With incisive commentary, Professor Madden leads a discussion covering Justinian's re-conquest of the West, the great city of Constantinople, and the aftermath and influence of this extraordinary empire. The term "Byzantine" was invented by modern historians to identify the final millennium of the Roman Empire. By the third century and into the fourth century, there were changes in the Roman Empire so profound that historians during the Enlightenment began to call the period Byzantine rather than Roman. Most historians would place the beginnings of the Byzantine Empire roughly around the reign of the emperor Diocletian, who instituted widespread reforms to halt civil wars and economic decline.
One of the primary characteristics of the Byzantine Empire was the relegation of Rome to a place of honor only. Rome was not the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The capital, instead, was Constantinople. Therefore, power was based in the eastern Mediterranean. Next was the dominance of Greek culture and eastern perspectives, and a final characteristic was the integration of Christianity into the social and political fabric of the empire. Constantinople was the beating heart of the Byzantine Empire and the greatest city in the Western world at this time. Constantinople sat at the crossroads of the world and controlled east-west land traffic. Eventually, the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks reverberated across the Christian world. Europeans now saw a world in which nothing stood between them as the last remnant of free Christendom and the ever-growing powers of Islam.
©2006 Thomas F. Madden; (P)2006 Recorded Books, LLC
As a history student, I always felt that the Byzantine Empire played a critical role in the development of Western civilization, yet it had always been shrouded in a cloud of mystery. This audio book blows that cloud away, allowing the listener to see the historical events that shaped European development as it emerged from a backwater collection of barbaric forces and into a viable player on the world scene.
Professor Madden is a competent lecturer; both thorough regarding pertinent facts as well as cyclical; meaning that he brings the listener back to points he had made earlier, effectively tying together sequences of events and how they interrelate.
After reading a review by another reviewer regarding the heavy "Christian bias" in this work, I feel that he must not be referring to this book at all, but another, for I found zero bias regarding any particular viewpoint. Christianity is certainly emphasized, as it must be with regard to the history of Byzantium (or of the West in general), for it played an enormous role in the shaping of policy, diplomacy and gave cause for empire-shaking wars and conquests.
Constantinople was filled with churches, monasteries, icons and the like. It was an extraordinarily religious city. It's relationship with Rome was hampered by differences in religious doctrine - minor points by atheists' standards or the generally non-religious, but the people of that time period were anything but that. Therefore, various doctrinal points regarding their eternal fates would certainly play a major role in all the aspects of their lives. Dr. Madden simply presents the facts. There is no bias.
Admittedly, I enjoy lectures. This cannot be said of all people. I enjoy a dry presentation as well as a sparkling one; provided the facts are straight. This is grade A material, sure to be enjoyed by any budding historical scholar.
This was a good listen but really left me wanting more.
I wanted more connections made between the different lectures.
I'm usually a fan of the Modern Scholar series but every time I got really interested in a topic it felt like it ended.
The structure was separate lectures on some important topics (important according to the author) but they seemed somewhat disjointed from one another.
I wanted more connections made between the different themes.
Definitely listen if the topic interests you but if you are addicted to this kind of audiobook (like I am) It might not leave you feeling entirely satisfied.
I have been looking for an audiobook on the history of the Byzantine Empire for ages, and this lecture pretty much was the next best thing, this lecture should be deemed a sequal or continuation to the other lecture "decline and fall of Roman Empire."
I listened to this series prior to a trip to Turkey. First, the good news. The lecturer clearly knows the subject, and had a fair amount of intersting insights. If you like lots of detail, lots of dates, and lots of names, and want to find the themes on your own, this series is for you.
However, I didn't enjoy it. First, there was way too much emphasis on naming each leader. At times it sort of like reading the some of the latter chapters of the biblical book of Numbers (i.e., the decendants of X was Y, and Y begat ZZZZZZZZZZZ).
I think a better way of approaching such a long sweep of history would have been to lay out some themes and mention individual rulers to make the point.
Second, there was virtually NOTHING about where all the gold came from. At one point, the lecturer said "lots of money changed hands there" and then went back to droning on about some supposedly juicy palace intrigue. I would have liked something more about what goods were being traded there, and why it was so profitable.
That's my two cents.
I have downloaded just about all of Prof Madden's downloaded stuff and it is all excellent, amusing, clear, interesting and informative. He is a great lecturer and, as an additional bonus, has a lovely voice.
I've listened to this book about 4 times. Not in one sitting. The fact I've listened over and over again is testimony to how informative and interesting it is- and as a lecturer, Prof Madden is great. Not at all condescending.
I listened to this one before i'd got the hang of writing reviews, but I had to go back and tell everyone about these lectures. The way John Madden explained the intrigues, social changes and catastrophes that befell the Eastern Roman Empire, it sounded like a fantasy or spy trilogy, and yet it really happened. It made me want to read more about Byzantium, whi'ch I've been doing. I don't know why more historical novelists don't set their stories in this period. Many of the tragic characters who played their part are worth a novel. The Modern Scholar seminars are expensive, but well worth your credit. I've purchased quite a lot of them, and this one's the best so far.
Very poor course on the Byzantine Empire (more or less a survey). Additionally, the Prof"s narration is irritantly hesitating as if he never knows for sure what he is going to say. A waste of money.
Prof. Madden is a pretty good lecturer, and he addresses enough details and primary sources to give a good overall picture of the Byzantine Roman Empire from Late Antiquity through its demise in the 15th century. His perspective, however, is consistently Western and Latin, and even his lectures on the Crusades sympathize with the Crusaders and unduly criticize the Byzantines (this is the case even with the disastrous and indefensible Fourth Crusade invasion of Constantinople). Madden does not present an informed understanding of Islam and its impetus for spreading outside of Arabia. His overall western-oriented history of Byzantium comes as much from his omissions of details as from his inclusions. I purchased this as a fruitful way to spend my commuting time, and it does that well. I'm just disappointed that his presentation of the history is so obviously biased and seemingly reflects his (presumed) Catholic identity and Catholic institution.
The lecture had great promise and I had hoped to enjoy it as much as I had the Modern Scholar lecture on Rome (which was excellent); however, this was not the case. Although deep with facts and interesting (due to the subject matter), there is a clear Christian bias throughout that pollutes the entire lecture and empties it of any credibility. Obviously Christianity is a huge part of the time period but should not have been given any more creedence than was given the Roman or Greek religions in their lectures. Unfortunately it was and this contaminates the descriptions of events, which events were more important than others and the motivations of many of the players. Very unprofessionally done IMHO due to this one glaring error. Too bad really. I do NOT recommend anyone waste their time with this but PLEASE do explore the many other Modern Scholar selections as the others I've tried have been excellent.
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