The Alexiad/Book I

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Chapter I[edit]

The Emperor Alexius, who was also my father, had been of great service to the Roman Empire even before he reached the throne, for he started campaigning as early as during the reign of Romanus Diogenes. Amongst his contemporaries he shewed himself remarkable, and a great lover of danger. In his fourteenth year he was anxious to join the Emperor Diogenes on the extremely arduous campaign he was conducting against the Persians, and by this very longing he declared his animosity against the barbarians, and shewed that, if he ever should come to blows with them, he would make his sword drunk with their blood; of such a warlike temper was the boy . However, on that occasion the Emperor Diogenes did not allow him to accompany him, as a heavy sorrow had befallen Alexius' mother, for she was then mourning the death of her firstborn son, Manuel, a man who had done great and admirable deeds for his country. In order that she might not be quite inconsolable, for she did not yet know where she had buried the elder of her sons, and if she sent the younger to the war, she would be afraid of something untoward happening to the lad, and might not even know in what part of the world he fell, for these reasons he compelled the boy Alexius to return to his mother. So on that occasion he was indeed parted from his fellow-soldiers, though sorely against his will, but the future opened out to him countless opportunities for valiant deeds; for under the Emperor Michael Ducas, after the deposition of the Emperor Diogenes, he shewed of what mettle he was made in his war against Ursel[1].

Now this man was a Frank by birth who had been enrolled in the Roman Army, reached a high pitch of prosperity, and after gathering a band, or rather quite a considerable army, of men from his own country, and also of other races, he immediately became a formidable tyrant. For when the hegemony of the Romans had received several checks, and the luck of the Turks was in the ascendancy, and the Romans had been driven back like dust shaken from their feet, at that moment this man too attacked the Empire. Apart from his tyrannical nature, what more especially incited him to openly establishing his tyranny just then was the depressed state of the imperial affairs, and he laid waste nearly all the Eastern provinces.

Although many were entrusted with the war against him, men of high reputation for bravery and of very great knowledge of war and fighting, yet he openly baffled even their long experience. For sometimes he would take the offensive himself and rout his opponents by his meteor-like attacks, and at others he obtained help from the Turks, and was quite irresistible in his onrushes, so that he actually overpowered some of the most powerful chieftains, and utterly confounded their phalanxes. I At that time, my father Alexius was under his brother, and openly served as lieutenant under this man, who was invested with the command of all the armies, both of the East and the West.

Then, just when the affairs of the Romans were in this critical condition, with this barbarian rushing upon everything like a thunderbolt, my brilliant father Alexius was thought of as the one man able to resist him, and appointed absolute commander by the Emperor Michael. Accordingly he summoned up all his shrewdness and the experience he had gained as general and soldier, and that too, by the way, he had not had much time to gather. (But thanks to his exceeding love of industry and ever alert intellect, the picked men among the Romans considered him to have reached the acme of military experience, and regarded him as that famous Roman Aemilius, or Scipio, or Hannibal the Carthaginian, for he was quite young, and had still "the first down on his cheeks" as the saying goes). This youngman captured Ursel as he rushed with might against the Romans and restored the affairs of the East within the space of a few days; for he was quick at discovering what was expedient, and still quicker in executing it. The manner of his capturing Ursel is told at length by the Caesar in the second book of his history of his own times; but I will relate it too in as far as it concerns my history.

Chapter II[edit]

The barbarian Tutach[2] had just then come down with a considerable army from the depths of the East to ravage the Roman territory. Ursel was often hard pressed by the general, and losing one fortress after another in spite of his large army and his men being excellently and generously equipped, because in ingenuity he was far surpassed by my father Alexius, and he therefore determined to seek refuge for a time with Tutach.

Finally, in absolute despair, he arranged a meeting with Tutach, offered him friendship, and earnestly solicited him to form an alliance. However, the general Alexius met this by a counter-stratagem, and was the quicker in winning over the barbarian, and attracting him to his side by words and gifts and every means and device. For he was inventive beyond ordinary men, and could find a way out of the most impossible situations. Certainly the most effective of his methods for conciliating Tutach was, speaking broadly, a kind of offering the right hand of friendship; his words were these; "The two, your Sultan and my Emperor, are friends! This barbarian Ursel is lifting his hand against both, and he is a most dangerous foe to both, for he keeps on attacking the latter, and is always stealing away a bit here and there from the Roman Empire, and, on the other hand, he is robbing Persia of parts of Persia which might have been preserved to her. In all this he uses great art, for at present he is overshadowing me by your help, and then later, at a propitious moment, he will leave me when he thinks himself secure, and turn round again and attack you. So if you will listen to me, you should, when Ursel next comes to you, seize him with superior numbers and send him captive to us. If you do this," he continued, "you will gain three things: firstly, such a sum of money as no one ever gained before; secondly, you will win in addition the goodwill of the Emperor; and as a result you will quickly reach the acme of prosperity; and thirdly, your Sultan will be greatly pleased at the removal of so formidable a foe, who practised violence against Romans and Turks alike." This was the tenor of the despatch sent to the aforementioned Tutach by my father, at that time Commander-in-Chief of the Roman Army. Together with it he also sent some members of the noblest families as hostages; and at an agreed moment and for a sum of money, he persuaded Tutach's barbarian followers to seize Ursel; and this they did quickly, and after his capture he was forwarded to the General at Amaseia.

But in the meantime the money was slow to come in, for Alexius himself had no fund wherewith to pay it off, and the sums due from the Emperor did not arrive, consequently, it did not only "journey at slow speed,"[3] as the tragedian says, but it did not come at all! Tutach's followers meanwhile were insistent in their demands for the money promised or for the surrender of the man they had sold and said that he should be allowed to return to the place where he had been seized; and my father had no means of paying the purchase-price. After spending a whole night in the greatest perplexity, he decided to borrow the sum from the inhabitants of Amaseia. At the break of day, though it was a hard task, he summoned them all, especially the most influential and the richest men, and fixing his eyes on them chiefly, he said; "You all know how this barbarian has treated all the cities of the Armenian theme, how many villages he has sacked, upon how many persons he has inflicted intolerable atrocities, and how much money he has stolen from you. But now the moment has come for freeing yourselves from his ill-treatment if you wish. Accordingly we must not let him slip, for you see, I suppose, that, by the will of God above all and by our own energy, this barbarian is now our prisoner. But Tutach, his captor, is asking us for payment, and we are utterly penniless, for we are in a foreign country, have been fighting against the barbarian for a considerable time, and have spent all our income. If the Emperor had not been so far off, or the barbarian had granted us respite, I should have endeavoured to have the money fetched from the capital; but since, as you yourselves know, nothing of this is practicable, it is you who must contribute this money, and whatever you subscribe, shall be repaid you from the Emperor at my hands." No sooner had he said this than he was hooted and his words excited a terrible uproar, for the Amaseians were moved to rebellion. Certain evilly-disposed and daring fellows who were clever agitators stirred up this tumult.

A great confusion thereupon arose, for one part insisted that Ursel should be kept prisoner, and stirred up the multitude to lay hold of him, while the other party made a great noise (as is ever the case with a mixed rabble), and wished to seize Ursel, and free him from his chains. The General, seeing so large a mob raging, recognized that his affairs were indeed in a parlous state, yet he was in no wise cast down, but taking courage, quieted the multitude with his hand. After a long time and with difficulty he silenced them, and addressing the mob, he said: "I marvel, men of Amaseia, that you are so utterly blind to the machinations of these men who deceive you, and purchase their own safety with your blood, and continually cause you some hurt. For of what benefit is Ursel's tyranny to you, unless you count murders and mutilations and the maiming of limbs as such? Now these men, the authors of your calamities, have kept their own fortunes intact by paying court to the barbarian on the one hand, and on the other they have received a glut of gifts from the Emperor by representing to him that they had not surrendered you and the town to the barbarian; and that too though they have never yet taken any account of you. For this reason they wish to support Ursel's tyranny, so that by fawning upon him with good wishes they may preserve their own skins intact, and also demand honours and emoluments from the Emperor. Should, however, any revolt occur, they will again keep themselves out of the business, and kindle the Emperor's wrath against you. But if you will follow my advice, you will bid these stirrers-up of sedition now go hang. Return quietly to your respective homes, reflect on my proposition, and thus you will recognize who is counselling you to your best advantage."

Chapter III[edit]

On hearing these words, they changed their minds as quickly as "heads become tails," and went home. But the General, well aware that a crowd is wont to change its mind in a twinkling, especially if urged on by malicious men, feared that during the night they might come upon him with fell intent, fetch out Ursel from prison, release him from his bonds, and let him go. As his forces were insufficient to resist such an attack, he devised the following Palamedian plan[4]: he pretended to have Ursel apparently blinded. Ursel was laid flat on the ground, the executioner applied the iron, while the victim howled and groaned like a lion roaring; but all this was only a feint of depriving him of his sight, for he who apparently was being blinded had been ordered to shout and shriek, and he who seemingly was gouging out the eyes, to stare harshly at his prisoner on the ground, and do everything savagely, and yet only to act the blinding. And so Ursel was blinded, yet not blinded, and the rabble clapped their hands, and the blinding of Ursel was buzzed about everywhere. This bit of play-acting persuaded the whole multitude, natives and foreigners alike, to swarm in like bees to pay their contributions, For the whole point of Alexius' device was that those who were disinclined to give money, and plotted to rescue Ursel from Alexius' my father's hands, should be foiled in their expectations, as he had now made their plot futile; and, in consequence, failing in their plan of the previous day, would adopt his plan, making him their friend, and averting the Emperor's wrath. Thus the; admirable commander, having got Ursel into his power, kept him like a lion in a cage, with bandages still over his eyes as symbol of his supposed blinding. Even so, he was not satisfied with what had been accomplished, nor did he relax over the rest of the business, as if he had gained sufficient glory, but he annexed several more cities and fortresses and placed under the protection of the Emperor those which had I fared badly during Ursel's regime. Then he turned his horse's head, and rode straight to the Royal City. But when he had reached his grandfather's city he allowed himself and the whole army a short rest from their many labours, and after that he manifested as marvellous a deed as Heracles did in the rescue of Admetus' wife, Alcestis.

For a certain Docianus nephew of the former Emperor, Isaac Comnenus and, cousin of this Alexius (a man too of good standing, both by birth and worth), seeing Ursel bearing the marks of blinding, and led by the hand, heaved a deep sigh, burst into tears over him and denounced the General's cruelty. Yea, he heaped blame upon him, and upbraided him for taking the sight of such a noble fellow and a downright hero, whom he ought to have left unpunished. To this Alexius answered; at the time, "My dear friend, wait a bit, and you shall hear the reasons for his blinding"; and in a little he took him; and Ursel into a small room, uncovered the latter's face and shewed him Ursel's eyes gleaming fierily. At this sight, Docianus was struck .dumb with amazement, and did not know what to make of this miracle. He repeatedly applied his hands to Ursel's eyes in case what he had seen was only a dream perchance, or a magic portent, or some other new invention of the kind; but when he grasped, the kindness his cousin had shewn to the man and the artfulness combined with the kindness he was overjoyed, and embraced and kissed him repeatedly, changing his wonder into joy. And the Emperor Michael, and his suite, and indeed everybody, felt just the same about it.

Chapter IV[edit]

Afterwards, the Emperor Nicephorus (Botaniates) who had now obtained the throne, sent him away again - to the West this time, against Nicephorus Bryennius, who was upseting the whole of the West by putting the crown on his own head, and proclaiming himself Emperor of the Romans. For scarcesly had Michael Ducas been deposed, and adopted the high-priestly alb and humeral in place of the imperial diadem and cloak, than Botaniates took his place on the imperial throne, married the princess Maria (as I will relate more circumstantially further on), and undertook the management of the Kingdom. But Nicephorus Bryennius, on the other hand, who had been appointed Duke of Dyrrachium in the time of the Emperor Michael, had designs on the throne even before Nicephorus became Emperor, and meditated a revolt against Michael. The "why" and "wherefore" of this I need not relate, as his revolt has previously been recounted in the Caesar's history. And yet it is absolutely necessary for me to narrate briefly how he used Dyrrachium as a jumping-off place for over-running all the Western provinces, how he brought them under his sway, and also the manner of his capture. But anyone who wishes for details of this revolt we refer to the Caesar. Bryennius was a very clever warrior, as well as of most illustrious descent, conspicuous by height of stature, and beauty of face, and preeminent among his fellows by the weightiness of his judgment, and the strength of his arms. He was, indeed, a man fit for kingship, and his persuasive powers, and his skill in conversation, were such as to draw all to him even at first sight; consequently, by unanimous consent both of soldiers and civilians, he was accorded the first place and deemed worthy to rule over both the Eastern and Western dominions. On his approaching any town, it would receive him with suppliant hands, and send him on to the next with acclaim. Not only Botaniates was disturbed by this news, but it also created a ferment in the home-army, and reduced the whole kingdom to despair; and, consequently, it was decided to dispatch my father, Alexius Comnenus, lately elected "Domestic of the Schools," against Bryennius with all available forces. In these regions the fortunes of the Roman Empire had sunk to their lowest ebb. For the armies of the East were dispersed in all directions, because the Turks had over-spread, and gained command of, nearly all the countries between the Euxine Sea[5] and the Hellespont, and the Aegean and Syrian Seas, and the various bays, especially those which wash Pamphylia, Cilicia, and empty themselves into the Egyptian Sea. Such was the position of the Eastern armies, whilst in the West, so many legions had flocked to Bryennius' standard that the Roman Empire was left with quite a small and inadequate army. There still remained to her a few "Immortals" who had only recently grasped spear and sword, and a few soldiers from Coma, and a Celtic regiment, that had shrunk to a small number of men. These were given to Alexius, my father, and at the same time allied troops were called for from the Turks, and the Emperor's Council ordered Alexius to start and engage in battle with Bryennius, for he relied not so much on the army accompanying him as on the man's ingenuity and cleverness in military matters. Alexius did not wait for the allies as he heard that the enemy was pushing on fast, but armed himself and his army, marched out from the Royal City, and passing through Thrace, pitched his camp without palisades or trenches near the river Halmyrus. For learning that Bryennius was bivouacking in the plains of the Cedoctus, he determined to interpose a considerable distance between his own and the enemy's armies. For he was not able to face Bryennius, for fear that the state of his forces might be detected, and the enemy have an opportunity of observing of what numbers his army consisted. Because he was on the point of fighting with inexperienced against experienced warriors, and with few against many, he abandoned the idea of making a bold and open attack, and intended to win a victory by stealth.

Chapter V[edit]

Since our story has now placed these two in opposition, Bryennius and. my father, Alexius Comnenus, both brave men (for neither was a whit behind the other in courage, nor did the experience of the one surpass that of the other), it is worth our while to place them in their lines and hostile array, and thence to view the fortune of war. (They certainly were both handsome and brave men, and were their bravery and experience weighed, the balance would stand level; but we must try to understand how fortune inclined it to one side. Bryennius, in addition to his confidence in his forces, was protected by their experience and orderliness, whereas Alexius, on the other hand, centred but few, and those very meagre, hopes on his army, but as counter-defence, could rely on the strength of his scientific knowledge and his strategic device.

Now when they were aware of each other, and the right moment for battle had come, Bryennius, on being informed that Alexius Comnenus had cut off his approaches and was encamped near Calaura, drew up his troops in the following order and marched against him. He posted the main army on the right and left wings, and gave the command of the right to his brother John; the men in this wing numbered 5,000, and were Italians, and those belonging to the detachment of the famous Maniaces, as well as some horse-soldiers from Thessaly, and a detachment, of no mean birth, of the "Hetaireia." The other, the left wing, was led by Catacalon Tarchaniotes, and was composed of fully-armed Macedonians and Thracians, numbering in all about 3,000. Bryennius himself held the centre of the phalanx, consisting of Macedonians and Thracians, and the picked men of the whole nobility. All the Thessalians were on horseback[6], and what with their iron cuirasses and helmets on their heads gleaming brightly, the horses pricking up their ears, and the shields clashing together, such a brilliant light falling from their persons and their helmets caused terror. Bryennius too, circling amidst them like an Ares or Giant, overtopping all the others head and shoulders by an ell, was a sheer wonder, and object of dread to the onlookers. Outside this regular army at about two stades' distance were some allied Scythians, distinguished by barbaric weapons. And the order given was that when the enemy came in sight and the trumpet sounded the attack, the Scythians should at once fall upon them from the rear, and distress the enemy by thick and continuous showers of darts, whilst the rest should form in very close order, and attack with all their might. That was how one general disposed his men. My father, Alexius Comnenus, on his side, after examining the lie of the land, placed half his men in some hollows, and the rest front to front with Bryennius. When both sections, both the hidden and the invisible, were in battle array, he aroused the bravery of them individually by winged words, and enjoined upon the division lying in ambush to attack suddenly, and dash with the greatest possible force and violence against the right wing of the enemy, as soon as they perceived they were to the rear of them. The so-called "Immortals" and some of the Celtic troops he reserved for himself, and took command of them in person. He appointed Catacalon leader of the troops from Coma and the Turkish forces, and bade him pay special attention to the Scythians and to counter their incursions. Such then were the dispositions of the armies. Now, when Bryennius' army had come near the hollows, then, immediately on my father, Alexius, giving the signal, the men in ambush Jumped out on them with wild yells and war cries. And by the suddenness of their onslaught, each striking and killing those whom he chanced to meet, they threw the enemy into a panic, and compelled them to flight. But John Bryennius, the own brother of the general, mindful hereupon of his "impetuous strength" and courage, turned his horse with his curb, and cutting down at a blow the "Immortal" coming at him, stayed the discomfited phalanx, rallied the men, and drove the enemy off. The "Immortals," in their turn, began to flee headlong in some disorder, and many were cut down by the soldiers who were ever behind them.

Then, my father, hurling himself into the midst of the foe, by his valiant struggles did indeed discomfit just that part in which he happened to be, for he struck anyone who approached him, and laid him low at a blow, but he also hoped that some of his soldiers were following with him and protecting him, and so he kept on fighting desperately. But when he saw that his phalanx was utterly broken, and fleeing in all directions he collected the more courageous souls (who were six in all), and advised them to draw their swords, rush at Bryennius remorselessly, when they got near him, and then, if need be, to die with him. However, a certain Theodotus, a private, who had been my father's servant from childhood, dissuaded him from this plan, characterizing such an attempt as mere foolhardiness. So Alexius turned in the opposite direction, and decided to retire to a short distance from Bryennius' army; then he collected the men personally known to him from the dispersed soldiery, re-organized them, and returned to the work. But before my father could withdraw secretly from the mêlée, the Scythians with many yells and shouts began to harass the men from Coma under Catacalon; and as they had little difficulty in beating these too, and driving them to flight, they turned their minds to looting, and went off on their own devices, for such is the Scythian nation. Before they have even entirely routed their adversary, or consolidated their gain, they spoil their victory by looting. For all the slaves and camp followers who formed the rear of Bryennius' army had pressed forward into the ranks from fear of being killed by the Scythians; and as this crowd was continually augmented by others who had escaped from the hands of the Scythians, no small confusion arose in the ranks, and the standards became commingled. In the meanwhile, my father Alexius, as we said before, was cut off and moving about within Bryennius' army, when he saw one of the royal grooms leading a horse of Bryennius', decked with a purple cloth, and gilt bosses; and moreover, the men holding the large swords which customarily accompany the Emperor were running close beside it. On seeing this he covered his face with his vizor which depended from the rim of his helmet, and rushing with violence against these men with his six soldiers (whom the story has already mentioned), he not only knocked down the groom, but also seized the royal horse, and together with it carried off the swords and then escaped: unnoticed from the army. Arrived in a safe spot he started off the gilt-bedight horse, and the swords which are usually carried either side of the Emperor, and a herald with a very loud voice, bidding him run through the whole army crying out "Bryennius has fallen! This action brought back to the battle from all quarters many of the scattered soldiers belonging to the army of the Great Domestic of the Schools (to wit, my father), and others it encouraged to carry on. They stood still, where each happened to be, and having turned their eyes behind them were astonished at the unexpected sight. And you might have witnessed a strange sight in their case! for the heads of the horses were pointing forwards, whilst their own faces were turned backwards, and they neither moved forwards, nor did they wish to turn their bridles, but were quite aghast, and at their wits' ends to understand what had occurred. As for the Scythians, they were dreaming of going home, and had no intention of further pursuit. As they were now far away from both armies, they wandered vaguely about where they were with their booty. The proclamation that Bryennius had been taken, and overwhelmed, put courage into the whilom cowards and fugitives, and the announcement gained credibility from the fact that the horse was shewn everywhere with its royal accoutrements, and the large swords all but cried aloud that Bryennius, who should be protected by them, had become the possession of the enemy.

Chapter VI[edit]

Then fortune, too, contributed the following incident to Alexius' success. A detachment of the Turkish allies happened upon Alexius, the Great Domestic, and on hearing that he had restored the battle, and asking where the enemy was, they accompanied him, my father, to a little hill, and when my father pointed out the army, they looked down upon it from an observation tower, as it were. And this was the appearance of Bryennius' army; the men were all mixed up anyhow, the lines had not yet been re-formed, and, as if they had already carried off the victory, they were acting carelessly and thought themselves out of danger. And they had slackened off chiefly because after the initial rout of our men, my father's contingent of Franks had gone over to Bryennius. For when the Franks dismounted from their horses and offered their right hands to Bryennius, according to their ancestral custom in giving pledges, men came running up towards them from all sides to see what was happening. For like a trumpet-blast the rumour had resounded throughout the army that the Franks had joined them and deserted their Commander-in-Chief, Alexius. The officers with my father, and the newly-arrived Turks, duly noted this state of confusion, and as a result they divided their forces into three parties and ordered two to remain in ambush somewhere on the spot, and the third they commanded to advance against the foe. The whole of this plan was due to Alexius.

The Turks did not attack all together, drawn up regularly into phalanx, but separately and in small groups, standing some distance apart from each other; then he ordered each squadron to attack, charging the enemy with their horses, and to let loose heavy showers of darts. Following upon the Turks came my father Alexius, the author of this strategy, with as many of his scattered men as the occasion warranted. Next, one of the "Immortals" with Alexius, a hot-headed, venturesome fellow, spurred on his horse, and out-riding the others, dashed at full gallop straight at Bryennius, and thrust his spear with great violence against the latter's breast. Bryennius for his part whipped out his sword quickly from its sheath, and before the spear could be driven home, he cut it in two, and struck his adversary on the collar bone, and bringing down the blow with the whole power of his arm, cut away the man's whole arm, breastplate included.

The Turks, too, one group following up another, overshadowed the army with their showers of darts. Bryennius' men were naturally taken aback by the sudden attack, yet they collected themselves, formed themselves into line, and sustained the shock of the battle, mutually exhorting each other to play the man. The Turks, however, and my father, held their ground for a short time against the enemy, and then planned to retire in regular order to a little distance, in order to lure on the enemy, and draw them by guile to the ambuscade. When they had reached the first ambush, they wheeled round, and met the enemy face to face. Forthwith, at a given signal, those in ambush rode through them like swarms of wasps, from various directions, and with their loud war-cries, and shouts, and incessant shooting, not only filled the ears of Bryennius' men with a terrible din, but also utterly obscured their sight by showering arrows upon them from all sides. Hereupon, as the army of Bryennius could no longer put up any resistance (for by now all, both men and horses, were sorely wounded), they turned their standard to retreat, and offered their backs as a target to their foes. But Bryennius himself, although very weary from fighting, shewed his courage and mettle. For at one minute, he would turn to right or left to strike a pursuer, and at the next, carefully and cleverly arrange the details of the retreat. He was assisted by his brother on the one side, and his son on the other, and by their heroic defence on that occasion they seemed to the enemy miraculous.

As Bryennius' horse was now very weary, and unable either to flee or pursue (in fact, it was pretty well at death's door from continuous coursing), he halted it, and, like some brave athlete, stood ready for the grip, and called a challenge to two highborn Turks. One of these struck at him with his spear, but was not quick enough to give him a heavy blow before receiving a heavier one himself from Bryennius' right hand. For Bryennius with his sword succeeded in cutting off the man's hand, which rolled to the ground, spear and all. The second man leapt off his own horse, and like a panther, darted on to that of Bryennius, and planted himself on its flank, and clung tightly to it, and tried to get on its back. Bryennius kept twisting round like an animal in his endeavours to stab him with his sword. However, he did not succeed, for the Turk behind his back escaped all the blows by bending aside. Therefore, when his right hand was exhausted from only encountering emptiness, and the athlete's strength gave out, he surrendered there and then to the whole body of the enemy. So the soldiers-seized him. and with a feeling of haying won great glory , led him away to Alexius Comnenus, who happened to be standing not, far from the spot where Bryennius was captured, and was busy drawing up his own men, and the Turks, into line, and inciting them to battle. News of Bryennius' capture had already been brought by heralds, and then the man himself was placed before the General, and a terrifying object he certainly was, both when fighting, and when captured. And now, having secured Bryennius in this manner, Alexius Comnenus sent him away as the prize of his spear .to the. Emperor Botaniates, without doing any injury whatsoever to his eyes. For it was not the nature of Alexius to proceed to extremities against his opponents after their capture as he considered that being captured was in itself sufficient punishment, but after their capture he treated them with clemency, friendliness and generosity. This clemency he now displayed towards Bryennius, for after his capture he accompanied him a fair distance, and when they reached the place called ... he said to him (for he was anxious to relieve the man's despondency and restore hope in him); "Let us get off our horses and sit down and rest awhile." But Bryennius, in fear of his life resembled a maniac, and was by no means in need of rest, for how should a man be who has lost all hope of life? And yet he immediately complied with the General's wish, for a slave readily submits to every command, more especially if he is a prisoner of war. When the two leaders had dismounted, Alexius at once lay down on some green grass, as if on a couch, while Bryennius sat further off, and rested his head on the roots of a tall oak. My father slept, but "gentle sleep," as it is called in sweet poetry, did not visit the other.

But lying there he raised his eyes and saw the sword hanging from the branches, and as he did not see anybody about just then, he shook off his despondency, conceived a daring plan and plotted to kill my father. And the thought would quickly have been translated into action, had not some divine power from oh high prevented him, which appeased the fierce emotions of his mind, and forced him to look kindly at the General. I have often heard the latter tell this tale. Whoever likes may learn from this how God was guarding the Comnenus like a precious object, for a greater dignity, intending by means of him to restore the fortune of the Romans. If later on undesirable things happened to Bryennius, the blame must be laid on certain of the Emperor's courtiers; my father was blameless. Such then was the end of Bryennius' rebellion.

Chapter VII[edit]

But Alexius, the Great Domestic, who was also my father, was not destined to rest in quiet, but to proceed from one struggle to another. On his return, Borilus, a barbarian, and confidant of Botaniates, went out from the city to meet my father, the Great Domestic, and taking over Bryennius from him he did to him that which he did. He also brought an order from the Emperor to my father to proceed against Basilacius, who in his turn had now assumed the diadem, and exactly as Bryennius had done, was making the West seethe with unrest. Now, this man Basilacius, was one of the most conspicuous for bravery, courage, daring, and bodily strength, and as he possessed, moreover, a domineering spirit, he took to himself all the most exalted offices, and as for honours, he plotted for some and demanded others. And after Bryennius' overthrow, this man became, as it were, his successor, and arrogated to himself the whole business of the tyranny. Starting from Epidamnus (the metropolis of Illyria), he pushed on to the chief city of Thessaly, having subdued all the country on his way, and voted and acclaimed himself Emperor, and Bryennius' roving army following him whithersoever he wished. Besides other admirable qualities, this man had that fine physique, strength of arm, and dignified appearance by which rustics and soldiers are most attracted. For they do not look through to the soul, nor have a keen eye for virtue, but they stop at the outward excellencies of the body, and admire daring, and strength, speed in running, and size, and consider these as fit qualifications for the purple robe and diadem.

Now he had these qualities in no mean measure, as well as a manly, invincible soul; in short, this Basilacius was kingly both in mind and appearance. He had a voice like thunder, of a nature to strike fear into a whole army, and his shout was enough to quell the courage of the boldest. Further, his eloquence was irresistible, whether he tried to excite the soldiers to battle or check them in flight.

With all these natural advantages and an unconquerable army under his command, the man started on his campaign, and seized the city of the Thessalians, as we have said. My father, Alexius Comnenus, made his counter-preparations as if for a battle with the mighty Typho, or the hundred-handed Giant, and girt himself for the fray with an antagonist worthy of his steel, by summoning all his strategic knowledge and courageous spirit. And before he had shaken off the dust of his late contest, or washed the gore from his sword and hands, he marched out, his spirit all aflame, like a grim lion against this long-tusked boar, Basilacius. Soon he reached the river Bardarius[7] (for that is its local name), which comes down from the mountains near Mysia, and after flowing through many intervening districts, and dividing the country round Beroea and Thessalonica into East and West, it empties itself into our so-called South sea.

What happens in every large river is this; when a considerable embankment has been raised by the deposit they bring down, then they flow to a lower level, and forsaking as it were their first bed, leave it quite dry and bereft of water, and fill the new bed they now traverse with rushing streams. Between two such channels of the Bardarius, one the old gully, the other the newly-formed passage, lay a piece of ground, and when that clever strategist, Alexius, my father, saw it, he pitched his camp there, since the two channels were not more than three stades distant from one another. The running river he considered, would be a bulwark on the one side, and the old river-bed, which had become a deep ravine from the river's strong current, he utilized as a natural trench. The men were immediately put under orders to rest by day, and strengthen themselves with sleep, and to give their horses a good feed; for as soon as night fell, they would have to watch, and expect a surprise attack by the enemy. My father made these arrangements, I believe, because he foresaw danger from the enemy that evening. He quite expected them to attack him, for either his long experience made him guess this, or he had other reasons for his conjecture. This presentiment had come to him suddenly, nor did he only foresee and then neglect the necessary precautions. No, but he left the camp with his forces and their weapons, horses, and everything needful for battle, and left it with lights shining everywhere and entrusted the camp, with the supplies of food and other equipment he carried with him, to his body-servant "Little John," a former monk. He himself drew off to a good distance with his troops ready armed, and sat down to await the course of events. This was cunningly planned so that Basilacius, when he saw camp fires burning on all sides, and my father's tent illuminated with lamps, should imagine that he was resting inside, and that it would, consequently, be an easy matter to capture him and get him into his power.

Chapter VIII[edit]

As we have already hinted, this presentiment of my father's was not unfounded. For Basilacius came down suddenly upon the army he thought to find with cavalry and infantry (10,000 men in all); there he found the men's quarters lighted up everywhere, and when he saw the General's tent gleaming, he rushed into it with a tremendous, hair-raising shout. But as the man he expected to find was nowhere to be seen, and no soldier or officer turned up anywhere, only a few insignificant camp servants, he shouted still more loudly, and cried out, "Where in the world is the Stammerer?" thus in his words too jeering at the Great Domestic. For, except in one respect, this Alexius, my father, had a very clear utterance, and no one was a better natural orator than he in his arguments and demonstrations, 23] but only over the letter " r " his tongue lisped slightly, and stammered a little, although his enunciation of all the other letters was quite unimpeded. Shouting such insults, Basilacius continued his search, and turned over everything, boxes, couches, furniture, and even my father's bed, to see whether perchance he was hidden anywhere. And he frequently looked at " Little John," the monk so called. Alexius' mother had carefully arranged that he should have one of the better-born monks to share his tent in all his campaigns, and her kindly son had yielded to his mother's wish, not only whilst a child, but even after he had joined the ranks of youths; nay, indeed, until he took to himself a wife. Basilacius searched through the whole tent, and, as Aristophanes would say, did not stop "groping about in darkness,"[8] while asking Little John a stream of questions about the Domestic. On John's asserting that Alexius had gone out with his whole army some time ago, he recognized that he had been grossly tricked, and in utter despair, and with much noise and shouting, he yelled out: " Fellow soldiers, we have been deceived, the enemy is outside." Hardly had he said this, as they were going out of the camp, than my father, Alexius Comnenus, was on them, for he had hurriedly galloped on ahead of the army with a few attendants. He noticed a man trying to bring the heavy infantry into battle-array - and, by the way, the majority of Basilacius' soldiers had betaken themselves to looting and plunder (this too was an old device of my father's), and before they could be reassembled and drawn up in line, the Great Domestic loomed before them as a sudden danger. He, as I have said, saw someone drawing up the phalanxes, and judging either from his size, or from the brilliance of his armour (for his armour gleamed in the light of the stars) that he must be Basilacius, dashed swiftly up to him, and struck at his hand, and the hand, with the sword it held, fell to the ground - an incident which greatly upset the phalanx. But after all it was not Basilacius himself, but a very brave man of his suite who was not a tittle inferior in courage to Basilacius. Then Alexius with a heavy hand began a wild attack on them; he shot with arrows, inflicted wounds with his spear, uttered war-cries, confounded them in the darkness. He used the place, the time, everything, as a means to victory, and availed himself of them with unperturbed mind and unshaken judgment, and though men of both armies were fleeing in various directions, he discerned, in every case, whether he were friend or foe. Then, too, a certain Cappadocian, called Goules, a faithful servant of my father's, a hard-hitter, of ungovernable fury in battle, saw Basilacius, and making sure that it was he, struck him on his helmet. But he suffered the fate of Menelaus, when fighting against Paris; for his sword "shattered into 3 or 4 pieces," [9] fell from his hand, and only the hilt remained in his grip. The General seeing this straightway mocked at him for not holding his sword tight, and called him a coward, but when the soldier shewed him the hilt of his sword which he still grasped, he became less abusive. Another man, a Macedonian, Peter by name, but nicknamed Tornicius, fell among the enemy and slew a number. The phalanx followed its leader though in ignorance of what was being done; for as the struggle was carried on in the dark, not all were able to grasp the course of events. Comnenus would attack that part of the phalanx which was still intact, and strike down all adversaries, and in a moment be back with his own men, urging them to break up that portion of Basilacius' phalanx which still held its ground, and sending messages to the rear to bid them not to be so slow, but to follow him, and overtake him more quickly. During this time, a Frank, belonging to the Domestic's troops, and, to make a long story short, a brave soldier, instinct with the spirit of Ares, noticed my father coming out from the enemy's centre, bare sword in hand, all smoking with blood, and took him for one of the enemy. In a trice he fell upon him, knocked him on the chest with his spear, and was within an ace of hurling the General off his horse, had the General not seated himself more firmly, and addressed the soldier by name, and threatened to cut off his head with his sword. However, the Frank, by pleading his want of recognition, and the confusion consequent upon a night-battle, was allowed to remain among the living!

Chapter IX[edit]

Such then were the deeds of the Domestic and a few followers during that night. As soon as dawn smiled upon the earth, and the sun peeped over the horizon, Basilacius' officers endeavoured with all their might to drive together their men who had abandoned the battle and been busy about the spoil. The Great Domestic also re-formed his own lines, and then marched straight against Basilacius. Some of the Domestic's troops saw stragglers from Basilacius' army in the distance, so rode down upon them, routed them, and brought some back to him alive. Basilacius' brother, Manuel, mounted a hillock, and from there encouraged his army by shouting loudly, "To-day the day and the victory are to Basilacius!" A certain Basileios, nicknamed Curticius, an intimate friend of Nicephorus Bryennius (whose story we have told), and very active in war, ran from Comnenus' battle-line up towards this hillock. Basilacius Manuel drew his sword, and at full speed galloped down upon him; but Curticius, instead of taking his sword, snatched the staff hanging from his saddle-cloth, struck Manuel on the head with it, knocked him off his horse, and dragging him bound behind him, brought him to my father as if he were a bit of the spoils. In the meantime, when the remnants of Basilacius' army saw Comnenus advance with his own divisions, they resisted him for a little, and then took to flight. And so Basilacius fled, and Alexius Comnenus pursued him. When they reached Thessalonica, the Thessalonians at once received Basilacius, but straightway barred the gates before the General. But not even then did Alexius relax, nor did he take off his breastplate, or lay aside his helmet, or ungird his shield from his shoulders, or cast aside his sword, but he encamped, and threatened to besiege the city forthwith, and then sack it . As he wished, however, to save Basilacius, he sent his monk-companion, " Little John" (a man renowned for his integrity) to him with a proposal for peace, and promised that Basilacius should suffer no ill-treatment if he gave securities and surrendered himself and the city. Basilacius, however, was inflexible, but the Thessalonians, through fear of their city being taken and destroyed, granted Comnenus ingress. But Basilacius, when he saw what was being done by the multitude, betook himself to the Acropolis and leapt from one spot to another. Even in these extremities his fighting spirit did not forsake him, although the Domestic gave his word that he should not be barbarously treated; but in difficulties and dangers Basilacius ever shewed himself a man indeed. He would not abate his courage and brave attitude in the slightest, until at last the inhabitants and custodians of the Acropolis drove him out of it against his will, took him by force, and handed him over to the Great Domestic. Alexius at once sent news of his capture to the Emperor but stayed on himself a little longer in Thessalonica to arrange things there, and then returned to Constantinople in triumph. Between Philippi and Amphipolis he met messengers from the Emperor who handed him written orders about Basilacius. They took the latter in charge, led him to a village called Chlempina, and near the spring in it put out his eyes: hence the spring is to this day called "the Spring of Basilacius." This was the third "Labour" accomplished, by the great Alexius before he became Emperor, and he might rightly be styled a second Heracles. For you would not be wide of the mark in calling this fellow Basilacius the Erymanthian boar, and my most noble father Alexius, a modern Heracles. Such, then, were the successes and achievements of Alexius before he ascended the throne, and as reward for them all he received from the Emperor the rank of "Sebastos," and was proclaimed "Sebastos" in public assembly.

Chapter X[edit]

It seems to me that if a body is sickly, the sickliness is often aggravated by external causes, but that occasionally, too, the causes of our illnesses spring up of themselves, although we are apt to blame the inequalities of the climate, indiscretion in diet, or perhaps, too, the humours of our animal juices, as the cause of our fevers. Similarly, like these physical ailments, I fancy the weakness of the Romans at that time was partly the cause of these deadly plagues: I mean the various men before mentioned, the Ursels, the Basilacii, and all the crowd of pretenders, but partly, too, it was Fate that introduced other aspirants to the throne from abroad, and foisted them on the Empire like an irremediable sore and incurable disease. To this latter class belonged that braggart Robert, so famed for his tyrannical disposition. Normandy indeed begot him, but he was nursed and reared by consummate Wickedness. The Roman Empire really brought this formidable foe upon herself by affording a pretext for all the wars he waged against us in proposing a marriage with a foreign, barbaric race, quite unsuitable to us; or rather it was the carelessness of the reigning Emperor, Michael, who united our family with the Ducas. Let no one be angry with me if I sometimes censure one of my blood-relations (for I am allied by blood to the Ducas on my mother's side), for I have determined to write the truth before all things, and, as far as this man is concerned, I have voiced the general censures. For this same Emperor, Michael Ducas, betrothed his own son, Constantine, to this barbarian's daughter, and from that arose all the hostilities. Now, we shall give an account of this prince Constantine in due course; also of his nuptial contract, in other words this barbaric alliance, and also of his appearance, and beauty, and size, and physical and mental characteristics. At that point I shall also briefly deplore my own misfortunes after I have told the tale of this alliance, and the defeat of the whole barbarian force, and the death of these pretenders from Normandy, who had been reared against the Roman Empire by Michael's want of prudence. But first I must retrace my steps a little, and speak of this man Robert[10], and give details of his descent and career, and relate to what a pitch of power the turn of affairs had brought him, or to put it more reverentially, bow far Providence had allowed him to rise by shewing indulgence to his mischievous desires and machinations.

This Robert was Norman by descent, of insignificant origin in temper tyrannical, in mind most cunning, brave in action, very clever in attacking the wealth and substance of magnates, most obstinate in achievement, for he did not allow any obstacle to prevent his executing his desire. His stature was so lofty that he surpassed even the tallest, his complexion was ruddy, his hair flaxen, his shoulders were broad, his eyes all but emitted sparks of fire, and in frame he was well-built where nature required breadth, and was neatly and gracefully formed where less width was necessary. So from tip to toe this man was well-proportioned, as I have repeatedly heard many say. Now, Homer says of Achilles that when he shouted, his voice gave his hearers the impression of a multitude in an uproar, but this man's cry is is said to have put thousands to flight. Thus equipped by fortune, physique and character, he was naturally indomitable, and subordinate to nobody in the world. Powerful natures are ever like this, people say, even though they be of somewhat obscure descent.

Chapter XI[edit]

Such then was the man, and as he would not endure any control, he departed from Normandy with only five followers on horseback, and thirty on foot all told. After leaving his native land, he roamed amid the mountain-ridges, caves, and hills of Lombardy, as the chief of a robber-band, and by attacks on travellers acquired horses, and also other possessions and weapons. Thus the prelude of this man's life was marked by much bloodshed and many murders. While lingering in those parts of Lombardy, he came under the notice of Gulielmus Mascabeles, who was then ruler over the greater part of the territory adjacent to Lombardy, and as he drew a rich annual income from these lands, he furnished himself with a good body of troops and became a powerful prince. He informed himself of the manner of man, physical and mentally, that Robert was, and then with a wonderful lack of foresight, attached him to himself, and betrothed one of his daughters to him. The marriage was completed, and though Gulielmus admired Robert for his strength and experience in warfare, yet his affairs did not prosper as he had hoped. He had even given him a city as a kind of wedding-gift, and lavished various other marks of kindness upon him. However, Robert grew disaffected, and meditated-rebellion. At first he played the friend and gradually increased his forces until he had trebled his cavalry and doubled his infantry. And thereafter the cloak of friendliness slipped off, and little by little his evil disposition was laid bare. Daily he would give, or pick up, some pretext for a quarrel, and continuously adopted courses of a kind that are wont to engender disputes, and then fighting and wars. Since the aforesaid Gulielmus Mascabeles far surpassed him in wealth and influence, Robert renounced all idea of meeting him openly in battle, and concocted a wicked plot instead. For, while professing friendship and feigning repentance, he was secretly preparing a terrible scheme, which was hard to detect, in order to capture all Mascabeles' towns, and make himself master of all his possessions. As a start he opened negotiations for peace, and sent an embassy to ask Gulielmus to come in person to a conference. Gulielmus welcomed peace with Robert, because he was extremely fond of his daughter, and fixed a meeting for the morrow; and Robert indicated the place where they would meet for discussion, and arranging a truce with each other. In this place were two peaked hills rising from the plain to equal height, and standing diametrically opposite each other; the intervening ground was swampy, and over-grown with all manner of trees and bushes. On this ground that crafty Robert planted an ambuscade of four very brave armed men, and adjured them to keep careful watch all round, and as soon as they saw him at grips with Gulielmus, to run up against the latter without an instant's delay. After these preliminary preparations, Robert, the arch-schemer, forsook the hill which he had designated beforehand for the conference with Mascabeles, and appropriated, so to say, the second hill, and taking fifteen horsemen and about fifty-six foot-soldiers up with him, posted them there, and then disclosed his whole plot to the more important among them. He also commanded one to hold his armour ready for him to put on quickly, namely, his helmet, shield, and short sword; to the four men in ambush he had given injunctions to rush very quickly to his aid directly they saw Mascabeles at grips with him. On the appointed day Gulielmus was coming to the hill to the spot which Robert had indicated to him beforehand, with the intention of completing a treaty; when Robert saw him drawing near, he met him on horseback, and embraced and welcomed him right heartily. So they both halted on the slope, a little distance from the summit of the hill, talking of what they meant to do. The crafty Robert wasted the time by talking of one subject after another, and then said to Gulielmus: "Why in the world should we tire ourselves by sitting on horseback? Why not dismount, and sit on the ground, and talk freely of the necessary matters?" Mascabeles foolishly obeyed, all unaware of the guile, and the danger into which he was being led, and when he saw Robert get on his horse, he dismounted too, and resting his elbow on the ground, started the discussion afresh. Robert now professed fealty to Mascabeles for the future, and called him his faithful benefactor and lord. Hereupon, Mascabeles' men, seeing that the leaders had dismounted, and apparently started an argument afresh, dismounted too; or rather some did, and tied their reins to the branches, and lay down and rested in the shade cast by the horses and the trees, while the others rode home. For they were all tired from the warmth and want of food and drink (for it was the summer season when the sun casts its rays vertically, and the heat had become unbearable). So much then for these; but Robert, the sly fox, had arranged all this beforehand, and now suddenly throws himself on Mascabeles, drops his kindly expression for a furious one, and attacks him with murderous intent. And gripping, he was gripped in return, and dragged, and was dragged, and together they went rolling down the hill. When the four men waiting in ambush saw this, they jumped out of the marsh, ran at Gulielmus, bound him, and then ran back as if to join Robert's horsemen stationed on the other hill, but they were already galloping down the slope towards them, and behind came Gulielmus' men in hot pursuit. Robert for his part jumped on his horse, quickly donned his helmet, seized his spear, and brandished it fiercely and sheltering himself behind his shield, turned round, and struck one of Gulielmus' men such a blow with his spear that he yielded up his life on the spot. In the meantime, he held back the rush of his father-in-law's cavalry, and checked the relief they were bringing (because when they saw Robert's horsemen coming down upon them from above with the position all in their favour, they immediately turned their backs). After Robert had in this wise stopped the onrush of Gulielmus' horsemen, Mascabeles was taken bound and a prisoner of war to the very fortress which he had given as wedding-gift to Robert at the time he betrothed his daughter to him. And so it came about that the city had its own master as " prisoner " within it, and hence probably it got its name of " prison-house." And it will not be amiss if I enlarge on Robert's cruelty. For when he had once got Mascabeles in his power, he first had all his teeth pulled out, and demanded for each of them a stupendous weight of money, and enquired where this money was stored. He did not leave off drawing them until he had taken all, for both teeth and money gave out simultaneously, and then Robert cast his eyes upon Gulielmus' eyes, and grudging him his sight, deprived him of his eyes.

Chapter XII[edit]

Having thus become master of all Mascabeles' possessions, he after that grew daily in power, and becoming ever more despotic, piled cities upon cities,. and money upon money. In a short time he had risen to ducal eminence, and was nominated Duke of all Lombardy, and from that moment everybody's envy was excited against him. But Robert, being a man with his wits very much about him, now used flattery against his adversaries and now gifts, and so quelled uprisings among the populace, and by his ingenuity repressed the envy of the nobility against him, and thus, by these means, and by occasional recourse to arms, he annexed the whole realm of Lombardy, and the neighbouring country. But this Robert was for ever aspiring at further increase of power, and because he had visions of the Roman Empire, he alleged as pretext his connection with the Emperor Michael, as I have said, and fanned up the war against the Romans. For we have already stated that the Emperor Michael for some inexplicable reason betrothed this despot's daughter (Helen by name) to his son, Constantine. Now that I am mentioning this youth again, I am convulsed in spirit, and confounded in reason: however, I will cut short my story about him, and reserve it for the right time. Yet one thing I cannot forbear saying, even though it is out of place here, and that is that the youth was a living statue, a "chef d'oeuvre," so to say, of God's hands. If any one merely looked at him, he would say that he was a descendant of the Golden Age fabled by the Greeks; so indescribably beautiful was he. And when I call to mind this boy after so many years I am filled with sorrow; yet I restrain my tears, and husband them for "more fitting places,"[11] for I do not wish to confuse this history by mingling monodies on my sufferings with historical narration. To resume, this youth (whom we have mentioned here and elsewhere), my predecessor, born before I had seen the light of day, a clean, undefiled boy, had become a suitor for Helen, Robert's daughter, and the written contracts had been drawn up for the marriage, though they were not executed, only promised, as the youth was still of immature age; and the contracts were annulled directly the Emperor Nicephorus Botaniates ascended the throne. But I have wandered from the point, and will now return to the point whence I wandered! That man Robert, who from a most inconspicuous beginning had grown most conspicuous, and amassed great power, now desired eagerly to become Roman Emperor, and with this object, sought plausible-pretexts for ill-will and war against the Romans. And there are two different tales about this. One story which is bruited about, and reached our ears too, is that a certain monk, named Raictor, impersonated the Emperor Michael, and had gone over to Robert, and poured out his tale of woe to him, his marriage-connection. Michael had seized the Roman sceptre after Diogenes, and adorned the throne for a short time, then he was deprived of his throne by the rebel Botaniates, and embraced the monastic life, and was later invested with the alb and mitre and add, if you like, the humeral of an archbishop. The Caesar John, his paternal uncle, had advised this for he knew the lightheadedness of the reigning Emperor, and feared the worst for Michael. It was this Michael whom the aforementioned monk, Raictor, impersonated, or if I may call him so, "Rectes," which implies what he was, the most audacious "fabricator" of all time. He approached Robert on the plea of being his marriage-kinsman, and recited to him the tragic tale of his wrongs, how he had been driven from the imperial throne, and reduced to his present state, which Robert could see for himself, and for all these reasons, he invoked the barbarian's aid. For Helen, Robert's beautiful daughter, and his own daughter-in-law, had been left destitute, he said, and openly bereft of her betrothed, as his son Constantine, and his wife, the Princess Mary, although very unwillingly, had been compelled by force to join Botaniates' party.

By these words he inflamed the barbarian's mind, and armed him with a motive for a war against the Romans. A story of this sort reached my ears, and I must own I am not surprised that some persons of most ignoble birth impersonate those of noble and honourable race. But on other authority a far more plausible story re-echoes in my mind, and this story avers that no monk impersonated Michael, and that no such event stirred Robert to war against the Romans, but that the versatile barbarian himself easily invented the whole thing. The story runs thus, the arch-villain Robert who was hatching war against the Romans, and had been making his preparations for some time, was kept in check by the nobles of highest rank in his suite, and also by his own wife, Gaïta, on the ground that the war would be unjust and waged against Christians; indeed he was prevented several times when he was anxious to start. But he was determined to procure a specious pretext for war, and therefore sent some men to Cotrone and entrusted them with the secret of his plot, and gave them the following directions. If they could find any monk willing to cross from there to Italy to worship at the shrine of the chief apostles, the patron saints of Rome, and if he did not betray his low origin too openly in his appearance, they were to welcome him and make a friend of him, and bring him back with them. When they discovered the aforementioned Raictor, a versatile fellow without his equal for knavery, they signified the fact to Robert who was waiting at Salernum[12], by a letter to this effect: "Your kinsman Michael, who has been expelled from his kingdom has arrived here to solicit your assistance." For Robert had ordered them to write the letter to him in those words. Directly he received the letter, he read it privately to his wife, and then in an assembly of all the Counts he showed it to them too, and swore they could no longer keep him back, as he had now got hold of a really just excuse for war. As they all immediately fell in with Robert's desire, he brought the man over, and entered into association with him. Thereupon he worked up the whole drama, and put it in its proper stage-setting, pretending that that monk was the Emperor Michael, that he had been deprived of his throne, and despoiled of his wife and son and all his possessions by the usurper Botaniates, and that against all law and justice he had been clothed in a monk's garb instead of a fillet and crown, and "Now," he concluded, "he has come as suppliant to us." Robert used to harangue the people like this, and professed that because of their kinship he must restore the kingdom to him. Daily he shewed honour to the monk, as if he were the Emperor Michael, giving him the best place at table, a higher seat, and excessive respect. In various ingenious ways also Robert caught the ear of the public; one day he would commiserate himself on the sad fate of his daughter; on another he did not like, out of consideration for his marriage-kinsman, to speak of the evil days on which the latter had fallen; and on yet another he incited and stirred up the ignorant masses round him to war by artfully promising them heaps of gold which he said he would give them from the Imperial treasury. Thus he led all by the nose, and drew all, rich and poor alike, out of Lombardy, or rather he dragged the whole of Lombardy with him, and occupied Salernum, the mother city of Amalfi. Here he made good settlements for his other daughters, and then began his preparations for the war. He had two daughters with him, whilst the third, ill-fated from the day of her betrothal, was confined in the imperial city; for her young betrothed, being still immature, shrank from this alliance at the very outset, as children do from bogeys. Of the two others, he pledged one to Raymond, son of the Count Barcinon, and the second he married to Eubulus[13], another very illustrious Count. In these alliances, as in all else, Robert did not fail to have an eye to his own advantage; but from all sources he had piled up and welded together influence for himself, from his race, his rule, his rights of kin, in a word, from innumerable devices of which nobody else would even think.

Chapter XIII[edit]

Meanwhile, an event occurred which is worth relating, as it, too, contributed to this man's reputation and good fortune. For I hold that the fact that all the rulers of the West were prevented from attacking him, tended very materially to the barbarian's successful progress. Fate worked for him on all sides, raised him to kingly power, and accomplished everything helpful to him. Now it happened that the Pope of Rome[14] had a difference with Henry, King of Germany[15], and, therefore, wished to draw Robert into an alliance, as the latter had already become very notable and attained to great dominion. (The Pope is a very high dignitary, and is protected by troops of various nationalities.) The dispute between the King and the Pope was this: the latter accused Henry of not bestowing livings as free gifts, but selling them for money, and occasionally entrusting archbishoprics to unworthy recipients, and he also brought further charges of a similar nature against him. The King of Germany on his side indicted the Pope of usurpation, as he had seized the apostolic chair without his consent. Moreover, he had the effrontery to utter reckless threats against the Pope, saying that if he did not resign his self-elected office, he should be expelled from it with contumely. When these words reached the Pope's ears, he vented his rage upon Henry's ambassadors; first he tortured them inhumanly, then clipped their hair with scissors, and sheared their beards with a razor, and finally committed a most indecent outrage upon them, which transcended even the insolence of barbarians, and so sent them away. My womanly and princely dignity forbids my naming the outrage inflicted (in them, for it was not only unworthy a high priest, but of anyone who bears the name of a Christian. I abhor this barbarian's idea, and more still the deed, and I should have defiled both my pen and my paper had I described it explicitly. But as a display of barbaric insolence, and a proof that time in its flow produces men with shameless morals, ripe for any wickedness, this alone will suffice, if I say, that I could not bear to disclose or relate even the tiniest word about what he did. And this was the work of a high priest. Oh, justice! The deed of the supreme high priest! nay, of one who claimed to be the president of the whole world, as indeed the Latins assert and believe, but this, too, is a bit of their boasting. For when the imperial seat was transferred from Rome hither to our native Queen of Cities, and the senate, and the whole administration, there was also transferred the arch-hieratical primacy. And the Emperors from the very beginning have given the supreme right to the episcopacy of Constantinople, and the Council of Chalcedon emphatically raised the Bishop of Constantinople to the highest position, and placed all the dioceses of the inhabited world under his jurisdiction. There can be no doubt that the insult done to the ambassadors was aimed at the king who sent them; not only because he scourged them, but also because he was the first to invent this new kind of outrage. For by his actions, the Pope suggested, I think, that the power of the King was despicable, and by this horrible outrage on his ambassadors that he, a demi-god, as it were, was treating with a demi-ass! The Pope consequently, by wreaking his insolence on the ambassadors, and sending them back to the King in the state I have mentioned, provoked a very great war. To prevent the King's becoming too insupportable by an alliance with Robert, he anticipated him in sending offers of peace to Robert, though before this he had not been friendly towards him. Hearing that Duke Robert had occupied Salernum, he started from Rome, and came to Beneventum, and after some intercommunication through ambassadors, they also had a personal interview in the following way. The Pope set out from Beneventum with his household troops, and Robert from Salernum with an army, and when the armies were at a convenient distance, each left his own men and advanced alone. The two then met, gave and took pledges and oaths, and then returned. The oaths were that the Pope would invest Robert with the dignity of king, and give him help against the Romans if the need should arise, whilst the Duke swore a counter-oath to assist the Pope whenever the latter called upon him. But truly these oaths taken by both of them were worthless. For the Pope was furiously incensed against the King, and in a hurry to begin war against him, whereas Duke Robert had his eyes fixed on the Roman Empire, and was gnashing his teeth, and whetting his anger like a wild boar. So these oaths amounted to no more; than words. And the pledges these barbarians gave to each other one day, they violated the next. After the meeting, Robert turned his bridle and hurried to Salernum. And that Pope (whom I can only call "abominable" when I recall his inhuman outrages on the ambassadors), the Pope clad in spiritual grace and evangelic peace, started out for civil war with all his energy and might; yes, he, the man of peace, and the disciple of the Man of Peace! For he immediately summoned the Saxons and their Counts Lantulphus[16], and Velcus[17], and besides other enticements held out to them, he promised to make them kings of all the West, and thus won them over to his side. You see how ever-ready a hand the Pope had for laying hands on the heads of kings, unheeding St. Paul's advice "Lay hands hastily on no man,"[18] for he bound the kingly fillet on the Duke of Lombardy's head, and crowned these two Saxons. When either side (to wit, Henry, King of Germany, and the Pope) had brought up their armies, and set them in battle array, directly the horn had sounded the attack, the lines dashed together, and there was fanned up by either side a great and long-continued battle. So many deeds of valour were done by both parties, and such was the endurance shewn by men already wounded by spear and arrow, that in a short time the whole plain was submerged in a sea of blood which flowed from the dying, and the survivors fought on, as if sailing on the abundant gore. In some places the soldiers got entangled by the dead bodies, and fell over, and were drowned in the river of blood. For if, as it is said, more than 30,000 men fell in that battle, what a stream of blood was poured forth, and how large a portion of the earth was defiled with gore! Both sides were, if I may so put it, of equal stature in the battle as long as Lantulphus directed the combat. But when he received a mortal wound, and straightway gave up the ghost, the Pope's lines gave way, and turned their backs to the enemy, and in their flight many were killed or wounded.

Henry rushed wildly after them, being all the more heartened in the pursuit because he had learnt that Lantulphus had fallen and become the prize of the enemy. By and by he desisted from the chase, and bade his army take a rest. Later on he got his army ready again, and hastened to Rome to besiege it. Hereupon, the Pope recalled the agreement and pledges Robert had given him, and sent an embassy to ask his help. At the same time. Henry, too, when he was starting on his march against the ancient city of Rome sent to ask his alliance. But Robert thought both of them silly for making such a request, and sent a verbal answer of some kind to the King, but to the Pope he indited a letter. His letter ran as follows; "Duke Robert to the great High-priest and his Overlord in God. I heard a talk of the attack made upon thee by thy enemies, but did not attach much real importance to the rumour as I knew that none would dare to raise his hand against thee. For what man in his senses would assail so great a father? As for me, I would have thee know that I am arming myself for a most serious war against a most formidable nation. For my campaign is against the Romans, who have filled every land and sea with their trophies. But to thee I acknowledge fidelity from the depths of my soul, and when need arises, I will prove it." And thus he dismissed the ambassadors of both those who had sought his help, the one with this letter, and the other with plausible excuses.

Chapter XIV[edit]

But we must not omit what he did in Lombardy before he arrived in Valona with his army. He was at all times a man of tyrannical and very sharp temper, and now he imitated the madness of Herod. Not being satisfied with the soldiers who had followed his fortune from the beginning, and were experienced in war, he recruited and equipped a new army, without any distinction of age. But he collected all, under age and over age, from all over Lombardy and Apulia, and pressed them into his service. There you could see children and boys, and pitiable old men, who had never, even in their dreams, seen a weapon; but were now clad in breastplates, carrying shields and drawing their bows most unskilfully and clumsily, and usually falling on their faces when ordered to march. These requisitions were naturally the cause of unending trouble throughout the country of Lombardy; everywhere were heard the lamentations of men and the weeping of women who shared the misfortunes of their kinsfolk. One would be mourning for her husband, who was over-age for service; another for her untried son; a third for her brother, who was a farmer or engaged in business. This behaviour of Robert's was as I have said, a counterpart of Herod's madness, or even worse, for the latter only vented, his rage on., babes, whilst Robert did so against boys and old men. Yet, in spite of his recruits being absolutely unpractised, Robert drilled them daily, and brought them into good discipline.

He did all this in Salernum, before he came to Hydruntum[19]. To that town he had sent on a very efficient army, to wait for him until he had settled everything in Lombardy, and given fitting answers to the ambassadors. He dispatched a further note to the Pope, however, saying that he had enjoined upon Roger, his son (whom he had appointed ruler of the whole of Apulia, in conjunction with his brother Boritylas), to waste no time in going with a formidable troop to the help of the Roman See against King Henry as soon as the Pope summoned him. But Bohemond, his younger son, he sent ahead with a powerful army to our territory to leap upon the country round Valona (or Aulon). Now, Bohemond took after his father in all things, in audacity, bodily strength, bravery, and untamable temper; for he was of exactly the same stamp as his father, and a living model of the latter's character. Immediately on arrival, he fell like a thunderbolt, with threats and irresistible dash upon Canina, Hiericho, and Valona, and seized them, and as he fought his way on, he would ever devastate and set fire to the surrounding districts. He was, in very truth, like the pungent smoke which precedes a fire, and a prelude of attack before the actual attack. These two, father and son, might rightly be termed " the caterpillar and the locust "; for whatever escaped Robert, that his son Bohemond took to him and devoured. However, do not let us cross to Valona with Robert yet, but examine first what he did on the opposite continent.

Chapter XV[edit]

Leaving Salernum, he came to Hydruntum, and there spent a few days waiting for his wife, Gaita (for she too accompanied her husband, and when dressed in full armour the woman was a fearsome sight). After he had embraced her on arrival, he set off again with his whole army, and took possession of Brindisi, the seaport which has the best harbour in the whole of Iapygia. After swooping down on this town he stayed there, eagerly awaiting the gathering together of his whole army, and of all his ships, transports and long ships of war alike; for he intended to sail for the opposite coast from this port. At the same time, he was also eagerly watching for an answer from the reigning monarch, Botaniates, who had seized the sceptre from the Emperor Michael Ducas; for while still at Salernum, Robert had sent one of the nobles in his cortege, Raoul by name, as ambassador to him. He had charged him with certain remonstrances to Botaniates, and apparently specious reasons for the impending war. These were that Botaniates had separated his daughter from her betrothed. Prince Constantine (to whom she was affianced, as I have stated above), and taken the crown from Constantine; therefore, he himself was getting ready for war because Botaniates had committed an injustice. And, moreover, he had sent some presents and letters promising his friendship to the Great Domestic and Commander of the Armies of the West (and this was my father, Alexius). Whilst awaiting these answers he kept quiet at Brindisi; but before the troops had all been collected there, or the greater part of the ships launched, Raoul returned from Byzantium. He brought no answer to Robert's denunciations, and this fanned the flames of the barbarian's anger afresh. But he was even more incensed by Raoul's laying before him arguments to dissuade him from the war against the Romans. The first was that the monk in his train was a deceiver, and cheat, and only impersonating the Emperor Michael, and that the whole story about him was a pure fabrication. For he told how he had seen Michael in the royal city after his deposition from the throne clad in a grey habit, and living in a monastery, as he had made it his special business to see the deposed king with his own eyes. Secondly, he gave news of the events which had occurred during his return journey - namely, that my father had grasped the sceptre (as I will recount later), driven Botaniates out of the kingdom, sent for Ducas' son, Constantine, the most distinguished of all men living, and had again given him a share in the government. Raoul had heard, this on his way, and brought it forward in the hope of persuading Robert to relinquish his military preparations. "For with what justice," he said, "can we go to war with Alexius, when it was Botaniates who was the author of the wrong done you, and who deprived your daughter Helen of the Roman throne? Wrongs done to us by one set of men should not make us wage war upon others who have never offended against justice. And if your war has no just basis, then all will be lost, ships, equipment, men, in fine, all your military preparations." These words exasperated Robert still further; he went quite mad, and nearly did Raoul personal violence. On the other hand, that fictitious Ducas, and pseudo-emperor Michael (whom we have called "Raictor"), waxed most indignant and angry, and did not know how to contain his wrath when it was so clearly proved that he was not the Emperor Ducas, but merely a fictitious king. The tyrant Robert had yet another cause for his fury against Raoul, for Raoul's brother Roger had deserted to the Romans, and had given them detailed information of the military preparations that were being made against them, so he burned to do Raoul some harm, and threatened him with instant death. Raoul, however, who was not at all slow to take flight, escaped to Bohemond, as being the nearest refuge. Raictor vented the most abominable threats against Raoul's brother, the deserter. With loud cries, and beatings of his thigh with his right hand, he implored Robert, saying, "One thing only I beg of you - if ever I recover the crown, and am restored to the throne, hand over Roger to me, and then, if I do not condemn him to the most miserable death, and crucify him in the middle of the city, then may God do so to me, and more also!" But as I write I have to laugh at the thought of these men's folly and infatuation, and especially at their mutual boastfulness. Robert, for his part, had as ostensible reason this pretender, whom he had used as a decoy, and presentment of the Emperor, his marriage-kinsman. He showed him in all the cities he visited, and roused all he could possibly persuade to rebellion, purposing, if the haphazards of war ended in success for himself, to knock the monk on the head, and cast him out with scorn; for when the hunt is over, the decoy, too, is thrown to the dogs. Raictor, on his side, nourished himself on vain hopes that some day he would attain great power; for such things often happen quite unexpectedly. In that case he would lay hold of the sceptre with firm hand, taking it for granted that the Roman people, and the army, would never call the barbarian Robert to the throne. In the meantime, he would use Robert as an instrument for the completion of the whole fabric of his intrigue. When I think of all this, a smile rises to my lips as I wield my pen by the light of my lamp.

Chapter XVI[edit]

Robert now collected all his forces at Brindisi, both ships and soldiers; the ships numbered 150 and the soldiers, when all ranks were counted together, came to 30,000; and each ship could transport 200 men with their armour and horses. The soldiers were fully equipped in this way, because the enemies they would meet on landing would probably be fully-armed horsemen. Robert intended crossing to Epidamnus, which we must call "Dyrrachium[20]," according to the present fashion. He had, indeed, thought of crossing from Hydruntum to Nicopolis, and seizing Naupactus and the adjacent country, and all the fortresses round about it. But as the stretch of sea between these two towns was far wider than between Brindisi and Dyrrachium, he chose the latter in preference to the former, not only because he preferred the quicker passage, but also to secure a calm one for the fleet. For the season was stormy, and as the sun was turning to the southern hemisphere, and approaching Capricorn, the days were growing shorter. Therefore, to prevent the fleet's setting out from Hydruntum at daybreak and sailing all night, and perhaps meeting heavy seas, he determined to proceed from Brindisi to Dyrrachium with all sails set. As the Adriatic Sea contracts here, the length of the passage was curtailed. He did not after all leave even his son Roger behind, as he had first planned when he appointed him Count of Apulia, but changed his mind for some inexplicable reason, and took him with him too. During his crossing to Dyrrachium, the force which he had detached gained possession of the very strongly fortified town of Corfu, and certain other of our forts. After receiving hostages from Lombardy, and Apulia, and raising taxes and contributions in money from the whole country, Robert hoped to land at Dyrrachium. Duke of all Illyricum at that time was George Monomachatus, who had been appointed by the Emperor Botaniates. Once, indeed, he had refused this mission, and he was by no means easily persuaded to take up this branch of service, but he finally went because two of the Emperor's barbarian servants (Borilus and Germanus, Scythians by extraction) bore a grudge against him. These men were ever inventing scandalous charges against him, and denouncing him to the Emperor, for they strung together whatever tales entered their heads, and inflamed his anger against him to such a pitch that, turning to the Queen Maria, he actually said, "I suspect this Monomachatus of being an enemy to the Roman Empire."

John, one of the Alani, and a devoted friend of Monomachatus, heard this, and as he was aware of the Scythians' spiteful and frequent accusations against him, he went to Monomachatus, and repeated to him both the Emperor's words and those of the Scythians, and advised him to consult his own interests. Thereupon, Monomachatus, a prudent man, approached the Emperor, and after appeasing him with skilful flattery, eagerly accepted the post at Dyrrachium. So, having taken leave of the Emperor previous to his departure for Epidamnus, and receiving his orders about the Duchy in writing (and those Scythians, Borilus and Germanus, did their best to expedite the matter), he quitted the royal city on the morrow for his destination, Epidamnus and the country of Illyricum. But he met my father Alexius near the so-called Pege; here a church has been built in honour of my mistress, the Virgin-mother of our Lord, which is famous among the churches of Byzantium. They saw each other there, and Monomachatus at once began an impassioned speech to the Great Domestic. He told him that he was being exiled because of their mutual friendship, and because of the envy of the Scythians, Borilus and Germanus. This covetous couple, he said, had turned the wheel, so to say, of their universal maliciousness against him in full revolution; and were now banishing him from his friends, and this beloved city, for seemingly good reasons. Thus he told his tale of woe in detail, and all the false information given about him to the Emperor, and all he had endured at the hands of these servants; and the Domestic of the West deigned to console him as much as possible, and verily he was well-fitted to relieve a soul bowed down with troubles. And saying finally that assuredly God would avenge these insults, and with a reminder to him never to forget their friendship, they parted, the one bound for Dyrrachium, and the other to enter the imperial city. When Monomachatus reached Dyrrachium he heard two pieces of news; firstly, the tyrant Robert's military preparations, and, secondly, the revolt of Alexius; so he carefully weighed what his own conduct should be. Ostensibly he displayed hostility to both, but he had really a deeper plan than that of open warfare. For the Great Domestic had informed him by letter of the late occurrences, namely, that he had been threatened with the loss of his eyes, and that, in consequence of this threat, and of the tyrannous act that was being practised, he had taken measures against his enemies. He called upon Monomachatus to rise in rebellion also on behalf of his friend, and to collect money wherever he could, and send it to him. "For," he wrote, "we are in need of money, and without money, nothing of what should be done, can be done." However, Monomachatus did not send money, but spoke kindly to the ambassadors, and instead of money, entrusted them with a letter conceived in this strain - he still preserved his old friendship for Alexius, and promised to retain it in the future; and, with regard to the money he ordered, he (Monomachatus) longed to send him as much as he wanted. "But," he wrote, "a point of justice restrains me. For I received this appointment from the Emperor Botaniates, and I swore the oath of fealty to him. Therefore, I should not appear, even in your eyes, a loyal subject as far as Emperors are concerned, were I at once to comply with your request. But if divine providence allots the imperial throne to you, then as I have been your friend from the beginning, so after this event I shall be your most faithful servant." This excuse Monomachatus made to my father, and tried to conciliate him (I mean my father) and Botaniates, simultaneously, but he also sent a much plainer message to the barbarian Robert, and then broke forth into open rebellion, and for this I must condemn him severely. But perhaps this kind of unstable conduct, ever changing with the changes in the government, is but natural; and all such men are prejudicial to the public weal, but steer a safe course for themselves, for they study nothing but their own personal interests, and even so they generally fail.

Behold, my steed has run off the high road of my history, but although he is out of hand, I must bring him back to our former road. Robert, indeed, had ever been wildly impatient to cross into our country, and was ever dreaming of Dyrrachium, but now, on receipt of Monomachatus' message, his ardour burst all restraint, and he pushed on the naval expedition with all his might and main, and hurried up the soldiers, and whipped up their courage by stimulating addresses. Monomachatus, having set things in trim in this direction, now began constructing a second place of refuge for himself in another place; For he won over Bodinus and Michaelas, the Ex-archs of Dalmatia by his letters, and influenced their decisions by opportune gifts; thus opening secretly, as it were, various doors for himself. For he reasoned that if he were to fail with Robert and Alexius, and be rejected by both of them, then he would turn deserter, and go straight to Bodinus and Michaelas in Dalmatia. For, supposing that Robert and Alexius declared themselves his enemies, he placed his remaining hopes on Michaelas and Bodinus, and arranged to flee to them, should the feelings of Robert and Alexius be plainly adverse to him. But here we will let these matters rest. It is high time I should turn to my father reign, and relate how and why he became ruler. I do not intend to narrate his life before he became ruler, but all his successes and failures as Emperor; if we shall occasionally find him unsuccessful in the course of the long stretch we are to traverse, I should not spare him for being my father if anything, he did struck me as not well done; nor shall I gloss over his successes to avoid the under-current of suspicion that it is a daughter writing about her father, for in either case I should be wronging truth. This then is my aim, as I have repeatedly stated already, and the subject I have chosen is the Emperor, my father. We will leave Robert in the spot to which our history has brought him, and now consider the Emperor's doings. We shall reserve the wars and battles against Robert for a later book.


  1. Roussel of Bailleul, a Norman mercenary who proclaimed his independence in 1073
  2. or "Tutush"
  3. Eurpides
  4. Palamedes had outwitted Odysseus
  5. Black Sea
  6. or "they were all mounted on Thessalian horses"
  7. river Vardar
  8. Clouds 192
  9. Iliad 3:363
  10. Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia and Calabria, son of Tancred
  11. Demosthenes 234,14
  12. Salerno
  13. Ebal
  14. Gregory VII
  15. Henry IV
  16. Ludolf
  17. Welf
  18. I Tim 22
  19. Otranto
  20. Durrazzo