chapter  2
11 Pages

John II Komnenos before the year 1118

ByVlada Stanković

Our knowledge of John II Komnenos is as scarce as are the surviving visual likenesses of him.1 It is limited regarding many important aspects of the fifty-five years of his life, but we are particularly poorly informed about the thirty-one years he spent in the shadow of his father, Alexios I Komnenos, before becoming emperor on 15 August 1118, on the eve of the great feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Since he lacked a contemporary historian, as his father did – although Anna started writing only after Alexios’ death – most of the facts about John II Komnenos’ life and achievements has been conveyed by historians from later generations, John Kinnamos and Niketas Choniates. Their opinions and world views were inevitably distorted by politics and general circumstances of their time, and they both treated the reign of John II Komnenos simply as a prelude to that of his son, regardless of how significant and successful his own reign had been. That perspective is particularly evident in Choniates’ assessment of the disastrous consequences of Manuel’s policy, in contrast to his short but resounding praise of John II and his reign.2