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Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization | [Lars Brownworth]

Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization

In AD 476 the Roman Empire fell - or rather, its western half did. Its eastern half, which would come to be known as the Byzantine Empire, would endure and often flourish for another 11 centuries. Though its capital would move to Constantinople, its citizens referred to themselves as Roman for the entire duration of the empire's existence.
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Publisher's Summary

In AD 476 the Roman Empire fell - or rather, its western half did. Its eastern half, which would come to be known as the Byzantine Empire, would endure and often flourish for another 11 centuries. Though its capital would move to Constantinople, its citizens referred to themselves as Roman for the entire duration of the empire's existence. Indeed, so did its neighbors, allies, and enemies: When the Turkish Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople in 1453, he took the title Caesar of Rome, placing himself in a direct line that led back to Augustus.

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

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  •  
    Stephen Chiumenti 05-20-14 Member Since 2014
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    Story
    "Excellent story and story telling - coherent."
    Would you consider the audio edition of Lost to the West to be better than the print version?

    Easier to get through the audio in the car than sitting and reading.


    What other book might you compare Lost to the West to and why?

    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.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keith E. Eppich Dallas, Texas 05-19-14
    Keith E. Eppich Dallas, Texas 05-19-14 Member Since 2012

    Keith Eppich

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    "Historically troubled"
    What would have made Lost to the West better?

    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.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Lars Brownworth again?

    Probably not. He's just not a very good scholar.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Lars Brownworth?

    No.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Lost to the West?

    I don't know. I gave up listening at the two-hour mark.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Krause 02-11-14
    A. Krause 02-11-14

    Andrew

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    "A Hidden History"
    What did you love best about Lost to the West?

    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.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    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.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick OLYMPIA, WA, United States 01-11-14
    Patrick OLYMPIA, WA, United States 01-11-14
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    "Excellent Byzantine Book"
    If you could sum up Lost to the West in three words, what would they be?

    Perfect for starters.


    What did you like best about this story?

    "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.


    Which character – as performed by Lars Brownworth – was your favorite?

    The Narrator.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard ELGIN, SC, United States 01-03-14
    Richard ELGIN, SC, United States 01-03-14
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    "Excellent Work"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    megan 12-27-13
    megan 12-27-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Very Interesting Story"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill United States 12-20-13
    Bill United States 12-20-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Really good book."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Had my college history books been this good I'd have stayed in school longer.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Doerr CA USA 11-17-13
    K. Doerr CA USA 11-17-13 Member Since 2009
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    "One sided?"

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Bedford Hills, NY, United States 08-23-13
    John Bedford Hills, NY, United States 08-23-13 Member Since 2013

    Expansive creative worlds or histories seem to be my thing these days... Too much time in a car with long drives ahead!

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    "So much to learn!"
    Would you listen to Lost to the West again? Why?

    Did you ever read a book that made you realize how truly ignorant you were? Sure you learned bits in pieces along the way in academia but if you were not a history major this is a must listen.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caroline Saad 02-21-13 Member Since 2009
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    "EXTRAORDINARY, IF SAD ACCOUNT OF BIZANTINE HISTORY"
    Would you listen to Lost to the West again? Why?

    Yes, it is an excellent sequel to lectures on Hebrew, Greek and Roman civilizations of antiquity (from Modern Scholar series) and this book is a great link from that to the end of the middle ages.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Lost to the West?

    The final heroic fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the last emperor Constantine XI are incredibly sad but extraordinary accounts.


    Which character – as performed by Lars Brownworth – was your favorite?

    Belisarius, the amazing general and incredibly faithful follower of Emperor Justinian, who managed to reconquer almost the entire roman world for the Empire.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453


    Any additional comments?

    This book helps understand, sadly, the roots of the deep hatred that run among the peoples in the Balkans, and between them and Turkey. It also reminds us of the long history of atrocities committed in the name of faith.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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