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The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos, 1143-1180. by Paul Magdalino Review - Alexander Kazhdan

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  Medieval Academy of America The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos, 1143-1180. by Paul MagdalinoReview by: Alexander Kazhdan Speculum, Vol. 69, No. 4 (Oct., 1994), pp. 1216-1218Published by: Medieval Academy of America Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2865669 . Accessed: 30/11/2011 17:56 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspJSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.  Medieval Academy of America  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Speculum. http://www.jstor.org  them were willing to perpetrate considerable violence in order to achieve their own ends and that, as a consequence, the countryside was a disorderly place in which to live. In the process of pursuing their selfish interests, the gentry bypassed the usual channels of justice. The book, therefore, is less a study of crime and violence than it is a contribution to the ongoing debate over bastard feudalism. The problem of sources, of course, will always be a major one in any study of violence. The fifteenth century provides considerable frustrations to the researcher since the major criminal records (jail delivery rolls) represent only a portion of the cases and other records do not survive. Pleas in the King's Bench courts that appear to contain violence- trespasses with the descriptive phrase vi et armis-were probably simply employing a legal formulation rather than depicting actual use of force. Maddern has wisely chosen to present a statistical analysis rather than impressionistic gleanings from the sources. These data, even though incomplete, help to assess the types of cases that were coming into the court and the actions of the juries and justices in dealing with them. The activity in the courts indicates that the gentry were avidly using the courts for their cases and were serving as members of the juries and on panels of justice. The exercise of justice was an assertion of local power. Numbers alone, however, do not tell a complete tale of a society's concern about violence and neither, Maddern argues, do the parliamentary complaints about it. She uses two devices to form a new assessment. In one chapter she looks at chivalric and religious attitudes toward violence. This approach is promising and deserves more at- tention. The second valuable analytical tool is five case studies that examine the genesis and outcome of violence. Unfortunately, one is drawn from a notable Bedfordshire case, thereby raising doubts about the boundaries of East Anglia. The approach does permit her to question community tolerance for various sorts of social disorder. Maddern's revisionist view, that the period was not as violent as previous historians have thought, has some flaws. Assessing the majority of rapes as more consensual than violent is suspect. She argues that the gentry did not kill each other and explains away their violence against inferiors as part of prevailing feudal values. Did the Norwich and Bedford townsmen, the subject of two case studies, share these feudal values? To what extent had the gentry imbibed these values? Whether or not the social inferiors were violent toward each other does not appear in the account. Working from a modern definition of riot as social unrest of disgruntled minorities, she concludes that riots did not occur. But fifteenth-century contemporaries described the violence as riot, and they meant something different by the term. Was it a violent century? Maddern concludes that violence and law were closely related in the fifteenth-century context and both could contribute to maintaining the social order. Without the comparative analysis from studies of fourteenth- and sixteenth-century violence and law, however, Maddern cannot provide a plausible assessment of the impact of fifteenth-century disorder. BARBARA A. HANAWALT, University of Minnesota PAUL MAGDALINO, The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos, 1143-1180. Cambridge, Eng.: Cam- bridge University Press, 1993. Pp. xxvi, 557; 3 maps, 4 genealogical tables. $89.95. This is one of the most important recent publications in the field of Byzantine history. The twelfth century was for the Empire of Constantinople a critical period: still a powerful state under the rule of Manuel, a quarter century after his death it was crushed by the armies of the Fourth Crusade and broken to pieces. Was the capture of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204 an accidental event, or was it prepared by the hundred-year- them were willing to perpetrate considerable violence in order to achieve their own ends and that, as a consequence, the countryside was a disorderly place in which to live. In the process of pursuing their selfish interests, the gentry bypassed the usual channels of justice. The book, therefore, is less a study of crime and violence than it is a contribution to the ongoing debate over bastard feudalism. The problem of sources, of course, will always be a major one in any study of violence. The fifteenth century provides considerable frustrations to the researcher since the major criminal records (jail delivery rolls) represent only a portion of the cases and other records do not survive. Pleas in the King's Bench courts that appear to contain violence- trespasses with the descriptive phrase vi et armis-were probably simply employing a legal formulation rather than depicting actual use of force. Maddern has wisely chosen to present a statistical analysis rather than impressionistic gleanings from the sources. These data, even though incomplete, help to assess the types of cases that were coming into the court and the actions of the juries and justices in dealing with them. The activity in the courts indicates that the gentry were avidly using the courts for their cases and were serving as members of the juries and on panels of justice. The exercise of justice was an assertion of local power. Numbers alone, however, do not tell a complete tale of a society's concern about violence and neither, Maddern argues, do the parliamentary complaints about it. She uses two devices to form a new assessment. In one chapter she looks at chivalric and religious attitudes toward violence. This approach is promising and deserves more at- tention. The second valuable analytical tool is five case studies that examine the genesis and outcome of violence. Unfortunately, one is drawn from a notable Bedfordshire case, thereby raising doubts about the boundaries of East Anglia. The approach does permit her to question community tolerance for various sorts of social disorder. Maddern's revisionist view, that the period was not as violent as previous historians have thought, has some flaws. Assessing the majority of rapes as more consensual than violent is suspect. She argues that the gentry did not kill each other and explains away their violence against inferiors as part of prevailing feudal values. Did the Norwich and Bedford townsmen, the subject of two case studies, share these feudal values? To what extent had the gentry imbibed these values? Whether or not the social inferiors were violent toward each other does not appear in the account. Working from a modern definition of riot as social unrest of disgruntled minorities, she concludes that riots did not occur. But fifteenth-century contemporaries described the violence as riot, and they meant something different by the term. Was it a violent century? Maddern concludes that violence and law were closely related in the fifteenth-century context and both could contribute to maintaining the social order. Without the comparative analysis from studies of fourteenth- and sixteenth-century violence and law, however, Maddern cannot provide a plausible assessment of the impact of fifteenth-century disorder. BARBARA A. HANAWALT, University of Minnesota PAUL MAGDALINO, The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos, 1143-1180. Cambridge, Eng.: Cam- bridge University Press, 1993. Pp. xxvi, 557; 3 maps, 4 genealogical tables. $89.95. This is one of the most important recent publications in the field of Byzantine history. The twelfth century was for the Empire of Constantinople a critical period: still a powerful state under the rule of Manuel, a quarter century after his death it was crushed by the armies of the Fourth Crusade and broken to pieces. Was the capture of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204 an accidental event, or was it prepared by the hundred-year- Reviews eviews 216 216  long rule of the Komnenian dynasty? The study of the reign of Manuel I may give us the answer to that signal question. The last monograph on Manuel formed the second volume of a book by the French Byzantinist Ferdinand Chalandon, Les Comnene Paris, 1912); a comparison of the content of the two monographs shows how far Byzantine studies have progressed in the last eighty years. Chalandon's book is first and foremost the history of wars and diplomacy with a chapter dedicated to the intrigues of the court and a concluding chapter on administrative and ecclesiastical affairs. Magdalino has expanded the theme far beyond military and diplomatic events, to which only the first chapter is devoted; after that he characterizes economic and administrative organization (chaps. 2-4), intellectual culture (chap. 5), and state propaganda (chap. 6). Magdalino's achievement consists not only in embarking into new territories, primarily the economic, social, and intellectual spheres of human life, but in reconsidering the whole of the Byzantine twelfth century. To understand the significance of Magdalino's revolution we need now at least a brief historiographical excursus: Two contemporary historians described the reign of Manuel I, John Kinnamos, the emperor's secretary and faithful panegyrist; and Niketas Choniates who conjured up a complex image in which positive and negative features are balanced. Modern scholarship has not followed Kin- namos: even Louis-Philippe de Segur (Histoire du Bas-Empire, vol. 3 [Paris, 1826]), who praised the first two Komnenoi, Alexios I and John II, called Manuel an evil ruler (p. 400). Russian scholars of the late nineteenth century suggested an elaborate notion of the bad twelfth century: whereas the emperors of the Macedonian dynasty in the tenth century cared about the peasantry and army, their successors (especially the Komnenoi) yielded to western (alias feudal) influences and undermined the sound pillars of the Orthodox monarchy. That idea prevails in modern scholarship, including the popular textbook by Georgij Ostrogorskij. Even Paul Lemerle, who courageously rehabilitated the eleventh century, stops at the eve of the Komnenian epoch: according to Lemerle, Alexios I introduced une societe bloquee ; he denies Byzantine feudalism but thinks that the Komnenoi rejected the bourgeoisie d'argent et d'affaires and by so doing deviated from the policy of the eleventh century (Cinq etudes sur le XIe siecle byzantin [Paris, 1977], pp. 309-12). Despite the authority of those great names, some attempts to reevaluate the economic situation and political strength of Byzantium under the Komnenoi have been made in the last decades, especially by Michael Hendy, Ralph-Johannes Lilie, and Alan Harvey. Magdalino, however, has not only summarized the observations of his predecessors, has not only shed fresh light on various particular problems of Komnenian history, but has created a holistic picture of the reign of Manuel I and of the entire Komnenian period from the new viewpoint. Unlike Lemerle, Magdalino states that the twelfth century was on the whole a good period for agriculture, industry and trade, especially in the European provinces of the empire (p. 140). He diligently studies two major elements that formed the backbone of the Komnenian regime, the provincial town and the large estate, and comes to a very important conclusion, that the main structures of Byzantine feudalism remained .. . extraordinarily centralized (p. 170 f). That observation, by the way, leads Magdalino to question the traditional view that great landlords contributed to the fall of the empire in 1204. One point in this connection needs further analysis-the economic role of Constantinople: did the capital preserve in the twelfth century the economic prepon- derance so typical of the previous period, or was Constantinople pushed to the back- ground by such centers as Thessaloniki, Thebes, and Corinth? In the twelfth century the ruling class of the empire was being restructured. For many decades Byzantinists accepted Charles Le Beau's disdain for the Komnenian reform of Reviews 1217  titulature, which he labeled child's play (Histoire du Bas-Empire, 17 [Paris, 1775], p. 473). Magdalino, however, following Armin Hohlweg, describes the new hierarchy, based on kinship and affinity with the ruling dynasty, as a serious measure toward political stabilization; my calculations-on a very limited statistical basis-have led me to the con- clusion that in the days of Manuel ca. 90 percent of high military positions were in the hands of the Komnenians and their relatives and that eunuchs and foreigners, charac- teristic of the eleventh-century elite, constituted an insignificant number among Byzantine generals. The chapter on the intellectual life of the empire is very provocative. The tendency has been to depict Byzantine intellectuals as groveling before the potentates, as lacking creativity and enslaved by classical and biblical traditions. Magdalino breaks with that view and presents the intellectual life of the Komnenian epoch as a struggle of ideas and ideals, a pre-Renaissance (p. 393), and a period of cultural change. This cultural change, I would like to add, is completely congruous with the (slow) economic upsurge of which Magdalino speaks in chapter 2. Summing up the distinction between his view and that of Lemerle, Magdalino asserts that the empire of Manuel Komnenos was a synthesis between the civil society which had flourished in the eleventh century and the aristocratic militarism which was needed to keep the empire intact (p. 490). Accordingly he rejects the traditional perception of Manuel's international policy as a chain of failures. Manuel's policy was as complex and as changeable as the international situation to which he reacted (p. 104). And he con- tinues: Manuel's ecumenism worked on a deeper level than he may have realized (p. 106). To perceive this ecumenism in its broader framework one should, probably, take into consideration that Manuel tried to find understanding also with the eastern neighbors of the empire: Charles Brand, in a recent article (Dumbarton Oaks Papers 43 [1989], 1- 25), has demonstrated the important role played by the Turkish element in Byzantium at that time. Magdalino begins his book by saying that the twelfth century was the age of Henry Plantagenet and Frederick Barbarossa (p. 1). They were the last universalist monarchs of medieval Europe, and their end marks the end of universalist empires and the beginning of national states. Manuel Komnenos is their companion not only because of the similar brilliance of his character but primarily because he was the last Byzantine universalist basileus. If his death opened a period of crisis that was consummated in the catastrophe of 1204, the cause was neither his personal shortcomings, nor the perversity of the Greek nation, nor the wretchedness of Orthodox Christianity-by the beginning of the thirteenth century medieval universalism, both in the West and in the East, was incongruous with the new economic and social conditions. The post-Manuel fate of Byzantium was part and parcel of a general European development. Magdalino's book allows us to see Byzantium within the framework of a European context-not as an Orthodox monster. ALEXANDER KAZHDAN, Dumbarton Oaks PAUL MAGDALINO, ed., The Perception of the Past in Twelfth-Century urope. London and Rio Grande, Ohio: Hambledon Press, 1992. Pp. xvi, 240. $55. The essays gathered together here under the rubric The Perception of the Past grew out of a conference held at St. Andrews in September 1989. Like many such ventures, it has the strengths and weaknesses of its srcins. Its strength comes from the organizers' desire to be as comprehensive as possible in surveying the whole of Europe in terms of their announced agenda. Its weakness derives from the predictable fact that the research and titulature, which he labeled child's play (Histoire du Bas-Empire, 17 [Paris, 1775], p. 473). Magdalino, however, following Armin Hohlweg, describes the new hierarchy, based on kinship and affinity with the ruling dynasty, as a serious measure toward political stabilization; my calculations-on a very limited statistical basis-have led me to the con- clusion that in the days of Manuel ca. 90 percent of high military positions were in the hands of the Komnenians and their relatives and that eunuchs and foreigners, charac- teristic of the eleventh-century elite, constituted an insignificant number among Byzantine generals. The chapter on the intellectual life of the empire is very provocative. The tendency has been to depict Byzantine intellectuals as groveling before the potentates, as lacking creativity and enslaved by classical and biblical traditions. Magdalino breaks with that view and presents the intellectual life of the Komnenian epoch as a struggle of ideas and ideals, a pre-Renaissance (p. 393), and a period of cultural change. This cultural change, I would like to add, is completely congruous with the (slow) economic upsurge of which Magdalino speaks in chapter 2. Summing up the distinction between his view and that of Lemerle, Magdalino asserts that the empire of Manuel Komnenos was a synthesis between the civil society which had flourished in the eleventh century and the aristocratic militarism which was needed to keep the empire intact (p. 490). Accordingly he rejects the traditional perception of Manuel's international policy as a chain of failures. Manuel's policy was as complex and as changeable as the international situation to which he reacted (p. 104). And he con- tinues: Manuel's ecumenism worked on a deeper level than he may have realized (p. 106). To perceive this ecumenism in its broader framework one should, probably, take into consideration that Manuel tried to find understanding also with the eastern neighbors of the empire: Charles Brand, in a recent article (Dumbarton Oaks Papers 43 [1989], 1- 25), has demonstrated the important role played by the Turkish element in Byzantium at that time. Magdalino begins his book by saying that the twelfth century was the age of Henry Plantagenet and Frederick Barbarossa (p. 1). They were the last universalist monarchs of medieval Europe, and their end marks the end of universalist empires and the beginning of national states. Manuel Komnenos is their companion not only because of the similar brilliance of his character but primarily because he was the last Byzantine universalist basileus. If his death opened a period of crisis that was consummated in the catastrophe of 1204, the cause was neither his personal shortcomings, nor the perversity of the Greek nation, nor the wretchedness of Orthodox Christianity-by the beginning of the thirteenth century medieval universalism, both in the West and in the East, was incongruous with the new economic and social conditions. The post-Manuel fate of Byzantium was part and parcel of a general European development. Magdalino's book allows us to see Byzantium within the framework of a European context-not as an Orthodox monster. ALEXANDER KAZHDAN, Dumbarton Oaks PAUL MAGDALINO, ed., The Perception of the Past in Twelfth-Century urope. London and Rio Grande, Ohio: Hambledon Press, 1992. Pp. xvi, 240. $55. The essays gathered together here under the rubric The Perception of the Past grew out of a conference held at St. Andrews in September 1989. Like many such ventures, it has the strengths and weaknesses of its srcins. Its strength comes from the organizers' desire to be as comprehensive as possible in surveying the whole of Europe in terms of their announced agenda. Its weakness derives from the predictable fact that the research and 1218 218 Reviews eviews
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