Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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AIDŌS did not prevent her: An intertextual approach to Komnene's depictions of women in positions of power

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posted on 2021-12-09, 07:09 authored by Jardine, Claudia

Anna Komnene depicts several women in positions of power in the Alexiad, the earliest extant historiographical text written by a woman from the Byzantine period. The intertextual qualities of these depictions of women, however, have not received much attention and indeed the impact of the gender of the author on the text is a topic which skews much of the scholarship. This thesis aims to show that several signposted quotations of earlier source texts reveal an author in the act of contemplating the expectations of gendered behaviour for her narrative subjects, including her own authorial persona. The chapters in this thesis focus on the depictions of four women and the roles they play in the Alexiad: Anna Dalassene, Gaita of Salerno, Emma of Hauteville and Anna Komnene. First, the construction of one or more of these characters is broken down and the evidence in the text concerning the positions of power held by the woman is analysed. Second, an intertextual reading of a passage related to the characterisation of each woman is posed in order to discuss what is similar or different concerning the source text or texts and the target text. The rhetorical goals behind the depictions of the women are also considered, and their actions in relation to the societal expectations of appropriate gendered behaviour for women and men during the Byzantine Empire. The four case studies demonstrate that Komnene depicted these women using their power in the service of the family unit while showing due deference to their fathers, husbands or adult sons. Furthermore, the “double consciousness” of Komnene, as revealed in these depictions, shows her commitment to the contemplation of the power of women and the ways in which women could utilise their self-control to manipulate expectations of gendered behaviour and thus protect their family units, and therefore the means by which they came to hold power. The outcome of this research contributes to efforts to better understand representations of gender in the literature of the Byzantine empire, deepens the discussions of Komnene’s use of source texts and expands on the insights of earlier scholarship.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Gender and Women’s Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Masterson, Mark