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The Genesis of Fratricide: An Analysis of Growing Secular and Ethnic Tensions between Byzantium and the West in the Cont...
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091523/00635
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Title: The Genesis of Fratricide: An Analysis of Growing Secular and Ethnic Tensions between Byzantium and the West in the Context of the First Crusade
Series Title: Journal of Undergraduate Research
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: Scruby, Stephen
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: Fall 2012
Subjects / Keywords: Byzantium
Ethnic Stereotypes
Anna Comnena
Guibert de Nogent
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Abstract: Both Anna Comnena and Guibert of Nogent held deep misgivings concerning other peoples—Guibert toward easterners, Anna toward the denizens of western Europe. However, in singular instances, both authors stepped away from their prejudices. Guibert of Nogent and Anna Comnena found worth and honor in specific individuals belonging to their factions’ enemies. Of further note is that both authors’ objects of admiration were women. The importance of these two surprising instances of the admiration of the “other” cannot be understated. By singling out honorable individuals among their enemies, Anna and Guibert revealed their most dearly held values.
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Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: sobekcm - UF00091523_00602
System ID: UF00091523:00644


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University of Florida | Journal of Undergradua te Research | Volume 14, Issue 1 | Fall 2012 1 The Genesis of Fratricide: An Analysis of Growing Secular and Ethnic Tensions between Byzantium and the West in the Context of the First Crusade Stephen Scruby College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Florida Both Anna Comnena and Guibert of Nogent held deep misgivings concerning other peoples Guibert toward easterners, Anna toward the denizens of western Europe. However, in singular instances, both authors stepped away from their prejudices. Guibert of N ogent and Anna Comnena found worth and honor understated. By singling out h onorable individuals among their enemies, Anna and Gui bert revealed their most dearly held values. brought him into direct conflict with the Byzantines, he needed to justify his war aga inst them. 1 Guiscard went to great lengths to legitimize this belligerence towards the Byzantines by means of an aggressive propaganda campaign that built upon and manipulated pre existing anti Byzantine and anti Greek stereotypes. By the 1080s, as Guiscar d and his son Bohemond were preparing to invade the Byzantine held Balkans, this campaign had reached its apogee. Anti Byzantine stereotypes were especially prevalent in Italy during the preceding century. 2 Liutprand of Cremona, who had visited Constantino ple as 3 Norman propaganda capitalized on the feminine characterization of Greeks by the Lombard bishop. The Lombard chronicler Amato of Montecassino believed Norman seizures of Byzantine lands to be divine punishments for their 4 Amato became a significant contributor to the Norm an propaganda campaign, writing his History of the Normans during the height of Norman clashes with Byzantine forces in southern Italy. For their part, the Byzantines received the freshly invigorated Despite this vortex of political and ethnic hostility, the Byzantine princess Anna Comnena made a notable effort to commend a high ranking member of the Norman camp. from her Norman compatriot s as a figure of Byzantine th century work, the Alexiad At four distinct points, Anna praises the wife of one of the Alexiad as husband R obert Guiscard against the armies of Emperor Anna could not help but admire her. 5 ex pansion of Norman power in southern Italy. 6 Beyond allying Robert with the ruling family of Salerno, the marriage brought him a wife who, according to Anna, possessed remarkable valor and martial capability. As will be discussed below, Anna reported that G aita behaved with honor superior to that of her Norman in laws during a battle with the Byzantines. Prior to this, Anna had portrayed Gaita as also outshining her husband in terms of Christian piety. In the Alexiad she even objects to her war upon the Byzantines: This came about, as they say that the most villainous Robert, who indeed was anxious for battle with the Romans, and had been preparing war for a great deal of time, was hindered by some of the most high born men in his retinue, and also was being prevented by his own wife, Gaita, on the grounds that the war would be unjust and begun against Christians; often he stayed his hand just as he began to commit to an assault. 7 Chr istians, Anna immediately places the Lombard woman above her Norman husband, whom she referred to as She says nothing negative about Gaita. Eventually, Robert Guiscard made good on his intention to wage war on the Byzantines. Strangely, Anna seems to her subsequent appearance in the Alexiad Gaita is now an enthusiastic supporter him in full armor as he marshals his forces at Hydruntum (modern day Otranto). At this point, one would expect Anna to reverse completely her positive regard for Gaita. Instead, she continues to praise the Lombard princess


STEPHEN SCRUBY University of Florida | Journal of Undergradua te Research | Volume 14, Issue 1 | Fall 2012 2 For, having marched there [Salerno], he [Robert] arrived at Hydruntum. He seated himself there, and after enduring for a few days, he received his wife, Gaita (indeed, for she too joined her husband in war, and in truth the woman made a fearsome image, after she had donned full armor). Embracing her, he set out with the entire expedition and captured the city of Brindisi. 8 Anna gives the reader a new image of Gaita that of a formidable woman at arms. She enhances that image with her liberal use of epic vocabulary. Nearly all of the verbal elements of the passage ( Ionic dialect, which is often employed in heroic poetry. 9 To an educated Byzantine, such a choice of words se rved to enhance the drama surrounding the appearance of a fully armored Gaita. Anna was well versed in classical Greek literature, and appropriated the vocabulary of ancient authors in order to add impact to the actions of her father, Emperor Alexius. Inst ead of treating Gaita as a rival character with the same lexical repertoire that she normally reserves for her own father. No higher praise could have been offered by the Byzantine princess. Anna eleva tes Gaita most dramatically in the fourth book of her work, in which she recounts the Battle of Dyrrhachium, fought in 1081 between Robert Guiscard and Alexius Comnenus, now Emperor of the Byzantines. 10 Anna initially reported that the battle was turning il l for the secured victory for the Norman army. Following a failed troops and his Venetian allies. But they [the Byzantine soldiers] became very firm in their resistance, so the others [the Normans] turned their backs since they were not all picked men and threw themselves into the sea. Up to the utmost reaches of their necks [in water], they approached the armed ships of the Romans and Venetians, pleading for safety there, where they were not well received. And then, as who was riding with him and was another Pallas, if not Athena herself saw the fleeing soldiers, regarded them with a pier cing look, and called to them with a very great voice, saying in her own dialect an fleeing, taking up a long spear, she burst forth as a defender, throwi ng herself at the whole mass of fleeing soldiers. Upon seeing this, they took hold of themselves and called themselves back to the battle. 11 from the Byzantines. Several aspects of this passage are noteworthy. Here, Anna selected words that exalted Gaita from Robert. This is particularly significant because Anna Gaita in all her other appearances in the work. Anna may have wanted to create this sense of distance between Gaita and the Normans because of their diametrical conduct in the Battle of Dyrrhachium. In a clever reversal of the stereotype famously employed by the Normans against Byzantines, Anna presents the Norman soldiers as effeminate cowards, requiring the urging of a woman to goad them into battle. Gaita even had to explici tly remind comparatively superior martial prowess. 12 Anna with Homeric vocabulary. In this passage, Ann a further elaborates her heroic presence by means of a direct comparison between Gaita and the Greek goddess of war, Athena. Anna adds that Gaita uttered a speech echoing Homeric words, albeit in her own language. 13 By employing this passage, the princess f estooned Gaita with the battle regalia of a goddess, armed with the martial and rhetorical skills of the ancients. Given her deference for classical works, this image would have appealed greatly to the Greek noblewoman. Gaita reverts to the subservient fem inine role of her day in her final appearance in the Alexiad standing vigilantly at reached him just as he breathed [his final breaths], with his 14 Here, Gaita is again describ ed No longer the invincible warrior goddess, she is once again the dutiful wife and mother. Alexiad is beyond question, her reasons for displaying it in a narrative celebrating her f are less clear. The Byzantine princess idolized classical heroes, and was clearly well versed in the knowledge of warfare as well. Her precise and technical descriptions of ity in such matters. Anna saw in Gaita a kindred spirit a woman of noble rank who was both learned in the arts of war and capable of independent action. Anna long desired the office of Empress, and perhaps even wished to perform heroic deeds of her own as a sign of her worthiness. Anna would h ave had another motive for elevating a woman, though an enemy, above men. She considered herself superior to her brother John II Comnenus, who succeeded her father, in much the same way that she


SECULAR AND ETHNIC T ENS IONS BETWEEN BYZANTI UM AND THE W E ST DURING THE FIRST C RUSADE University of Florida | Journal of Undergraduate Research | Volume 14, Issue 1 | Fall 2012 3 presented Gaita in comparison to Robert Guiscard. Anna accuse successors of incompetence in the wake of his reign: And we had peace until the end of his life. But with the Emperor, all that was most pleasing disappeared, and his achievements all became vain after his demise due to the stupidity of those i nheriting the imperial staff. 15 Following her failed attempt to seize the throne, Anna almost certainly harbored a deep bitterness toward her Anna vicariously enjoyed the fabled success of Gaita, who rose above all the men of her station on the field of battle. In doing so, Gaita heaped disgrace upon the enemies of provided Anna with the perfect means to respond to the litany of Norman insults against h er fellow countrymen. Two even more curious exultations of an enemy woman mark the male dominated Latin literature of the First Crusade. The anonymous author of the Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolimitanorum devoted an entire chapter to a dialogue betwe en the Turk Kerbogha (known as Curbaran in Latin), Atabeg of Mosul, and his mother (who remains unnamed). Guibert gives similar attention to the characters in his own version of the work, Dei Gesta per Francos 16 Both authors create a strange dichotomy betw een the two characters, both of whom are Muslim. Kerbogha is the stereotypical Islamic warlord proud, raging, licentious, and cruel but his mother is a voice of reason, an out of place advocate for the Christian cause. 17 It is of great interest that two ext remely biased Christian authors displayed an eastern woman in such a positive light. As Kerbogha is making preparations for an assault upon the Crusader armies trapped inside the walls of Antioch, his mother begs him to retreat. In the words of the anonymo us author: Indeed, the mother of the same Curbura (Kerbogha), who was in the city of Aleppo, traveled swiftly to him, going to commence battle names of all the gods and your great beneficence, not to commit to battle with the Franks, because you are an undefeated s oldier, and never have I heard of any sort of rashness from you or your army, and because no person has ever found you fleeing the field from any 18 Guibert of Nogent follows this part of the passage closely, but his version of Kerbogha receives even more colorful praise in respect to his martial record from his mother. She also abruptly recognizes the ascendancy of the Christian religion over her own. most honorable and inborn nobility that you not bring a fight to them [the Franks], lest you invite damage to your reputation. Since the brilliance of your arms shines even to the remotest reaches of the Ocean above India, and even farthest Thule resounds with your praise, why do y ou deign to sully your blades with the blood of poor men, whom it is senseless to attack, and in whose defeat there is no glory? And since you are able to compel distant kings to tremble, what desire is in your heart to assail wretched foreigners? Son, I a dmit that you right fully detest their contemptible persons, but you know for certain that the authority of 19 The Benedictine historian bemoaned the anonymously authored Gesta si 20 Gesta with flowery language explains these initial differences between the two passages. However, his version of the superiority of Christianity. Guibert granted this Muslim woman w hat he believed was the sure wisdom of a Christian Frank. In his memoirs, Guibert described his own mother as a woman who miraculously knew (and feared) the absolute power of the world], but she had lear ned to abhor sin by the fear of some 21 wrath from on high, and cautioned her son against inviting it. Kerbogha and Guibert himself occupy parallel positions in both narratives: Kerbogha in the Gesta Guibert in his becoming a monk, but Kerbogha ignores those of his own, bringing about his own ruin. By this contrast alone, Guibert illustrates the superio r honor and wisdom of the Franks over the Turks. Both authors suddenly reveal the surprisingly extensive mother. She predicts that God, on behalf of the otherwise helpless Franks, will defeat her son in t he upcoming battle. attempt to pass on her foresight to her son: ...their God fights for them daily and guides and defends them with His protection by day and night, just as a shepherd watches over his floc k. He does not allow them to be injured or molested by any people, and this same God sends to flight anyone who seeks to oppose them, just as He said through the mouth of the Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations that know Thee not and, against the kingdoms


STEPHEN SCRUBY University of Florida | Journal of Undergradua te Research | Volume 14, Issue 1 | Fall 2012 4 join in battle, their God, all powerful and mighty in battle, together with His saints, has all their enemies already co nquered... 22 The anonymous author and Guibert both have their versions of the Gesta 23 It is doubtful that a Turkish woman, even of high social rank, would have such an intimate familiarity with the Ch ristian Bible. Nor is it likely that one would quote such passages offhand so accurately. one last chance before he attacked His chosen peop le, the Franks. While the anonymous author clearly set the Turkish woman apart from her son, his motives for doing so remain unclear. However, he did cross enemy lines to cast a positive light upon the character of a woman. Guibert of motives are more apparent, as he may have been penned his version of the Gesta Neither Guibert nor the anonymous author held out any positive regard for the denizens of the East, Christian or Muslim alike. 24 Given the generally anti feminine attitude of Latin authors in the 12 th century, it is quite noteworthy that these two gave a Turkish woman such positive treatment. However, by turning one of their own highest ranking women into a divine messenger from God, both Gesta authors highlight the hubris and foolhardy nature of the Turks, their sworn enemies. As predicted, Kerbogha attacks the Christian forces in Antioch and is soundly defeated. The Christian wisdom of his Muslim mother is thus confirmed, proving The works of both Anna and Guibert are replete with vitriolic attacks on westerners and easterners, respectively. But in examining these rare passages in their works which offer praise for enemies, the ir underlying foundation of prejudicial logic becomes readily apparent. A closer look at similar phenomena in Crusades literature will furnish the scholar with fresher and deeper insight into the mental templates that informed the opinions of authors writi ng about the conflict. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Thanks are due to Dr. Florin Curta and Dr. Konstantinos Kapparis for their invaluable assistance to me in researching this article. ENDNOTE S 1 Though the Great Schism of 1054 placed the Byzantine church out of communion with Rome, the Byzantines were still considered Christians by as Christians at the Council of Clermont in 1095. 2 Earlier anti Byzantine stereotypes in Western Europe often recycled classical ones concerning Greeks in Roman literature. V irgil and Juvenal were common sources of anti Byzantine inspiration in the Middle Ages. 3 See Liutprand of Cremona, Liutprand of Cremona: The Embassy to Constantinople and Other Writings, trans. F.A. Wright (London, 1993), pp. 202 3. Liutprand traveled to Constantinople in 968 to arrange a marriage between the future Otto II and Anna Porphyrogenita, the daughter of Emperor Nicephorus Phocas. The bishop was outraged by what he saw as the excessive vanity of the Greeks particularly when he was relieved of hi s purple garments by court officials. The color purple was reserved only for the imperial family at the Byzantine court. 4 Amato of Montecassino, The History of the Normans III 38, ed. Prescott N. Dunbar and G.A. Loud (Rochester, 2004), pp. 86 109. History of the Normans likely written between 1072 and 1080, does not survive. The earliest version is an Old French translation from the 14 th century. 5 Patricia Skinner made an earlier identification of the relationship betwee n Sikelgaita and Anna. See Gender and History 12 (2000), no. 3, pp. 622 41. 6 Amato of Montecassino, History of the Normans IV 18, pp. 109 31. 7 Anna Comnena, Alexias I 12 ed. August Reifferscheid (Leipzig, 1884), pp. 42 Alexiad sometime around 1148. For ease of reference, the pagination used in Re ifferscheid will be used for all subsequent references to the Alexiad 8 Anna Comnena, Alexiad I 15, p. 50. 9 The participle words his Histories to similar dramatic effect. 10 The battle at Dyrrhachium, in modern day Albania, was a Norman victory Alexius was later able to secure the Balkans from the Normans by defeating 11 Anna Comnena, Alexiad 12 It is important to remember that Gaita was a Lombard, not a Norman. Anna thus elevated her warlike sta tus at the direct expense of the Normans. 13 It is extremely doubtful that Sikelgaita had any appreciable knowledge of the Homeric epics. 14 Anna Comnena, Alexiad


SECULAR AND ETHNIC T ENS IONS BETWEEN BYZANTI UM AND THE W E ST DURING THE FIRST C RUSADE University of Florida | Journal of Undergradua te Research | Volume 14, Issue 1 | Fall 2012 5 15 Anna Comnena, Alexiad nus died in 1118. He named his son John as successor. comfortable exile. 16 The Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolimitanorum and Dei Gesta per Francos were both written in the first decade of the 12 th Alexiad was written near the middle of the same century. 17 mother. See Jay Rubenstein, Guibert of Nogent: Portrait of a Medieval Mind (New York, 2002), pp. 99 100. 18 Anonymi Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolymitanorum XXII 1, ed. Heinrich Hagenmeyer (Heidelberg, 1890), pp. 323 Curburam, quae erat in Aleph civitate, statim venit ad eum, dixitque illi lacrimabiliter: Fili, suntne vera, quae audio? Cui ait ille: Quae? Et dixit illa: Audivi quia bellum vis committere cum Francorum gente. Ait ille: Verum omnino scias. Dixit illa: Contestor te, fili, per omnium Deorum nomina et per tuam magnam bonitatem, ne bellum cum Francis committas, quoniam tu es miles invictus, et nullam imprudentiam ex te aut ex tuo exercitu unquam penitus audivi, et te e campo ab aliquo victore fugientem quisquam minime invenit. 19 Guibert, Abbot of Nogent sous Coucy, D ei Gesta per Francos V 11, ed. R.B.C. Huygens (Turnholt, 1996), pp. 212 ingenitos tibi liberalissimos mores, queso, contestari te audeam ne eis pugnam inferas, ne tuae detrimentum laudis incurras. Cum enim usque in ult eriorem superioris Indiae Oceanum armorum tuorum claritudo refulgeat tuisque preconiis respondeat ultima Tile, quare pauperum hominum sanguinibus tuos obducere mucrones affectas, quos impetere inanis est pena et superasse nulla sit gloria? Et cum reges valeas terrere remotos, quid tibi cordi est lacessere advenas miseros? Personas eorum, fili, fateor, merito contemptibiles ducas, sed pro certo noveris 20 Guibert of Nogent, Dei Gesta per Francos eadem Historia, sed verbis contexta plus equo simplicibus et quae multotiens grammaticae naturas excederet lectoremque vapidi insipiditate sermonis sepius 21 Gu ibert of Nogent, de Vita Sua I 12, ed. Georges Bourgin (Paris, 1907), pp. 36 warned him against exciting G 22 Anonymi Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolymitanorum XXII 4, pp. 325 6. Deus eorum pro ipsis cotidie pugnat, eosque diu noctuque sua protectione defendit et vigilat super eos, sicut pastor vigilat super gregem suum, et non permittit eos laedi nec conturbari ab ulla gente, et quicunque volunt eis obstare, idem eorum Deus conturbat illos, sicut ipse ait per os David prophetae: 'Dissipa gentes, quae bella volunt,' et alibi: 'Effunde iram tuam in gentes, quae te non noverunt, et in regna, quae nomen tuum non invocaverunt.' Antequam vero praeparati sint ad incipiendum bellum, eorum Deus omnipotens et bellipotens simul cum sanctis suis omnes inimicos iam habet devictos... 23 See Guibert of Nogent, The Deeds of God through the Fran ks trans. Robert Levine (Suffolk, 1997), p. 97. Both the anonymous author and Guibert report that Psalms 81.8, 78.6, 92.3, as well as Romans 9.25. 24 See Guibert of Nogent, Dei Gesta per Francos I 5, p. 104, and Rubenstein p. 98. Guibert directly noted that Greek women in particular were vastly inferior to non Christian women of the East.