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Chapter 1.Sources.

1) Sources about the battle.


The number of sources which a scholar can use in the reconstruction of the events of the battle of Myriokephalon is relatively large. Direct references to this historical event are present in different narratives, which originate from different areas of medieval world. The largest group of sources is that represented by Latin contemporaries of the event. Of these, one of the depictions of the battle originates from Sicily (the Annales Romoaldi),10 three from Germany (Annales Stadenses,11 the Chronicle of Robert de Monte,12 and the Letter of Frederick Barbarossa to Manuel Komnenos13) and three from England.14 The second group of sources is that of Byzantine origin. The detailed depiction of the battle is present in the widely known and no less widely used History of Nicetas Choniates.15 Some references to the event can be found in the historical work of John Kinnamos;16 finally, a brief, yet important mention of the battle is present in the contemporary chronicle of Pseudo-Codinus.17 The next two groups comprise two sources each: the first, of Syriac origin, includes the mention of the battle in the Chronicle of Michael the Syrian,18 and in the bulky historical compilation of Bar Hebraeus19. The second, of Armenian origin, consist of description of the event in the work of Smbat Sparapet20 and a short remark in the “Chronological table” of Hetoum.21 The last but not the least important source is the monumental work of William, bishop of Tyre, who incorporated in his work a narrative about the battle, presenting it from the Crusaders’ point of view.22 This list is, of course not complete: as far as I know, there are at least three more sources,23 which probably can add some information about the battle to the common knowledge, although probably not much.

Thus, for the solution of the first research question – reconstruction of the battle itself--I will use these sources. The second research question is much more problematic. In the following pages I will examine the lengthiest sources and determine which of them are suitable for the research on the images and representations of the enemy of Byzantines and Seljuks/ in both Byzantine and apparently Seljuk-influenced sources. From the very beginning I will exclude the largest group--i.e., reports of Western Chroniclers--partly because they clearly represent images of the battle constructed by their authors, who were neither Byzantines nor Seljuks, and partly because the information contained in them offers very little relevant material for studying the process that I propose to call the construction of the enemy. The same is true for the Armenian sources, which represent the special position of this ethnic group at the time. Thus, my attention will be focused on the Byzantine sources and on other sources, which, for historical reasons, can be interpreted as representing the Seljuk perspective, namely, the Syrian Chronicle of Michael the Great, patriarch of the Orthodox Syrian Church (1166-1199). 2) The Deeds of John and Manuel Komnenos by John Kinnamos. John Kinnamos (b. before 1143-d. after 1185) spent most of his life in the corps of imperial secretaries, and, as a member of this body of the court, personally knew at least two Byzantine emperors–Manuel and Andronicus. Despite this fact, he did not receive a high rank during his lifetime. His main work, The Deeds of John and Manuel Comnenus , was probably written during the short reign of Alexios II and Maria-Xena (1183-1185). It narrates events from the death of Alexios I (1118) until Manuel’s campaign against the Turks in 1176. The end of the whole story is missing, although its existence can be inferred from references in several places in the surviving part of the book.

The main sources of Kinnamos were probably, as Brand notes, oral communications and his own observations.24 The text of the Deeds is embroidered with Thucydidian letters which were probably invented by the author himself. In general, the influence of classics is clearly noticeable in the text. Besides Thucydides, Kinnamos used Procopius as a model for the “military narrative.” It is important to note, however, that his usage of the classics is not as elaborate and artistic as in the work of the writers of the previous and next generations, namely, Anna Komnene and Choniates. This makes it easier to understand, but only when there is something to be understood. It all depends on the information which the author had received. The treatment of different events varies; in some cases they are described in colorful detail, while in other cases the author produces only a brief summary of the events.25 The main interest of the author, as shown in the title, were the emperors, whose deeds are described in a panegyric way.26 In some cases Kinnamos was not afraid of making an excursus. He tells the reader about ceremonies, intrigues, plots and even landscapes, yet battles and the heroic conduct of the rulers still occupy a large place in his work.27

Unfortunately, the only extant manuscript breaks off exactly at the point where the battle at Myriokephalon should be narrated. Nevertheless this is not a reason to reject Kinnamos as a source for my work. In the middle of his book he gives two summaries of his understanding of the battle, which, even though short, provide relevant material for studying the image/representation of the enemy in the work of this Komnenian author.


2) The “Historia” of Nicetas Choniates.


The future writer, bureaucrat, and dogmatist was born in the city of Chonae around 1155. He received his education in Constantinople, a very good one, as his later life and work would show.28 Choniates started his service probably around 1182 as a minor tax collector. Later, Nicetas was able to enter the corps of imperial secretaries, where he served during the reign of Alexios II (1180-1182). His real rise to power began in 1191, when he was promoted to judge of the velum. The highest point in Choniates’ career was reached in 1195, when he became the grand logothete--the highest civil office in the state. All came to an end, though, with the fall of Constantinople (13 April 1204), when Nicetas, after taking refuge in the house of a Venetian friend, had to flee with his wife (sister of his schoolmate Belissariotes) and children to Nicaea. There his family lived in sad conditions. Finally in 1217, the former head of imperial bureaucracy died, leaving to the coming generations a small corpus of letters, several orations, one dogmatic treatise, and his main historical work which is known under the name Historia29

This bulky historical narrative is divided into nineteen large books. It covers the period from the death of Alexios Komnenos in 1118 to the expedition of the Latin emperor of Constantinople against the Bulgars in 1206.30 The first book is dedicated to the reign of John I Komnenos and based on written sources, probably the same as Kinnamos also used.31 In the later books, the author used oral evidence from participants in the events described, written sources, to which he probably had access as a member of the court, as well as personal remarks and observations. Some of the pieces of the work are based on literary evidence.32 The creation of the work took a long time. It was probably begun in the reign of Emperor Angelos and not finished until after the fall of Constantinople.

The style of Nicetas is magnificent. His language is elaborated to the highest possible degree. This is a result of Choniates’ rhetorical, biblical and Classical education.In his work he interlaces metaphors, epithets, and images from the Byzantine historians, ancient Greek writers and books of Old Testament. The bulk of the narrative, which is, in a way, a grand explanation of the fall of Constantinople, is the history of emperors and all the people around them. Choniates’ attitudes towards the rulers of the empire have been the subject of long and continuing debates.33 At the same time Choniates is a rare master of detail–so rare that one can hardly find any similar writer in all of Middle Byzantine literature. His methods of image-building, which are complex and varied, will be discussed in the chapter on the construction of images: but in advance, I will say that Choniates is using bits and pieces of Bible, Aeschylus, and Theophanes the Confessor taken out of the primary context. He inserted them in the narrative with the conscious aim of creating new meanings; he plays with them as a child with “Lego” blocks, expressing his ideas and himself.

The battle at Myriokephalon occupies nearly all of book six. The author did not take part in the battle himself, but he incorporated information from real participants in his literary account.34 Hence, his work can be also used for the research topic investigated here. More interesting is the fact that Nicetas’ description was partly based on an account similar to that of next item in the list of the sources.



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