Anna of Byzantium
To Help You Connect Trumpet Books to Your Curriculum
Anna of Byzantium
Classroom Activity

About the Book
Anna is no ordinary eleventh-century girl. She is the first-born of the Emperor of Byzantium. As a royal princess, Anna never saw the world beyond the walls of the imperial palace and estates protected by fortresses. But, she did witness the inner workings of the royal court. Unlike most people of her time, she learned to read, write and study history, literature, and politics. In this book, readers not only become familiar with a royal child from long ago, they also discover how future rulers were chosen and why those choices were often a matter of life and death for members of the royal court and family, even for a young princess like Anna.


Before You Read
Anna is no ordinary eleventh-century girl. She is the first-born of the Emperor of Byzantium. As a royal princess, Anna never saw the world beyond the walls of the imperial palace and estates protected by fortresses. But, she did witness the inner workings of the royal court. Unlike most people of her time, she learned to read, write and study history, literature, and politics. In this book, readers not only become familiar with a royal child from long ago, they also discover how future rulers were chosen and why those choices were often a matter of life and death for members of the royal court and family, even for a young princess like Anna.

Before You Read
Before your students read this book, look at a world map to locate Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey), the center of the great Byzantine Empire of the eleventh century. Encourage students to calculate how long ago this story takes place (1,000 years ago). Explain that the Byzantine Empire rose at the fall of the Roman Empire. At the time this story takes place, the aging Byzantium Empire is a Christian stronghold that fights with other European Christians in the First Crusade (1095-1099). Have students think about what life is like for a royal, including members of royal families of today. Explain that for all the finery and riches a royal family enjoys, the members of the family spend most of their time defending their power, following important cultural traditions, and making decisions to ensure the reign of their family well into the future.

Class Activity
Take a trip back in time with your class. Here are some creative ways to bring historical fiction to life.

A Royal Proclamation
As students have discovered, Anna had strong opinions about who should rule the empire and how life should run in the Royal Court of Byzantium. Challenge students to put themselves in Anna's shoes and to write a proclamation about who should rule the empire, and why. Remind students to write in the first person as Anna. Point out that proclamations should be worded carefully to ensure that they be taken seriously. Display the proclamations around the classroom.

Be a Byzantine Spy
Simon and Sophia were only slaves in the palace at Constantinople, but they were the keenest daily observers of the royal family. Ask students to imagine they are slaves to a royal family member other than Anna, but that they are also acting as spies for her. What do they observe and how do they feel about the person they serve? Have students write a speech they would deliver as their secret report to Anna. Students might enjoy giving a dramatic reading of their speech.

Palace Maps
Throughout this novel, readers are led through the palace and the protective battlements of the fort that surrounds the royal family grounds. Ask students to envision what the palace looks like and how it is designed. Then, encourage them to create an illustration of the palace or a map that shows a palace's layout, such as the location of rooms and areas discussed in the novel. Challenge students to also envision the interior designs of these rooms, including the colors and patterns on tapestries, furnishings, rugs, and walls. Suggest they write a description of the palace to accompany their maps.

Letter of Inheritance
Have students imagine that Anna's father, the Emperor Alexius I, was able to communicate his thoughts to her while he lay on his deathbed. As students imagine this situation (which does not occur in the novel), remind them to also consider the traditions and attitudes of the people in eleventh-century Byzantium. Have them write a letter from the emperor composed especially for Anna in order to explain why he made the choices he did for the empire and what he hoped for his eldest child's future. Students might want to exchange letters to compare and contrast with others their ideas about life in this historical period.

An Eleventh-Century Editorial
Because the printing press had not yet been invented during the reign of Alexius I of Byzantium, books were hand-copied and newspapers simply did not exist. Even so, have students imagine that citizens of the Byzantine Empire could read and did have access to newspapers. Now, have them imagine that they are newspaper editors when Alexius I dies, John becomes emperor, and Anna is exiled to the convent deep in the mountains. Have them write an editorial about one of these, or another major event from Anna of Byzantium. Remind students that as regular citizens they do not know of goings on in the palace first-hand. They learn of royal decisions when proclamations are officially made. Therefore, these editors have to make educated guesses about why and how political decisions are made, not unlike the job of newspaper editors today.


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