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Women in Purple: Three Byzantine Empresses Hardcover – September 13, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Judith Herrin is Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King's College, University of London. Between 1991 and 1995 she was Professor of Byzantine History at Princeton University. She is a leading scholar of the medieval period.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; First Edition edition (September 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297643347
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297643340
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,017,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A history of three Byzantine empresses, all of whom lived during the Iconoclasm controversy of the late eighth and early to mid-ninth century (another appropriate topic considering the recent violence in the Muslim world over the cartoons showing the Prophet Muhammed). Herrin suggests that the power held by these women is the result of the weakness of the empire in the face of an expanding Islam, which itself was a motivation for the Iconoclast movement. ("The Muslims are winning battles; therefore the reason we're losing must be that God doesn't approve of representative art.") Interestingly, Irene (who actually ruled on her own as "Emperor" after deposing and blinding her son), Euphrosyne (the daughter of that same son), and Theodora (the wife of Euphrosyne's stepson), all were on the side of the iconophiles, and it was their stance that was victorious in the end. Herrin also makes the case that if Iconoclasm had prevailed, western art, which took much of its inspiration from the Byzantine empire, would have been much poorer. I enjoyed this book very much.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I recommend this book without reserve. It is an excellent source of scholarly historical data written by a knowledgeable author in the field. Ms. Herrin has taken on the daunting task of creating an entertaining read on the subject of the history of this period in Byzantium and, in particular, the history of Byzantine iconography.
She openly admits that there is much she has had to imagine about these women's lives, since so little information is preserved about the personal lives of women, but she has inventively and convincingly conceived what their lives may have entailed and how they had a deep influence on Eastern and Western history. She points this out in her essay "On the Sources Used for this Study" (page 258 hardcover) at the end of the book in the "Sources and Notes" section.
On a couple of occasions, Ms. Herrin's feminist perspectives seem to escape her careful unbiased scholarly approach, but these are insignificant by comparison with her accomplishment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I recommend this book without reserve. It is an excellent source of scholarly historical data written by a knowledgeable author in the field. Ms. Herrin has taken on the daunting task of creating an entertaining read on the subject of the history of this period in Byzantium and, in particular, the history of Byzantine iconography. She openly admits that there is much she has had to imagine about these women's lives, since so little information is preserved about the personal lives of women, but she has inventively and convincingly conceived what their lives may have entailed and how they had a deep influence on Eastern and Western history. She points this out in her essay "On the Sources Used for this Study" (page 258 hardcover) at the end of the book in the "Sources and Notes" section. On a couple of occasions, Ms. Herrin's feminist perspectives seem to escape her careful unbiased scholarly approach, but these are insignificant by comparison with her accomplishment.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. Khan on April 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
Judith Herrin did a wonderful job informing her readers on the lives of the Byzantine empresses and the impressive power they held over their empire. So I was shocked and disappointed when I read: " Byzantium is famous for its empresses.The classical world revealed few equal to them, apart from Cleopatra and Agrippina; the Islamic world, none."(p.3)
One of the most famous empresses in Islam was the Empress Nur Jahan of the Mughal empire in India. According to Wikipedia "Begam Nur Jehan was the twentieth and favourite wife of Mughal Emperor Jehangir, who was her second husband - and the most famous Empress of the Mughal Empire. The story of the couple's infatuation for each other and the relationship that abided between them is the stuff of many (often apocryphal) legends. She remains historically significant for the sheer amount of imperial authority she wielded - the true "power behind the throne," as Jehangir was battling serious addictions to alcohol and opium throughout his reign - and is known as one of the most powerful women in the history of India."
Another woman who is a famous empress in Islam was the Empress Roxelana of the Ottoman Empire. Her husband Suleyman the Magnificent took her advice on matters of state and international politics. She was so influential that 2 of her letters written to the Polish King Sigismund Augustus are preserved to this day. One of her charitable works was that she had a womens' hospital built in Istanbul.
I could go on and on. As a Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, Judith Herrin has done NO research in this area. I was extremely disappointed with her ignorance on empresses in the Islamic world.
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