- Hardcover: 832 pages
- Publisher: Brill Academic Publishers (June 30, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9004151974
- ISBN-13: 978-9004151970
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,498,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Age of the DROMON: The Byzantine Navy ca 500-1204 (The Medieval Mediterranean)
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About the Author
John H. Pryor, Ph.D. (1974), Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, is an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney in Medieval Studies and History. He has published extensively on medieval Mediterranean history, especially on the Crusades and on Maritime History.Elizabeth M. Jeffreys, B. Litt (1969) Oxford, Bywater and Sotheby Professor of Byzantine and Modern Greek language and literature, Oxford. She has published extensively on Byzantine literature, including editions of 6th, 12th, and 14th century literary texts.
Top customer reviews
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Second, unfortunatly, comes the price, which, at over 140 pounds, is also massive. This will obviously limit the number of buyers, and it is therefore unsurprising, although a pity given the book's value, to discover that it still had not been reviewed on Amazon, some six years after being first published.
Third, comes the amount of work, the depth of research and the amount of time that have gone into this book. All three are also massive. As the authors admit, they started work in 1987. The book was first published by Brill in 2006. There is, I believe, little need to add any comment.
Regarding the history of the Byzantine Navy, the book demonstrate that it can be divided rather "quite neatly", to quote Pryor, into five main periods:
- The Romano-byzantine hegemony, during which, after being challenged by the Vandals and the Goths, the Empire regained its supremacy and dominated the Mediterranean
- The Umayyads' onslaught, from 650 to 750, which the BYzantine Navy finally managed to fight to a standstill after being initially defeated,
- A period of chaos from 750 to 875, where the Byzantine Empire lost Sicily and Crete, while the Califate fragmented and new naval powers in North Africa and in Moslem Spain emerged, although both sides had victories and defeats
- A period of supremacy, from 875 to the death of Basil II in 1025, during which the Empire reestablished its supremacy
- A period of decline and decadence, despite the efforts of the three Komnene emperors to restore the fleet, and during which the Latin West, and the Italian Maritime Republics, in particular, triumphed over both Byzantium and the Moslem powers, up until 1204.
The rest of the book, although much more technical, is just as interesting in its attempt to discover what exactly were the dromons, how they differed from the ships that existed in the fourth century, how they evolved over time and how they became obsolete and were replaced by the Latin galeas, that the Byzantine navy also adopted. Some of the authors' tentative but very valuable conclusions are worth emphasizing:
- initially, the term dromon meant "racer" and applied to ships that were faster and/or more manoeuvrable than other existing types. Their characteristics (lateen sail instead of a square sail, spur instead of a ram, for instance) implied complete changes in naval warfare
- another very interesting finding is that, according to the authors, there was never a single dromon, with the term being applied to ships that evolved over some 500 years or so, and included both warships and transport ships, before the latter started to be called chelandia, and, in particular, horse transports. All these types of ships, including the warships, had serious limitations in terms of operational range and capacity and they were also very vulnerable to less than fine weather
- finally, the authors also explain why the drmon types of ships became outdated and were replaced by the galeas. In particular, they analyze in detail the elements through which the latter outmatched the former, in particular the rowing system and the greater range that this provided in favor of galeas.
There is more, much more content in this book. Besides, as the authors acknowledge, the archeological findings (the remnants of the hulls of some 31 ships ranging from the fourth to the twelth century have been found over the last few years) when excavating the emplecement of the old Theodosian Port in Istanbul may revolutionize the discipline and make this book outdated in turn.
Despite all this, and despite the significant drawback that the book's price represents, it is well worth the investment if you are a fan of naval history or of the Byzantines, although perhaps a bit less so if you are just a general reader curious to learn more about a little known topic.