The Surprising Life of A Medieval Empire

Book - 2007
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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.

Publisher: Camberwell : 2007
ISBN: 9780713999976
Branch Call Number: ANF 949.502 HERR
Characteristics: 391 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm


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Aw_19 Mar 12, 2016

A superb, fluid written introduction to Byzantine history. I read a lot of history, and yet I can't believe how much I enjoyed this book and how fresh it seemed. Some of that is probably came from discovering what to me at least was a relatively unknown period of history (they don't teach a lot about Byzantium, even at the university level). But a bigger factor was undoubtedly the author's writing style and thematic approach. Herrin does an excellent job of making her reader appreciate the cultural legacy Byzantium bequeathed to European civilization as well as the empire's rich society and lengthy history. Highly recommended.

squelter Dec 16, 2012

A very excellent introduction of Byzantine history by a world-class scholar in the field. Highly recommended.

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