, Anna Dalassene

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Anna Dalassene
b: 1025
d: 1102
Anna Dalassene (Greek: ???a ?a?ass???, 1025–1102) was an importantByzantine noblewoman who played a significant role in the rise of theKomnenoi to power in the eleventh century. As Augusta, a title bestowedupon her rather than his empress-consort by her son, Alexios I Komnenos,she guided the empire during his many absences for long militarycampaigns against Turkish and other incursions into the Byzantine empire.As empress-mother, she exerted more influence and power than theempress-consort, Irene Doukaina, whom she hated because of past intrigueswith the Doukas family.

Anna was the daughter of Alexios Charon, the imperial lieutenant inItaly, and Adriana Dalassene[citation needed]. Her mother''s family, theDalassenoi, came from Dalasa on the river Euphrates. Her retention of hermother''s family name throughout her life, even after she had married, isan indication that her mother''s family was more prestigious (at least atthe time) than that of the Komnenoi.[1] Contrary to Byzantine courtprotocol and expectancies and similar to her predecessor, EudokiaMakrembolitissa, Anna was to be a new model of a powerful familymatriarch.

In 1044, Anna was married to John Komnenos, whose brother Isaac waschosen by a faction of rebel Byzantine generals to succeed the very oldand inept Michael VI Stratiotikos. As a result, John was granted thetitles of kouropalates and domestikos ton scholon of the West (commanderof the western armies). Anna''s equivalent of these titles, which appearedon seals, were kouropalatissa and domestikissa. In this regard, she was ahigh-ranking personage at court, second only to the empress and herdaughter. Her eldest child, Manuel, was born in 1045. However, herambition did not end with bearing eight children: Manuel, Maria, Isaac,Eudokia, Theodora, Alexios, Adrianos and Nikephoros.

Unfortunately for Anna, Isaac became very ill and was persuaded by thepatriarchs Michael Keroularios and Constantine Leichoudes to abdicate thethrone in 1059. Isaac wanted to pass the throne to John, but he would notaccept it and Constantine X Doukas was chosen as successor. According tothe family historian, Nikephoros Bryennios, Anna was moved to "tears andgroans" to make John change his mind but he did not see any advantage tothe family, and Anna was forced to accept the consequences. As ahistorical aside, her granddaughter, Anna Komnene, was to meet the samefate when she was unsuccessful in persuading her husband, the sameNikephoros Bryennios, to usurp the throne from her own brother, John IIKomnenos, after the death of Alexios I in 1118.

As a result, because of these unsuccessful attempts to seize the imperialcrown, she sustained a bitterness for the Doukas family and "lived forintrigue until she had succeeded in placing her son on the throne". Afterher husband''s death in 1067, Anna was to rule her family as a matriarch,constantly maneuvering to advance her own family.

After the end of Constantine X Doukas''s reign (1059–1067), she shrewdlysupported Constantine''s widow, Eudokia Makrembolitissa, and her newhusband Romanos IV Diogenes (r. 1068–1071) against the rest of Eudokia''sformer in-laws, who disapproved of the marriage. Anna was to be one ofthe strongest supporters of the new emperor and encouraged her sons toserve in his military campaigns. Despite his very young age of fourteen,Anna''s eldest son, Manuel, was appointed kouropalates and strategosautokrator (commander-in-chief). Although captured by the Turks, he wasset free through the diplomacy of Chrysokoulos. Manuel however died of anear infection in 1071 and after performing his funeral rites, Anna senther third son, Alexios, to serve in his place. However, Anna''s secondson, Isaac, was already serving in the army and Romanos Diogenes did notrecruit Alexios out of consideration for his mother.[2]

The Doukai returned to power after the defeat of Romanos IV by the SeljukTurks at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. Anna however retained herloyalty to Diogenes and was soon targeted by the new government (by herold enemy, the Caesar John Doukas, uncle of Michael VII) for it. She wasput on trial after a letter she sent to Diogenes was intercepted byimperial spies. However, during the inquest the Komnenoi asserted thatthe documents were forged. Bryennios states that during her trial fortreason at the royal palace, she produced an icon of Christ from underher outer robe and proclaimed her innocence and that "Christ, the SupremeJudge who knows the secrets of her heart was the judge between them andherself.[3] Her judges were allegedly "overawed by her dignity andseverity", but were forced to convict her for treason in 1072 and banishher to a monastery on the island of Prinkipos, a favorite place of exilefor women and their immediate family. Although she proclaimed herinnocence, the fact that she secured a marriage for her daughter,Theodora, to Constantine, son of Romanos IV, makes it very likely thatshe was still intriguing to restore Romanos to the throne.[citationneeded] Some of her seals bear the titles monache ("nun") as well askouropalatissa so Anna either became a nun on the death of her husband orduring this forced exile on the island.[4] A change of fortune soon camewhen she was recalled to Constantinople in 1073 following the loss ofpower of the Caesar over Michael VII and the ascendancy ofNikephoritzes.[5]

Anna was to play prominent role in the coup d''état of 1081, along withthe current empress, Maria of Alania. First married to Michael VII Doukasand secondly to Nikephoros III Botaneiates, she was preoccupied with thefuture of her son by Michael VII, Constantine Doukas. Nikephoros IIIintended to leave the throne to one of his close relatives, and thisresulted in Maria''s alliance with the Komnenoi. The real driving forcebehind this political alliance was Anna Dalassene.[6]

Already closely connected to the Komnenoi through her cousin Irene''smarriage to Isaac Komnenos, the Komnenoi brothers were able to see theempress under the pretense of a friendly family visit. Furthermore, toaid the conspiracy Maria had adopted Alexios as her son, though she wasonly five years older than he.[7] Maria was persuaded to do so on theadvice of her own "Alans" and her eunuchs, who had been instigated to dohis by Isaac Komnenos. Knowing Anna''s tight hold on her family, it musthave been with her implicit approval that he be adopted.[citation needed]As a result, Alexios and Constantine, Maria''s son, were now adoptivebrothers and both Isaac and Alexios took an oath that they wouldsafeguard his rights as emperor.[8] By secretly giving inside informationto the Komnenoi, Maria was an invaluable ally.[9]

Just as on previous occasions, the betrothal of her granddaughter to arelative of Botaneiates'' did not stop Anna''s intrigues against the newregime. As stated in the Alexiad, when Isaac and Alexios leftConstantinople in mid-February 1081 to raise an army against Botaneiates,Anna quickly and surreptitiously mobilized the remainder of the familyand took refuge in the Hagia Sophia. From there she negotiated with theemperor for the safety of family members left in the capital, whileprotesting her sons'' innocence of hostile actions.

Under the falsehood of making a vesperal visit to worship at the church,she deliberately excluded the grandson of Botaneiates and his loyaltutor, met with Alexios and Isaac and fled for the forum of Constantine.The tutor found them missing and eventually found them on the palacegrounds but she was able to convince him that they would return to thepalace shortly. Then to gain entrance to both the outer and innersanctuary of the church the women pretended to the gatekeepers that theywere pilgrims from Cappadocia who had spent all their funds and wanted toworship before starting their return trip. However, before they were togain entry into the sanctuary, Straboromanos and royal guards caught upwith them to summon them back to the palace. Anna then protested that thefamily was in fear for their lives, her sons were loyal subjects (Alexiosand Isaac were discovered absent without leave), and had learned of aplot by enemies of the Komnenoi to have them both blinded and had,therefore, fled the capital so they may continue to be of loyal serviceto the emperor.[10][clarification needed]

She refused to go with them and demanded that they allow her to pray tothe Mother of God for protection. This request was granted and Anna thenmanifested her true theatrical and manipulative capabilities: "She wasallowed to enter. As if she were weighed down with old age and worn outby grief, she walked slowly and when she approached the actual entranceto the sanctuary made two genuflections; on the third she sank to thefloor and taking firm hold of the sacred doors, cried in a loud voice:"Unless my hands are cuff off, I will not leave this holy place except onone condition: that I receive the emperor''s cross as guarantee ofsafety".[11]

Nikephoros III Botaneiates was forced into a public vow that he wouldgrant protection to the family. Straboromanos tried to give her hiscross, but for Anna this was not sufficiently large enough so that allbystanders could witness the oath. She also demanded that the cross bepersonally sent by Botaneiates as a vow of his good faith. He obliged,sending a complete assurance for the family with his own cross. At theemperor''s further insistence, and for their own protection they tookrefuge at the convent of Petrion, where eventually they were joined byIrene Doukaina''s mother, Maria of Bulgaria.

Botaneiates allowed them to be treated as refugees rather than guests.They were allowed to have family members bring in their own food and wereon good terms with the guards from whom they learned the latest news.[12]Anna was highly successful in three important aspects of the revolt: shebought time for her sons to steal imperial horses from the stables andescape the city, she distracted the emperor and gave her sons time togather and arm their troops and she gave a false sense of security toBotaneiates that there was no real treasonous coup against him.

Isaac and Alexios Komnenos entered the capital victoriously on April 1,1081. However, even this fortunate turn of events did not deter Anna frompreventing the Doukas family from sharing the imperial coronation - shehad never approved of the marriage of Alexios and Irene Doukaina, and thesituation became acute now that the teenage Irene would becomeAugusta.[13] Although Alexios'' candidature for the throne had been agreedupon by the Doukai and the Komnenoi at the army camp at Schiza, the elderIsaac still had supporters.

The fact that Alexios was crowned on April 4 while Irene was crowned afull week later is highly suspicious. It is likely that Anna and Maria ofAlania had planned for Irene''s departure and wanted to rule with Alexiosas "both" mothers and wife. The latter was already an empress mothertwice-over and far more experienced than the naive, teenaged, childlessIrene who was yet to have any children. In her own account of this event,Anna Komnene asserts that the Komnenoi refused to drive Maria from thepalace because of her many kindnesses and because "she was in a foreigncountry, without relatives, without friends, with nobody whatever of herown folk''.[14]

However, Irene was finally crowned by the patriarch Cosmas. AnnaDalassene however was allowed to choose the next patriarch, EustratiusGaridas as a compensation.[15]

From the Komnenian seizure of power in 1081 until either her banishmentor death in 1100 or 1102, she was to play a very public role inadministering the military and civil services of the empire. Her sonAlexios was for many years under her influence. She was howeverconstantly at odds with her daughter-in-law Irene and had, perhapsegregiously, assumed total responsibility for the upbringing andeducation of her granddaughter Anna Komnene.

Given the culture and traditions of medieval Greek Byzantium, it isunusual that Anna wielded such power over her son as well as the empire.Though he needed a reliable advisor, and essentially owed his mother forhis accession to the throne because of her intrigues[16] to stay in apowerful position for fifteen years after his succession until he was inhis mid-forties defies credulity. As middle age approached, Alexios wasdetermined to rule in his own right. After the military campaigns of the1080s, he was able to stay in the capital and became frustrated over ofAnna''s tight hold on the administration, however productive this seemedto be. This was suggested by the writer Zonaras who states that Anna wasin power for so long that Alexios became frustrated by that he wasemperor in name alone.[17] Anna, always one to sense the changing windsof fortune sensed his frustration, and decided to leave before she wasforced out and retired to her private apartments attached to her monasticfoundation of the Christ Pantepoptes. The germs of his discontent mayhave started as early as 1089 when in an imperial communication hecomplained of Anna''s generosity to the monastery of Docheiariou.[18]

Sources are conflicted concerning the year of Anna''s retirement anddeath. Anna Komnene is strangely silent about her disappearance fromcourt and this may suggest that her grandmother may have been involved insomething questionable [19]—perhaps a heretical sect such as theBogomils. However, we know that she was wielding her power when the FirstCrusade passed through the city in late 1096 or early 1097, perhapsretiring after their departure [20] Since we are not sure of the date andreason of retirement, Zonaras records that she resided ''imperially withhonor'' at her foundation for several years, dying in extreme old age justover a year before her son, Isaac, who died sometime between 1100 and1102. Most ironically, she died on the day forecast by an Athenianastrologer for Alexios himself [21]

Under the Komenian dynasty, women continued to not only retain theirroles set by previous empresses but made great strides in foundingmonasteries, patronizing churchmen, theologians and literary figures andbeing more assertive in imperial administration: most prominent in suchroles were Anna Dalassene and her contemporary, Maria of Alania.

Manuel Komnenos, protostrator
Maria Komnene, married Michael Taronites
Isaac Komnenos, sebastokrator, married a Georgian princess named Irene
Eudokia Komnene, married Nikephoros Melissenos
Theodora Komnene, married Constantine Diogenes (Mother of AnnaDiogenissa) and had descendants.
Alexios Komnenos, general and emperor (r. 1081–1118), married IreneDoukaina and had descendants.
Adrianos Komnenos, protosebastos, married Zoe Doukaina
Nikephoros Komnenos, droungarios of the fleet
  • 1025 - Birth -
  • 1102 - Death -
Anna Dalassene
1025 - 1102
Family Group Sheet - Child
PARENT (M) Alexios Charon
Marriageto Adriana Dalassene
PARENT (F) Adriana Dalassene
Marriageto Alexios Charon
FAnna Dalassene
Marriageto John Komnenos
Family Group Sheet - Spouse
PARENT (M) John Komnenos
Death12 JUL 1067
Marriageto Anna Dalassene
FatherManuel Erotikos Komnenos
PARENT (F) Anna Dalassene
Marriageto John Komnenos
FatherAlexios Charon
MotherAdriana Dalassene
FTheodora Komnene
Marriageto Constantine Diogenes
MAlexios I Komnenos
Death15 AUG 1118
Marriageto Irene Doukaina
Descendancy Chart
Anna Dalassene b: 1025 d: 1102
John Komnenos b: 1015 d: 12 JUL 1067
Agnes of Antioch b: 1154 d: ABT 1184
Alexios I Komnenos b: 1056 d: 15 AUG 1118
Piroska of Hungary b: ABT 1080 d: 13 AUG 1134
Edward II b: 25 APR 1284 d: 21 SEP 1327
Alexios III Angelos b: ABT 1153 d: 1211