Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 1 >> Albani to Alligator >> Alexius


emperor, aid, army and provinces

ALEXIUS (ComNENus), Emperor of Con stantinople: b. 1048; d. 15 Aug. 1118. He was the third son of John Comnenus, the Emperor Isaac's brother. Naturally clever, he was care fully educated under the direction of his moth er; and at the age of 14 took part in an en gagement with some European adventurers commanded by a Scot called Russel de Balliol, of whom the youthful warrior afterward be came an intimate friend. After several suc cessive emperors had tasted for a brief season the bitter sweets* of a nominal supremacy over a country torn by anarchy, Alexius, with the aid of the army, was proclaimed emperor, seized on Constantinople, which he permitted his soldiers to pillage, and shut up the nominal ruler in a monastery (1081). The empire was then in a deplorable state. The Turks were profiting by these intestine dissensions to seize upon the Asiatic provinces while Robert Guis card and his Normans were menacing the west, and fierce swarms from beyond the Danube threatened the nearer provinces. However, Alexius did not despair; he sent supplies of money to his ally Henry IV of Germany to en able him to attack Rome, the Pope (Gregory VII) being a firm friend of the Norman lead er. His Holiness had to flee, and Guiscard hastened to his aid, leaving in Greece his son Bohemond, who gained two victories over Alex ius; but famine and disease weakened the Nor man army, which Robert could not rejoin, as he was detained in Italy by a revolt of his vassals. In 1084 he returned to the charge, and

after gaining some advantages he suddenly died of an epidemic; although some ascribe his death to poison administered by one of Alexius' secret agents. In consequence of this event the Nor mans abandoned all their conquests, and Alex ius turned his attention to the Turks and Scythians, whom, after an arduous struggle, he completely defeated. Scarcely was this accom plished when, in 1096. the bands of the First Crusade arrived at Constantinople demanding aid, rudely menacing him in his own palace, and finally compelling him to join them. The alliance did .not last long; a war broke out be tween the Emperor and the Crusaders, which ended in the defeat of the latter. The rest of Alexius' life was employed in consolidating his conquests and restoring orderly government in his states, which were much disturbed by here sies. He died at 70, after a reign of 37 years. He extended his empire; and for its defense he left to his successors a well-disciplined army, which he had wholly created himself. His torians differ respecting his conduct and abili ties; his daughter Anna -wrote his life (the Alexiad).