For a thousand years, Byzantium was a byword for imperial power, gold and international trade. This extraordinary but now little known empire combined paganism and classical Greek and Roman learning with orthodox Christianity, and for centuries held back the armies of Islam, making possible the transition from antiquity to modern Europe. From the ...
For a thousand years, Byzantium was a byword for imperial power, gold and international trade. This extraordinary but now little known empire combined paganism and classical Greek and Roman learning with orthodox Christianity, and for centuries held back the armies of Islam, making possible the transition from antiquity to modern Europe. From the prominence of eunuchs to the secret of 'Greek fire', it was surprising, creative and audacious. Many long tomes have plodded through the emperors and battles of Byzantium, from the founding of its magnificent capital of Constantinople (today's Istanbul) in 330, to its fall to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Judith Herrin takes a new approach. In a concise and compelling account, she focuses each short chapter around a theme such as a building (the great church of Hagia Sophia), luxury silks, iconoclasm, the fork, the crusades, or an individual, using them to take the reader on a journey from ancient to medieval times. She paints a magnificent panorama of the forces and beliefs at work during the millennium of Byzantium, and brings the experience of the Byzantine age to life in a beautifully written and exceptionally accessible work that is also an original contribution to historical scholarship.
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Publishers Weekly, 2007-12-10 Offering a brilliant study of the history of the Byzantine empire, Herrin-whose groundbreaking The Formation of Christendom challenged traditional views on the development of Christianity-draws a similarly original portrait of a tradition-based yet dynamic empire that protected Christianity by checking the westward expansion of Islam. Herrin progresses in lively fashion, chronicling the 1,000-year history of Byzantium from its rise in A.D. 306 to its demise at the hands of the Ottomans. Along the way, Herrin, a professor at King's College, London, introduces an astonishing cast of characters, such as the empire's first leader, Constantine I; religious leaders such as Patriarch Photios; and Anna Komnene, the great 12th-century historian whose Odyssey-like epic, the Alexiad, celebrated the 37-year reign of her father, Alexios I. Drawing on letters, journals and other primary documents from both political figures and ordinary citizens, Herrin splendidly recreates an empire whose religious art, educational curriculum, tax and legal systems, and coronation rituals preserved the best of the empire's pre-Christian Greek past while at the same time passing along advances to the rest of the world. Herrin's history is hands-down the finest introduction to Byzantium and its continuing significance for world history. 8 color illus.; 16 b&w illus.; maps. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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