Anna Comnena: The World’s First Female Historian and a Talented Physician

By: admin

By Phineas Upham

Widely considered to be the world’s first female historian, Anna Comnena would eventually become known for more than just her record of her father’s reign. She wrote extensively of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos of Byzantium in the Alexiad, and she would eventually become the manager of the hospital and orphanage her father had built for her.

Comnena’s early life was full of love and discipline, administered equally. She was the eldest of 7 children. Like most women of royal birth, Comnena received extensive schooling from an early age. She studied astronomy, history, and literature, but she was truly interested in the medical sciences.

She was betrothed to wed Constantine Doukas, who was the son of Michael VII and Maria of Alania. Unfortunately, her husband died before she could be wed to him.

Her life didn’t stop there, for her ambition and intelligence were strong qualities. Her deep love of philosophy motivated her to continue her studies. She had intended on being heir to her father’s throne, a title that eventually went to her brother John II Komnenos.

Instead of a regal destiny, her father acknowledged that love of learning and constructed a hospital for her to manage. Unfortunately, Anna’s ambition was too strong. She had to leave court shortly after her brother became emperor in 1118.

Anna and her mother conspired to depose the new emperor, but her father discovered their plot. That discovery forced her mother, her husband and herself out of her father’s good graces. Her husband died shortly after, and her mother took Anna to a monastery they had founded together. It was during this time of her life that Anna chronicled her father’s reign, perhaps as atonement or just to record the events.

About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Facebook page.

Back to Top