ANNA Komnene (aka Anna Comnena, 1083-1153 CE) was the eldest daughter of Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos(r. 1081-1118 CE) and the author of a lengthy biography of her father’s reign, the Alexiad. Although not an impartial history, Anna’s position at court, her thorough research of sources and a good measure of pithy observation and insightful opinion have all ensured the Alexiad remains one of the most important and colourful primary sources of Byzantine history.
Anna Komnene was born in 1083 CE in the Porphyra, the purple room of the Byzantine royal palace in Constantinople where royal babies were usually born and which was a potent symbol of royal legitimacy. She was the eldest daughter of Alexios I Komnenos and his wife the Empress Irene Doukaina. The emperor had no sons and so, for a time, Anna was the official heir following her betrothal to Constantine Doukas, the son of Michael VII (r. 1071-1078 CE). Constantine was nine years older than Anna and the empress-to-be later wrote of him in the following glowing terms:
“[Constantine was] seemingly endowed with a heavenly beauty not of this world, his manifold charms captivated the beholder, in short, anyone who saw him would say, He is like the painter’s Cupid” (Herrin, 233)