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A Concise History of Byzantium Paperback – September 6, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Much as H.D.F. Kitto condensed The Greeks (1988), Treadgold (history, St. Louis Univ.) here abridges his massive History of the Byzantine State and Society (LJ 9/1/97). The Byzantine Empire (285-1461) spanned three continents and demands a succinct overview, especially given its relevance to such diverse disciplines as modern Balkan politics and church history. The author's historiography depends greatly on quantifying change. In each chapter, he provides a narrative account of the events of a specific period followed by sections on the society and culture. These latter sections reflect the author's interest in the size and pay of the armies, the demographic variations of regions and cities, and such factors as urbanization or the lack thereof. He draws fascinating conclusions from the revenues and bureaucracies of the different eras. The excellent bibliography will give students a good start on research in any of the periods discussed. Recommended for all libraries. Clay Williams, Hunter Coll., New York
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Edward Gibbon regarded the Byzantine (or East Roman or Later Roman) Empire with disdain. It was both a pale imitation of classical Hellenic culture and a degenerate inheritor of Roman Latin political institutions. Although subsequent historians have modified that view, the general perception of a static empire in a state of "perpetual decline" remains. This compact survey of an empire that outlasted the Roman Empire in the West by a millennium may not dispel that notion, but it does pay tribute to the vibrancy, cultural richness, and historical legacy of the first great "Christian" empire. Treadgold necessarily moves quickly, but he convincingly illustrates how the Byzantine (1) transmitted elements of classical culture to disparate groups, including Slavs and Arabs, (2) were instrumental in bringing Christianity to eastern "barbarians," and (3) maintained a degree of stability in the eastern Mediterranean despite constant external threats. This is an excellent general history of a still underappreciated people and of their contributions to the modern world. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: European History in Perspective
  • Paperback: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (September 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333718305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333718308
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #398,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Warren Treadgold received his doctorate from Harvard University, has taught at UCLA, Stanford University, and UC Berkeley, and is now National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Byzantine Studies at Saint Louis University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Tom Munro on June 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a very good although brief little book. Byzantium is the name given to the part of the Roman Empire which survived the collapse of the West. Those who lived in it would have known themselves as Romans and Byzantium is very much an artificial name thought up after the event by scholars who had something of a prejudice against the Eastern Empire. This book is a strongly argued rebuttal of that position.
The historian who has shaped the popular view of the Roman Empire is Gibbon. His rather long work explores a theme. That theme is that the Roman Empire reached its peak when its members were pagan and immersed in the values of a classical civilisation. The conversion to Christianity changed the nature and structure of the empire and led to its decline.
This book broadly suggests that this view is poppycock and it uses a statistical and analytical approach to prove its point. Broadly what is argued is that the reason for the decline of Rome was bound up in the nature of the imperial system in 200 onwards. The basis of the authority of the Emperor was the support of the army. The army in turn consisted of troops who were generally non-roman. Although the Empire was nominally the strongest power in Europe at the time its internal authority was subject to fragmentation and it was this which led to the collapse of the Empire in the West.
In the East a similar thing happened. However the Emperors were gradually able to re-assert civil power over the military. In addition it was also possible to build a common culture based on the Greek language and Christianity which unified the Empire and gave those who lived in it a common identity.
Rather than declining the Eastern Empire was able under Justinian to go on the offensive and to re-conquer Africa and Italy.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By MarkK VINE VOICE on September 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic, accessible introduction to the long and complicated history of a region that often gets overlooked or glossed over. In a little over 250 pages, Treadgold ably summarizes the ebb and flow of an empire which was at the crossroads of Western history. Though he focuses primarily on the political history of Byzantium, Treadgold also includes economic, social, and cultural developments, tying it all together with a conclusion that makes an excellent case for its significance to Western history. This is must reading for anybody interested in understanding how the eastern Roman empire survived the collapse of its western counterpart, as well as how its existence (and its own eventual fall) shaped the world in which we live today.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By T. Warner on April 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Highly Recommended!
I wanted to read a good general history of Byzantium, which I knew very little about. This book gives very good coverage of the important points of Byzantine history in just a couple of hundred pages. I now have a good general idea about who and what the empire was. The book is clear and well written with good analysis of economic and population factors as well what the military was doing. I also liked the balanced treatment of role of Christianity and the Church in the empire.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Judy Riley on March 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This volume is a shorter version of Treadgold's longer work, "A History of the Byzantine State and Society." I have not had an opportunity to read the larger work, but I certainly will after having derived so much enjoyment from the Concise History.
I do believe the volume's title is misleading. Anyone looking for a chronological account of Byzantine history may be disappointed. Treadgold's forte is social and economic history, subjects that hold far more interest for me than accounts of who won what battle on which day, how many times an emperor was married and to whom, etc. If that's your cup of tea, you'd be better off with John Julius Norwich.
But if you want to know how Byzantium survived for so long as the richest and most advanced state of the early Medieval world, while providing its subject with reasonably good government and the chance to live secure, productive lives, you should read this book. Treadgold draws upon a web of well-elucidated econonic, social and intellectual/theological trends to derive cogent and convincing explainations for the shifting fortunes of Byzantine political power.
How did the Empire raise and finance its gigantic military establishment? How did it hold together its far-flung territories? What effects did recurrent epidemics and other uncontrollable forces have on its destiny? What kinds of lives did its subjects lead in villiage, town and city? How did the Byzantine monetary system function? How much land did the Empire control and how many subjects did it rule at its various peaks and declines? These are some of the questions Treadgold's book attempts and (for the most part) succeeds in answering.
In short, this is primarily an analytical look at Byzantine history and only secondarily a chronology of events. Its compact size and overall readibility make it an ideal volume for those of us how want to know not only WHAT happened to the Byzantines, but WHY.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book covers Byzantine history from 285 to 1453 at the rate of about 5 years per page, and in my view does a solid job of it. Obviously, many details are omitted, though I suspect anyone new to the subject might feel there is an overwhelming amount of detail. Prof. Treadgold writes in his usual no-frills scholarly style, which I prefer to the more lively style of Norwich. Despite the style, this book does not include much scholarly apparatus--most notably there are no footnotes. The book is organized into 40 sections, on average about 6 pages long. There are two introductory sections and two concluding sections. The core of the book consists of the 36 sections between, divided into 6 chapters, each chapter covering a period of Byzantine history. The chapters are composed of 3 to 5 narrative sections always followed by a section on society and one on culture. The second page of each chapter has a (very good) map taken from Prof. Treadgold's longer work. There are 12 black-and-white plates. There is only one chart in the book and it presents statistics for area control, population, revenue, and army size at 13 points during the Empire's history. A graph repeats the area information. There is a list of rulers appended, and a 16 page index. The book emphazises military fortunes, emperor actions (or lack thereof), and religious disputes. I appreciated the emphasis on military afairs, but others might not. The overall viewpoint is the empire as seen from Constantinople. This is not an anecdotal approach to history; none of the colorful but dubious legends are even mentioned (no blind Belisarius). And, for example, Prof. Treadgold's sober approach to the reign of Justinian II is in marked contrast to Lord Norwich's approach. Which approach you prefer is a matter of taste.Read more ›
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