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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 Ratings

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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. <br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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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

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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.<br/>

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Byz 101 (and deeper)- huge personal gain

5 stars for many aspects that were both well-conceived and well-executed. If you knew you were missing from your American education vital components of classical and antique history - because the Byzantine empire was glossed over - you came to the correct lecture set. The professor seems to have made it a mission to speak at the equivalent of 90 (substantive) words a minute, so get ready to pause and reverse innumerable times. I view that as a mark of quality, and think many would agree. Also has stimulated the need to dive into other sources, and maybe the one criticism i would make is that prof did seems not to have felt the need to cite sources as much as he should have- academic arrogance might be the culprit. If so, again, quality overall outweigheth.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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

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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.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Great survey of Byzantium

Having been through Mike Duncan’s “The History of Rome” podcast twice, I’ve been on the lookout for a similar survey on Byzantium. I found a few books on specific eras that I very much intend to read, but before taking those deep dives I wanted to get a sense of the movement of the empire itself from start to finish. This lecture series is a wonderful primer for the political, military, religious, and cultural history of the empire. Its quick sketches of the decline, transformation, growth, decline, and final fall of Byzantium have given me the roadmap I need to further educate myself. My next step is Roger Crowley’s book 1453, and I already know that the experience of that book will be much improved upon now that I have a sense of the era that the Great Siege ended. Thank you, Prof. Harl. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of your work.

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Very nice

I wish this course had been slightly longer and more focused on later periods. I listened to it in conjunction with the Late Antiquity series and there was a lot of overlap. However it did fill in a substantial gap in my knowledge of medieval history and I enjoyed it very much. It also made me wish there was a more general course on Eastern Europe during the medieval period, covering the Bulgars and Serbs that were mostly peripheral to the series. Overall very nice.

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Ok History book - Not detailed

So you will get watered down stuff if you try to compress 1000's of years and many nations into 1 little lesson. But for what the goal of the course is intended to be, it's alright.

You will learn much about the dealings and double dealings with the barbarians who were not quite so exotic and barbaric as other books say. Basically, the barbarians were disgruntled security guards that eventually attacked and pillaged their bosses when the bosses became to decadent and insolvent to offer steady work.

In the end, you will see that the Roman Empire in the East and West did not dramatically collapse, it basically ran out of gas. In the end, the emperor of Rome and Constantinople became glorified Mayors with great palaces but no global or regional influence.

There is also much about the fall of Anatolia. How Anatolia and Thrace became Muslim and Turkish when it was once Christian Greek. Even the Syrian Levant was a world of it's own before the Greeks and much before the Muslim Arabs. Also much to learn about the Crusades and interestingly how the Persians were major players in the classical middle east. The Romans and Byzantines never beat the Persians, only the Mongols were able to beat and savage the Persians.

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  • Jonathan
  • 01-03-15

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • mr
  • 12-06-14

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • BookFan
  • 10-20-16

New Rome

This is the second lecture series I've listened to by Kenneth. He's very informative and entertaining to listen to. My only complaint is the fall of Constantinople was a bit rushed and I would have like more detail on that but other than that anyone wanting to get a good rounded knowledge on this topic will enjoy this series .

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  • Tim Dubber
  • 05-19-16

amazing depth on a fascinating subject

This course is excellent, with an engrossing mixture of historical analysis and narrative about the rise and fall of the eastern Roman empire.