Monday, September 04, 2006

Profiles in Toadying II: Anna Comnena

Anna Comnena is a towering figure in medieval history, one of the few women who had the opportunity to set down their thoughts on the events in their lives and have them survive to the present day. And since she was the daughter of the Emperor of Byzantium, the events in her life were pretty keen. Her Alexiad is worth a read for anyone interested in medieval history.

Today, however, we are going to talk about her thing for her Daddy, Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1048-1118, r. 1081-1118). Now, the Byzantines had a higher standard of toadying than we do, especially when it came to the Emperor. A scathing criticism of Imperial policy in the 11th century would come off to us as pathetically servile. But even so, it's hard not to feel a little shudder when you read this stuff:

Alexius was not a very tall man, but broad-shouldered and yet well proportioned. ... When one saw the grim flash of his eyes as he sat on the imperial throne, he reminded one of a fiery whirlwind, so overwhelming was the radiance that emanated from his countenance and his whole presence. His dark eyebrows were curved, and beneath them the gaze of his eyes was both terrible and kind. A quick glance, the brightness of his face, the noble cheeks suffused with red combined to inspire in the beholder both dread and confidence. His broad shoulders, mighty arms and deep chest, all on a heroic scale, invariably commanded the wonder and delight of the people. The man's person indeed radiated beauty and grace and dignity and an unapproachable majesty. When he came into a gathering and began to speak, at once you were conscious of the fiery eloquence of his tongue, for a torrent of argument won a universal hearing and captivated every heart; tongue and hand alike were unsurpassed and invincible, the one in hurling the spear, the other in devising fresh enchantments.

I mean, you know? Daddy!


At 6:43 AM, Anonymous Whollyrandom said...

To be fair, Juliette could say all those things of me. If she could talk. Especially the part about not being tall.

At 10:17 AM, Blogger James said...

I am not disparaging your physical fitness, but your mighty arms do not arous the wonder and delight of the people as far as I know.

At 3:01 PM, Anonymous whollyrandom said...

You may be right. I've never really asked people. On the other hand, from Juliette's point of view, I'm capable of carrying an entire human being plus assorted baggage for hours.

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