The Crusades: Alexius I

This guy is brilliant. He makes Machiavelli, Sun Tzu and Bismarck look like amateurs. He even leads his enemies around by their noses. It was only a dozen years earlier that Alexius was loosing battles to Bohemond in the Balkans and now he has him swearing oaths of allegiance and fighting the Turks and Fatamids for him. How to build a large empire without every leaving your armchair. He is so good at political maneuvering that I have to wonder about how this all started.

English: Portrait of the Byzantine Emperor Ale...

Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081-1118) (Credit: Wikipedia)

The story goes that Alexius put in a request for mercenaries and ends up with several armies totaling more than 100,000. We credit Pope Urban’s rousing speech with stirring the multitudes, but somehow I can’t imagine this happening to any other Byzantine Emperor we have met so far. Alexius has such a golden touch with that I have a hard time believing there is not more to this than we are told. Anna Comnena lets me down here in the most tantalizing way. She ends the previous story with “He made skillful use of the crowds who flocked to help… It was typical of Alexius: he thought deeply about a project and then worked with tremendous energy to complete it.” This seems to hint at, but not really explain, the abrupt beginning of the First Crusade that follows. “He had no time to relay before he heard a rumour that countless Frankish armies were approaching…” (308)




~ by severalfourmany on February 16, 2008.

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