Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

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Princeton University Press, 2008 - History - 391 pages
17 Reviews

Byzantium. The name evokes grandeur and exoticism--gold, cunning, and complexity. In this unique book, Judith Herrin unveils the riches of a quite different civilization. Avoiding a standard chronological account of the Byzantine Empire's millennium--long history, she identifies the fundamental questions about Byzantium--what it was, and what special significance it holds for us today.

Bringing the latest scholarship to a general audience in accessible prose, Herrin focuses each short chapter around a representative theme, event, monument, or historical figure, and examines it within the full sweep of Byzantine history--from the foundation of Constantinople, the magnificent capital city built by Constantine the Great, to its capture by the Ottoman Turks.

She argues that Byzantium's crucial role as the eastern defender of Christendom against Muslim expansion during the early Middle Ages made Europe--and the modern Western world--possible. Herrin captivates us with her discussions of all facets of Byzantine culture and society. She walks us through the complex ceremonies of the imperial court. She describes the transcendent beauty and power of the church of Hagia Sophia, as well as chariot races, monastic spirituality, diplomacy, and literature. She reveals the fascinating worlds of military usurpers and ascetics, eunuchs and courtesans, and artisans who fashioned the silks, icons, ivories, and mosaics so readily associated with Byzantine art.

An innovative history written by one of our foremost scholars, Byzantium reveals this great civilization's rise to military and cultural supremacy, its spectacular destruction by the Fourth Crusade, and its revival and final conquest in 1453.

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Review: Byzantium: The Surprising Life Of A Medieval Empire

User Review  - Peter Ellwood - Goodreads

How can this not be more widely known? How can en empire have existed - positively thrived - for more than a thousand years, without our acknowledging how very important it was? Simply amazing to ... Read full review

Review: Byzantium: The Surprising Life Of A Medieval Empire

User Review  - Denise Rawling - Goodreads

I found this an excellent introduction to a very complex subject. After giving an overview of the period which necessitates a bit of the rather dry 'he did this then they did that' narrative,the ... Read full review

Contents

The City of Constantine
3
Constantinople the Largest City in Christendom
12
III
15
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Judith Herrin was Stanley J. Seeger Professor of Byzantine History, Princeton University, 1991-1995 and is Director for the Centre for Hellenic Studies, King's College, London.

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