Anna Comnena

In the prologue to her Alexiad,
Anna Comnena laments her widowhood.

Her soul is dizzy. "And with rivers
of tears," she tells us "I wet
my eyes... Alas for the waves" in her life,
"alas for the revolts." Pain burns her
"to the the bones and the marrow and the cleaving of the soul."

But it seems the truth is, that this ambitious woman
knew only one great sorrow;
she only had one deep longing
(though she does not admit it) this haughty Greek woman,
that she was never able, despite all her dexterity,
to acquire the Kingship; but it was taken
almost out of her hands by the insolent John.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1920)

[ Greek original ]


Anna Comnena (1083-1146) was the eldest daughter of the emperor Alexios I Comnenos and Irene. She tried in vain to usurp the throne from her brother John II for her husband, Nikephoros, whose death in 1137 made her withdraw to a monastery, where she wrote the Alexiad, a 15-volume biography of her father.

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(C) George Barbanis