Byzantium by Judith Herrin
The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

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Synopsis

Byzantium. The name evokes grandeur and exoticism--gold, cunning, and complexity. In this unique book, Judith Herrin unveils the riches of a quite different civilization. Avoiding a standard chronological account of the Byzantine Empire's millennium--long history, she identifies the fundamental questions about Byzantium--what it was, and what special significance it holds for us today.

Bringing the latest scholarship to a general audience in accessible prose, Herrin focuses each short chapter around a representative theme, event, monument, or historical figure, and examines it within the full sweep of Byzantine history--from the foundation of Constantinople, the magnificent capital city built by Constantine the Great, to its capture by the Ottoman Turks.

She argues that Byzantium's crucial role as the eastern defender of Christendom against Muslim expansion during the early Middle Ages made Europe--and the modern Western world--possible. Herrin captivates us with her discussions of all facets of Byzantine culture and society. She walks us through the complex ceremonies of the imperial court. She describes the transcendent beauty and power of the church of Hagia Sophia, as well as chariot races, monastic spirituality, diplomacy, and literature. She reveals the fascinating worlds of military usurpers and ascetics, eunuchs and courtesans, and artisans who fashioned the silks, icons, ivories, and mosaics so readily associated with Byzantine art.

An innovative history written by one of our foremost scholars, Byzantium reveals this great civilization's rise to military and cultural supremacy, its spectacular destruction by the Fourth Crusade, and its revival and final conquest in 1453.

 

About Judith Herrin

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Judith Herrin is professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King's College London. She is the author of "Women in Purple: Rulers of Medieval Byzantium" and "The Formation of Christendom" (both Princeton).
 
Published November 28, 2006 by Carroll & Graf Publishers. 304 pages
Genres: History, Travel. Non-fiction

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The Guardian

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Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire by Judith Herrin 392pp, Allen Lane, £20 The Byzantines "present a dead uniformity of abject vices, which are neither softened by the weakness of humanity, nor animated by the vigour of memorable crimes" - thus Gibbon.

Dec 15 2007 | Read Full Review of Byzantium: The Surprising Lif...

Publishers Weekly

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Offering a brilliant study of the history of the Byzantine empire, Herrin—whose groundbreaking The Formation of Christendom challenged traditional views on the development of Christianity—draws a similarly original portrait of a tradition-based yet dynamic empire that protected Christianity by c...

Dec 10 2007 | Read Full Review of Byzantium: The Surprising Lif...

Publishers Weekly

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Although female rulers were an anomaly during the Middle Ages, Herrin (The Formation of Christendom) chronicles the lives of three eighth- and ninth-century Byzantine women who proved to be exceptions.

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BC Books

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The Wall Street Journal

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The military reasons for the long survival of Byzantium have been well explored in John Haldon's classic studies—for example, "Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World" (1999) These were taken to a new level by Edward Luttwak in "The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire" (2009), where ...

Mar 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Byzantium: The Surprising Lif...

Project MUSE

In each case, Herrin takes an early element of Byzantine culture or society and highlights its ongoing medieval influence.

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