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The World of Byzantium | [The Great Courses]

The World of Byzantium

Byzantium is too-often considered merely the "eastern rump" of the old Roman Empire, a curious and even unsettling mix of the classical and medieval. Yet it was, according to Professor Harl, "without a doubt the greatest state in Christendom through much of the Middle Ages," and well worth our attention as a way to widen our perspective on everything from the decline of imperial Rome to the rise of the Renaissance.
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Publisher's Summary

Byzantium is too-often considered merely the "Eastern rump" of the old Roman Empire, a curious and even unsettling mix of the classical and medieval. Yet it was, according to Professor Harl, "without a doubt the greatest state in Christendom through much of the Middle Ages," and well worth our attention as a way to widen our perspective on everything from the decline of imperial Rome to the rise of the Renaissance.

In a series of 24 tellingly detailed lectures, you'll learn how the Greek-speaking empire of Byzantium, or East Rome, occupied a crucial place in both time and space that began with Constantine the Great and endured for more than a millennium - a crucible where peoples, cultures, and ideas met and melded to create a world at once Eastern and Western, Greek and Latin, classical and Christian. And you'll be dazzled by the achievements of Byzantium's emperors, patriarchs, priests, monks, artists, architects, scholars, soldiers, and officials

  • Preserving and extending the literary, intellectual, and aesthetic legacy of Classical and Hellenistic Greece
  • Carrying forward path-breaking Roman accomplishments in law, politics, engineering, architecture, urban design, and military affairs
  • Deepening Christian thought while spreading the faith to Russia and the rest of what would become the Orthodox world
  • Developing Christian monastic institutions
  • Shielding a comparatively weak and politically fragmented western Europe from the full force of eastern nomadic and Islamic invasions
  • Fusing classical, Christian, and eastern influences
  • Helping to shape the course of the Humanist revival and the Renaissance

    PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.


    ©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Mike 04-26-14
    Mike 04-26-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Traditional History at it's Best"
    Any additional comments?

    I have listened to Professor Kenneth J. Harl many times and have never been disappointed. He delivers the traditional historical experience at its best.

    This series of lectures covers the origins of the Byzantine Empire (or East Roman Empire) from its background and foundations in the late Roman Empire and its birth through the dynamic personality of Emperor Constantine the Great around 300 AD. It then provides an overview of that history right down to the empires final collapse in the epic and moving siege and fall of the city of Constantinople to it's Ottoman Turkic attackers in 1453 AD.

    Those who are looking for an in-depth treatment of the topic should probably find a more thorough book to read. Those who are interested in getting an overview of the topic and enjoy listening to history will not be disappointed.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    collin lau hillsborough, california United States 09-28-13
    collin lau hillsborough, california United States 09-28-13 Member Since 2015
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    "Another piece of the puzzle"
    Where does The World of Byzantium rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    WB ranks among the top. Dr. Harl provides another piece of the puzzle addressing the question of our relationship with the Middle East and Russia


    Have you listened to any of Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No - will try another soon.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No - it was quite long. It was in two parts.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jbfuller317 09-02-13
    jbfuller317 09-02-13

    History glutton

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    "Excellent Survey"
    If you could sum up The World of Byzantium in three words, what would they be?

    Comprehensive integrative clear


    What other book might you compare The World of Byzantium to and why?

    It's a lecture series, so this isn't very relevant.


    Have you listened to any of Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Yes


    Any additional comments?

    This is a good survey, which does a nice job of placing Byzantium in the context of more familiar and popular historical themes-- emergence of the Renaissance, the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the decline of the Western Roman Empire, humanism. Harl is a good scholar and an interesting and occasionally amusing lecturer. If you have an interest in knowing the basics, this is a worth listen.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ricky Vazquez 04-05-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Excellent narration."

    I really loved this course. The narrator has a way of giving his information with ease and without boring you to death. It's nice being able to learn about a historical subject without wishing that you had something more interesting to do.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Saud 03-24-14
    Saud 03-24-14

    Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Where two worlds collide"

    Byzantium rarely receives the recognition and attention it deserves, especially when we realize the significance it had to the Muslim world and Christian Europe. This course explores the basic points of this rich empire without holding back.

    Worth listening to for any history buff.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 07-21-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Harl is a joy to listen to"

    Professor Harl is easy to listen to and clearly knows his subject. The Roman East gets so little air time in most history courses, so this one ably fills a hole in how most of us are educated. My only beef with all The Great Courses on Audible is the lack of any supplementary materials - at least a map would be useful. However, this is a great value so I wouldn't complain too much

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen 07-01-15
    Stephen 07-01-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Wonderful story told by a wonderful master."

    One of the greatest empires the world has ever seen but largely lost in history. The professor lecturing the story is as knowledgeable as anyone in the world on this topic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    anthony rubino 02-19-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Excellent lectures"
    Where does The World of Byzantium rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is the first audiobook I've listened to.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The World of Byzantium?

    The Conversion of Constantine


    What about Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s performance did you like?

    His delivery, knowledge, and expertise


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Professor Harl effectively used humor.


    Any additional comments?

    This is an excellent series of lectures. I am only familiar with Byzantine history through the works of John Julius Norwich. Professor Harl provides a 3-dimensional perspective on this fascinating and often misunderstood period of history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Svetlana Johnstown, PA, United States 08-01-14
    Svetlana Johnstown, PA, United States 08-01-14 Member Since 2007
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    "it's as if he were paid by how fast he could speak"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    There were many interesting facts presented, but it was such a jumble that I felt like I was being thrown balls of yarn for me to unravel myself, but without the time to do so before he moved onto another topic.


    Would you recommend The World of Byzantium to your friends? Why or why not?

    Possibly. It might be better to get some solid texts on specific eras of the Byzantine world than to try and eat the entire empire whole. It proved an indigestible lump in this format.


    What didn’t you like about Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s performance?

    His pronunciations were all over the place. There was no rhyme or reason to them. He didn't follow the modern Greek pronunciation, certainly not the Byzantine Greek, nor Oxford pronunciation, or even standard American English. His pronunciation of words like caliph, European, and many more were difficult to accept without mental effort.


    Could you see The World of Byzantium being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    Far too broad a topic to be a movie. People would be born and then slain horribly by their relatives every 5 minutes.


    Any additional comments?

    It's as if he were given a period of time and only moments to sketch the events. Imagine a man told to draw birds in a nearby park. He half draws them before they fly off and then he starts on another and then it flies off then one comes back and he tries to sketch over his last version of the bird. Many chapters are exhausting and you feel like you don't know where the thread of one topic ends before another begins. He also drops in bits of trivia with little explanation - not enough to make this a good read for collecting trivia and just enough to make you hit rewind to confirm what you heard.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Parkdale, Australia 11-26-13
    Matt Parkdale, Australia 11-26-13 Listener Since 2004
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    "A Very Difficult Listen - Not for Beginners!"

    Sorry Prof - only 3/10 from me on this one. Too much information crammed in to too small a space and not enough effort put into engaging the audience with interesting stories.

    Considering the real life dramas that actually took place in this period, the presentation style was often disappointingly boring. That made the material very hard to retain.

    The author of this course is clearly a very learned gent who loves his subject. I wanted to know a bit about Byzantium so I decided to stay with him until the end. It was really hard work though.

    On the plus, side he covers a lot of ground. If you're already quite familiar with the period, the major protagonists and empires and want to know more you'll definitely pick up useful stuff from these lectures. As a newcomer to Byzantine history, I did learn a few things, too so it wasn't entirely lacking in merit.

    What makes it so very hard though, is his presentation style: an endless and often bewildering succession of people, dates, battles, political events, kingdoms, alliances etc- delivered at an almost uniformly high speed - with very few pauses. Imagine the audio equivalent of a long text book with very long dense paragraphs, minus headers, bullet points or any other typographical features and you'll get the idea. The pace is relentless and the overall body of work is frankly, quite featureless and dull. Certainly hard to retain.

    What makes it even more difficult is that he seemed to be speaking to an audience who already knows a lot about the subject. He also assumes that the listener fully recalls events, or people mentioned in passing in previous chapters and refers back to them in such a way that I was often left thinking - so where are we now, what's he talking about?

    At the end of it I felt quite frustrated and unsatisfied. I've just listened to twelve hours and not picked up anywhere near as much as I would have liked from the experience.

    One last thing worth mentioning: I've listened to a few of these "Great Courses" on history and classics now. During the course of going through other courses - I frequently found myself jumping on to the internet to look stuff up - authors, historical works, artwork, places etc. I was fascinated and inspired to want to learn more. I did not have that urge once with this course.



    2 of 6 people found this review helpful
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  • Jonathan
    Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    1/3/15
    Overall
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    "Very Disappointing -- There's a Better Alternative"

    I have listened to many Great Courses and am a huge fan. But this was a very poor course in my opinion. It is a mixture of historical narrative and a discussion of the early development of Christianity, and these two components were not integrated at all. Morever the historical narrative did not across very well as a story and I did not find myself engaging at all with the main protagonists. I persevered to the end but was really fed up with it in the latter stages. I was frustrated that I didn't get a good feel for this topic so I decided to look for something else and found the Modern Scholar course, also on audible, "Empire of Gold" by Thomas Madden. I am now part way through this and it is really good -- what a contrast! I strongly recommend chosing that rather than Professor Harl's course.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • mr
    west sussex, United Kingdom
    12/6/14
    Overall
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    "Good but not great"

    Good overall and very interesting but a bit sparse on the detail. The book could had done with being a lot longer. That said, still worth a listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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