Anna Of Byzantium Quotes

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As each German and Italian and Frankish nobleman arrived in Constantinople with his own private army, ready to cross over the Bosphorus Strait and face the enemy, Alexius had demanded a sacred oath. Whatever “cities, countries or forces he might in future subdue . . . he would hand over to the officer appointed by the emperor.” They were, after all, there to fight for Christendom; and Alexius Comnenus was the ruler of Christendom in the east.1 Just as Alexius had feared, the chance to build private kingdoms in the Holy Land proved too tempting. The first knight to bite the apple was the Norman soldier Bohemund, who had arrived in Constantinople at the start of the First Crusade and immediately became one of the foremost commanders of the Crusader armies. Spearheading the capture of the great city Antioch in 1098, Bohemund at once named himself its prince and flatly refused to honor his oath. (“Bohemund,” remarked Alexius’s daughter and biographer, Anna, “was by nature a liar.”) By 1100, Antioch had been joined by two other Crusader kingdoms—the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Edessa—and Bohemund himself was busy agitating the Christians of Asia Minor against Byzantium. By 1103, Bohemund was planning a direct attack against the walls of Constantinople itself.2 To mount this assault, Bohemund needed to recruit more soldiers. The most likely source for reinforcements was Italy; Bohemund’s late father, Robert Guiscard, had conquered himself a kingdom in the south of Italy (the grandly named “Dukedom of Apulia and Calabria”), and Bohemund, who had been absent from Italy since heading out on crusade, had theoretically inherited its crown. Alexius knew this as well as Bohemund did, so Byzantine ships hovered in the Mediterranean, waiting to intercept any Italy-bound ships from the principality of Antioch. So Bohemund was forced to be sneaky. Anna Comnena tells us that he spread rumors everywhere: “Bohemond,” it was said, “is dead.” . . . When he perceived that the story had gone far enough, a wooden coffin was made and a bireme prepared. The coffin was placed on board and he, a still breathing “corpse,” sailed away from Soudi, the port of Antioch, for Rome. . . . At each stop the barbarians tore out their hair and paraded their mourning. But inside Bohemond, stretched out at full length, was . . . alive, breathing air in and out through hidden holes. . . . [I]n order that the corpse might appear to be in a state of rare putrefaction, they strangled or cut the throat of a cock and put that in the coffin with him. By the fourth or fifth day at the most, the horrible stench was obvious to anyone who could smell. . . . Bohemond himself derived more pleasure than anyone from his imaginary misfortune.3 Bohemund was a rascal and an opportunist, but he almost always got what he wanted; when he arrived in Italy and staged a victorious resurrection, he was able to rouse great public enthusiasm for his fight against Byzantium. In fact, his conquest of Antioch in the east had given him hero stature back in Italy. People swarmed to see him, says one contemporary historian, “as if they were going to see Christ himself.”4
Susan Wise Bauer (The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople)
By choosing Christianity rather than Islam, Volodymyr cast Rus’s ambitions for ever in Europe rather than Asia, and by taking Christianity from Byzantium rather than Rome he bound the future Russians, Ukrainians and Belarussians together in Orthodoxy, fatally dividing them from their Catholic neighbours the Poles.
Anna Reid (Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine)
The best surviving key to Rus greatness is Kiev’s Santa Sofia Cathedral, built in 1037 by one of the greatest Riurik princes, Prince Yaroslav the Wise. From the outside it looks much like any other baroque Ukrainian church, its original shallow Greek domes and brick walls long covered in gilt and plaster. But inside it breathes the splendid austerity of Byzantium.
Anna Reid (Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine)