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Anna Comnena
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    (December 1, 1083-circa 1153)
    Born in Istanbul, Turkey
    Daughter of Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos
    Wrote 'The Alexiad,' an account of her father's reign
    Considered one of the first Western female historians
    When her parents banned her from studying ancient poetry, she learned it in secret from a court eunuch.
    She conspired with her mother to have her brother John disinherited so her husband could be named emperor.
    A later unsuccessful attempt to depose John resulted in her being exiled to a convent.
    She used 'The Alexiad' to praise her father and denigrate her political enemies.
    Her broad education prompted the Bishop of Ephesus to declare that she had reached 'the highest summit of wisdom, both secular and divine.'
    After her husband backed out of her plot against her brother, she said that 'nature had mistaken their sexes, for he ought to have been the woman.'
    Despite its biases, 'The Alexiad' remains a valuable account of Byzantine history in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Credit: C. Fishel

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