Heroes and Romans in Twelfth-Century Byzantium

Heroes and Romans in Twelfth-Century Byzantium : The Material for History of Nikephoros Bryennios

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Nikephoros Bryennios' history of the Byzantine Empire in the 1070s is a story of civil war and aristocratic rebellion in the midst of the Turkish conquest of Anatolia. Commonly remembered as the passive and unambitious husband of Princess Anna Komnene (author of the Alexiad), Bryennios is revealed as a skilled author whose history draws on cultural memories of classical Roman honor and proper masculinity to evaluate the politicians of the 1070s and implicitly to exhort his twelfth-century contemporaries to honorable behavior. Bryennios' story valorizes the memory of his grandfather and other honorable, but failed, generals of the eleventh century while subtly portraying the victorious Alexios Komnenos as un-Roman. This reading of the Material for History sheds new light on twelfth-century Byzantine culture and politics, especially the contested accession of John Komnenos, the relationship between Bryennios' history and the Alexiad and the function of cultural memories of Roman honor in Byzantium.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 2 b/w illus. 2 tables
  • 1139575007
  • 9781139575003

Table of contents

Introduction; Part I. Contexts: 1. Twelfth-century politics and the House of Komnenos; 2. Writing history in twelfth-century Constantinople; 3. Nikephoros' reading; 4. Sources for the Material for History; Part II. Reading in the Material for History: 5. Problems of the Empire: civil war and mercenaries; 6. The rise of Alexios; 7. Romans and their enemies; 8. Military virtue; 9. Roman family politics; 10. Religion and providence; 11. Roman heroes; 12. A Roman mother; 13. A bold young man; Part III. The Material for History in Twelfth-Century Politics and Culture: 14. The Material for History and imperial politics of the twelfth century; 15. Nikephoros and Anna; 16. Roman ideals and twelfth-century Constantinopolitan culture; Conclusions; Appendix 1; Appendix 2. Vocabulary of virtue.
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Review quote

'... elegantly written and persuasively argued ... it rekindles the conversation about twelfth-century culture, politics, and historiography, aligning it with recent scholarship in the fields of Roman and Byzantine studies.' Dimitris Krallis, English Historical Review '... dazzling and insightful ...' Mike Markowitz, The NYMAS Review
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About Leonora Neville

Leonora Neville holds the John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe Professorship in Byzantine History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and is the author of Authority in Byzantine Provincial Society: 950-1100 (2004).
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