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Alexius I(Alexius Comnenus) (əlĕk`sēəs, kəmnē`nəs), 1048–1118, Byzantine emperor (1081–1118). Under the successors of his uncle, Isaac IIsaac I
(Isaac Comnenus) , c.1005–1061, Byzantine emperor (1057–59), first of the Comnenus dynasty. Proclaimed emperor by the army, he deposed Michael VI, who had succeeded Theodora (reigned 1055–56), and sent him into a monastery.
..... Click the link for more information. , the empire had fallen prey to anarchy and foreign invasions. In 1081, Alexius, who had become popular as a general, overthrew Nicephorus III and was proclaimed emperor. The most immediate danger besetting the empire was the Norman invasions (1081–85) under Robert GuiscardRobert Guiscard
, c.1015–1085, Norman conqueror of S Italy, a son of Tancred de Hauteville (see Normans). Robert joined (c.1046) his brothers in S Italy and fought with them to expel the Byzantines.
..... Click the link for more information. and his son, Bohemond IBohemond I
, c.1056–1111, prince of Antioch (1099–1111), a leader in the First Crusade (see Crusades); elder son of Robert Guiscard. With his father he fought (1081–85) against the Byzantine emperor Alexius I.
..... Click the link for more information. . Alexius obtained Venetian help at the price of valuable commercial privileges. This and a truce with the Seljuk Turks enabled him to defend the Balkan Peninsula until the death of Robert Guiscard, when the Normans temporarily withdrew (1085). Next, Alexius secured the alliance of the CumansCumans
, nomadic East Turkic people, identified with the Kipchaks (or the western branch of the Kipchaks) and known in Russian as Polovtsi. Coming from NW Asian Russia, they conquered S Russia and Walachia in the 11th cent.
..... Click the link for more information. and with their help defeated (1091) the PechenegsPechenegs
, nomadic people of the Turkic family. Their original home is not known, but in the 8th and 9th cent. they inhabited the region between the lower Volga and the Urals. Pushed west (c.
..... Click the link for more information. , who had beseiged Constantinople. He then repulsed the Cumans, who had turned against him, regained territory from the Turks, and suppressed insurrections in Crete and Cyprus. At the same time as Alexius was seeking aid from the West against the Turks, the First Crusade (see CrusadesCrusades
, series of wars undertaken by European Christians between the 11th and 14th cent. to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. First Crusade
In the 7th cent., Jerusalem was taken by the caliph Umar.
..... Click the link for more information. ) was declared. Faced with the presence of an army of unruly and pillaging Crusaders near his capital, Alexius sought both to rid himself of the Crusaders and to employ them for his own purposes. He furnished them with money, supplies, and transportation to Asia Minor after he had persuaded the leaders to swear him fealty and to agree to surrender to him all conquests of former Byzantine territories. In return, he promised to join the Crusaders, who at first complied. Bohemond, however, seized Antioch for himself, and in 1099 Alexius began operations against him. In 1108, Bohemond was forced to acknowledge Alexius as his suzerain. The last years of Alexius' reign were consumed by fresh struggles with the Turks and by the intrigues of his daughter Anna ComnenaAnna Comnena
, b. 1083, d. after 1148, Byzantine princess and historian; daughter of Emperor Alexius I. She plotted, during and after her father's reign, against her brother, John II, in favor of her husband, Nicephorus Bryennius, whom she wished to rule as emperor.
..... Click the link for more information. against his son and heir, John II. Alexius' reign restored Byzantine military and naval power and political prestige, but brought onerous taxation, the depreciation of currency, and the extension of feudalism by grants of estates, draining imperial strength.
See the study by his daughter Anna Comnena.