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
Western historians tend to only reference the Byzantine Empire as it interacted with Western Europe. This was a very good summary of a subject which most of us only have a cursory knowledge.
Years ago I tried to read a five hundred page history and gave up. This is an important story worth five hundred pages and this provides an easy way to find that out. And it moves along rather smartky as well. I will now replay "The Sultans" to complete the nex five hundred years.
I've read dozens of history books in the last few years. almost all on ancient Greco-Roman civilizations. this unique book on Byzantine history helped me immensely. it shows a far different perspective than western European sources such as Gibbon's "Fall & Decline of the Roman Empire" and modern day reincarnations.
the narrative approach was at first less interesting to me, but as the book moves along it becomes almost essential to the vast number of turns in the chronological explanation of the Byzantine story. in the end using this approach proved excellent and rewarding.
I've read about medieval Europe and classical Rome, but there was a huge gap in my knowledge of how we arrived at the modern age and the animosity between religious and cultural factions that still exists today. If you're already well versed in Byzantine history, this brisk and breezy tour through the history of the Roman empire after the capitol was moved to Constantinople might seem a bit unsatisfying, but for everyone else this is a brilliant presentation of a largely forgotten chapter of world history that provides a much-needed link between the fall of the (Western) Roman Empire and the Renaissance. Highly recommended, especially to veterans of the History of Rome podcast!
This is definitely the best and most entertaining history book I've ever listened too (and read). It makes so much sense as to why we know so little about the Eastern Roman Empire and its significance. Western Europe has been very effective at disappearing cultures that preceded and out did them. My understanding of late antiquity and the Middle Ages will never be the same thanks to Lars Brownworth.
I found it a good basic overview of the Eastern Empire. Brownworth illustrates some of the most important parts of the major emperors and their policies. Brownworth does an exceptional job of narrating. He keeps a good amount of emotion in his voice all throughout the book.
This book is for you if you are interested in learning from history so we don't repeat it, or at least, recognizing when we are repeating history.
One of these days, I'll pick up one of his books and flip for footnotes. Until then, Brownsworth tells a good story that is easy to absorb by audio. I enjoyed listening to his lectures on (exceedingly) Early Christianity many years ago and was glad to find more of his work.
Good history of the Byzantine Empire. You cannot objectively read this book and without being concerned about what's going on in Europe right now.
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