An Instructive Story About How a Byzantine Princess Bravely Looked Deep into the Abyss of Oblivion


  • Bogdan Burliga University of Gdańsk, Poland
  • Michał Mauks University of Gdańsk, Poland



Anna Comnena, Byzantine historiography, prologue, topos, time, memory, oblivion


Instructive Story About How a Byzantine Princess Bravely Looked Deep into the Abyss of Oblivion

Anna Comnena’s beginning of the Prologue to her Alexiad is a fine literary and rhetorical piece. It is about the problem how destructive the passing of time is, and for which the only obstacle can be to consolidate the achievements of the past in a literary work. Such a line of thought was usually interpreted in the terms of the author’s rhetorical topos. Most frequently, this topos occurs in ancient historiography whose formal features were continued by Greek historians of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium). While not deyning that there is much to recommend in such an approach, the present paper tries also to pay attention to Anna’s life and stress the authenticity of her emotions. In this light the Preface to the Alexiad, while remaining an example of magnificent rhetorical argumentation, can also be seen as an authentic attempt ‘to stop’ time, an attempt made by an aging woman, conscious that this is the only chance to give meaning to her own life by preserving it in the memory of future generations, so, in a sense, to ‘immortalize’ it, given that it will be told in a written story, capable of surviving in time.


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How to Cite

Burliga, B. ., and M. . Mauks. “An Instructive Story About How a Byzantine Princess Bravely Looked Deep into the Abyss of Oblivion”. Classica Cracoviensia, vol. 22, Oct. 2019, pp. 167-96, doi:10.12797/CC.20.2019.22.07.



Byzantina et Neograeca