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 didn't know a lot about the Byzantine empire until listening to Lars podcast on 12 Byzantine rulers. that got me very interested to learn more so it made sense to get his audiobook on the subject. I had a great time listening to this audio book.
For those who know little (or nothing) of the Eastern Roman Empire, this book can serve as no finer a starting point to whet your appetite.
In a succinct overview that does not over-focus on any one epoch or character, the author wonderfully details the beginning, climax, and decline of Byzantium.
Being an American and raised in western historical arrogance, I knew nothing of Byzantium. With over a millennium of struggle, triumphs and defeats, it is baffling how this great civilization is largely unmentioned in our ancient history.
Listening to the author unveil this sweeping history is like standing on the border of east and west with a giant telescope. Seeing this story unfold century by century, emporer by empower, always connecting it's effect and relationship to the west.
The development of the Christian church. The fall of western Rome. The struggles and split of the western Catholic church and the eastern Orthodox church. Glimpses of the rise and struggles of Islamic culture. The political struggles with the west. The grandeur of Constantinople and its cultural and political contributions. And most importantly its protection of western Europe from Islamic invasion. Is there a more important strip of land than the one connecting Europe and Asia?
This book is a great primer and jumping off point, whether your interests are historical, political or religious. If you just need a basic history of Byzantium, this is perfect. But you will connect many points along the way, adding to your experience. At $25 it's a little pricey, but in the end I don't regret the purchase.
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.
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