Alexios tries to forge a coalition against Antioch but has to abandon his plans when Anatolia comes calling again. The Emperor leaves this world frustrated by his failure to outmanoeuvre the Normans but his record in office is impressive nonetheless.
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This beautiful drawing of Alexios is by Diogo DaCunha. Check out more of his work on Instagram, at his website or on Vimeo.
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I do think a comparison to Leo III is pretty interesting: they do seem like the same kind of personality, as best as I can tell. Both of these latter-day Odysseuses took over empires on the verge of imploding and salvaged the situation through their steady helmsmanship. Both were crafty, cunning fellows, in terms of personality. Both were inveterate realists, long-sighted, and while they rose to power through the sword, were extremely skilled at diplomacy. Both dealt with an imperial state that had been thoroughly discredited by constant catastrophe and wanted to restore it to primacy-and wanted to ensure that random holy men couldn’t usurp state-approved churches.
It’s hard to tell given how little we know about Leo relative to Alexios, but there you go.
One major difference besides the time period, though, is that Leo was an outsider from the hinterlands. It’s hard to say anything definitive here, because we know so little about Leo compared to Alexios, but I don’t think it is hard to imagine his religious and policy tastes reflecting a certain disdain for the monasteries and elites of the capital that he might have seen as parasitical ingrates-and it would certainly make sense if Constantine V, who was born in the palace and clearly was highly educated, nevertheless inherited that “outsider” disdain from his father. A greater difference from Alexios’ policy of elite consolidation and orthodox retrenchment is hard to see. Granted, the cult of icons did not exist in Leo’s time, and as I said, the two shared more in common than on first glance: they wanted to reassert state approved power over religion. But the contrast is still visible.
I’m not sure what Robin would think of this comparison. I’d be curious to find out.