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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantium and the Crusades

Education, learning, literature, and art 


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Page 4

Despite her unhistorical partiality for her father, Anna produced a work which is extremely important from the historical point of view, a work based not only upon her personal observation and oral reports, but also upon the documents of the state archives, diplomatic correspondence, and imperial decrees. The Alexiad is one of the most important sources for the First Crusade. Modern scholars acknowledge that in spite of all defects, those memoirs of the daughter about her father remain one of the most eminent works of medieval Greek historiography, and will always remain the noblest document of the Greek state regenerated by Alexius Comnenus.

It is not known whether Alexius' son and successor, John, who spent almost all his life in military expeditions, was in accord with the literary taste of his environment or not. But his younger brother sebastokrator Isaak was not only an educated man who was fond of literature but was even the author of two small works on the history of the transformation of the Homeric epic in the Middle Ages, as well as of the introduction, to the so-called Constantinopolitan Code of the Octateuch in the Library of Seraglio. Some investigations suppose that the writings of the sebastokrator Isaac Comnenus were much more various than might be judged from two or three published short texts, and that in him there is a new writer, who arouses interest from various points of view.

The Emperor Manuel, who was fond of astrology, wrote a defense of astronomic science, that is to say, of astrology, against the attacks made upon it by the clergy, and in addition he was the author of various theological writings and of public imperial speeches. Because of Manuel's theological studies, his panegyrist, Eustathius of Thessalonica, calls his rule an imperial priesthood or a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6). Manuel was not only himself interested in literature and theology but he endeavored to interest others. He sent Ptolemy's famous work, the Almagest, as a present to the king of Sicily and some other manuscripts were brought to Sicily from Manuel's library at Constantinople. The first Latin version of the Almagest was made from the manuscript at about 1160. Manuel's sister-in-law Irene distinguished herself by her love for learning and by her literary talent. Her special poet and, probably, teacher, Theodore Prodromus, dedicated to her many verses, and Constantine Manasses composed his chronicle in verse in her honor, calling her in the prologue a real friend of literature (φιλολογωτάτη). A Dialogue Against the Jews, which is sometimes ascribed to the period of Andronicus I, belongs to a later time.

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