alexiad_of_anna_comnena

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Unformatted text preview: (flan/x ‘ HLQX/Ab 0F raw/pr THE ALEXIAD OF ANNA COMNENA i” campaign. As for Alexius, he joyfully returned with his men to Little Nicaea and after staying there for a couple of days on the third left for Adrianople, where he remained for some time in the house of Silvester. It was at this moment that the Cuman leaders separated from the rest of their army and came an mum to the emperor, really hoping to deceive him, but pre- tending to be deserters anxious for an immediate peace settle— ment. Their idea was that negotiations would waste time; their fellow-countrymen would thus get a flying start on their match. So having waited three days, on the night of the third they set out for home. Alexius saw through the trick and sent fast couriers to warn the officers on guard at the paths over the Zygum: they were to be constantly alert for an opportunity to intercept them; there must be no relaxation. But news came that the whole Cuman army was already well on its way. All available Romans were rushed to a place called Scutari, eighteen stades from Adrianople, and on the next day arrived at Agathoniké. There Alexius discovered that the enemy were still in the Akrilevo district (not very far from both these places). Accordingly he went in that direction and from a long way off he saw innumerable camp-fires which they had lighted. After reconnoitring the position he called for Nicolas Mavro— cataealon and other senior officers. With them he debated what to do. It was decided to summon the leaders of the mercenar— ies, Ouzas (a Sarmatian), Karatzes (a Scyth) and the half—caste Monastras. They were instructed to have fifteen or more watch-fires lighted at every tent so that when the Cumans saw them they would believe the Roman army was enormous; they would then become panic-stricken and lose courage for any future attack. The orders were carried out and the Cumans were duly frightened. Early next morning the emperor armed himself and began the battle with an assault. Both sides fought well, but eventually the Cumans turned away. The Romans thereupon split up: the light-armed were sent on ahead to pursue the enemy, while Alexius himself, when they were already in headlong flight, also took up the chase. He caught up with them near the ‘Iron Defile’. Many were slain, but most were captured alive. The Roman vanguard returned with 306 COM/V8714 (, 19—!) BOOK TEN all the Cuman booty. The whole of that night was spent by Alexius on the mountain-ridge of the Iron Defile while a violent storm raged, but by daybreak he arrived at Goloé. There he stayed for a day and a night in order to honour all those who had distinguished themselves in the battle; they were handsomely rewarded. Now that the plan had been successfully accomplished, he cheerfully dismissed them all to their respective homes and two days and nights later he was back in the palace. After a brief rest from his many labours the emperor dis- covered that the Turks were engaged in general plunder, over- running the interior of Bithynia. On the other side the afi'aits of the west claimed his attention, but he was more concerned with the Turks (the trouble there was more urgent). To deal with them he conceived a project of really major importance, worthy of his genius: the plan was to protect Bithynia against their incursions by a canal. It is worthwhile to describe how it was done. The coastline runs straight for the village of Chele, while another stretch of coast turns towards the north; these, with the River Sangaris, enclose a considerable tract of land. Because there was no one to oppose them the Ishmaelites,” who have been bad neighbours to us for a long time, easily ravaged it. They made their incursions through the Maryan- deni and from beyond the river, and when they crossed it . Nicomedia in particular suEered from their attacks. Naturally tion; above all he wanted to ensure the safety of Nicomedia. South of Lake Baane he noticed a very long trench and when he followed its course to the end he concluded from its posi- tion and shape that the exmvation had not been merely accidental, nor was it the result of some natural process, but the deliberate work of some human hand. After much investigation he was told by some persons that Anastasia: Dikouros“ had indeed superintended its digging. What his purpose had been they could not say. To Alexius anyhow it seemed clear that Anastasius wanted to divert water from the lake into this artificial gully. Once he had been led to the same ao.Anothetmme£or'I‘urlss. ar.Emperot£som49|to518. 507 % I 1 l i l . THE ALEXIAD OF ANNA COMNENA ll idea he ordered the trench to be dug to a great depth, but fearing that at the point where lake and canal met it might be possible to get across, he built an extremely strong fort there, completely secure and proof against all assaults, not only because of the water, but also because of the height and thick- ness of its walls — for which reason it.was called the Iron Tower. Even today it constitutes a city in front of a city, an outlying bastion to protect a wall. The emperor himself directed its construction from early morning till evening, despite the soaring temperatures (the sun was passing the summer solstice). He had to endure both scorching heat and the dust. Enormous sums of money were spent to ensure that the walls should be really strong and impregnable. He paid generous wages to the men who dragged the stones, one by one, even if fifty or a hundred workers were involved at a time. The money attracted not casual labourers, but all the soldiers and their servants, natives and foreigners alike; they were glad to move stones for such liberal pay under the direction of the emperor in person. To them he seemed like a prize-giver at the Games. He made skilful use of the crowds who flocked to help and the transport of these huge blocks of stone was made easier. It was typical of Alexius: he thought deeply about a project and then worked with tremendous energy to complete it. Such were the events of the emperor’s reign up to the . . . indiction of the . . . year}1 He had no time to relax before he heard a rumour that countless Frankish armies were approaching. He dreaded their arrival, knowing as he did their uncontrollable passion, their erratic character and their irresolution, not to mention the other peculiar traits of the Kelt, with their inevitable consequences: their greed for money, for example, which always led them, it seemed, to break their own agreements without scruple for any chance reason. He had consistently heard this said of them and it was abundantly justified. So far from despairing, however, he made every efiort to prepare for war if need arose. What actually happened was more far-reaching and terrible than rumour suggested, for the whole of the west and all the bar- 21. Anna forgot the dates, or maybe never revised the text. 30 8 barians who lived between the Adriatic and the Straits of Gibraltar migrated in a body to Asia, marching across Europe country by country with all their households. The reason for this mifuiovement is to be found more or less in the following 0 BOOK TEN events. certain Kelt, called Peter, with the surname Kouk- oupetros,13 left to worship at the Holy Sepulchre and after suffering much ill-treatment at the hands of the Turks and Saracens who were plundering the whole of Asia, he returned home with difficulty. Unable to admit defeat, he wanted to make a second attempt by the same route, but realizing the folly of trying to do this alone (worse things might happen to him) he worked out a clever scheme. He decided to preach in all the Latin countries. A divine voice, he said, commanded him to proclaim to all the counts in France that all should depart from their homes, set out to worship at the Holy Shrine and with all their soul and might strive to liberate Jerusalem from the Agarenes.“ Surprisingly, he was success- ful. It was as if he had inspired every heart with some divine oracle. Kelts assembled from all parts, one after another, with. arms and horses and all the other equipment for war. Full of enthusiasm and ardour they thronged every highway, and with these warriors came a host of civilians, outnumbering the sand of the sea shore or the stars of heaven, carrying palms and bearing crosses on their shoulders. There were women and children, too, who had left their own countries. Like tribu- taries joining a river from all directions they streamed towards us in full force, mostly through Dacia. The arrival of this mighty host was preceded by locusts, which abstained from the wheat but made frightful inroads on the vines. The pro- phets of those days interpreted this as a sign that the Keltic army would refrain from interfering in the affairs of Christians but bring dreadful affliction on the barbarian Ishmaelites, who Were the slaves of drunkenness and wine and Dionysos. The 23. Steven Runciman Suggests that than or kiokia (Pimrd words) meaning ‘little’ may be the origin of this name. He was known to his contemporaries as Peter the Little but we know him as Peter the Hermit. 24. Another name (like Ishmaelites) for the Turks, i.e. descendants of Hagar. 509 77/ I THE ALEXIAD 0F ANNA COMNENA 9 Ishmaelites are indeed dominated by Dionysos and Eros; they indulge readily in every kind of sexual licence, and if they are circumcised in the flesh they are certainly not so in their passions. In fact, the Ishmaelites are nothing more than slaves — trebly slaves — of the vices of Aphrodite.” Hence they reverence and worship Astarte and Ashtaroth, and in their land the figure of the moon and the golden image of Chobarz" are considered of major importance. Corn, because it is not heady and at the same time is most nourishing, has been accepted as the symbol of Christianity. In the light of this the diviners interpreted the references to vines and wheat. So much for the prophecies. The incidents of the barbarians’ advance followed in the order I have given and there was something strange about it, which intelligent people at least would notice. The multitudes did not arrive at the same moment, nor even by the same route — how could they cross the Adriatic en matte after setting out from different countries in such great numbers P - but they made the voyage in separate groups, some first, some in a second party and others after them in order, until all had arrived, and then they began their march across Epirus. Each army, as I have said, was preceded by a plague of locusts, so that everyone, having observed the phenomenon several times, came to recognize locusts as the forerunners of Frankish battalions. They had already begun to cross the Straits of Lombardy in small groups when the emperor summoned cer- tain leaders of the Roman forces and sent them to the area round Dyrrachium and Avlona, with instructions to receive the voyagers kindly and export from all countries abundant supplies for them along their route; then to watch them care- fully and follow, so that if they saw them making raids or running off to plunder the neighbouring districts, they could check them by light skirmishes. These officers were accom- 25. Anna is unfair to the Mohammedans, but other authors accuse them of excessive wine-bibbing. She seems to be unaware that Aphrodite, Astarte and Ashtaroth are identical goddesses of love. 26. Chobar (or Chabar), meaning ‘The Great’, was the name given by the Saracens to the goddess of love. ‘Moon’ should perhaps be sup- planted by ‘star’ (the Greek arm»: may refer to Lucifer). For the whole passage see Buckler, pp. 530—32. 310 v—vi BOOK TEN panied by interpreters who understood the Latin language; their duty was to quell any incipient trouble between natives and pilgrims. I would like here to give a clearer and more detailed account of the matter. The report of Peter’s preaching spread everywhere, and the first to sell his land and. set out on the road to Jerusalem was Godfrey.” He was a very rich man, extremely proud of his noble birth, his own courage and the glory of his family. (Every Kelt desired to surpass his fellows.) The upheaval that ensued as men and women took to the road was unprece- dented within living memory. W truth 1e ' ' at Our Lor s tomb and PW! W1; u 11 its a ture as a natural conse uence of the edition. Bohemond disturbed the morale of many nobler men because he still cherished his old grudge against the emperor. Peter, after his preaching campaign, was the first to cross the Lom- bardy Straits, with 80,000 infantry and 100,000 horsemen. He reached the capital via Hungary.28 The Kelts, as one might guess, are in any case an exceptionally hotheaded race and passionate, but let them once find an inducement and they become irresistible. The emperor knew what Peter had suffered before from the Turks and advised him to wait for the other counts to arrive, but he refused, confident in the number of his followers. He crossed the Sea of Marmara and pitched camp near a small place called Helenopolis. Later some Normans, 10,000 in all, joined him but detached themselves from the rest of the army and ravaged the outskirts of Nicaea, acting with horrible cruelty to the whole population; they cut in pieces some of the babies, impaled others on wooden spits and roasted them over a fire; old people were subjected to every kind of torture. The 27. Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine. 1.8. The Crusaders arrived at Constantinople on I August 1096. They crossed the Bosphorus on 6 August. The attack on Nicaea, which was the hmdquartets of the Seljuq sultan (Kilij Arslan), took place in September. 511 THE ALEXIAD or ANNA COMNENA vi inhabitants of the city, when they learnt what was happening, threw open their gates and charged out against them. A fierce battle ensued, in which the Normans fought with such spirit that the Nicaeans had to retire inside their citadel. The enemy therefore returned to Helenopolis with all the booty. There an argument started between them and the rest (who had not gone on the raid) — the usual quarrel in such cases — for the latter were green with envy. That led to brawling, whereupon the daredevil Normans broke away for a second time and took Xerigordos by assault. The sultan’s reaction was to send Elkhanes with a strong force to deal with them. He arrived at Xerigotdos and captured it; of the Normans some were put to the sword and others taken prisoner. At the same time Elkhanes made plans to deal with the remainder, still with Koukoupetros. He laid ambushes in suitable places, hoping that the enemy on their way to Nicaea would fall into the trap unawares and be killed. Knowing the Keltic love of money he also enlisted the services of two determined men who were to go to Peter’s camp and there announce that the Normans, having seized Nicaea, were sharing out all the spoils of the city. This story had an amazing effect on Peter’s men; they were thrown into confusion at the words ‘ share ’ and ‘ money ’; without a moment’s hesitation they set out on the Nicaea road in complete disorder, practically heedless of military discipline and the proper arrangement which should mark men going off to war. As I have said before, the Latin race at all times is unusually greedy for wealth, but when it plans to invade a country, neither reason nor force can restrain it. They set out helter—skelter, regardless of their individual companies. Near the Drakon they fell into the Turkish ambuscade and were miserably slaughtered. So great a multitude of Kelts and Normans died by the Ishmaelite sword that when they gathered the remains of the fallen, lying on every side, they heaped up, I will not say a mighty ridge or hill or peak, but a mountain of considerable height and depth and width, so huge was the mass of bones. Some men of the same race as the slaughtered barbarians later, when they were building a wall like those of a city, used the bones of the dead as pebbles to 312. vi-vii BOOK TEN fill up the cracks. In a way the city became their tomb. To this very day it stands with its encircling wall built of mixed stones and bones. When the killing was over, only Peter with a hand- ful of men returned to Helenopolis. The Turks, wishing to capture him, again laid an ambush, but the emperor, who had heard of this and indeed of the terrible massacre, thought it would be an awfulthing if Peter also became a prisoner. Constantine Euphorbenus Catacalon (already mentioned often in this history) was accordingly sent with powerful contin— gents in warships across the straits to help him. At his approach the Turks took to their heels. Without delay Catacalon picked up Peter and his companions (there were only a few) and brought them in safety to Alexius, who re- minded Peter of his foolishness in the beginning and added that these great misfortunes had come upon him through not listening to his advice. With the usual Latin arrogance Peter disclaimed responsibility and blamed his men for them, be- cause (said he) they had been disobedient and followed their own whims. He called them brigands and robbers, considered unworthy therefore by the Saviour to worship at His Holy Sepulchre. Some Latins, after the pattern of Bohemond and his cronies, because they had long coveted the Roman Empire and wished to acquire it for themselves, found in the preaching of Peter an excuse and caused this great upheaval by deceiving more innocent people. They sold their lands on the pretence that they were leaving to fight the Turks and liberate the Holy Sepulchre. A certain Hugh}9 brother of the King of France, with all the pride of a Nauatos in his noble birth and wealth and power, as he was about to leave his native country (ostensibly for a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre) sent an absurd message to the emperor proposing that he (Hugh) should be given a magnificent reception: ‘Know, Emperor, that I am the King of Kings, the greatest of all beneath the heavens. It is my will that you should meet me on my arrival and receive me with the 2.9. Hugh of Vermandois, younger son of Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev. Despite his extraordinary bombast he had made little mark in French politics. See Runciman, p. :42. 313 THE ALEXIAD OF ANNA COMNENA vii pomp and ceremony due to my noble birth.’ When this letter reached Alexius, John the son of Isaac the sebastocrator hap- pened to be Duke of Dyrrachium, and Nicolas Mavrocata— calon, commander of the fleet, had anchored his ships at intervals round the harbour there. From this base he made frequent voyages of reconnaissance to prevent pirate ships sailing by unnoticed. To these two men the emperor now sent urgent instructions: the Duke was to keep watch by land and sea for Hugh’s arrival and inform Alexius at once when he came; he was also to receive him with great pomp; the admiral was exhorted to keep a constant vigil — there must be no relaxation or negligence whatever. Hugh reached the coast of Lombardy safely and forthwith despatched envoys to the Duke of Dyrrachium. There were twenty-four of them in all, armed with breastplates and greaves of gold and accompanied by Count William the Carpenter 3° and Elias (who had deserted from the emperor at Thessaloniea). They addressed the duke as follows: ‘Be it known to you, Duke, that our Lord Hugh is almost here. He brings with him from Rome the golden standard of St Petersn Understand, moreover, that he is supreme commander of the Frankish army. See to it then that he is accorded a reception worthy of his rank and yourself prepare to meet him.’ While the envoys were delivering this message, Hugh came down via Rome to Lombardy, as I have said, and set sail for Illyricum from Bari, but on the crossing he was esught by a tremendous storm. Most of his ships, with their rowers and marines, were lost. Only one ship, his own, was throWn up on the coast somewhere between Dyrrachium and a place called Pales, and that was half-wrecked. Two coastguards on the lookout for his arrival found him, saved by a m...
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