The noble illustrious warrior: youths in Komnenian literature

Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2015, vol. 20, iss. 1, pp. [3]-17
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
License: Not specified license
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.
[1] Dieten, I. A. van (Ed.) (1975). Nicetae Choniatae: Historia , Corpus fontium historiae Byzantinae 11/1. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

[2] Garzya, A. (Ed.) (1984). Nicephori Basilacae: Orationes et Epistolae : In Ioannem episcopum Bulgariae ex Adriano Comneno. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner.

[3] Gautier, P. (Ed.) (1965). Manuel Straboromanos: Λόγος πρὸς τὴν δέσποιναν Εἰρήνην τὴν Δούκαιναν παραμυθητικὸς ἐπὶ τῷ θανάτῳ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτῆς , Revue des études byzantines, 23, 195–201.

[4] Gautier, P. (Ed.) (1972). Michel Italikos: Lettres et discours . Paris: Institut français d'études byzantines.

[5] Gautier, P. (Ed.) (1975). Nicéphore Bryennios: Histoire , Corpus fontium historiae Byzantinae 9. Bruxelles: Byzantion.

[6] Gautier, P. (Ed.) (1980). Théophylacte d'Achrida: Discours, traités, poésies: Paideia basilike , Corpus fontium historiae Byzantinae 16/1. Thessalonique: Association de Recherches Byzantines.

[7] Hörandner, W. (Ed.) (1974). Theodoros Prodromos: Historische Gedichte . Wien: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

[8] Jeffreys, E. (Ed.) (1998). Digenes Akrites . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[9] Kaldellis, A. & Krallis, D., (Eds.) (2012). Michael Attaleiates: The History . Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[10] Kurtz, E. (Ed.) (1906). Constantine Manasses: Ἔκφρασις κυνηγεσίου γεράνων , Vizantijskij Vremmenik, 12, 79–88.

[11] Lampros, S. (Ed.) (1911). O Markianos kodix 524 , Neos Ellinomnimon, 8, 3–59, 123–192.

[12] Maas, P. (Ed.) (1913). Mousai , Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 22, 348–369.

[13] Marchant, E. C. (Ed.) (1910 [1970]). Xenophontis opera omnia: Cyropaedia . Oxford: Clarendon Press.

[14] Meineke, A. (Ed.) (1836). Ioannis Cinnami: Epitome: Rerum ab Ioanne et Alexio Comnenis Gestarum , CSHB 13. Bonn: E. Weber.

[15] Munro, D. B. & Allen, T. W., (Eds.) (1920). Homeri Opera in five volumes: Iliad . Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[16] Norlin, G. (Ed.) (1980). Isocrates with an English Translation in three volumes: To Demonicus, To Nicocles . Cambridge – London: Harvard University Press.

[17] Paidas, K. D. S. (Ed.) (2009). Kefalaia parainetika . Athina: Kanakis.

[18] Polemis, I. (Ed.) (2014). Michael Psellus: Orationes Funebres . Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter.

[19] Reinsch, D. R. & Kambylis, A., (Eds.) (2001). Annae Comnenae: Alexias , Corpus fontium historiae Byzantinae 40/1. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. [English translation: Dawes, E. A. (1928). Anna Comnena: The Alexiad. London: Routledge.]15

[20] Romano, R. (Ed.) (1980). Nicola Callicle: Carmi . Napoli: Bibliopolis.

[21] Russell, D. A. & Wilson, N. G., (Eds.) (1981). Menander Rhetor: Treatise II: The imperial oration . Oxford: Clarendon Press.

[22] Stratoudaki-White, D. & Berrigan, J. R., (Eds.) (1982). The Patriarch and the Prince: The Letter of Patriarch Photios of Constantinople to Khan Boris of Bulgaria . Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press [English translation].

[23] Tsolakis, E. (Ed.) (1968). Skylitzes Continuatus: Χρονογραφία . Thessaloniki: Idryma Meleton Chersonisu tu Aimu.

[24] Wirth, P. (Ed.) (2000). Eustathii Thessalonicensis: Opera minora , Corpus fontium historiae Byzantinae 32. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

[25] Agapitos, P. A. (1989). Ἡ ε ἰκόνα τοῦ α ὐτοκράτορα Βασιλείου Α᾿ στὴ φιλομακεδονικὴ γραμματεία 867–959 . Ellinika, 40/2, 285–322.

[26] Angelov, D. (2009). Emperors and Patriarchs as ideal Children and Adolescents . In M. A. Talbot ‒ A. Papaconstantinou, (Eds.), Becoming Byzantine: Children and Childhood in Byzantium. (volume 1, 85–125). Washington: Harvard University Press.

[27] Ariantzi, D. (2012). Kindheit in Byzanz: Emotionale, geistige und materielle Entwicklung im familiären Umfeld vom 6. bis zum 11. Jahrhundert . Millenium-Studien 36. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

[28] Haldon, J. (2003). Byzantium at war: AD 600–1453 . New York: Routledge.

[29] Hennesy, C. (2010). Young People in Byzantium . In L. James (Ed.), Companion to Byzantium. (volume 1, 81–93). Oxford: John Wiley & Sons.

[30] Hörandner, W. (2009). Les conceptions du bon souverain dans la poésie byzantine . In P. Odorico (Ed.), «L'éducation au gouvernement et à la vie» la tradition des «régles de vie» de l'antiquité au moyen-âge, Pise, 18 et 19 mars 2005. (volume 1, 103–114). Paris: De Boccard.

[31] Hunger, H. (1978). Die hochsprachliche profane Literatur der Byzantiner: Philosophie ‒ Rhetorik ‒ Epistolographie ‒ Geschichtsschreibung ‒ Geographie . München: Beck.

[32] Kazhdan, A. (1984). The Aristocracy and the Imperial Ideal . In M. Angold (Ed.), The Byzantine Aristocracy IX to XIII Centuries. (volume 1, 43–58). Oxford: B.A.R.

[33] Kazdan, A. & Epstein, A. W. (1985). Change in Byzantine Culture in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries . Berkeley ‒ Los Angeles ‒ London: University of California Press.

[34] Kazhdan, A. & Franklin, S. (1984). Studies on Byzantine Literature of the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[35] Kokkini-Maniati, T. (1997). Η επίδειξη ανδρείας στον πόλεμο κατά τους ιστορικούς του 11ου και 12ου αιώνα . In K. Tsiknakis (Ed.), Το εμπόλεμο Βυζάντιο: 9ος–12ος αι. (volume 1, 239–259). Athina: Idryma Gulandri-Chorn.

[36] Kukules, F. (1932). Κυνηγέτι ἐκ τῆς ἐποχὴς τῶν Κομνηνῶν και τῶν Παλαιολόγων . Epetiris Eterias Vyzantinon Spudon, 9, 3–33.

[37] Kukules, F. (1952). Βυζαντινών βίος και πολιτισμός, Tomos E᾿: Η θήρα . Athina: Papazisi, 387–423.

[38] Laiou, A. E. (2002). The Economic History of Byzantium: From the Seventh through the Fifteenth Century. (volume 1) . Washington: Dumbarton Oaks.

[39] Magdalino, P. & Nelson, R. (1982). The Emperor in Byzantine Art of the Twelfth Century . Byzantinische Forschungen, 8, 123–183.

[40] Magdalino, P. (1984). Byzantine Snobbery . In M. Angold (Ed.), The Byzantine Aristocracy IX to XIII Centuries. (volume 1, 58–79). Oxford: B.A.R.

[41] Magdalino, P. (1993). The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos 1143–1180 . New York: Cambridge University Press.

[42] Miller, E. (1872). Description d'une chasse à l'once par un écrivain byzantin du XIIe siècle de notre ère . Annuaire de l'Association pour l'éncouragement des études grecques en France, 6, 28–52.

[43] Mullett, M. (1996). The imperial vocabulary of Alexios I Komnenos . In M. Mullett ‒ D. Smythe, (Eds.), Alexios Komnenos I: Papers. (volume 1, 359–397). Belfast: Belfast Byzantine Entreprises.

[44] Mullett, M. (2007). Letters, Literacy and Literature in Byzantium . Aldershot ‒ Burlington: Ashgate.

[45] Mullett, M. (2012). Whose Muses? Two Advice Poems Attributed to Alexios I Komnenos . In P. Odorico (Ed.), La face cachée de la litérature byzantine: le texte en tant que message immédiat: actes du colloque international, Paris, 5‒6‒7 juin 2008. (volume 1, 195–220). Paris: De Boccard.

[46] Mullett, M. (2013). How to criticize the laudandus . In D. Angelov ‒ M. Saxby, (Eds.), Power and Subversion in Byzantium: Papers from the 43rd Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Birmingham, March 2010. (volume 1, 247–262). Farnham: Ashgate Variorum.

[47] Munitiz, J. A. (1995). War and Peace Reflected in Some Byzantine Mirrors of Princes . In T. S. Miller ‒ J. Nesbitt, (Eds.), Peace and War in Byzantium: Honor of George T. Dennis. (volume 1, 50–62). Washington: Catholic University of America Press.

[48] Neville, L. (2012). Heroes and Romans in Twelfth-Century Byzantium: The Material for History of Nikephoros Bryennios . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[49] Nicol, D. (1984). The prosopography of the Byzantine aristocracy . In M. Angold (Ed.), The Byzantine Aristocracy IX to XIII Centuries. (volume 1, 79–92). Oxford: B.A.R.

[50] Odorico, P. & Messis, Ch. (2003). L'Anthologie Comnène du Cod. Marc. Gr. 524: Problèmes d'édition et problèmes d'évaluation . In W. Hörandner ‒ M. Grünbart, (Eds.), L'épistolographie et la poésie épigrammatique: actes de la 16ème Table ronde du 20° congrès international des études byzantines à Paris 2001 (volume 1, 191–213). Paris: De Boccard.

[51] Paidas, K. D. S. (2005). Η θεματική των βυζαντινών Κατόπτρων Ηγεμόνος της πρώιμης και μέσης περιόδου (398–1085) . Athina: Grigoris.

[52] Patlagean, E. (1984). Les débuts d'une aristocratie byzantine et le témoignage de l'historiographie: système des noms et liens de parenté aux IXe‒Xe siècles . In M. Angold (Ed.), The Byzantine Aristocracy IX to XIII Centuries. (volume 1, 23–43). Oxford: B.A.R.

[53] Patlagean, E. (1992). De la Chasse et du Souverain . Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 46, 257–263. | DOI 10.2307/1291658

[54] Polemis, D. I. (1968). The Doukai: a contribution to Byzantine Prosopography . London: Athlone Press.

[55] Reinsch, D. R. (2009). Abweichungen vom traditionellen byzantinischen Kaiserbild im 11. und 12. Jahrhundert . In P. Odorico (Ed.), «L'éducation au gouvernement et à la vie» la tradition des «régles de vie» de l'antiquité au moyen-âge, Pise, 18 et 19 mars 2005. (volume 1, 115–128). Paris: De Boccard.

[56] Rhoby, A. (2010). Zur Identifizierung von bekannten Autoren im Codex Marcianus graecus 524 . Medioevo Greco, 10, 167–204.

[57] Shepard, J. (1996). Father or scorpion? Style and substance in Alexios's diplomacy . In M. Mullett ‒ D. Smythe, (Eds.), Alexios Komnenos I: Papers. (volume 1, 68–133). Belfast: Belfast Byzantine Entreprises.

[58] Schreiner, P. (1996). Ritterspiele in Byzanz . Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik, 46, 227–241.

[59] Stankovic, V. (2008). La porphyrogénèse à Byzance des Comnènes . Sbornik Radova: Recueil des travaux de l'institut d'études byzantines, XLV, 99–108.

[60] Tserevelakis, G. (2009–2010). Επτά ανέκδοτα βυζαντινά επιγράμματα από τον κώδικα Marcianus Graecus 524 . Vyzantinos Domos, 17–18.

[61] Varzos, K. (1984). Η γενεαλογία των Κομνηνών . Thessaloniki: Kentro Vyzantinon Erevnon.

[62] Jeffreys, M. (2011). Prosopography of the Byzantine World: Isaakios 1 . PBW, 2015.02.12. Retrieved from

[63] Jeffreys, M. (2011). Prosopography of the Byzantine World: Nikephoros 3 . PBW, 2015.02.12. Retrieved from