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The Alexiad: Book XII

Complete Text | Introduction | Book 1 | Book 2 | Book 3 | Book 4 | Book 5 | Book 6 |
Book 7  | Book 8 | Book 9 | Book 10 | Book 11 | Book 12 | Book 13 | Book 14 | Book 15

CONTENTS

THE ALEXIAD


THE ALEXIAD OF ANNA COMNENA

BOOK XII

Domestic Conflicts : Second Norman Invasion (1105-7)

[300]

I Now the deeds that were done consequent on Bohemund's first crossing, and all the schemes he devised against the Emperor in his desire to win the sceptre of the Roman Empire for himself, and the manner in which he effected his retreat by cunning, but certainly with great success, in that he made the voyage by being conducted as a corpse and so reached Corfu - may be regarded as described fairly in the foregoing. And now my history must relate Bohemund's further doings. After the odoriferous corpse reached Corfu, as has been said, and sent a threatening message to the Emperor by the Duke of that island, as already told in this history, he crossed over into Lombardy and set to work. For he intended to occupy Illyria again and was anxious to collect more allies than before for this purpose. And after conferring about a matrimonial alliance with the King of France, the latter gave him one of his daughters in marriage, and sent another by sea to Antioch to be united in marriage to Bohemund's nephew, Tancred. Next Bohemund collected innumerable forces from all quarters and every town and country, and sent for the Counts with their respective armies and hurried on his crossing to Illyria.

Directly the Emperor received the message forwarded to him through Alexius, he sent letters to the various states, Pisa, Genoa and Venice to warn them beforehand and prevent their being seduced by Bohemund's false words, and joining him. For Bohemund did in truth visit all the towns and countries, inveighing bitterly against the Emperor and calling him a pagan and an enemy of the Christians. During the time that countless hosts of Franks crossed from the West into Asia and were proving a scourge to Antioch, Tyre and all the surrounding towns and countries, the Babylonian [*=The Sultan of Cairo] had managed to capture three hundred Counts and was keeping them bound [300] in prison where their treatment was as cruel as it used to be in olden times. When the Emperor heard the details of their capture and the consequent sufferings that had befallen them, he was cut to the heart and occupied himself entirely with their deliverance. Accordingly he sent for Nicetas Panucomites and dispatched him to the Babylonian with money and also handed him a letter in which he begged for those captive Counts and promised the Sultan many benefits if he would release them from their chains. After seeing Panucomites and hearing from him the message sent by the Emperor, the Babylonian read the letter and immediately freed the captives from their bonds and had them brought out of prison. However he did not grant them absolute liberty but handed them over to Panucomites to conduct to the Emperor and this without accepting even a farthing of the money that had been sent. Whether this was because he did not consider the sum sufficient for the ransom of so many men or whether he was anxious to avoid the imputation of corruptibility and did not wish to appear to have sold them for a price, but to have conferred a pare and genuine favour on the Emperor, or whether he aimed at further rewards, God alone can, say. When the Emperor saw these men arrive, he was overjoyed and marvelled at the barbarian's decision; he questioned them ndnutely about all that had befallen them and learned how they had been kept in prison for a very long time and many months without ever once seeing the sun or being freed from their chains, and besides this they had remained all that time without tasting any kind of food except bread and water. In pity for their sufferings the Emperor shed a bitter tear and at once shewed them much kindness, giving them money, providing clothes of all sorts, conducting them to the baths and endeavouring in every way to help them recover from their ill-treatment. The Counts were delighted at the kind way they were treated by the Emperor, they his former foes and opponents, who had broken their promises and oaths to him, and they appreciated his forbearance towards them. After some days he sent for them and said, " For the future I give you permission to stay as long as you like in this city with us. But if anyone of you has a longing for home and wishes to return thither, he can start on his homeward journey without let or hindrance, after taking leave of us, and in addition being well provided with money and every other necessary for the journey. I simply wish to give you [302] permission to go or to stay and to do what you like according to your own judgment as free men." For some time already, as I have said, they had received great attention from the Emperor and were reluctant to leave him. But when, as before mentioned, Bohemund reached Lombardy and was busy gathering together larger armies than his former ones, and was going round to all the towns and villages decrying the Emperor and loudly proclaiming him a pagan who was assisting the pagans with all his might-the Emperor on hearing this gave the aforementioned Counts lavish presents and sent them off home. He did this, firstly because they themselves had already begun to wish to return home, and secondly, in order that they might refute the tales which Bohemund had been publishing about him. But he himself departed hurriedly for the city of Thettalus, partly in order to train the recruits in military exercises, and partly to hinder Bohemund from his reputed desire of crossing from Lombardy into our Empire. The Counts when they left became most trustworthy evidence against Bohemund, they called him a cheat who never spoke the truth even in ordinary cases, they often refuted him to his face and denounced him in every town and village, and were in themselves credible witnesses.

II As Bobemund's crossing was being spoken of on all sides and the Emperor recognized that he still required many more forces to have an army of proportionate size to oppose to the Frankish masses, he did not delay or hesitate, but sent for the men from Ccelo-Syria, I mean Cantacuzenus and Monastras; for the former was holding Laodicea and the latter Tarsus. Now when he summoned these men, he did not leave the towns and provinces under their care unprotected, but sent Petzeas with other troops to Laodicea, whilst to Tarsus and all the towns and provinces under Monastras he sent Aspietes. This man was a noble descended from an Armenian family, renowned for its bravery, as report said at that time, though the crises which then arose did not prove him to be anything of the kind, at least as regards strategic ability. For Tancred, the governor of Antioch, who, as we have already told, was now in Syria, repeatedly spread the rumour abroad, that he would descend on Cilicia very soon to besiege its towns and wrest it from the Emperor's hands, as it was his own, and he had taken it from the Turks by force of arms. He did not only disseminate such rumours, but even threatened far worse things by letters, which were [303] daily handed in to Aspietes. And he did not merely threaten, but did a few things, illustrative of his threats, and undertook to do still more. He collected troops from all sides from the Armenians and Franks, drilled these daily, and trained the army gradually to form up in line and engage in battle; sometimes he sent it out on foraging expeditions, thus symbolizing the smoke which precedes a fire; he was also preparing siege-engines and getting himself ready in every way for a siege. So much then for his doings; but the Armenian Aspietes, just as if nobody were threatening and terrifying him or menacing him with such terrible danger, sat carelessly at his ease and nightly indulged in heavy drinking. And yet he was very brave and a most valiant soldier; but when he was put into Cilicia, far away from a master's hand and had full authority, he abandoned himself to all sorts of wantonness. Consequently when the moment of the siege arrived, that wretched Armenian, who was steadily growing more effeminate and leading a loose life, shewed that he had become quite helpless in face of that most patient soldier, Tancred. For his hearing was not disturbed by the thunder of his threats and when Tancred came wielding the thunderbolt through scenes of devastation to Cilicia, he did not even glance up at the lightning.

Tancred suddenly led out his enormous army from Antioch and, forming it into two divisions, sent half overland to the towns of Mopsus [*= Mopsuestia or Malmistra], the other half he embarked on triremes and took them by sea into the mouth of the river Saron. This river runs down from the Taurus mountains, and flows between the two cities of Mopsus, the one in ruins, the other newly built, and empties itself into the Syrian sea. Tancred's ships sailed from this sea and when they had entered the mouth of this river, they went up it as far as the bridges which unite the two cities. In this way the city was encircled and attacked on both sides. For Tancred's men were able easily to fight against the city from the sea on the one side, while on the other the army could fight and harass it from the land. As if nothing out of the common were happening, and no mighty swami of soldiers were buzzing round the city, Aspietes most strangely, and in a manner quite unworthy of his courage, paid little heed to these things. This caused him to be most heartily hated by the imperial army. What then was likely to be the fate of the Cilician cities when captured by such a man? for besides being the strongest of all his contemporaries [304] and one of the most respected for military experience, Tancred was most deadly in the art of besieging a town. Now any one reading as far as this might wonder that the Emperor was not aware of Aspietes' lack of military experience. But I would say in defence of my father that the nobility of his descent influenced the Emperor and that the brilliance of his ancestry and the fame of his name contributed much to Aspietes' receiving this appointment. For he held the highest rank among the Arsacidoe and was born of royal blood. It was for this reason that my father appointed him Stratopedarch of the whole East and promoted him to very high honours, especially after he had had a proof of his courage. Once when the Emperor, my father, joined battle with Robert, as we have related, in the heat of that battle a certain Frank exceedingly tall, directed his spear, spurred on his horse and fell upon Aspietes like a thunderbolt. The latter grasping his sword received the Frank's terrific onslaught and was wounded most severely, for the spear pierced his lung and passed out through his spine. However Aspietes was not perturbed by the blow nor unhorsed, but settling himself more firmly in his seat, struck the barbarian on his helmet and cut both the helmet and the head in half. And then both f ell from their horses, the Frank dead and Aspietes still breathing. His attendants picked him up, all drained of blood, tended him well and then carried him to the Emperor, shewed him the spear and the wound and reported the death of the Frank. The Emperor was for some reason or other mindful of this former act of bravery and daring and taking it in conjunction with his descent and consequent reputation sent him as a [presumedly] able general to Cilicia to oppose Tancred and appointed him Stratopedarch, as I have just written.

III This is sufficient about these men. To the various generals engaged in the West he sent other letters enjoining them to march to Stlilanitza without delay. What happened next? Did he after summoning the protagonists, relapse into ease, and enjoy his leisure and the pleasure of the baths, as the Emperors who prefer a bestial life, are wont to do? No, certainly not, why he could not even endure staying in the palace any longer. He left Byzantium, as stated above, travelled through the western countries, and reached Thessalonica in the month of September in the fourteenth Indiction and in the twentieth year of his taking up the reins of government. And he constrained the Empress to go with him [305] against her will. For her disposition was of such a nature that she did not willingly appear much in public, but generally kept at home and attended to her duties, such as reading the books of the Saints and communing with herself and doing acts of kindness and charity to men, especially to those who were, as she saw from their conduct and manner of life, true servants of God, and she persevered in prayers and a succession of hymns. Whenever it behoved her to appear in public as Empress on some very necessary occasion, she was overcome with shyness and her cheeks were mantled with blushes.

Similarly the philosopher Theano, when her forearm once became uncovered and somebody jokingly said, " What a beautiful forearm !" replied "Yes, but not a public one." And so the Empress, my mother, the image of dignity, the temple of holiness, did not only dislike shewing her arm or eyes to the public, but did not even like her voice to be carried to unaccustomed ears. Such a wonderful example of modesty was she! But since, as it is said, not even the gods can fight against necessity, she was obliged to accompany the Emperor on his frequent expeditions. Her natural modesty would have kept her at home in the palace, but her devotion and ardent love for the Emperor drove her out of it even against her will for various reasons, the first of which was that the illness, which had attacked his feet, necessitated very constant care. For in consequence of this gouty affection, the Emperor had piercing pains and would not submit to anybody's touch as readily as my mother's, for by touching him carefully and rubbing skilfully she could assuage the pains to a certain extent. (And now let nobody accuse me of bragging, for I admire domestic virtues, nor suspect me of telling falsehoods about the Emperor, for I am only telling the truth.) The Emperor in very truth ever considered his own comfort and affairs as secondary to the welfare of the cities. For nothing could separate him from his love of the Christians, neither pains nor pleasure nor the miseries of wars, nor anything either great or small, neither the blazing heat of summer, nor the biting cold of winter, nor any barbarian attack. He was quite undaunted by all these things, and if he did sink under a combination of diseases he would spring up again at the call for help. The second and more important reason why the Empress accompanied the Emperor was because so many plots cropped up on all sides that he needed constant guarding, and literally a many-eyed protecting power. For, as night wove plots for him, so did the middle of the day; [306] the evening would bring forth some fresh evil and the morning devise the worst; God is witness of this. Was it not necessary therefore that the Emperor against whom so many wicked men conspired, should be watched over by a thousand eyes? for some aimed their arrows at him, others whetted their sword in secret, and others, if opportunity for action was wanting, let loose their slanderous tongue and malicious talk. Who had more right to be by the Emperor's side to help him than she, his natural counsellor? Who better than she looked after the Emperor and suspected the conspirators? for she was quick in seeing what would be to his advantage, but still quicker in detecting his enemies' intrigues. For these reasons my mother was all in all to the ruler, my father, she was a sleepless eye at night, a most illustrious guardian by day, a good antidote to dangers at table and a salutary counter-potion to mischiefs arising from food. These were the reasons that thrust aside this woman's innate shyness, and gave her the bold eyes of a man (or encouraged her to meet the eyes of men); yet even in these circumstances she did not lose her usual modesty, but by her quiet looks and silence and by her self-respect remained little known to the majority. The only thing that shewed the Empress was following the army was a litter borne by two mules and covered with the imperial curtains, for the rest her divine body was concealed from view. One thing alone all acknowledged, namely, that some most excellent foresight conducted everything to do with the Emperor's malady, and that she was his tireless guardian, an ever-wakeful eye which never slumbered over its duties. And such of us as were well-disposed to the Emperor aided and abetted the mistress, my mother, in her care to the utmost of our respective ability, nor did we ever relax. I have written this especially for those who are fond of scoffing and reviling. For they bring a charge even against the innocent (the Homeric Muse, too, knew this human trait) and they disparage noble deeds and find fault with the faultless. And thus on the expedition which took place at that time (the Emperor was marching to meet Bohemund) she accompanied him, partly against, and partly of, her own will. For it was not necessary for the Empress to take part in the attack on the barbarian army. For how could she? that would have been all very well for Tomyris and the Massagetan Sparethra, but not for my Irene. Her courage was used in another direction and though she was fully armed it was not with Athena's spear or the helmet of Hades, but her shield and [307] buckler and sword were for standing up bravely against the chances and vicissitudes of life to which she knew rulers were always exposed; her activity in business, her stem resistance to passion and her genuine loyalty were such as Solomon lauds.

Thus my mother was prepared for wars of that kind, but in other respects she was as peaceful as her name.

But since the moment for the struggle with the barbarian was impending the Emperor was busy preparing everything for this struggle, and saw to the forts being made secure and where necessary, further strengthened; in a word, he did his best to get everything in good trim against Bohemund's arrival. And he took the Empress with him partly for his own sake and the reasons we have given, and partly because there was no danger at the moment, and the time for war was not yet at hand. The Empress took with her all the gold and coined money of other quality she had as well as some of her other precious possessions and left the city. And throughout the journey she gave with lavish hand to the beggars, the men clad in leather and the naked; no one who asked of her went away empty-handed. Even when she reached the tent appointed for her, she did not immediately enter and lie down to rest, but threw it open and gave the beggars free access. For to this class she was very accessible, and allowed herself to be both seen and heard by them. And she did not only give money to the poor, but also good advice. If she noticed any of strong physique who led a lazy life, she urged them to find work and employment and earn the necessaries of life in that way, rather than grow lax through sloth and go about begging from door to door. And no juncture kept the Empress away from such work. Now David is known to have mixed his drink with tears; but this Empress could be seen to mix her food and drink daily with pity. I could have said a great deal about this Empress, were it not that a loved daughter's testimony might have been suspected of falsehood and flattery of her mother. But for those who have such suspicions, I will adduce facts in corroboration of my words.

IV Directly the men of the western provinces heard that the Emperor had arrived in Thessalonica, they all assembled round him there, exactly as heavy bodies are drawn by gravity to the centre. This time, indeed, a locust did not precede the advent of the Franks as it did before; but a large comet appeared in the sky, the largest of all that had ever been seen before, and some pronounced it to be a beam-meteor, and others a javelin-meteor. For it was only [308] right that some unusual signs, predicting the strange things that were shortly to happen, should be sent from above. And this comet was to be seen shining brightly for a whole forty days and nights ; and it seemed to rise in the West and travel across towards the East. All who saw it were dumbfounded and asked of what this meteor was the portent. The Emperor did not as a rule pay much attention to such matters, for he was of opinion that they arose from some natural cause, yet even he questioned the men who understood these things; and summoned Basilius (this man shewed great devotion to the Emperor), who had lately received the honourable post of Prefect of Byzantium, and consulted him about the comet which had appeared. Basilius said he would defer his answer till the next day, and he returned to his lodging (which was a chapel built long ago in honour of the evangelist John) and watched the comet when the sun was about setting. While he was thus worried and wearied with calculations, he happened to fall asleep, and in his sleep beheld the saint dressed in priestly robes. All overjoyed, he fancied he 'saw no illusive dream, but a reality.' Hence on recognising the saint he was fearful and begged him timidly to make known to him the message of the comet. And the saint replied that it foretold the movement of the Franks and' its setting denotes their destruction in the same quarter of the globe.' Such is the story of the comet that appeared. The Emperor arrived in Thessalonica, as already stated, and there prepared for Bohemund's crossing by training the recruits in stretching the bow and shooting arrows at a mark and protecting themselves with their shields; by means of letters he was also procuring troops from foreign countries so that they might come quickly when required. He also showed great care for Illyria, strengthened the city of Dyrrachium and appointed Alexius, the Sebastocrator Isaac's second son, prefect of it. At the same time he ordered the Cyclades, and all the maritime towns of Asia and even of Europe, to get a fleet ready; and when several objected to building a fleet as Bohemund was in no haste to cross yet, he would not listen to them, but said that a general must be a watchful guardian, and not only be prepared for immediate happenings, but look far ahead, and by no means be caught unprepared when danger threatened through having stinted money, especially if he knew that the enemy was advancing. After having settled these matters very cleverly, he left Thessalonica for Strubitza and went on from there to Slopimus. On [309] hearing that John, the Sebastocrator's son, who had been sent ahead previously had been defeated by the Dalmatians, he sent enough troops to succour him. Bolcanus meanwhile, who was very guileful, at once opened negotiations for peace with the Emperor and sent him the hostages he had demanded. The Emperor lingered on in those parts for a year and two months, and then he was informed that Bohemund was still staying about in Lombardy and as winter was already setting in, he dismissed all the soldiers to their homes and himself returned to Thessalonica. Whilst he was journeying to Thessalonica, the first son of the prince John Porphyrogenitus was born at Balabista and a little girl was born at the same time. The Emperor attended the services of the commemoration of the Proto-martyr Demetrius in Thessalonica and then returned to the Capital.

Here the following incident occurred. Nearly in the middle of the Forum of Constantine there was a bronze statue looking towards the East standing on a conspicuous purple pillar and holding a sceptre in its right hand, and in its left a sphere fashioned of bronze. This was said to be the statue of Apollo, but the inhabitants of Constantinople used to call it Anthelius, I believe. But that great one among kings, Constantine, the father and master of the city, changed its name to his own, and called it a statue of the Emperor Constantine. Yet the name given originally to the statue persisted, and everybody called it Anelius or Anthelius.

Suddenly a very violent southwest wind arose, blew this statue off its pedestal and hurled it to the ground, the sun was then in the sign of the Bull. Most interpreted this as a bad omen, especially the Emperor's ill wishers; for they whispered that this accident portended the Emperor's death. But he said, " I know only one Lord of life and death, and do not believe for a minute that the fall of an image can cause a death. For come, tell me when a Pheidias or any sculptor by hewing stone produces a statue can he bring the dead to life or bring forth living creatures ? and, if he can, what will be left for the Creator of all things ? For ' It is I that will kill and I will make ahve,' He says, and not the fall or the erection of this or that statue." And indeed he always referred everything to the great providence of God.

V And now a fresh potion of ills had been mixed again for the Emperor; this one was not prepared by ordinary people, but certain men, very proud of their courage and [310] brilliant descent, who breathed murder, plotted against the imperial life. And at this point of my history I stop to wonder how it came about that the Emperor was surrounded by such a crowd of dangers. For there was nothing and no quarter from which agitations did not arise against him. At home disaffection was rife, and abroad rebellions never ceased. And at a time, when the Emperor had not yet overcome the difficulties at home, all the world outside burst into a blaze just as if Fortune were making the barbarians abroad and the pretenders at home spring up simultaneously like the seff-grown Giants. And this in spite of the Emperor's administrating and managing the government in a very peaceful and humane way, and overwhelming everybody with kindnesses. For some he gladdened with honours and promotions, and never ceased enriching by handsome gifts; while as for the barbarians of whatever country they were, he never gave them any pretext for war nor enforced the necessity of it upon them, but when they made a tumult he checked them ; for it is bad generals who in a time of universal peace purposely excite their neighbours to war. For peace is the end of every war, but to choose war in every case instead of peace for the sake of anything . . . and always to disregard the good end, this is the characteristic of senseless generals and demagogues and men who are working for the destruction of the state.

Now the Emperor Alexius used to do just the opposite and was exceptionally desirous of peace, and . . . when it existed he always did his utmost to maintain it, and when it was broken, often lay awake thinking how to restore it. By nature he was peaceful, but under the compulsion of circumstances, very warlike. And I can boldly assert of this man that after imperial dignity had long been absent from the Roman Court, it returned in a certain degree under him and him alone, and was then first entertained as a guest by the Roman ruler. But, as I said at the beginning of this chapter, I cannot but be astonished at the influx of wars; for everything both at home and abroad was seen to be in a state of tumult. However, the Emperor Alexius perceived his enemies' secret and hidden plans beforehand, and by various devices he warded off their harmful effects. Both when he was fighting against the pretenders at home or the barbarians abroad, he ever anticipated the plots of the plotters by his keen instinct, and thus frustrated their attempts. From all these things I infer that Fate . . . the kingdom [311] because dangers accumulated from every direction, and the body politic was disturbed, and every foreign nation was raging against the Roman Empire; it was as if a man were so unfortunately placed as to be attacked by enemies from without, whilst he was being exhausted physically by cruel pains, and yet Providence roused him up to make a stand against these manifold ills; as was to be observed in this case.

For the barbarian Bohemund, whom we have mentioned so frequently, was preparing for his attack on the Roman throne by collecting an immense army, and on the other side this party of pretenders rose against the Emperor, as we said before in the preface. The originators of the conspiracy were four in all, by surname Anemades, and their Christian names were Michael, Leo, . . . and . . . They were brothers, firstly by birth, and secondly by disposition; for they all agreed on this point, to kill the Emperor and seize the sceptre. Others of the nobility associated themselves with them, namely, the Antiochi of illustrious race, and the two called Exazeni, that is Ducas and Hyaleas, the boldest men in battle that ever were, and besides them Nicetas Castamonites and a certain Curticius and George Basilacius. These were all leaders in the military party, and of the Senate there was John Solomon. Because of the latter's superfluity of riches and brilliant lineage, Michael, the leader of the Anemades quartette, deceitfully promised that Solomon should be appointed Emperor. Now this Solomon, who was the head of the senatorial body, was shortest in stature and lightest in mind of the senators as well as of his fellow-dupes. He thought he had completely exhausted the doctrines of Aristotle and Plato, but he had not really a good store of philosophic knowledge, for he was puffed up by his extreme lightheadedness. For the rest he directed his course towards the throne under full sail as if wafted along by the Anemades. But they were utter impostors. For Michael and his brothers had not the slightest intention of raising him to the throne, far from it, but they used the man's wealth and his levity for their own purpose. They continually helped themselves to his stream of gold, and by puffing him up with promises of the throne, they rendered him quite subservient to themselves. They intended, if they were successful and fortune smiled upon them, to elbow him out of the way, and leave him fluttering on the sea, and when they themselves had grasped the sceptre, they would assign [312] him but little glory and prosperity. And when speaking about the plot in his presence, no mention was made of the Emperor's murder or the drawing of a sword, or of a battle or war, so as not to alarm this man, for they knew of old that he was a great coward in anything to do with wax. Accordingly they embraced Solomon as if he were the chief leader of the party. Involved in this plot were also Sclerus, and Xerus, who had then completed his term of office as- Prefect of Constantinople. Now, as said above, Solomon was of a light-headed disposition and as he understood nothing of what was meditated by Exazenus and Hyaleas and the Anemades themselves, imagined he already held the Roman Empire in his grasp, and would talk to people and try to win them over by promises of gifts and honours. Once Michael Anemas, the chief actor in the drama, went to him and seeing him talk to somebody asked what he was saying; Solomon with his usual simplicity replied, "He asked me for a certain post, and on my promising it he agreed to become one of us in the plot." Michael cursed his foolishness and grew very frightened as he realized that the other was incapable of holding his tongue, and consequently did not visit him as frequently as before.

VI Now the soldiers, I mean the Anemades, the Antiochi and their fellow-conspirators, planned mischief against the Emperor and arranged that directly they found an opportune moment, they would at once carry into execution the Emperor's premeditated murder. But since Providence denied them opportunity and time was running on, and they were afraid they might be detected, they imagined they had found the occasion they sought. For, on awaking from sleep in the early morning, in order to dissipate the humours (lit.:'sweeten the brine') engendered by his many anxieties the Emperor occasionally played at chess with one of his relations (this game was invented by the luxurious Assyrians, and brought thence to us) ; so these men, with arms in their plotting hands, intended to pass through the royal bedroom and get at the Emperor in their longing for his murder. This imperial bedroom, where the Emperors then slept, was situated on the left side of the chapel in the palace dedicated to the Mother of God; most people said it was dedicated to the great martyr Demetrius. To the right was an atrium paved with marble. And the door leading to this from the chapel was always open to all. They intended, therefore, to enter the chapel by this door, to force open the doors which shut off the [313] Emperor's bedroom and thus to enter and despatch him by the sword.

This indeed is what those guilty men purposed against him who had done them no wrong. But God wrecked their plans. For somebody revealed the plot to the Emperor, who at once summoned them all. First he had John Solomon and George Basilacius introduced into the palace to a place close to the small room in which he happened to be with his family around him. He wanted to ask them a few questions, and as he had long known that they were very simple-minded, he thought he would easily learn the details of the plot. But in answer to his repeated questions they denied everything; then the Sebastocrator Isaac approached them and nodding to Solomon said, " Solomon, you know well the goodness of my brother, the Emperor. Now if you will give a full account of the plot you will be granted an immediate pardon, but, if not, then you will be handed over to horrible tortures." Solomon looked fixedly at him, and then at the barbarians standing in a circle round the Sebastocrator, brandishing their one-edged axes on their shoulders, and forthwith fell to trembling, and revealed everything and gave the names of his fellow-plotters, but insisted that he knew nothing about any intention to murder. They were then handed over to the men assigned to guard them and put into separate prisons. Afterwards the Emperor and his brother questioned the rest about the plot ; they confessed everything and even avowed their intention to murder. When it was found that the soldiers had arranged this, or rather Michael Anemas, the ringleader of the plot, who had murderous feelings against the Emperor, they were all banished, and their property confiscated. However, Solomon's house was given to the Empress, as it was very beautiful. But she, with her usual kindness, took pity on Solomon's wife, and gave it back to her without taking the slightest thing out of it. And Solomon was kept imprisoned in Sozopolis. But Anemas and the others who were the prime authors with him, had their heads closely shaven and their beards cut off, and then the Emperor ordered them to be led through the middle of the Agora and afterwards have their eyes gouged. out. So the masters of the ceremonies took them and dressed them in sacks and decorated their heads with the entrails of oxen and sheep as if they were fillets, then placed them on oxen, not astride, but sideways, and conducted them through the court of the palace. Lictors gambolled before them, singing [314] a ridiculous song suitable to the procession in a loud voice; it was expressed in rude language, and its meaning was somewhat like this . . . . . . For the song aimed at bidding all the public come out and look at these horn-bearing pretenders who had whetted their swords against the Emperor. So people of every age flocked together to view this spectacle, and even we, the Emperor's daughters, went out to see it secretly. When the people saw Michael looking up to the palace and raising suppliant hands to heaven, and by gestures asking that his arms should be torn from his shoulders, and his legs from his buttocks, and his head be cut off, every creature was moved to tears and lamentations, and we, the Emperor's daughters, more than all. And I in my desire to rescue the man from such misery repeatedly implored the Empress, my mother, to come and see the procession. For to tell the truth we were concerned about the men for the Emperor's sake, for in them he would be deprived of such good soldiers, especially Michael on whom the heaviest sentence had been pronounced. Accordingly, when I saw how humbled he was by his misfortune, I tried to force my mother, as I was saying, in order that the men might perchance, be saved from the danger which stood so near them. For the conductors were leading the procession very slowly with the purpose of giving an opportunity for pardon being granted to the guilty. But as she delayed coming (for she was sitting with the Emperor and they were conjointly making intercessions to God before the Mother of God) I went down and standing fearfully outside the doors, for I did not dare to go in, I tried to draw her out by signs. And finally she was persuaded and came out to see the sight. When she saw Michael she pitied him and ran back to the Emperor, shedding bitter tears, and besought him, not once or twice, but repeatedly, to spare Michael's eyes. He at once dispatched a messenger to stop the executioners; and, by hurrying, the man got there just before they had passed inside the 'Hands' as they were called; for he who has once passed them, can no longer be saved from his fate. For the Emperors had fixed up these bronze hands in a very conspicuous place on a lofty stone arch with the fixed intention that if a man, condemned to death by law, should be short of them, and on the way receive a pardon from the hand of the Emperor, he was to be freed from his punishment. For the Hands signified that the Emperor took the men back into his arms and held them firmly, and did not loose them [315] from the hands of his mercy. But if they passed the Hands, this was a sign that in all truth the imperial majesty rejected them. The fate of men under punishment is therefore in the hands of fortune, which I interpret as the decree of God, and it is right, therefore, to implore His help. For either mercy reaches them short of the Hands and the wretches are delivered from danger, or they have passed beyond the Hands and are far from salvation. But I attribute it all to God's providence, which on this occasion delivered the man from the gouging out of his eyes. For it seems probable that it was God who moved us on that day to take pity on the man. For the messenger of salvation hastened and reached this side of the arch on which the bronze Hands are fixed, gave the letter granting the pardon to the men leading Michael, took him and came back with him, and on reaching a tower, built close to the palace, confined him there, for such were his orders.

VII Michael had not yet been liberated from prison before Anemas'prison received Gregory again. Forthistower was one of those in the city-walls near the palace of Blachernae, and was called the 'Tower of Anemas' just as if it had got this name by fate as Anemas was first to be confined there in chains and was to spend a long time in it. For in the course of the twelfth Indiction the Gregory already mentioned who had long been hatching rebellion, on being appointed Duke of Trapezus, disclosed his secret on his journey to Trapezus. For he met Dabatenus (who was returning to Constantinople after handing over the post of Duke to Taronites), took him prisoner and kept him in jail in Tebenna; and not Dabatenus only, but also several of the leading Trapezuntines, among them the nephew of Bacchenus. As they were not released from imprisonment, they all united, subjected the jailers put over them by the rebel to ill-treatment, led them outside the walls and drove them some distance away. Then they appropriated Tebenna and held it. The Emperor sent many letters to recall him and at other times advised him to desist from his wicked doings if he wished to obtain mercy and be restored to his former status; or again he would threaten him if he did not obey. But Gregory so far from listening to the Emperor's wise counsel, actually sent him a letter of many pages in which he attacked, not only the most important members of the Senate and the army, but even the Emperor's relations and marriage-connections. From this letter the Emperor became certain that [316] Gregory was daily going on the downward path, and was heading towards complete madness and consequently despaired of him. In the fourteenth Indiction he sent his nephew John, the son of his eldest sister, and the rebel's cousin on his father's side to him; he was at first to give him salutary advice, for he thought Gregory would listen to him because of their bond of kinship and consanguinity. But if he would not listen, John was to oppose him with a large force and resist him manfully by land and sea. When Gregory Taronites heard he was coming he at once left for Colonea (a very strong and impregnable fort) in order to call Tanismanes to his aid. John was informed of this as he was starting, so he detached the Franks and some picked Roman troops from his army, and sent them against Gregory. They overtook him and engaged him in a fierce battle, in which two brave soldiers attacked him with their spears and struck him down from his horse. They then conducted him to John, who led him captive to the Emperor though he had sworn not even to see him, still less to deign him worthy of conversation on the way. And yet he interceded strongly for him to the Emperor, who pretended that he intended to deprive him of his eyes. At last the Emperor reluctantly avowed his hypocrisy, yielded to John's prayers but exhorted him repeatedly not to let their conversation be divulged. Three days later, he had Gregory's hair and beard shaven off close to the skin and led in that condition through the middle of the Agora and then imprisoned in the tower of Anemas of which I have just spoken. Since even in prison he was still foolish and uttered words of madness daily to his jailers the Emperor bestowed great care upon him for a long time, in the hope of making him change and give proof of repentance. However he was the same as before and often asked for my Caesar as in former days he had been friendly with us. Consequently the Emperor gave my Caesar permission to visit him in order to lift him out of his deep despondency and give him good advice. But the other seemed very slow in changing for the better, and for that reason he remained prisoner for a long time. When he was granted pardon, he enjoyed such kindness and gifts and honour as never before, for such was the Emperor's clemency in these matters.

VIII Having thus attended to the matter of the conspirators and the rebel Gregory he did not on account of these forget Bohemund, but summoned Isaac Contostephanus, and promoted him to be Great Duke of the fleet, and sent [317] him to Dyrrachium and further threatened him that his eyes would be put out if he did not manage to arrive in Illyria before Bohemund crossed.

He also continually sent letters to his nephew Alexius, the Duke of Dyrrachium, stirring him up and bidding him keep a sharp look-out and to order those who were at guard on the sea to do the same, to prevent Bohemund's crossing secretly, but to send word of his crossing at once by letter. That is what the Emperor did.

Now Contostephanus' only orders were to watch the straits of Lombardy carefully and to prevent the ships crossing which Bohemund was sending ahead to carry all his apparatus from the one coast to the other-in fine, not to allow anything whatever to be conveyed from Lombardy to Illyria. When he departed he did not even know the likeliest spot from which the ships would sail across to Illyria, and not only that, but he disregarded orders and crossed to Hydruntum, which is a town situated on the coast of Lombardy. This town was commanded by a woman, Tancred's mother, it was said, whether she was the sister of Bohemund (so often mentioned in this history already) or not, I cannot say positively, for I do not know for certain whether Tancred was related to Bohemund on his mother's side, or his father's. When Contostephanus reached the town and brought his ships to anchor, he made an attack on the walls [of Brindisi] and very nearly captured the city. But the woman inside who had a sound mind and a determined character, directly he had anchored his ships there, sent for one of her sons and bade him come with all speed. By now the whole fleet was in great spirits, thinking the town was theirs, and all began shouting acclaim to the Emperor; and the woman in this difficulty ordered the inhabitants to do likewise. At the same time she sent envoys to Contostephanus confessing her allegiance to the Emperor, and promised to make terms of peace with him, and said she would come out to Contostephanus to consult him about them so that he could explain everything to the Emperor. She devised all this to keep Contostephanus in suspense, hoping that perchance in the meantime her son might arrive, and then she would throw off the mask, as they say of the tragedians, and attack him in battle. Thus while all the men inside and outside the town were hurrahing and the shouts filled the whole neighbourhood, and that martial woman, as I said, was holding Contostephanus in suspense by her messages and promises, the son she expected [318] actually arrived with his fellow-counts, at once attacked Contostephanus and routed him completely. All the men of the fleet being unversed in land-fighting threw themselves into the sea. Now there were a goodly number of Scythians in the Roman army and some of these (as is the barbarians' custom) had run ahead during the battle to forage, and in this way it happened that six of them were taken captive. They were sent to Bohemund and, when he saw them, he considered them a very great asset, and went straightway with them to Rome. There he approached the apostolic seat, and conversed with the Pope and raised his fierce ire against the Romans and fanned the ancient grudge of those barbarians against our race. And in order to excite the Pope's and his Italians' rage still further, Bohemund brought in the captured Scythians as a convincing proof that the Emperor Alexius was hostile to the Christians, as he used unbelieving barbarians and monstrous mounted archers to wield weapons and draw their bows against Christians. And in every conversation of this kind he drew the Pope's attention to those Scythians who were in Scythian dress and, as usual, looked extremely barbaric; and all the time he kept calling them I pagans'; as the Latins' habit is, and mocking at their name and appearance. Very cunningly, as you see, he handled this affair of the war against the Christians, in order that he might convince the high-priestly mind that he had good reason to be aroused to enmity with the Romans; at the same time wooing the support of a voluntary army of the more rustic and stupid men. For who among the barbarians close by, or further off, would not come of his own accord to a war against us when the high-priest gave his consent, and an apparently just cause aroused every horse, man and soldierly arm? The Pope was constrained by Bohemund's arguments, and agreed with him, and sanctioned his crossing into Illyria. And now I must return to the subject in hand.

The land-soldiers did indeed put up a valiant fight, but the others were engulfed in the waves of the sea. Consequently the Franks had a brilliant victory in hand, but our braver soldiers, especially those of the higher rank, pre-eminent among whom were Nicephorus Exazenus Hyaleas and his cousin Constantine Exazenus, called Ducas, and that most courageous man, Alexander Euphorbenus, and others of similar worth and rank-these, I say, mindful of 'impetuous valour' turned back, drew their swords and fought [319] with all their might and main and revived the battle and carried off a brilliant victory over the Franks. In this way Contostephanus obtained relief from the attacks of the Franks and slipped his cables and sailed away with his whole fleet to Valona. When he had first come to Dyrrachium he had posted his ships of war all about from Dyrrachium itself up to Valona and even up to the place called Chimara (now Dyrrachium is one hundred stades distant from Valona and Chimara is sixty stades further away from Valona). But now that he heard that Bohemund's crossing was imminent, and as he surmised that he would probably cross to Valona, for the passage to Valona was shorter than that to Dyrrachium, he decided that a stricter guard must be kept over Valona. So he sailed with the other Dukes and kept a careful watch on the intervening straits from Valona; he placed scouts on the ridge of the hill called Jason to keep a lookout over the sea and watch for the ships. A Frank who had just crossed from Italy assured them that Bohemund was on the very point of starting. On being informed of this, the Contostephani who shrank with dread from a naval battle with Bohemund (and were indeed terror-stricken by the mere thought of it) pretended they were ill and must therefore go to the baths. Landulph, commander of the whole fleet, who had a long and varied experience of sea-craft and of naval battles, kept exhorting them to be continually on their guard, and to expect Bohemund's arrival. But the Contostephani, when leaving for Chimara to take the baths, left the man called the second Drungaire of the fleet with the monoreme Excussatum on watch near the promontory Glossa which is not very far from Valona. And Landulph remained at Valona with a suitable supply of ships.

IX After making these arrangements the Contostephani on their side went off to take the baths, or so pretended. Bohemund on his side arranged twelve pirate-vessels around his own, all biremes, with a large number of rowers, who by the regular beat of their oars made a loud, echoing noise. In a circle round this fleet he placed merchant ships on either side, like a fence inside of which he enclosed the ships of war. And if you had seen it, viewing it even from afar from some headland, you would have likened this fleet under sail to a floating city. For Fortune also favoured him to a certain degree. For the sea was quite calm except for a gentle southerly breeze which just rippled the surface and [320] swelled the sails of the merchant vessels. This just enabled them to sail with the wind wl-dle the ships that were rowed kept level with the sailing vessels and from the middle of the Adriatic sea the noise this fleet made was audible on both continents. So this barbarian fleet of Bohemund's was a sight well fitted to inspire awe, and, if the sailors of the Contostephani shrank from it in horror, I cannot blame them, nor would I accuse the men of cowardice. For even the famous Argonautic fleet would have been afraid of him and his fleet arranged in this fashion, much more so then the Contostepbani, the Landulphs and other such folk. Indeed, when Landulph saw Bohemund crossing the sea with this dread array and with transports carrying myriads of men, as we have already more accurately described, he sailed away a little from Valona as he was unable to fight against such numbers and gave Bohemund a free entry. The latter made use of his good fortune and crossed from Bari to Valona and disembarked all the army he had brought over the sea on the opposite coast, and then first of all devastated the whole sea-coast. For he brought an incredibly large army of Franks and Gauls, and men from the island of Thule who usually fought for the Romans, but through force of circumstances had on this occasion joined him; and besides this there were many of the Germanic race and of the Celtiberians. Next he dispersed all these troops which he had mustered over the whole country along the Adriatic sea and after ravaging that systematically he attacked Epidamnus, which we call Dyrrachium; for his intention was to take this town and then devastate all the country right up to Constantinople. Now Bohemund was skilled above all men in the art of sieges even surpassing the famous Demetrius Poliorcetes, and as he had set his whole mind on Epidamnus, he moved up all his engineering contrivances against that town. First he encompassed with his army and besieged all the places close to, and those at some distance from, the town of Dyrrachium; at times the Roman armies would oppose him, and at others there was nobody at all to interfere with him. After several battles and encounters and massacres he contemplated, as we said before, besieging the town of Dyrrachium itself.

But before speaking of the tyrant Bohemund's fight for Dyrrachium it is necessary to explain the position of the city. It is situated on the very shores of the Adriatic sea. In front of it lies the deep, long sea which in breadth [321] stretches across to the opposite coast of Italy; in length by turning to the north-east it goes right up to the barbarian Vetones, opposite whom lies the province of Apulia. These form the boundaries of the Adriatic. The town Dyrrachium, or Epidamnus, an ancient Greek city, lies somewhat lower than Elissus and on its left side, for Elissus stands higher and more to the right. This Elissus is either named after some river Elissus, a tributary of the great river Drymon, or the fortress was simply given t at name, I cannot say which it was. Now Elissus is a fort built on a hill and quite impregnable, and looks down upon Dyrrachium in the plains, as the saying is ; and it is so secure that both by land and sea it can afford great assistance to Dyrrachium. Of this fort Elissus the Emperor Alexius made use in order to help the city of Epidamnus both from the side of the river Drymon which was navigable, and from the land-side he strengthened Dyrrachium and brought in necessaries by land and water, everything, in fact, that was required for the sustenance of the soldiers and citizens in it or in the way of arms and equipment forfighting. This river Drymon (for I must add a few words about this stream) runs down from the lake Lychnis through some hundred channels, which we call 'bridges.' The present corrupted language calls this lake Achris, after the King of the Bulgarians, who lived in the time of the Emperors Constantine and Basilius Porphyrogeniti, and was at first called Mocrus, and latterly Samuel. For separate rivers amounting to one hundred in number come out of this lake as if from different sources, they never fail and flow separately in this way until they join the rivernear Deure,from which point it is called Drymon, and when united to this they widen it out and make a very big river of it. It flows past the extreme end of Dalmatia, and goes north, then it bends to the south, washes the feet of Elissus, and empties itself into the Adriatic gulf.

Let this be sufficient about the position of Dyrrachium and Elissus and the security of both places. Whilst still lingering in the capital the Emperor heard by letters from the Duke of Dyrrachium of Bohemund's crossing and therefore hastened his departure. For the Duke of Dyrrachium was most vigilant and did not even allow himself any sleep, and when he knew for certain that Bohemund had sailed across to the plains of Illyria, disembarked from his ships, and pitched his camp there, he sent a Scythian, a 'winged' messenger as they are called, to the Emperor to announce his crossing. He found the Emperor returning from the chase, [322] and running in at full speed and bowing his head to the ground he shouted Gut in a piercing voice that Bohemund had crossed. All those present stood stark-frozen each in his place, for at the mere name of Bohemund they lost their wits. But the Emperor, full of courage and resource as ever, loosed the strap of his shoe and said, " For the present let us go to lunch, afterwards we will discuss the matter of Bohemund."


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Source.

Anna Comnena (Komnene). The Alexiad. Edited and translated by Elizabeth A. Dawes. London: Routledge, Kegan, Paul, 1928.

Inquiries into the copyright on this text indicate that US copyright was not renewed, nor was any claim filed under the GATT. Barnes and Noble published the text in the US in 1967 with no claim of copyright, and thus under the laws at the time as a public domain work. Correspondence with Routledge (on file) indicated that they had no records whatsoever about the book, including the date of its first sale in the US (putting one copy on sale would constitute "publication" under GATT).

Notes:

This etext slightly alters the organization and much of the typography of the printed edition.

Page numbers of the printed edition are indicated in the texts by numbers in brackets, e.g. [57].

Some short notes are placed in the text in brackets [*like this].

Longer notes are marked in the text with two asterisks **, and placed at the end of each chapter


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Paul Halsall, February 2001
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