The noble illustrious warrior: youths in Komnenian literature

Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2015, vol. 20, iss. 1, pp. [3]-17
Extent
[3]-17
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
Type: Article
Language
English
License: Not specified license
Abstract(s)
Due to social changes in the eleventh-century Byzantine Empire, extended family bonds strengthened, the importance of the military aristocracy increased, and the Komnenodoukai clan acquired an unassailable position. Contemporary literature also reflected these changes by presenting the motif of a well-trained noble juvenile owning luxurious hunting and military equipment. Its two main elements are noble birth and a manly appearance. The presentation of noble birth varies in Komnenian literature and three different aspects of this theme are identifiable. Historians strive to create imaginary blood lines between young men and mythological, biblical or historical rulers; orators extol youth's affiliation with the Komnenodoukai clan in an increased number of speeches and poems related to family events; and, finally, the same orators cease praising a humble origin in advisory literature. These aspects thereby indicate the increased importance of family bonds. The depiction of a young man's manly appearance occurs in the same context in all genres with closely related elements. A good physical condition results from a commitment to military training and hunting – the latter considered a complementary relaxing activity to engaging in warfare –, which, in turn, assist in perfecting a youth's character by making him a brave and determined commander. Luxurious equipment complements this image, which embodies the enhanced self-esteem of the military aristocracy and the desire to present a respectable family status. The contribution aims to outline the increased interest of writers in the appearance and physical activities of their heroes, to discuss each element of this motif in detail, and, finally, to associate this motif with changes in the organization of Byzantine nobility.
Document
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