Anna Komnene was a Byzantine princess, the daughter of Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and his wife Irene Doukaina. She was born in the purple – meaning during her father’s reign and in the Porphyra Chamber of the imperial palace in Constantinople, making her a porphyrogenita. She is perhaps best known for her attempt to usurp her brother, John II Komnenos. As a result, Anna was exiled to a monastery where she would spend the rest of her life. While imprisoned, she wrote the Alexiad, an account of her father’s reign.
Anna Komnene: The Life and Work of a Medieval Historian by Leonora Neville tells the story not only of Anna Komnene herself but also about her work as a historian and the balance she had to find between her work and the impression she would make as a woman writing it. The story is very well written, though it is perhaps a bit repetitive and longwinded at times. You can tell that a lot of research has gone into this and I was impressed by how Anna was brought to life.
Don’t let the price of the hardcover scare you away, fortunately, the paperback is a lot more affordable. Overall, I would recommend this book for a look at a woman who dared to write outside the box.