Tagline Image

Episode 73: Anna Komnene, the Princess Historian

9780190498177Once upon a time, long ago, in a mysterious land far, far away, there was a Princess. But she was not only a Princess. She was also a historian. Just about everyone around her would have preferred that she had remained just a Princess.

Anna Komnene was a princess, the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I. Well-educated in her youth, she was a witness to the great events of her father’s reign, including the events of what we now call the First Crusade. in her later years she became a historian, writing the story of her father’s life and reign. This she did in the seclusion of a monastery, which she had entered after her husband’s death—a husband which contemporaries alleged she had plotted to place on the throne, overthrowing her own brother, and a monastery which seems to have been more like a condo.

With me to discuss this fascinating woman as part of our continuing series on important historians and their histories is Leonora Neville. She is the John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe Professor of Byzantine History at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Her most recent book is Anna Komnene: The Life and Work of a Medieval Historian, published by Oxford University Press this September.