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Byzantium: The Apogee Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 8, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

"We have now passed the point of no return: I . . . am enjoying myself; and if I can persuade . . . kindred spirits to share my enjoyment I shall be happy . . . ." Thus writes the author, introducing the second volume of a proposed trilogy on Byzantium. Norwich writes with a flair; anecdotal, accurate, witty, and never boring, he covers a 300-year period of history whose intricacies and subplots could render the most hardened insomniac unconscious. Not with Norwich. Beginning with Charlemagne's coronation in 800 A.D. and the resulting split in the Christian world, Norwich traces the return of iconoclasm, political intrigues, military campaigns, atrocities, and alliances, ending with the fateful battle at Nanzikert from which the Empire never recovered. The stage is enormous, and the number of characters are bewildering, but Norwich deftly brings to life the frozen icons of the history books. If the third volume is as enjoyable and exhaustive as the first two, history fans will have the definitive work on the subject. Highly recommended.
- Judith Bradley, Acad . of the Holy Cross Lib., Kensington, Md.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Norwich combines wonderfully deadpan humor and a keen appreciation for the narrative potential of popular history in this delightful second installment in his projected three-volume study of the Byzantine Empire. Picking up where Byzantium: The Early Centuries (1989) left off--at Pope Leo III's crowning of Charlemagne as Emperor of Rome in A.D. 800, a serious threat to the political primacy of Byzantium--the deftly paced account gallops through 300 triumphant and torturous years. At the end, the Empire, lacking a stable dynasty and devastated by rivals east and west, teeters near anarchy. Not that the years in between--marked with court intrigue and debauchery, frequent usurpations, religious disputation, and near-constant warfare--were any picnic. Reveling in the curious personal arrangements and often ruinous quirks of such rulers as Michael the Sot, Norwich exposes the astonishing brutality that flourished amid the intellectual and artistic splendors of the realm. Enemies might be dispatched by poisoning (especially, it was rumored, at court), torture, or crucifixion, although the favored punishments seem to have been blinding by hot irons (a craze that reached its peak with Basil the Bulgar-Slayer's treatment of 15,000 war prisoners) and castration (which disqualified the victim from claiming the throne). In brilliantly colorful prose, enlivened by his gift for droll understatement (Empress Irene, who had her son blinded ``in a particularly barbarous manner,'' is described as ``deeply unpleasant''), Norwich brings a complex subject to vivid life. And, although he disclaims any attempt at rigorous economic and social analysis, the extensive and measured consideration of contemporary records and later scholarly studies makes this an excellent introduction to a daunting field. Not a world in which many would want to live, but, in this superbly enjoyable overview, well worth any reader's visit. (Thirty-two pages of photographs, 16 in color--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (January 8, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394537793
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394537795
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Glenn McDorman on August 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This, the second volume of Norwich's Byzantine history, is the climactic center of the story. The book begins with Charlemagne's corronation in 800 -- an act that destroyed the idea of a universal Christendom -- and concludes with the battle of Manzikert in 1071 -- one of the most consequential and regrettable military losses in European history. In between we learn about the Viking impact on Byzantium, conflicts with Kievan Rus, the rise of the Bulgar Empire, and the growing and intensifying conflict between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Family and court intrigues are illuminated, while changes in religion, art, and leisure are explained. Norwich uses his amazing command of the English language to take us on a wild rollercoaster ride through the changing fortunes of Europe's chief protector, finally leaving us with a strong sense of the impending doom in store for both Byzantium and Europe as a whole.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Gail Watson on February 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book was the first I read of Norwich's trilogy - by accident, of course. I didn't realize it was the second of three books until I started reading it. It is SUCH a fascinating account of an empire that is now gone. I became interested in reading about the history of the Turkish area when I visited Istanbul last summer, and am now very interested in the rich history of that city. The debt owed to Byzantium is more than most of us ever learn about. Byzantium's rich culture retained much ancient learning which served eventually to spur Europe out of the dark ages.
It is impossible to read this book without becoming consumed with curiosity for the other two books of the trilogy. The reader gets a very good look at the inside of the empire, but also is given glimpses of other empires and peoples as they affected or interacted with the direction of Byzantium. Personalities, politics and intrigues; families, buildings and architecture; religion, government, and commerce; geography, weather, and natural disasters; armies, navies and strategy; invasions, skirmishes, disease, torture, destruction, death and birth; all are given in depth treatment by Norwich in order to show the meandering evolution of the Byzantium Empire and its interactions with Europe and the Middle East. The book is richly annotated, which adds greatly to the enjoyment, in my opinion.
The beginning of the book sees religious dogma continuing to widen the schism between the Western and Eastern Empires and the end of the book sees the Byzantium facing its first major loss of land in military defeat to the Turks.
I highly recommend the trilogy to all history buffs.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Walter Blocher on April 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Norwich writes with passion and intelligence of a subject that has been near his heart. He lays out the stories and the facts with a style that is never boring or obtuse. After I read each volume I would take time out and read Ostrogorsky's History of Byzantine. Adding the latter's more politically oriented work to the mix made Norwich's work even more complete. If nothing else I had the chance to re-read Ostrogorsky. One does not need anything else to enjoy and learn from Norwich. With the excitement that Norwich created, I then took up Babinger's Mehmed the Conqueror. A wonderful way to continue. What makes these three authors work is their style and subtle sense of humour. Norwich brought me back to an intriging era of world history that we need to learn from in our present time. What makes it even better is that he levels the playing field. I am happy that I opted for the complete set and not the condensed version. This way I get the author's whole intent along with his wit and style. Well worth the time and money involved. This is a work that I will return again and again. A good friend!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Note: The review cited above refers only to the first volume
in this excellent history of Byzantium (the whole trilogy
will apparently appear in abridged form in March 1998).

This second volume covers the period from 800AD and the coronation of
Charlemagne (which irrevocably split the Roman Empire into
"West" and "East") to the battle of Manzikert in 1071 which saw
Constantinople cut off to a large degree from its
principal resources in Asia Minor (after the Imperial army
was defeated by the Seljuk Turks).
Throughout the narrative Lord Norwich concentrates to a
large degree on the constant conflicts between the Empire and
its neighbours - the Bulgars to the north-west, the Rus to
the north east and the forces of Islam to the south.

A sense
of ultimate doom is inevitable as you read the book, and yet
some of the greatest characters in Byzantine history make their
appearance in this period. This appears, indeed, to be
the apogee of the eastern empire and you are left in little
doubt as to what would have happened to the subsequent
history of Europe if emperors with the power and wisdom of
Basil II had not come to the throne and countered the forces
pressing from the east and south.

There are so many frustrating questions as well:
how might the history of Christianity have differed if the
personalities involved in the "filioque" controversy - which
contributed greatly to the schism between the eastern and
western church - had been different?
Read more ›
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