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Medieval Sourcebook:
Anna Comnena: The Bad Manners of A Crusading Prince


Among the sources for the First Crusade there is a history of the eastern emperor, Alexis, written by his daughter, Anna Comnena. After speaking of the kindly but sagacious way in which her father treated the inconvenient and often disorderly troops of crusaders when they reached Constantinople, she gives the following example of their bad manners.

When the Franks bad all come together and had taken an oath to the emperor, there was one count who had the boldness to sit down upon the throne. The emperor, well knowing the pride of the Latins, kept silent, but Baldwin approached the Frankish count and taking him by the hand said, "You ought not to sit there; that is an honor which the emperor permits to no one. Now that you are in this country, why do you not observe its customs ?" The insolent count made no reply to Baldwin, but said in his barbarous language, as if talking to himself, ,This must be a rude fellow who would alone remain seated when so many brave warriors are standing up." Alexis noted the movement of the man's lips and called an interpreter in order to learn, what he had said; but when the interpreter had told him he did not complain to the Franks, although he did not forget the matter.

When the counts came to take leave of the emperor he retained this haughty knight and asked him who be was. "I am a Frank," he replied, "of the most high and ancient nobility. I know but one thing, and that is that there is in my country a church built at the crossroads where all those betake themselves who hope to show their valor in single combat, and there make their prayer to God while they await an enemy; I remained there a long time without anybody daring to measure swords with me."

Alexis was on his guard against accepting this challenge. "If you then waited without being able to show your bravery," he said to him, "you now have a chance to fight; and if I may give you a word of advice, it will be not to put yourself either at the head nor rear of the army but in the middle. The experience which I have had with the Turks make war has convinced me that is best place." [The knight was later killed in battle, possibly Count Robert of Paris.]

from James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History: Vol. I: (Boston:: Ginn and co., 1904), pp. 320-321


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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(c)Paul Halsall Feb 1996
halsall@murray.fordham.edu