Medieval History

Select Sources Full Texts Saints' Lives Law Texts Maps Search Help

Selected Sources Sections Studying History End of Rome Byzantium Islam Roman Church Early Germans Anglo-Saxons Celtic World Carolingians 10 C Collapse Economic Life Crusades Empire & Papacy France England Celtic States Iberia Italy Intellectual Life Medieval Church Jewish Life Social History Sex & Gender States & Society Renaissance Reformation Exploration
IHSP Credits
Medieval Sourcebook:
Anna Comnena:
The Alexiad: Book IX

Complete Text | Introduction | Book 1 | Book 2 | Book 3 | Book 4 | Book 5 | Book 6 |
Book 7  | Book 8 | Book 9 | Book 10 | Book 11 | Book 12 | Book 13 | Book 14 | Book 15





Turkish War : Dalmatian Interlude (1092-4) : Conspiracy of Nicephorus Diogenes (1094)


I In this wise the Emperor settled the affairs of John and Gregory Gabras; then he started from Philippopolis and visited the valleys lying between Dalmatia and our territory. He traversed the whole narrow mountain ridge of what is locally called the "Zygum," but not on horseback (for the nature of the ground did not allow of this as it was rugged and full of gullies and here and there thickly wooded and almost impassable). So he made his way on foot all along and examined everything with his own eyes; in order that no unguarded comer, through which the enemy could easily force an entrance, should escape notice. In some places he had trenches dug; and in others towers erected made of wood; also wherever the site permitted he ordered small forts to be constructed of bricks or stone while he himself measured out the distance between them, and their size; in some spots too he had exceedingly tall trees felled at the root and laid across the path. After having thus fully blocked the enemy's means of ingress, he returned to the capital. Now all this planning probably sounds but a slight thing when told like this, but many of the Emperor's companions on that occasion are still alive and testify to the hard work and fatigue that journey caused him.

A short time afterwards very accurate information about the doings of Tzachas was brought to him, which was that none of his defeats by land and sea had caused him to abandon his former hope, but that he had adopted the insignia of an Emperor, styled himself Emperor, inhabited Smyrna as if it were his palace, and was now equipping a fleet with which to devastate the islands again and push on to Byzantium, and if anyhow possible, to have himself exalted to the imperial eminence. As these tidings received confirmation daily, the Emperor recognized that he must not lose heart nor show cowardice in face of them, but push on his preparations during what remained of the summer and the ensuing winter, [215] and then in the following spring start a vigorous campaign against him and endeavour by all possible means to dash to pieces all that man's dreams, plans, hopes and enterprises, and to drive him out of Smyrna as well, and rescue from his power all the places he had already seized. Accordingly when the winter was already far spent and spring with its smiles was near, he sent to Epidanmus for his brother-in-law, John Ducas, and appointed him 'Great Duke' of the Fleet. He gave him a picked army of landsmen and ordered him to make the journey against Tzachas by land, and to entrust Constantine Dalassenus with the command of the fleet with orders to sail along the coast so that they might arrive at Mitylene at the same time, and start the war with Tzachas conjointly by land and sea. When Ducas reached Mitylene he at once had wooden towers built, and then, using that town as a base of operations, he began a vigorous campaign against the barbarians. Now Tzachas had left his brother Galabatzes in command of the garrison at Mitylene and, knowing that the latter had insufficient troops for fighting against such a famous warrior, he hastened back thither, formed a plan of operations and opened battle with Ducas. While the battle was at its height night put an end to it.

From that day on throughout three of the moon's revolutions Ducas never failed to attack the walls of Mitylene daily nor to engage Tzachas in brilliant conflicts from the rising of the sun to its setting. And yet Ducas gained no advantage from his continual toil. The Emperor grew impatient and annoyed at the news. One day he questioned a soldier who was on leave from the front and found out that Ducas did nothing but fight and fight. Then he asked at what hour of the day they commenced battle with Tzachas; the soldier replied, " Directly after sunrise." The Emperor next enquired, "Which of the two armies faces the East? and the soldier answered, " Ours." From that he understood the reason, for he often found the clue in some unconsidered trifle. So he drew up a letter for Ducas advising him to refrain from battle with Tzachas at dawn, and not to fight one against two, i.e. against the sun's rays as well as against Tzachas himself ; but to attack his adversaries when the sun had passed the meridian and was inclining towards the West. He handed the letter to the soldier with many recommendations about it, and finally said emphatically, " If you attack your adversaries when the sun has turned, you will at once be the victors." The soldier reported everything to Ducas [216] and as the latter never disregarded the Emperor's advice even in the smallest matter, the next day when the barbarians as usual drew up their lines, none of their opponents appealed. For the Roman troops were remaining quietly in camp according to the Emperor's suggestion, so the barbarians gave up hope of any battle that day, and laid down their arms and stayed where they were. But Ducas was not idle; when the sun reached the meridian, he and the whole army got under arms. As soon as the sun began to turn, he formed up his lines and with war cries and tremendous shouting rushed upon the barbarians. However Tzachas was not found unprepared for he quickly had his men fully armed and joined battle with the Roman lines. A very strong wind was blowing at the time and when the battle became very close the dust was whirled in clouds right up to heaven. And thus, firstly because they had the sun shining in their faces, and secondly because the wind somewhat obscured their sight owing to the dust, and also because the Romans drove on the attack more vigorously than ever, the barbarians were utterly discomfited and fled. After this battle Tzachas felt he could not endure the siege any longer and was too weak for continuous fighting, and therefore sued for peace, making only one stipulation that he should be allowed to sail to Smyrna unmolested. Ducas agreed to this, and retained two of the chief satraps as hostages; whereupon the other asked Ducas for hostages, and on condition that Tzachas on his side would not do injury to any of the Mityleneans before leaving, nor carry any of them away with him on his voyage to Smyrna, and that Ducas on his side would guarantee him a safe voyage to Smyrna, Ducas gave him Alexander Euphorbenus and Manuel Butumites; both fond of war, and brave men. After giving mutual assurances, the one felt relieved because Tzachas would not injure the Mityleneans before leaving and the other because he would not suffer ill usage from the Roman fleet on his journey. But 'the crab never learns to walk straight,' no more did Tzachas depart from his former villainy, for he attempted to carry off all the Mityleneans together with their wives and children. While he was arranging this, Constantine Dalassenus, now 'Thalassocrator,' who had up till then not arrived as Ducas had ordered, brought his ships to anchor near a promontory and when he heard what was going on, he went and asked Ducas for permission to engage in battle with Tzachas. But Ducas, respecting his recently pledged word, demurred for a while. However, Dalassenus [217] insisted saying, "you gave an oath but I was not present, so do you keep your promises unbroken, but as I neither swore nor was present and know nothing of what you two arranged between you, I shall now strip myself for combat against Tzachas." So when Tzachas weighed anchor, and without delay sailed straight for Smyrna, Dalassenus overtook him very quickly, and at once attacked and chased him, Ducas too managed to capture the rest of Tzachas' fleet as it was raising anchor, and thus secured the ships and rescued from the barbarians all the prisoners of war and other captives in them. Dalassenus took a number of Tzachas' pirate vessels, and had everybody in them, rowers and all, put to death. And probably Tzachas himself would have been captured too, had he not with native shrewdness foreseen what was coming and boarded one of the lighter boats, and thus, unsuspected and unseen, got safely away. He had imagined something of this kind might happen to him, and had therefore arranged beforehand for some Turks to stand on a certain headland and watch until he either reached Smyrna safely or, if he fell in with the enemy, steered his ship towards them as toward a saf e refuge. Nor did he fail in his object for he anchored his ship there, joined the Turks who were waiting for him, and made for Smyrna. And in very truth he reached it. Dalassenus returned victorious and joined the Great Duke. After securing Mitylene and seeing that Dalassenus was also returning (home), Ducas dispatched the greater part of the Roman fleet to free the islands still held by Tzachas (for he had previously brought a large number into subjection). Then he took Samos and a few other islands off-hand, and afterwards returned to the capital.

II Within a few days, the Emperor heard that Calyces had rebelled and seized Crete, and Rhapsomates Cyprus, so he dispatched John Ducas against them with a large fleet. When the Cretans learnt that Ducas had reached Carpathus, which they knew was not far off, they attacked Calyces, murdered him cruelly and then surrendered Crete to the Great Duke. Ducas organized the administration of the island and left an adequate garrison for its protection, and then sailed down to Cyprus. As soon as he had run his ships ashore, he took Cyrene at first assault, and Rhapsomates informed of this, made great preparations to oppose him. Consequently he left Levcosia, occupied the heights behind Cyrene and fixed his palisades there, but refused battle, for [218 he was ignorant of war and unversed in generalship. For the right thing would have been to fall upon the Romans whilst they were unprepared. But Rhapsomates put off the battle for some time, not really for the purpose of preparing for the clash of arms as if he were not ready (on the contrary he was well prepared and could have engaged in battle at once, had he wished); but he acted like one who did not wish to risk an engagement at any time, but had taken up war as children do at play and went about it softly, he kept sending envoys to the Romans as if expecting to entice them over by honeyed words. And I fancy he did this through his ignorance of warfare. (For I have been told that he had only recently handled spear and sword and did not even know how to mount a horse and if by chance he mounted and wanted to ride, he was seized with fright and dizziness, so utterly inexperienced was Rhapsomates in military experience.) It was either for this reason or because the sudden advent of the imperial troops had overwhelmed him, that his mind was in this state of uncertainty. Consequently when he did hazard an engagement, with a kind of despondency, the result did not turn out well for him. For Butumites had won over some of the deserters from Rhapsomates' army and enlisted them in his own. A few days later Rhapsomates drew up his troops and offered battle marching slowly down the steep hillside. When the armies were only a short distance apart, a portion of Rhapsomates' army, numbering about one hundred, detached itself and galloped at full speed to attack Ducas apparently, but they turned the tips of their spears backwards and went over to him. On seeing this Rhapsomates at once turned tail and slacking his reins fled toward Nemesus, hoping to reach that town and find a vessel which would convey him to Syria and to safety. But Manuel Butumites was following fast behind him. So hard pressed by him and foiled in his hope, he reached the mountain on the other side and sought refuge in the church, built of old, to the name of the Holy Cross. Then Butumites (to whom Ducas had assigned this pursuit) captured him there, promised him his life and took him back with him to the Great Duke. Afterwards they all moved on to Levcosia and after receiving the submission of the whole island, they secured it as far as their means permitted and sent a full account of all these doings to the Emperor by letter. The Emperor appreciated their efforts and decided he must take steps to secure Cyprus. For this reason he nominated [219] Calliparius as judge and assessor; he was (not) one of the nobles, but had a high reputation for just dealing and incorruptibility, combined with modesty. The island also needed a military governor, so he appointed Philocales Eumathius as Stratopedarch, assigning the protection of it to him, and gave him ships of war and cavalry with which to guard Cyprus, both by land and sea. Butumites conducted Rhapsomates and the other 'Immortals' who had joined him in rebellion and returned with them to Ducas, and thus made his way to the capital.

III Such were the events which took place in the islands, I mean Cyprus and Crete.

Tzachas, however, was too fond of war, and too energetic to be able to keep quiet, and therefore attacked Smyrna after a short interval and took possession of it. And once again he began carefully to equip pirate-ships,'dromons,' biremes and triremes, and other kinds of lighter vessels, still in pursuit of his former aim. On being informed of this the Emperor did not delay or hesitate, but determined to defeat him utterly by land and sea. So he elected Constantine Dalassenus 'Thalassocrator' and sent him on this occasion with the whole fleet to oppose Tzachas. He also ihought it would be useful to rouse the Sultan to anger against him; and his letter to the latter ran as follows: "Most glorious Sultan Clitziasthlan, you know that the rank of Sultan is yours by heredity. Now your kinsman by marriage, Tzachas, is preparing war to all seeming against the Roman Empire, and calls himself Emperor, but this is only a transparent pretence. For he is too worldly wise and well informed not to see that the Roman Empire is not for him, and that it would be impossible for him ever to grasp its sceptre. His whole mischievous device is really planned against you. It is your duty therefore not to bear with him, and not be dilatory, but rather to wake up if you do not wish to be deprived of your kingdom. I for my part will, with God's help, drive him out of the countries under the Roman jurisdiction, and in my affection for you, I adjure you, on your side, to take thought for your kingdom and power, and bring that man into subjection, either by peaceful methods, or, if he rejects those, then by the sword." Whilst these preparations were made by the Emperor, Tzachas travelled to Abydos with his troops overland and besieged it with engines and various stone-throwing machines. He had not got his pirate ships with him for they were not yet fully equipped. [220] Dalassenus, a man ever keen for adventure and full of courage, kept along the road leading to Abydos with his troops.

Directly the Sultan, Chtziasthlan, received the news sent him by the Emperor, he at once set to work, and started on the road to Tzachas with his whole army. For such are all the barbarians ever ready for massacre and war. As the Sultan drew nigh, Tzachas felt very helpless, for he saw foes advancing against him by land and sea, whereas he had not a boat anywhere, for the ships he was building were not yet fitted out, and his forces were insufficient for fighting both against a Roman army and that of his kinsman, the Sultan Clitziasthlan. He was also afraid of the inhabitants and garrison of Abydos, and therefore judged it wise to interview the Sultan, not knowing of the intrigue started against him by the Emperor. The Sultan on beholding him shewed him a cheerful countenance and received him graciously and had a table set before him according to custom, supped with him and obliged Tzachas to drink somewhat too hard. When he saw that the latter was full of wine, he drew his sword and drove it into his side. Thus Tzachas fell dead where he sat ; and the Sultan sent an embassy to the Emperor to arrange peace for the future. And he did not fail to secure his aim. The Emperor consented to his request and, after the terms of peace had been completed in the customary manner, calm was restored in all the maritime provinces.

IV The Emperor had scarcely been relieved of these anxieties, and had not cleared off all the ill-effects caused by Tzachas (for though he was not always present in person, yet he participated and co-operated in all the arrangements and difficulties), before he was hurried into another war.

For now Bolcanus (who ruled over the whole of Dalmatia, and was active in speech and in deed) marched out of his own borders and proceeded to devastate the towns and lands around and actually seized Lipenium itself, set fire to it and burned it down-this was when the sun had twice completed its circuit since the destruction of the Scythians. On receipt of these tidings the Emperor thought them unbearable, so gathered together a considerable army and marched to meet the Serbians along the direct road to Lipenium (this is a small fort lying at the foot of the Zygum, which separates Dalmatia from our territory). He wished if possible to encounter Bolcanus and engage him in a pitched battle and afterwards, if God granted him victory, to rebuild Lipenium and the other forts and restore things to their former state. [221] But Bolcanus, hearing of the Emperor's advent, moved away from there and occupied Sphentzanium, which is a fort situated above the Zygum, just mentioned, in the borderland between the Roman boundaries and Dalmatia. However, when the Emperor had occupied Scopia, Bolcanus sent envoys with overtures of peace, and absolved himself from all blame for the evil happenings, but laid it all on the Roman satraps by saying, "They are never willing to remain within their own frontiers, but have made frequent inroads which have entailed a great deal of loss on Serbia. I myself will never do anything of the kind again, but will return to my country, send hostages from among my own kinsmen to your Majesty, and not overstep my boundaries again." To this the Emperor agreed, and leaving behind him men appointed to rebuild the ruined towns and receive the hostages, packed up for his return to the capital.

However, Bolcanus when asked for the hostages did not produce them but put the matter off from day to day, and before a full year had passed, he had again marched out to ravage the Roman territory. And, although he received several letters from the Emperor reminding him of the treaty and the promises he had previously made him, he refused even then to fulfil them. Consequently the Emperor summoned John, the son of his brother, the Sebastocrator, and sent him forth against Bolcanus with a large force. Now John, being ignorant of war and lusting for battle, like all young men, started, and after crossing the river of Lipenium pitched his palisades by the foothills of the Zygum, directly opposite Sphentzanium. His movements were not unnoticed by Bolcanus, who again sent to sue for peace, and promised that he would both give the hostages and also keep absolute peace with the Romans from that time forth. These, however, were only empty promises, in secret he was getting ready to attack John. When Bolcanus actually took the road against John, a monk ran ahead and revealed his design to John and assured him that Bolcanus was already close by. But John dismissed him in anger, calling him a liar and deceiver; however facts quickly proved the truth of his words. For Bolcanus fell upon him in the night, killing many of his soldiers in their tents, and others, fleeing as best they could, were caught in the eddies of the downward rushing river and drowned. Those of more stable character meanwhile posted themselves round John's tent, and with great difficulty saved it by courageous fighting on the spot. [222] In this way the greater part of the Roman army perished. Bolcanus collected his own men and retired and took up his position on the Zygum at Sphentzanium. John's men were so few when compared with their foes that they could not possibly fight them, and therefore counselled him to recross the river. They did this and reached Lipenium, about twelve stades further on. As he had lost most of his men, and could no longer offer any resistance, John made his way to the capital. Thereupon Bolcanus grew bold, as no opponent was left, and devastated the surrounding lands and towns; laid the country outside Scopia in ruins and even burnt some of it. As if this was not enough, he even seized Polobus, and proceeding to Branea laid that all waste, carried off a tremendous amount of plunder from it and then returned to his own country.

V These tidings were too bad to be borne by the Emperor, who at once armed himself again, and certainly required no urging, not even from the flute-player Timotheus, for whose Orthian march Alexander waited. The Emperor, I say, armed himself and called to arms all the soldiers who were in the capital, and took in haste the road leading straight to Dalmatia. He wished to rebuild the forts which had just been ruined, to put matters on their former footing and to exact abundant retribution from Bolcanus for the evil he had done. So he started from the capital, reached Daphnutium (an old town about forty stades distant from Constantinople), and there halted waiting for those of his kinsmen who had not yet arrived. The next 41ay Diogenes Nicephorus came, full of anger and haughtiness ; but, as usual, he wore a mask, and had put on, as one might say, a fox-skin, for he assumed a cheerful countenance and pretended to be behaving frankly with the Emperor. And his tent he did not have pitched at the usual distance from the Emperor's sleeping-tent, but close to the slope leading to the Emperor's. Now Manuel Philocales noticed this, for none of Diogenes' schemings ever escaped him, and as if struck by lightning he stood there all shrivelled up. He collected his wits with difficulty, at once went in to the Emperor and said, " This act does not seem free from suspicion to me, and I am oppressed by the fear that an attempt will be made on your Majesty's life at night. I will make some excuse or other, and arrange to make him move from that spot." But the Emperor with his habitual imperturbability refused to allow Philocales to do this, and when the latter continued to urge him, he said, "Let it be, [223] we must not let the man have any grievance against us. It he is plotting against us, he must be proved guilty in the sight of God and men." Philocales went away distressed, beating his hands together and calling the Emperor rash. A few hours passed and the Emperor was sleeping peacefully at the Empress' side, when about the middle watch of the night Diogenes got up, placed his sword under his arm, stepped to the threshold (of the Emperor's tent) and stood there. For while the Emperor slept, the doors were not bolted nor did a guard keep watch outside - so much for the Emperor's habits. On his side Nicephorus was at that moment checked in his undertaking by some divine power. For he saw a maid fanning their Majesties to drive away the mosquitoes from their faces, and 'was seized with a sudden tremor in all his limbs, while pallor overspread his cheeks,' as the poet says, and he suspended the murder till another day. This man continued plotting the Emperor's death without disguise, while the latter was fully aware of what Diogenes had plotted against him for in the morning the maid came to him and related the whole occurrence. Consequently he moved on from that place the next day, and began the journey before him, all the time pretending to know nothing, but so arranging matters about Nicephorus, that, whilst he was on his guard himself, he yet did not give the other any reasonable occasion [for complaint].

When they came into the region of Serres, Constantine Ducas Porphyrogenitus, who was accompanying the Emperor, begged him to come and be his guest at his estate, which was very delightful and well-watered by cool, drinkable springs, and had sufficient rooms for the Emperor's reception (its name was Pentegostis). The Emperor yielded to his wish and went and stayed with him. But when he wanted to leave next morning the Porphyrogenitus would not allow it, but besought him to wait a little longer until he had recovered from the fatigue of the journey and cleansed his body of dust by bathing. For he had already made preparations for a great banquet; so the Emperor again gave way to the Porphyrogenitus. Diogenes Nicepborus with his old aspirations after sovereignty heard that the Emperor had bathed and left the bathroom, and as he was ever watching for an opportunity to assassinate him, he girt on his short sword and went into the house as if returning from the chase as usual. However, Taticius, who had long known of his intentions, saw him and pushed him out with the reprimand, [224] "Why do you come in here in this disorderly fashion and wearing your sword? this is the hour for bathing, not for a journey, or the chase or a battle." So the other retired foiled in his purpose. But apprehending that he was already detected (for our conscience tries us severely), he considered how to ensure his own safety by flight, and escape to the Empress Maria's properties in Christopolis, either to Pemicus or Petritzus, and then to rearrange his life carefully according to circumstances. For before this the Princess Maria had interested herself in him because on the mother's side he was the brother of her husband, Michael Ducas, the former Emperor, although they had had different fathers. The Emperor departed from Constantine's house on the third day, and left him behind there to rest as he was afraid for the delicate and inexperienced youth who had on this occasion left his own country for the first time to take part in an expedition; besides this he was the only son of his mother. And in his great concern for the youth the Emperor allowed him to enjoy an easy life with his Queen Mother, at the same time he loved him exceedingly just as if he were his own child.

VI To prevent my history growing confused, I will relate the story of Diogenes Nicephorus from the beginning. The manner in which his father, Romanus, was raised to the imperial dignity and how he came to his end, has already been treated of by several historians, and those who wish can glean all about him from those books. In any case he died when his sons Leo and Nicephorus were still children; and from the beginning of his own reign, Alexius took them over as private persons instead of princes (for at his accession to the throne Michael, although he was their own brother, had taken away their red sandals and their diadem and condemned them to banishment in the monastery Cyperoudes with their mother, the Empress Eudocia). Alexius deemed the young men worthy of much consideration, partly because he pitied them for their misfortunes, and partly because he saw they surpassed others in their physical beauty and strength. The first down was showing on their cheeks and chins, they were tan and their breadth was in right proportion to their height; they exhaled the very bloom of youth; and to all who were not blinded by prejudice their very appearance proclaimed their high spirits and bravery, for they were like lion-cubs.

Moreover, as Alexius did not judge superficially, nor was blind to the truth, nor a prey to reprehensible passions, but weighed facts in the well-balanced scale of his conscience [225] and remembered the height from which the two had fallen he took them to his bosom as if they were his own children. Was there any kind word or deed he did not give them? or did he ever neglect their future ? and yet envy cast its arrows at them and would not let them rest. And if people tried to incite him against them, the Emperor granted them his protection all the more, always gave them pleasant looks as if priding himself upon them, and consistently advised them to their advantage. Another, perhaps, would have regarded them as objects of suspicion and done his best to chase them out of his kingdom by some means or other; but this Emperor thought nothing of the many tales brought him about the young men for he loved them dearly; and he also bestowed gifts on their mother Eudocia and did not deprive her of the prerogatives due to queens. And to Nicephorus he actually gave the island of Crete to rule and to have as his private property. That was how the Emperor behaved; now of the two young men, the one, Leo, was of a good disposition and liberal mind, and seeing the Emperor's kindness to them both, he was content with his lot and rested happily in his condition according to the advice of the writer: 'You have obtained Sparta by lot, make the best of her.' Nicephorus, on the contrary, ill-tempered and of a wrathful disposition, never ceased scheming against the Emperor and plotting to gain the throne; however, he kept his plans I under water.' But when he really set to work, he spoke more frankly to a few companions, and thus a great many persons came to hear of it; and through them it also got to the Emperor's ears. The Emperor, however, acting in an original manner, would send for them at suitable times and never tell what he had heard, but would talk to them cleverly and give them timely counsel. And the more he grew to know of the conspiracy, the more generously he behaved towards them, hoping thus to win them over. But an Ethiopian never turned white.' So Nicephorus remained the same and imparted the contagion to all he approached, binding some to him by oaths and others by promises. He did not trouble much about the rank and file of the army, for all of them were already well-inclmed to him; but turned his attention entirely to the grandees and paid great heed to the chief officers of the army and the leading men in the Senate and courted them. For he was keener witted than a two-edged sword, but unstable throughout, except that in his desire to be Emperor he displayed immutability. His [226] words were as sweet as honey and he was pleasant in society, occasionally clothing himself in humility as if it were a fox-skin, and then again shewing his courage like a lion; he was powerful and boasted that be could wrestle with the Giants; his skin was tawny, his chest broad and he stood taller by the head and shoulders than the men of that time. If anyone saw him playing ball, or riding, or shooting an arrow or brandishing his spear or indulging in horse-exercise, he would imagine he was looking at a new marvel, stand gaping and be all but transfixed with wonder. For this reason above an he attracted the goodwill of the populace. In the meanwhile matters were advancing so fast in accordance with his desires that he even tried to win over the man married to the Emperor's sister, namely, Michael Taronites who had been honoured with the title of ' Panhypersebastos.'

VII But I must bring back my story to the point where it broke off, and keep it within the due lines of narration. After he had discovered Diogenes' conspiracy against him, the Emperor went over events in his mind and recalled how from the very beginning of his reign he had treated the two brothers; how much kindness and solicitude he had expended on them for so many years, and, as nothing of all this had changed Nicephorus' disposition for the better, he felt very despondent. For the Emperor reviewed all the facts, namely, how after his first failure Nicephorus had tried again, and how he had been repulsed by Taticius ; how he was whetting his murderous weapon and was eager to defile his hands in innocent blood, and that after lying, in wait for a while and watching by night to accomplish the murder he was now pursuing this object quite undisguisedly.

The Emperor was deeply troubled by these various reflections. 'He was not at all anxious to prosecute Diogenes, because be liked him exceedingly and had a sincere affection for him, yet looking at things in general and understanding how far the evil would go, recognizing too that he stood in imminent danger of his life, he was stricken in heart. Finally, summing up everything, he judged it wise to arrest Nicephorus. The latter was preparing his meditated escape and, wishing to start on his way to Christopolis during the night, sent to Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the evening and begged him to lend him the swift steed the Emperor had given him. However, Constantine refused, saying it was impossible to give away a gift from the Emperor of such value to another the very same day. In the morning when the Emperor started [227] on his projected journey, Diogenes followed in his train, for God who scattereth plans and setteth at naught the decisions of nations, confounded this man too, who, though intent on escape, deferred it from hour to hour - such are the judgments of God. So he encamped near Serres, where the Emperor was also, and buried himself in his usual reflections that he was already detected and must fear the future. The Emperor then summoned his brother, the Great Domestic, Adrian, on the evening when the commemoration of the Great Martyr, Theodore, was being held. And he communicated to him again all the facts about Diogenes which the other already knew, namely how he had come in with his sword, how he had been turned away from the door, and how he was waiting anxious to accomplish the deed he had planned so long. Then the Emperor enjoined the Domestic to summon Diogenes to his own tent and by gentle words and all manner of promises to try to persuade him to divulge the whole conspiracy, and to assure him of immunity and forgiveness in the future for his wrong doing, on the sole condition that he concealed nothing, and also confessed the names of all his fellow conspirators. And Adrian, though fall of despondency, did as he was bid. So he tried threats and promises and advice in turn, yet could not induce Diogenes to reveal even a little of his plot. And what was the result? the Great Domestic grew sorrowful and troubled, as he knew into what dangers Diogenes was running. And before this time Diogenes had secured him as husband for the youngest of his stepsisters. For this reason he would not let him go, but besought him even with tears; yet even so he could not move him at all, although he urged him and reminded him of incidents of past days. For one day when the Emperor was playing polo in the riding-school of the Great Palace, a barbarian of Armenian or Turkish descent, came in with a sword hidden in his clothes. When the man saw the Emperor draw apart from the other players and drop the reins to breathe his panting horse, he approached the Emperor, fell on his knees and pretended to make a petition. The Emperor immediately drew back his horse and enquired what his request was. Then the murderer, rather than suppliant, put his hand under his cloak, took hold of his sword and tried to draw it from its scabbard. But the sword did not obey his hand. Once or twice he pulled at his sword whilst stammering forth imaginary petitions, then in despair threw himself on the ground and lay there begging for mercy. The Emperor [228] turned his horse to him and asked for what he was craving forgiveness, and the man pointed to his sword fixed in its sheath; at the same time he beat his breast in amazement and shouted out these words, " Now I recognize thee as a true servant of God, now I behold with mine own eyes that the great God protects thee. For this sword here I prepared for thy murder, I fetched it from home and came here to plunge it into thy heart. Once, twice, nay thrice, I pulled at it but could not make it obey the strength of my arm." And the Emperor, just as if he had not heard anything strange, had stayed in the same position unalarmed; suddenly all the others ran up to him either to hear what was being said or in alarm. The Emperor's more loyal companions were about to tear the man to pieces, had not the Emperor checked them by gesture and hand and many expostulations. And what was the end of the matter? that soldier-assassin obtained full pardon on the spot, and not only pardon but large gifts as well; and in addition he was allowed to enjoy his freedom. However, many of the, King's friends were importunate in their demands that this assassin should be driven out of the capital; but the Emperor would not listen and quoted, " Except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen wake but in vain. Therefore we must pray to God and ask Him to be our protection and guard." At that time it was whispered abroad that the man had attempted the Emperor's life with the connivance of Diogenes. The Emperor did not give any credence to these stories, but became more angered by them, and continued being patient with Diogenes and pretended to know nothing until the point of the sword was literally almost touching his throat. So much of this. After the Great Domestic had reminded Diogenes of this and yet could not persuade him, he returned to the Emperor and told him that Diogenes was obstinate, and absolutely refused to speak in spite of his many entreaties.

VIII Then the Emperor sent for Mouzaces and told him to take other armed men with him and fetch Diogenes from the Great Domestic's tent and conduct him to his own and keep him safely there though without applying fetters or any other ill-treatment. And Mouzaces instantly executed this command; fetched Diogenes and took him to his own tent. And the whole night through he entreated and exhorted him, but so fax from persuading him he even found him behaving rudely, and consequently grew very angry and was provoked to act contrary to his orders. For he [229] thought fit to torture him and when he began the torture, Diogenes gave way at the very first touch of pain and asseverated that he would admit everything, so he at once freed him from his chains and sent for a scribe with his style, and the scribe was Gregory Camaterus, who had lately been engaged as under-secretary to the Emperor. And Diogenes related everything in detail and did not even gloss over the attempted murder. In the morning Mouzaces took this written confession, and other papers addressed to Diogenes which he had found on him as a result of search. From these papers it was evident that the Empress Maria herself had known of Diogenes' attempted rebellion, though she would not entertain the idea of the Emperor's assassination even for a moment, but had diligently sought. to divert Diogenes not only from the deed itself, but from the mere thought of it - these papers Mouzaces carried to the Emperor. He read them through and on finding the names of a number he had suspected written down there - and these were all men of high position - he was at a loss how to act. For of a truth Diogenes never troubled much about the common people, for he had them gaping after him with all their soul and well-disposed to him for a long time; but he had studied to win over all the leading men of the military and political parties. Now the Emperor determined that the Empress Maria's connection with this matter should not be brought to light so he really played the part of 'the man who knows nothing throughout, because of the trust and confidence he had had in her even before he was elected Emperor. It was rumoured everywhere that the Prince Constantine Porphyrogenitus, her son, had informed the Emperor of Diogenes' plot, though the fact of the matter was not so; for the details of the plot had gradually leaked out from the men who were assisting Diogenes.

After Diogenes had been detected, put into chains and banished, the leading men in his conspiracy who had not already been arrested, knew that they had become objects of suspicion and grew very nervous and anxious about their course of action. The Emperor's friends, perceiving their agitated condition, felt that they themselves were in a difficult situation, for they realized that the Emperor was hardly pressed and that danger was constantly hovering over his head, as for protection he could now only rely on a circumscribed few. The Emperor kept revolving everything from the beginning in his mind, the many occasions Diogenes had plotted against [230] him and been thwarted by the Divine power, and the fact that he had actually tried to murder him with his own hand, and he became very troubled by these numerous recollections. He changed his mind ever so often, for he recognized that the entire military and political bodies had been corrupted by Diogenes' blandishments and he had not sufficient soldiers to set a guard over so many, nor of a surety did he wish to mutilate a multitude of people, so finally he banished the ringleaders Diogenes and Catacalon Cecaumenos to Caesaropolis. Here they were simply to be kept in detention in chains for he did not meditate practising any cruelty on them although everybody advised him to have them mutilated (for he had a special liking for Diogenes and still clung to his former care for him). He also banished his sister's husband, Michael Taronites, as well as . . . and confiscated their property. As for all the others he thought the safest course would be not to subject them to examination at all, but rather to soften their hearts by forgiving them. In the evening each one of those condemned to banishment heard the place allotted to him, and Diogenes got Caesaropolis. Of the others not a single one was moved from his own home but they all remained where they were.

IX While matters were in this unhappy condition, the Emperor decided to bold a public assembly the next day and carry out his intention. All of the Emperor's relations by blood or marriage, who were sincerely devoted to him, and all his ancestral retainers were present then, men of fierce passions, quick to see at a glance what was likely to happen and shrewd in accomplishing what was expedient in inconsiderable time. These were afraid that amidst the popular concourse on the morrow a few men might make a dash at the Emperor and cut him to pieces on the throne, as men often carried their swords under their garments, as that rascal did who in guise of suppliant came to him when he was playing polo. (The only way to meet this difficulty seemed to be to strip the people of all the hopes they had centred on Diogenes by spreading abroad a rumour that he had been secretly blinded.) So they collected and sent out a few men to impart this news as a secret to everybody, although such an idea had never yet entered the Emperor's mind. And this report, though slight at first, yet proceeded to do its work, as my story will soon make clear. When the sun bad stepped over the horizon and leapt up in his glory, those of the Emperor's suite who had not been parties to [231] Diogenes' treachery, and the soldiers who from of old were his appointed bodyguard, came to the Emperor's tent first, some wearing swords, others carrying spears or their heavy iron axes on their shoulders and ranged themselves in the form of a crescent at a certain distance from his throne, embracing him as it were; they were all under the sway of anger, and if they did not whet their swords, they certainly did their souls. 'Me body of his kinsmen and connections stood close to the throne, and to the right and left of those were the armour-bearers. The Emperor sat, an imposing figure, on his seat, clad in military, rather than imperial, garb, but did not seem to be seated very high, as his stature was not tall. But his throne was overlaid with gold, and gold too was above his head. His brows were drawn together, and emotion had dyed his cheeks a deeper red, his eyes, tense with anxiety, were an index to the thoughts that filled his mind. All crowded towards the tent, in a state of fear, and by reason of their terror were almost constrained to belch forth their souls into thin air, some were pricked by their conscience more sharply than by an arrow, while others dreaded vain suspicion. Not a sound was uttered by anybody, but they all stood scared, looking fixedly at the man standing guard at the door of the tent. This man was wise in speech and powerful in action and his name was Taticius. The Emperor glanced at this man and by his look signified to him to let the people outside enter. Whereupon he at once granted them entrance. And in spite of being frightened they came in with their eyes averted and walking slowly. When they had taken up their positions in rows, they waited eagerly for what would happen, each afraid and feeling as if he were about to run the last lap of his life's course.

The Emperor himself was not altogether at his ease (I speak humanly, without regard to the fact that he trusted every thing to God), for considering the mixed character of the meeting he feared that they might be meditating some unforeseen and horrible thing against him. However he composed himself by vigorous reasoning and once he had braced himself to the struggle lie began his speech to them (whilst they stood more dumb even than fish, as if their tongues had been cut out). He said, "You know that Diogenes never suffered any ill-treatment at my hands. For it was not I that snatched the sceptre of this Empire from his father's hand, but another ; nor have I ever done anything to cause him hurt or pain. And when this Empire was transferred to my hands by the [232] entire will of God, not only did I guard him and his brother alike, but I loved and treated them like my own children. And as often as I have detected Nicephorus plotting against me, so often have I granted him pardon. And although he would not better his ways, I bore with him and concealed most of his outbursts against me, being aware of the general dislike in which they were held. Yet not one of my kind deeds towards him has changed his naturally treacherous disposition, but in return for all of them he decreed my death." At these words all broke into shouts crying that they did not wish to see another man in his place on the imperial throne. This was not the true feeling of the majority. but they made fawning speeches as they were devising by these means to escape from the immediate danger. The emperor grasped the opportunity by the forelock and granted a general pardon to the majority, because the ringleaders of the plot had previously been condemned to banishment. At this a mighty noise arose, such as no ears have heard before or since, so say those that were present, for some were praising the King and marvelling at his forbearance and gentleness, while others traduced the men who had been banished and declared that they deserved to die, for such is the way of men. For the man they load with blessings and escort and hold in high respect to-day, they treat in exactly the opposite way without feeling any shame, when they see the throw of his life's die changed. But the Emperor silenced them by a gesture and again spoke, saying, " There is no need for you to make a noise or try to subvert the decision I have taken. For, as I said, I for my part have granted pardon to all, and shall shew myself the same towards you hereafter as I did before."

While the Emperor was granting pardon to these men, the originators of the plan sent, without the Emperor's knowledge, and had Diogenes blinded. They further decreed that the same thing should be done to Cecaumenos Catacalon as he had been Diogenes' fellow-conspirator. This was the day of the commemoration of the Chief Apostles. This deed has been the subject of discussion from that day until now; but whether the Emperor was let into the secret by its authors, and gave in, or whether he really initiated it himself, God alone knows; up to the present I have been unable to find out for certain.

X Such then were the troubles which beset the Emperor through Diogenes, and the invincible hand of the Highest miraculously preserved him from imminent danger. However [233] his nerve was not weakened by any of these occurrences, but, as he had proposed, he marched straight to Dalmatia. When Bolcanus heard that the Emperor had arrived at Lipenium and saw him in occupation, and realized the impossibility of defying the Roman lines in their close formation and full strategic equipment, he at once asked for terms of peace, proposing at the same time to send those long-promised hostages and never again to commit any hostile act. So the Emperor received the barbarian with pleasure, for he hated the idea of, and wished to avert, civil war; for though they were Dalmatians, they were still Christians. Then Bolcanus took heart, and soon came bringing some relations and the chief of the Zupani [*=Zoupans, the feudatory lords] with him, and readily handed over his nephews as hostages to the Emperor, Uresis and Stephanus Bolcanus by name, and others as well, bringing up the number in all to twenty. For he could not possibly have made arrangements for the future on any other conditions. The Emperor, having thus peacefully solved what is usually accomplished by blood and iron, returned to the capital.

However he never ceased caring for Diogenes, and was heard to sigh deeply for him; he displayed great kindness towards him and tried to console him and reinstated him in most of the possessions of which he had been deprived. But Diogenes was frantic with grief, detested town-life and was fond of living on his own estate and devoting himself entirely to the works of the ancient writers which others read aloud to him. For as he was bereft of sight he used the eyes of others for reading. He was a man of such wonderful capabilities that even without eyes he easily understood things that people with eyes find difficult to follow. Then he went through all the later learning, and what is strangest, he even studied that famous science, geometry, under the guidance of a philosopher, whom he ordered to get him the figures made in solid material (or in relief). For by feeling these all over with his hands he gained comprehension of all the theorems and figures of geometry, just as the famous Didymus, who by his intellectual keenness reached the very height of music and geometry, although he was blind. Notwithstanding Didymus was led astray into a ridiculous heresy after his studies in these subjects, for his mind was blinded by vainglory, as his eyes were by suffering. Everyone who hears this about Diogenes is astonished, but I have seen the man and marvelled at him and heard him speaking of these subjects; and being personally not quite untrained in them, [234] I recognized that he had an accurate knowiedge of the theorems. In spite of his pre-occupation with literature, he never forgot his old grudge against the Emperor. but nourished throughout a smouldering expectation of royal power. Nay, he even told a few friends again of this secret expectation, and one of them went and told the Emperor of his planning. He therefore summoned Diogenes and enquired the details of his plot and the names of those who had joined him in it. Diogenes confessed everything without hesitation and immediately received pardon.

Complete Text | Introduction | Book 1 | Book 2 | Book 3 | Book 4 | Book 5 | Book 6 |
Book 7  | Book 8 | Book 9 | Book 10 | Book 11 | Book 12 | Book 13 | Book 14  | Book 15


Anna Comnena (Komnene). The Alexiad. Edited and translated by Elizabeth A. Dawes. London: Routledge, Kegan, Paul, 1928.

Inquiries into the copyright on this text indicate that US copyright was not renewed, nor was any claim filed under the GATT. Barnes and Noble published the text in the US in 1967 with no claim of copyright, and thus under the laws at the time as a public domain work. Correspondence with Routledge (on file) indicated that they had no records whatsoever about the book, including the date of its first sale in the US (putting one copy on sale would constitute "publication" under GATT).


This etext slightly alters the organization and much of the typography of the printed edition.

Page numbers of the printed edition are indicated in the texts by numbers in brackets, e.g. [57].

Some short notes are placed in the text in brackets [*like this].

Longer notes are marked in the text with two asterisks **, and placed at the end of each chapter

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

Paul Halsall, February 2001

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is part of the Internet History Sourcebooks Project. The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.   Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 20 January 2021