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The Construction of the Two Palaces: The Composition of the Song of Digenis Akritas and the Claim for the Anatolic Hegemony of Alexius Komnenos

The Construction of the Two Palaces: The Composition of The Song of Digenis Akritas and the Claim for the Anatolic Hegemony of Alexius Komnenos

By João Vicente DE MEDEIROS PUBLIO DIAS

Published Online (2012) – Originally published as “Erytheia: revista de estudios bizantinos y neogriegos” Instituto Hispano-Helenico, Number 31 (2010) pp. 55-73

Abstract: The arrival of the Komnenos-Doukas faction at the imperial throne, with the rising of Alexius Komnenos in 1081, represents a strong change in the rhetoric and sharing of power in Byzantium. However, while the propaganda works of this emperor’s son and grandson are well known, the literary circles related to Alexius I himself are almost unknown. Therefore, in this article, we propose that the Song of Digenis Akritas was a literary construction to legitimate the supremacy claims of Alexius I Komnenos related with Anatolia, which was menaced by the Turks and the Crusaders. We base our hypothesis on three buildings, both material and discursive: the Blachernae Palace in Constantinople, the Treaty imposed by Alexius I to the Seljuk sultan Malik-Shah in 1116 and the Digenis’ palace by the Euphrates’ banks.

Introduction: This article is based on the investigations carried out along the Masters Degree program in History, in the research line of Culture and Power at Universidade Federal do Paraná (Brazil), entitled “From the Frontier to Constantinople: the insertion of the Song of Digenis Akritas in the Byzantine political scene (11th and 12th Centuries)”.  In the dissertation we approached the debate, developed around the Song of Digenis Akritas – work that represents the foundation of a new fictional genre, blossomed at the court of the Komneni – and around the foundation of Alexius Komnenos’ reign, which reformed the Byzantines’ political institutions, as well as the division of power. This emperor enabled the arise of a familiar court that created and appreciated this Byzantine romances.  However, it is not believable that the innovations related to the Song of Digenis Akritas and Alexius Komnenos may have arisen independently. Therefore, we focused our analysis in three “constructions”: the palace of Blachernae, the palace which Digenis Akritas, built in the end of his life on the banks of Euphrates, and the treaty imposed by Alexius I to the Seljuk sultan Malik Shah at the year 1116.

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