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 had recently finished listening to 'Empires of the Sea' and '1453' and was absolutely fascinated by them both (with regard to learning more about the history of the eastern Mediterranean area), so I assumed that I would be love this book. What a massive disappointment. While I appreciate that the span of time covered by this topic precludes in-depth analysis of any specific event, the book was nothing but a series of conclusions based upon sparse facts which are overly dramatized by non-scholarly idioms. Also, the author is the narrator, and his ability to narrate is even poorer than his skill as a historian. I would advise anyone to skip listening (or reading) this book. It was awful.
Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization, A Great book, and is a testament against the anti-western history drone: drone, def: n. Ignorant sales or customer service personnel in computer or electronics superstores. Characterized by a lack of even superficial knowledge about the products they sell.
It explains how the west was actually preserved by the "eastern west," or Byzantium, the Eastern Roman Empire, not by Islam. The true story of the preservation of how greek thought and philosophy was preserved within Byzantine tradition and culture and thereby spared for rediscovery, the "renaissance" is eye opening to those hoodwinked by their contemporary professors of the history of early modern europe.
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.
The author does a great job of giving the individual historical figures personalities, and very three dimensional personalities as well.
Justinian, for example, is not just shown as the great emperor casual history fans know, but also for his personality flaws. (Particularly his weaknesses in dealing with his wife!)
Highly recommended. The reading is compelling, history as good story telling.
I know feel that I have a good understanding of the great history of the Eastern Roman Empire.
Brownworth tells an amazing story in a way that makes you eager to get back to it as soon as you turn if off!
The narration was smooth and had a wonderful story-telling quality. I wish I could find more of his work!
Telling the account of the final fall of Constantinople brought me to tears. I felt connected to the citizens and emperor and rooted for them, even though I knew how the story would end.
This book is amazing well written and narrated, one of the bests audiobooks I heard until now. It explains many things, great histories to know about: Justinian, Belizarius.. It is a must hear to anyone interested in history.
People who like history textbooks will likely enjoy this audiobook. At first I found it very intriguing and fascinating, mostly well-written, and fond of Lars Brownworth "just your average history guy" kind of delivery in his reading.
As time went on I found my mind wandering and my interest flagging. I would fade out and come back thinking, "which one is king now? Which general is this?" Although it has good moments, as an audiobook this was not particularly entertaining. I don't at all regret the time spent on it, but I'll stick with books covering fewer centuries of history.
The author is the narrator and does a very good job. Overall an excellent read/listen to anyone interested in the history of this time period.
The narrative presentation is more like listening to a man reading a fairytale to a child — actually very superficial in reading style and content but I guess a decent overview. I was disappointed that it was really no more than a recounting of a succession of wars with little detail about the civilization of the Byzantium Empire. Also the author is the narrator and his sing-song reading style became very grating - I could only listen for short periods at a time — really; next time pay a professional.
I really loved this book, it made me fall in love with the Byzantium Empire. The end of the book was somewhat depressing after the riveting accounts of the empires success in the early part of the book.
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