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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantium and the Crusades

The Comneni emperors and their foreign policy 


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The revolution of 1081 elevated to the throne Alexius Comnenus, whose uncle Isaac had been emperor for a short time at the end of the sixth decade of the eleventh century (1057-1059). The Greek name of the Comneni, mentioned in the sources for the first time under Basil II, came originally from a village not far from Hadrianople. Later the family became large landowners in Asia Minor. Both Isaac and his nephew Alexius distinguished themselves by their military talents. Under Alexius the military party and provincial large landowners triumphed over the bureaucrats and civil regime of the capital, and at the same time the epoch of troubles came to its end. The first three Comneni succeeded in keeping the throne for a century and transferring it from father to son.

Owing to his energetic and skillful rule, Alexius I (1081-1118) secured the Empire from serious external dangers which sometimes threatened the very existence of the state. But the succession of the throne created difficulties. Long before his death, Alexius had nominated his son, John, heir to the imperial dignity and thereby greatly irritated his elder daughter, Anna, the famous authoress of the historical work, Alexiad. She devised a complicated plot in order to remove John and force the recognition as heir to the throne of her husband, Nicephorus Bryennius, who was also an historian. The aged Alexius remained, however, firm in his decision, and after his death John was proclaimed Emperor.

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