,1823),453748;here477.
JoelleJouannaBouchet,LaCautrisationdanslaMdecineAntique:tudesurleVocabulaire,lesInstruments
etlesTechniquesdanslaLittratureLatine,Galenos1(2007):87111.
Alexiad1.3(seenote5),trans.1415;ed.1617;9.9,trans.257;ed.279.See:JohnLascaratos,andS.Marketos,
ThePenaltyofBlindingDuringByzantineTimes.MedicalRemarks,DocumentaOphthalmologica81.1(1992):
13344.

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herclaimtothethrone,eventhoughitwasthwartedbyherbrotherJohn,thirtyyearsearlier,
andbythispointshecouldhavehadnohopeofeverachievingimperialpower.Implicitin
her account, however, is her belief that a ruler educated in philosophy (and history) is
superior to one who is not, even if that ruler is a woman. The Eastern Hellenism she
validateslooksprimarilytotheclassicalGreekpast,unadulteratedbyforeign(sc.barbarian)
influences.HerattitudetowardimportationsfromArabicisgenerallydismissive.Manuel,
ontheotherhand,findsuseinelementsofaWesternHellenism,namely,theLatinized
GrecoArabictradition.He,too,useshisknowledgeofthistradition,especiallyinmedicine
andastrology,topresenthimselfasanidealRomanemperor,onetowhomallbarbarian
rulersoweobeisance.AnnacreatesthepersonaofherfatherintheAlexiadwithasimilar
purpose, showing that her ideal ruler maintains a proper distance from the barbarians.
UnfortunatelyforAnna,thecontestwenttothefactionwithpoliticalsavvy,connections,and
genderonitsside,which,ironically,isjustwhatAlexioswouldhavewanted.Unfortunately
for Manuel and the Empire, his excessive familiarity with the Latins contributed to the
downfallofhisdynastyandByzantiumitself,orsoitwouldseem.
This article has examined contrasting Byzantine Hellenisms primarily in the medical
context.Nodoubt,throughfurtheranddeeperexaminationoftheAlexiadandbycomparing
it with other aspects of Manuels career, as well as with other contemporary Byzantine
intellectuals,itmightbepossibletorefineandextendthethesisformulatedhere.However,
forthemomentitseemsquiteclearthatAnnasdisplayofmedicalknowledgerepresents
bothherconceptoftheidealruler,aswellasherclaimtobethelegitimateheirofherfather.
ThefateofAnnasEasternHellenism,ontheotherhand,wasnotwhatshemighthave
wished.WesternHellenismwasamorevigorousandversatiletool,andeventuallyproved
itselftobethemoreprogressiveandenduring.WhatboththeArabicHellenismofBaghdad,
and the AraboLatin (Western) Hellenism of Toledo and Palermo demonstrate are the
advantages of allowing the best of foreign influences to mingle freely in intellectual
discourse.ThisisjustwhatAnnawantedtoavoid:cantherebeanythinggoodthatcould
comefromthebarbariansofeitherWestorEast?AndthegrowinghostilitybetweenEast
andWestmerelyintensifiedtheintellectualxenophobiaofByzantineculture.IntheWest,
thetremendousintellectualachievementsofThomasAquinas,reconcilingreasonandfaith
forhisage,weremadepossiblebytheamalgamationofallstrandsofthoughtthatmayhave
eitheroriginatedintheancientGreektradition,orwereinspiredbyit,suchasthecreative
outpouringofArabicthoughtthathereliedupon.EventuallytheSummaofThomaswas
translatedintoGreek,inthefourteenthcenturybyDemetriusKydones(13241398),butby
thatpointByzantiumwaslosingtherace.