Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

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Penguin Books Limited, Apr 3, 2008 - History - 416 pages
6 Reviews

For a thousand years an extraordinary empire made possible Europe’s transition to the modern world: Byzantium. An audacious and resilient but now little known society, it combined orthodox Christianity with paganism, classical Greek learning with Roman power, to produce a great and creative civilization which for centuries held in check the armies of Islam.

Judith Herrin’s concise and compelling book replaces the standard chronological approach of most histories of Byzantium. Instead, each short chapter is focused on a theme, such as a building (the great church of Hagia Sophia), a clash over religion (iconoclasm), sex and power (the role of eunuchs), an outstanding Byzantine individual (the historian Anna Komnene), a symbol of civilization (the fork), a battle for territory (the crusades). In this way she makes accessible and understandable the grand sweeps of Byzantine history, from the founding of its magnificent capital Constantinople (modern Istanbul) in 330, to its fall to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

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Review: Byzantium: The Surprising Life Of A Medieval Empire

User Review  - Calahir - Goodreads

Although it was the first book about Byzantium I have ever read, I had had good background and knew a lot about history which made me feel seeing too many truisms in this book. I also did not enjoy ... Read full review

Review: Byzantium: The Surprising Life Of A Medieval Empire

User Review  - Dana Stabenow - Goodreads

A hard slog of a read, a narrative drained of personality. Maybe it's impossible to render a thousand years of imperial history down to a human scale. But then I remember Mark Kurlansky's Cod, the vital, absorbing history of a fish in 220 pages. With recipes. Read full review

About the author (2008)

An acclaimed historian of medieval Europe, Judith Herrin is the author of The Formation of Christendom, devoted to the Mediterranean world from the mid-sixth to the mid-ninth century A.D., A Medieval Miscellany and Women in Purple. She worked in Birmingham, Paris, Munich, Istanbul and Princeton before taking up her current position as Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King’s College London. She has published many scholarly articles, excavated in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, and is Chairman of the editorial board of Past and Present.

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