- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (December 10, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312284292
- ISBN-13: 978-0312284299
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,288,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Byzantium: The Bridge from Antiquity to the Middle Ages Hardcover – December 10, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
This richly layered narrative brings to life the many faceted culture of Byzantium, crown jewel of the East from the fourth century to the Middle Ages. Angold, a historian at the University of Edinburgh, begins with Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and moved his capital to Constantinople (Byzantium), which competed with Rome as the center of politics and religion. The ancient city became even further spiritualized when Justinian I built the Church of St. Sophia, turning the city into a kind of New Jerusalem whose inhabitants believed themselves protected by the "Mother of God." During Justinian's reign, Byzantine Christians' use of icons to represent spiritual reality became their culture's defining mark. However, Angold contends, iconology provoked iconoclasm between the sixth and the ninth centuries, when Western Christians such as John of Damascus challenged the veneration of icons. But disagreements within the Christian community were not the only assault on Byzantine unity. Beginning in the seventh century, Islam challenged the political and religious unity of the city and the empire, first through military incursions and later through religious controversy, namely their rejection of the veneration of icons. Even so, mosque and church architectures were mutually influential, though perhaps mosques, with their emphasis on large spaces for prayer, affected Byzantine Christian design more significantly. By the Middle Ages, Angold argues, the art and religion of Byzantium, once rejected by the West, had become firmly entrenched. Icons, especially, were accepted as religious art, even though East and West disagreed over their precise uses. Angold's fascinating book reveals a magnificent holy city both divided and unified. Three maps and 24 pages of b&w photos. (Dec.)Forecast: Both this and Alexandria (above) are aimed at general readers and should satisfy them as each brings an ancient city to life.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Angold (Byzantine history, Univ. of Edinburgh; The Byzantine Empire 1025-1202) tells the story of the transition of the Mediterranean world from the unity of the late Roman Empire to the emergence of three unique civilizations. Of these, Angold believes that Byzantium played a pivotal role by being the entity by and against which the emerging civilizations of the Catholic West and Islam defined themselves. By tracing the development and interplay of Byzantine art, theology, and politics, Angold shows how they came to influence policies made in the Catholic West and Islam. When, for instance, Islam conquered Syria and Egypt, it encountered the figurative religious art of Byzantium. This spurred Islam to develop a new artistic tradition based on textual representation, a development that would lead to Islam's accusation that the Byzantines were idol worshippers. The Byzantine state's reaction was the iconoclastic movement, which sought to remove all figurative religious representations, other than the cross, from all churches. Byzantium's request that the papacy also participate in the iconoclastic movement was rejected. Through such interactions, Byzantium caused the Catholic West and Islam to define themselves in new ways. Ably argued, this rich and thoughtful work is recommended for academic and larger public libraries. Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
This book is first and foremost a religious, not a political or military, history. Angold compares artistic religious traditions between Greek Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Islam. He also introduces us to many of the prominent religious figures of the time. The book also discusses the origins of monasticism and its wealthy patrons. And critically, it also explains the highly interwoven nature of religion and politics in the first institutionalized Christian empire.
The book's title should be changed to clearly reflect that it is an ecclesiastical - not a political or military - history. The book contains a lot of information on Byzantine religious institutions, figures, and events. But the writing style is academic, which makes the book dry. Overall, I recommend this book to anyone interested in Byzantium or the history of Christianity. General and/or military historians won't be interested.
Also, as someone else said, don't be fooled by the title: this is not a broad, introductory text. To be fair though, by his own admission the author states that Byzantine history is largely a history of Constantinople, so perhaps it should be judged on its own ground.