For far too many otherwise historically savvy people today, the story of the Byzantine civilization is something of a void. Yet for more than a millennium, Byzantium reigned as the glittering seat of Christian civilization. When Europe fell into the Dark Ages, Byzantium held fast against Muslim expansion, keeping Christianity alive. When literacy all but vanished in the West, Byzantium made primary education available to both sexes. Students debated the merits of Plato and Aristotle and commonly committed the entirety of Homer's Iliad to memory. Streams of wealth flowed into Constantinople, making possible unprecedented wonders of art and architecture, from fabulous jeweled mosaics and other iconography to the great church known as the Hagia Sophia that was a vision of heaven on earth. The dome of the Great Palace stood nearly two hundred feet high and stretched over four acres, and the city's population was more than twenty times that of London's.
From Constantine, who founded his eponymous city in the year 330, to Constantine XI, who valiantly fought the empire's final battle more than a thousand years later, the emperors who ruled Byzantium enacted a saga of political intrigue and conquest as astonishing as anything in recorded history. Lost to the West is replete with stories of assassination, mass mutilation and execution, sexual scheming, ruthless grasping for power, and clashing armies that soaked ...
©2009 Lars Brownworth; (P)2009 Random House
I really enjoyed this book. It was a great introduction to a period in history that I had never learned anything about in school. Lars Brownworth does a great job reading with all of the enthusiasm you would expect from an author reading his own work.
I have already listened to this book three times and continue to go back to it. It is an outstanding sweep of history through a civilisation that was so key to the modern world, yet is not well known or understood.
The city itself. The walls the Hagia Sofia, halls chambers, hippodrome and so on. The sprawling city of Byzantium itself is an amazing backdrop to this awesome tale. The hippodrome, churches, Hagia Sofia, the walls; all played key roles in the culture, history and longevity of the empire.
This text is more than a broad sweep of key moments in a 1100 year empire; it contains lessons from throughout history that we have so quickly forgotten.
Short term political decisions, appeasement of aggressors, the origins of the renaissance; all of which appeared previously to be lost to history.
It is astounding to me that the Roman empire, or at least an empire that considered itself to be Rome, existed until 1453. 39 years before Columbus landed in the Americas.
A fascinating tale of an unknown historical landscape filled with tribes and events that have also been lost to the telling of the history of western civilisation.
Easier to get through the audio in the car than sitting and reading.
Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is excellent, and it covers the Eastern Empire to the end in 1453 as well. But there is so much detail that a reader will lose his place in the story. Lost to the West has the right amount of detail to keep the story logically connected and prevent the reader (listener) from losing his place.
Discouraging to realize how often the Byzantines, and their Western Roman brothers were their own worst enemies, more losing the Empire than being beaten by outsiders.
Gibbon's books would be more appreciated if the reader had a good idea of the thread from beginning to end, which is easier to take away from Lost to the West.
Brownworth gets a number of key facts wrong, rendering much of his history untrustworthy. He badly botches the account of the fall of the Western Empire. Flavius Aetius died BEFORE Attila, not afterwards as presented in the text. Aetius certainly was no barbarian, as Brownworth casually dismisses him. Indeed, the Catalaunian Plains are hardly mentioned at all.
Getting basic historical sequences correct is the first duty of a dutiful scholar. Brownworth doesn't look this material up and doesn't seem to be intimately familiar with the Late Roman period. He might be a good writer, but he's not a very good scholar.
Probably not. He's just not a very good scholar.
I don't know. I gave up listening at the two-hour mark.
If I could get my credit back from Audible, and could somehow "return" this audiobook, I'd be pretty happy. "Lost to the West" is just a really unfortunate volume.
If you've ever wondered about what became of the remnants of the Empire of Rome after it fell, or what was going on in the rest of the world, Lost to the West answers those questions.
Featuring parade of cynical emporers, brash pretenders, bold usurpers and grasping regents, the line of Roman success in both the East and West combines with notable characters from all walks of life to weave a non-fiction historical account of the empire.
Most notably, it was a Constantine who ushered in the Byzantine Empire and a Constantine who lead the empire into oblivion not with a wimper, but in the proud tradition of Greek heroism.
The story of Byzantium is rarely told in this detail among westerners where the legends of Rome and Greece stop in the middle of the first millennium. However, the Byzantine empire sheltered the west from eastern conquest, and when it fell the remnants proved to be seeds for the Renaissance in the west, the age of discovery and for Czarist rule in the north. Our world is very much shaped by the legacy of Byzantium, and this is the book that connects the dots in the picture of the modern world.
Perfect for starters.
"Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization" is perfect for those who wish to start learning about the Byzantine Empire. Lars Brownworth does a great job at adding a story element to historical events and adds a lot of personality to the complex history of the empire.
I took a class on the Byzantine Empire in graduate school and was fascinated by it. Lars Brownworth does an excellent job taking some of the biggest players in the thousand year Byzantine Empire history and bringing their story to life. After some time, you find yourself rooting for this dogged empire that was fighting foes on all sides, and constantly got in its own way. When you arrive at the end of the book, you find yourself feeling the weight of the Byzantines as they desperately tried to fight off the enemy that would destroy.
With the engaging writing that draws you in and gives you a personal stake in long distant historical events, this book is one of the better historical books I've ever read/listened to. I only wish Lars Brownworth would write and narrate some more books on the Byzantines.
I found Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization to be a very well done book, for me it was a subject I knew less about. I found that the author, who also is the narrator, to be easy to listen to its nice to hear the actual author reading there own book. I learned a lot about the late Roman empire in the east. I have since listened to the authors podcasts as well. Overall its a great listen, enjoy.
Had my college history books been this good I'd have stayed in school longer.
I didn't look at all the reviews, but I was surprised that more readers have not complained about the way this book treats the Turks. Whatever the Turks did after taking Constantinople, it was not worse than what the crusaders did in (and on the way to) Jerusalem, and was not unusually barbaric compared to what 'Western' civilizations did to conquered enemies (the Turks did not plow the city under and salt the ground, for example, as the Romans did in Carthage). The author represents Turks as cartoon bad-guys, without context or motivation.
Also, while the nasty politics of Constantinople are mentioned (at least at the end), the system that has left us with the adjective 'Byzantine' gets off a little light, IMHO.
Since I do not know that much about this period of "Roman" history, I cannot really comment on the accuracy of this work. But I would encourage you to look carefully at the reviews which criticize the author's accuracy. The author is good at telling a story, and the narration is fairly good. It is entertaining, but I'm not sure its good history.
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