Zach – Welcome to another episode of Minimum Wage Historian! Today’s topic is –
(Anna pushes Zach out of the way.)
Anna – Today’s top is is the best topic we’ve ever had. We’ll be discussing the most noble, most courageous, more intelligent Byzantine emperor ever! My father, Alexios Komnenos!
(Anna starts clapping.)
Zach – Yes, um. so, time to introduce our panel! We have with us today, Joan of Arc, maiden warrior of God. Napoleon….yeah, you know. Buffalo Calf Road, warrior woman of the Cheyenne. Next we have Gaspar Correia, Portuguese conquistador and “historian.” And last and certainly not least or she’d burn my house down, we have St. Olga of Kiev! Thank you all for coming today.
Napoleon – I had nothing better to do. My schedule is usually much to busy for such petty little things like this.
Zach – And we love having you too. If it weren’t for Josephine I wouldn’t….um…moving on.
Buffalo – So, today’s topic is Anna’s father? Why’s he so special?
Anna – You say that as if you doubt it? Have you never hear of the great Alexius I Comnenus? (English spelling of his name.) The slayer of the Seljuck? The defeater of the Normans?
Buffalo – Um, nope, doesn’t ring a bell.
(Anna’s mouth drops open.)
Olga – Yes, yes, I love Roman history. We Russians like Constantinople very much. I know this Alexios. He killed Frenchies and then kept crazy Crusaders from destroying house.
Anna – Thank you Olga! I knew there was a reason I liked you besides dire threats of forced cremation.
Olga – Olga has you back, darling!
Joan – He killed my fellow countrymen??
Zach – Well, to be fair they were invading his empire.
Joan – Then they must have had a God given reason to do so!
Napoleon – It is called ambition my dear Joan.
Zach – So, let’s get started. First we need to explain a little of who this Alexios person is. He was a Byzantine Emperor…
Anna – No, you must start earlier than that! Let me do this. (clears throat.) Alexios was an important military man at a young age. Almost since childhood he had been fighting in wars against the enemies of the Romans. He was born in 1056AD and rose through the ranks to become a general in the army. He fought to put down several rebellions.
Gaspar – This is the time when Alexios traveled to the alternate universe and trained in the powers of Dark Energy to use against his enemies and had implanted a cybernetic eye that could see in infra red and x-ray.
Anna – (Glares at Gaspar.)
Napoleon – Yes, he learned the arts of war. He became very skilled. (Waves hand dismissively.)
Anna – But that is not all! He showed compassion as well. When he captured a rebel by the name of Roussel, he needed to make sure he couldn’t rally support, the usual means was to have the traitor blinded. But my father showed compassion and pretended to blind him.
Buffalo – I didn’t know Medieval Europeans knew what compassion was.
Joan – I do like him already! Clearly a righteous man.
Olga – Boring.
Anna – But then he became emperor and…
Napoleon – Hold on, hold on. It wasn’t that easy as I recall. Wasn’t it a bit of a…how do I say this? Coup? Rebellion? An usurper?
Anna – That is not fair! The previous emperor, Nikephoros III, was destroying the empire with his negligence. My father had to do something. When he finally got hold of the reigns of the empire he found an empty treasury, no military and enemies cutting away at the empire’s territory.
Zach – It was a bad situation for the empire. It’s borders had shrunk, it was bankrupt and its reputation as a super power was down the toilet.
Anna – However, my father didn’t have much time to work on bringing back prosperity because as soon as he became emperor he had to deal with invasion.
Joan – I don’t like other countries thinking they can go in and take over other countries.
Napoleon – But, my dear Joan…
Joan – Don’t call me “dear.”
Napoleon – Instead of the English, it was we French that were invading. The Normans under a man named Robert Guiscard invaded in full force.
Zach – He was the Duke of Lombardy and did a total D-Day style aquatic invasion. He landed with thousands of Normans and Italian mercenaries and began taking over towns and cities. Alexios looked at his army and saw a hand full of town militia, one unit of full time but green cavalry….and that was about it. He really had no army and no money to pay for mercenaries. But wait, that isn’t all.
Anna – Also, the Turks were storming over Anatolia (Turkey) and taking over huge areas of territory. He faced two simultaneous invasions with no way to stop them.
Buffalo – Oh, dear! He was doomed then!
Napoleon – I would suggest asking for terms.
Olga – Nyet! Alexios would not give up!
Anna – Indeed he did not! My father was one to face a crisis with determination. With what few troops he had, he sailed them over to Turkey and began hit and run raids at night. They would sneak in, kill and destroy as much as they could and retreat before the Turks could launch a counter attack. They did this over and over again, pushing the Turks back. As they grew in confidence and strength they began hitting larger targets, launching day attacks and eventually full battles. People began to flock to join in order to kick the Turks out. Soon the Turkish leader asked for peace and my father was only too happy to oblige.
Buffalo – I like Alexios! He fights like an Indian!
Olga – He no give up. I like this.
Gaspar – He also gave his troops the invisibility amulets of Nyrulth the Unspeakable. Though dark magic, it helped his troops to fight superior odds.
Anna – Now that the Turks were dealt with he turned his attention to the west where Robert was ravaging up and down the Balkans. With his army, now confident and stronger, he set out and met Robert in open battle.
Napoleon – It did not go well for him, no?
Anna – No, it didn’t. The Roman army was completely defeated and my father had to run for his life. He was chased down and one man took a swing at him and he managed to duck by quickly leaning backwards on his horse.
Anna – Then he was surrounded by nine Normans who stuck him with spears. But his heavy catophract armor stopped all six spears and his horse bolted and he managed to escape.
Napoleon – “Horse bolted.” Please.
Joan – Surely God was with him.
Anna – Thus my father escaped with his life and, not being one to rest, immediately began forming another army. When he had enough he set out and faced Robert again. Now he knew the Normans’ tactics and placed wagons in front of his position to break up the Norman cavalry charge. But the Normans attacked on the flanks and Alexios’s army was defeated again. Also, he barely managed to escape again and gathered what remnants of his army he could.
Napoleon – Twice he was soundly defeated. (Shakes head.)
Anna – What? Would you give up and go sulk on some remote island?
Napoleon – Well…I…Um…
Anna – Thought so. My father wasn’t deterred and asked for more recruits to build up another armor.
Buffalo – Third time’s the charm, right?
Anna – So he took his new army and this time he laid caltrops, sharp iron spikes, all over the battlefield where the invincible Norman charge would come from.
Buffalo – Oh, this will do it! Go Alexios!
Anna – But the Norman cavalry came at them from different directions and soundly defeated them again.
Olga – So much for so called “third time charm,” yes?
Napoleon – This is getting embarrassing. I think it’s safe to say that your father is no military genius. Yes, he won several battles, but look at this! Three humiliating defeats when his country is under attack. What a loser.
Zach – Loser? What did you do when you lost in Russia? Retreat and go home to snuggle with your teddy. What did Alexios do?
Gaspar – Even I admit that I’d be having second thoughts about this whole war thing.
Zach – Most people would probably give up after four humiliating defeats. But Anna’s father wasn’t discouraged and began making plans for an offensive. Now, as some may know, the Byzantines have a reputation for being sneaky and underhanded. Well, it was time to go Byzantine on their backsides! Alexios paid the German Holy Roman Emperor (who was no fan of Robert) to go invade Lombardy. This caused Robert to rush home to defend his home. He also began paying the Cuman nomads to come join in the war on the Roman side.
Anna – And this was not all. He also began paying of Roberts’ mercenary captains to demand pay or leave. He knew Robert’s son (who was left in charge while he was away in Lombardy) couldn’t pay, so some mercenaries began going over to the Roman side.
Buffalo – Good! When faced with a superior enemy, attack from behind and weaken them slowly.
Olga – Yes, but this no fun. I want battles and big fires!
Anna – Then hold on for a second. Alexios then thought of a plan. Instead of fighting the Normans head on, he planned something sneaky. He set up his army with his imperial tent in plain view. When the Normans came, they did a direct attack against the Roman center where the imperial tent was. Then the Roman army retreated and the Normans thought they were winning. Then my father, with a small but crack unit of cavalry, came out of hiding and attacked the Norman rear. Then he sent his Cuman and Turkish horse archers to attack the Norman heavy cavalry, making them aim for their horses. This caused a lot of confusion in the Norman ranks and so much dust was kicked up that they couldn’t tell from what direction the attacks were coming from. Gaita, Robert’s wife who often fought in the battles while dressed in full armor, tried to rally the troops. But the battle was lost and the Normans retreated.
Buffalo – Yay! Finally!
Napoleon – He may not be a military genius, but he was tenacious.
Gaspar – He’s like a honey badger going against a bear!
Anna – But this was not all. My father then convinced the Venetians to join in and the Venetians began a naval war against Robert’s forces. The Venetians won a battle, but then lost horribly. However they came back and won another victory, one that almost saw Robert and Gaita, his wife, captured. The Venetians prevented Robert from launching another offensive against the Empire and while this naval war was going on, Robert got a fever and soon died. With him dead, the force behind the invasion vanished and the threat was over.
Napoleon – So, Alexios did not defeat him in battle, but simply…waited him out?
Joan – He preservered. He fought and though he did not win, he kept the fight going strong. he outlasted his enemy because he did not give into despair and he did not quit. Though he fought against my noble kinsman, Alexios is to be honored.
Anna – After the threat of Robert Guiscard, Alexios pushed his borders back to how they used to be and began filling his treasury again. He brought a new golden age to Constantinople. He brought an empire on the brink of collapse back to a position of strength and honor.
Joan – I would be honored to kill English beside your father.
Buffalo – He even knew how to fight a guerrilla war against superior enemies.
Olga – What?! No cities burned? No big fight?
Gaspar – Olga, rest assured that Alexios and Robert did have a final duel. Alexios snuck aboard Robert’s ship and they fought one last battle. Alexios’s Dark Energy was no use against Robert’s Fire crystal. So Alexios lured him in while feigning being wounded and as Robert came for the killing blow, Alexios stabbed him with the poison bone dagger of Xu’Chi-Ling. That is how Robert “died of a fever.”
Anna – For once I like your version better.
Zach – So, maybe Alexios wasn’t a brilliant tactician like Hannibal or a daring commander like Alexander. But he was what his Empire needed, a man that wouldn’t give up no matter what and fought against all odds to make his home safe and secure against a world full of enemies.