Anna Comnena

Byzantine historian, eldest daughter of Alexius Comnenus, Emperor of Constantinople (1081-1118). She was born in 1083, and received, as was the custom for Byzantine princesses, an excellent education in the Greek classics, history, geography, mythology, and even philosophy. She was married to Nicephorus Bryennius, son of a former pretender to the imperial office, and in 1118 joined in a conspiracy to depose her brother and place her husband on the throne. Failing in her ambition she retired with her mother, the Empress Irene, to a monastery that the latter had founded, and wrote there in fifteen books her famous "Alexias".

It was finished by 1148, and describes the career of her father, from 1069 to his death in 1118; it is thus a continuation of her husband's "Historical Materials", that comes down to 1079. The Princess is the historian of the fortunes of the Comneni family. Her own observations are often valuable by reason of her personal knowledge and the close acquaintance with public affairs that she owed to her high rank, but she also made use of diplomatic correspondence, the reports of her father's generals and soldiers, and the imperial archives.

The Great german historian Krumbacher calls it "one of the most remarkable efforts of medieval Greek historiography", the first notable production of the medieval Greek Renaissance set afoot by Psellos and powerfully furthered by the family of the Princess. She strains in her vocabulary for an Attic elegance, though construction and style betray too often the distance between her and the models (Thucydides and Polybius) whom she aims at imitating.