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Byzantium: The Decline and Fall Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 7, 1995

4.3 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With this volume, Norwich completes his magisterial narrative history of Byzantium. As in the earlier volumes (Byzantium: The Early Centuries, LJ 3/1/89; and Byzantium: The Apogee, LJ 1/92), he seeks to rectify the negative impressions perpetuated by 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon. Norwich records the history of a brilliant civilization that endured for over 11 centuries. From the founding of Constantinople (capital of Byzantium) by the first Christian Roman emperor and Byzantium's first flowering, to its fatal weakening after the treacherous attack on Constantinople by Western knights in the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and the valiant death of the last Byzantine emperor in 1453 at the hands of the conquering Turks, Norwich has told Byzantium's story in elegant and moving prose. This last volume in the three-part history of an unfairly neglected European civilization is highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
Robert Andrews, Duluth P.L., Minn.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Inside Flap

Third volume in the series. With 32 pages of illustrations and 10 maps and tables.

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

  • Series: Byzantium (Book 3)
  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (November 7, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679416501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679416500
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas J. Brucia on September 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you love history, and exploring unknown territory, this book is a winner! This historical narrative, complete with excellent and detailed maps, useful family trees, an extensive bibliography, and even a "List of Byzantine monuments surviving in Istanbul" (!) makes one feel like one is awaking from a coma. John Julius Norwich states: "During my five years at one of England's oldest and finest public schools, Byzantium seems to have been the victim of a conspiracy of silence. I cannot remember its being mentioned, far less studied... " This book is the cure! ---- Norwich's narrative is witty, fascinating, and informative and makes clear the huge debt Western European civilization owes to Byzantium, which shielded Europe first from the Persians, and then from Islam. (Look at your maps!) The first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great founded The Eastern Roman Empire (aka Byzantium) in 330. The Eastern Empire fell -- 1,123 years later -- in 1453 (quite a big educational gap!) This first volume (Byzantium is a trilogy!) ends at the coronation of Charlemagne as Roman Emperor of the West in the year 800. Norwich demonstrates that the Roman Empire never fell; it divided. His story is that of the Eastern Empire, but he fully examines Byzantine relations with the Papacy, Byzantium's presence in Italy, and military and diplomatic actions involving the remnants of the Western Roman Empire ----- Lord Norwich's writing style could be likened to a thread of gold (narrative) strung with countless jewels (anecdotes). This book covers five centuries and 88 rulers - and it is full of fascinating vignettes. It recapitulates the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I found "Byzantium - The Early Centuries" a difficult book to review and waffled continually between 3 and 4 stars, but ultimately settled on the former in the hopes that it would attract more scrutiny from fellow Amazon customers. Do realize, however, that my complaints with Lord Norwich's book might not bother a different reader; as these other reviews show, this is certainly a 4-star book for many people. I suggest you read my review, and based on the points I raise, decide for yourself if this is the type of book you might enjoy.
It first must be said that there is much to praise in the initial volume of this trilogy. Norwich writes in a very clear and entertaining style, never condescending or unnecessarily florid. His tone allows him to successfully create any number of emotions: excitement and anxiety during the siege of Constantinople by the Persians and the campaigns of Heraclius (p. 295-299); awe at the unmatched speed of the rise of Islam (p.302); disgust at the brutality of Emperors like Constantine VI who had one of his uncles blinded and cut out the tongues of the other four (p. 373). In addition to all this, Norwich is quite humorous when situation demands it. For example, while discussing the advent of "Greek Fire," Norwich quotes a contemporary author and provides this commentary: " 'The conflagration will spread and can be extinguished only by urine, vinegar or sand' - a property which, if true, would give a completely new dimension to the technique of fire-fighting" (p. 323).
But Norwich's style does not save this book from what I consider two major problems with the content. (I say two problems, but in all fairness they are simply opposite sides of the same coin.
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Format: Hardcover
Others have written at length about the scholarship and erudition. The Byzantium trilogy is indeed an excellent addition to my history bookshelf. If you need any encouragement to buy it, then just read a couple of the footnotes: "neither the imperial army nor Alexius Comnenus [the Emperor] emerges with much credit from the bloodbath of Levunium." footnote: "Anna Comnena (in The Alexiad, a history) exonerates her father from any involvement in the massacre, but then she would, wouldn't she?" Or regarding the Emperors before Alexius Comnenus: "...Inflation, which had already begun under Michael VII, (footnote here), spiraled more dizzily than ever." Footnote; "He was popularly known as 'Parapinaces', or 'Minus-a-quarter', since the gold nomisma, after having remained stable for more than 500 years, was said to have lost a quarter of its value during his reign." On an imperial marriage, the footnote reads: "The marriage evoked 100 lines of peculiarly flatulent verse from Claudian, the Epithalamium ending with an affecting picture of an infant son sitting on his parents' knees. Maria is said, however, to have lived and died a virgin." I recommend this book, and the other two books (Byzantium: The Early Centuries, and Byzantium: The Apogee) highly. Read them. You won't be disappointed. I draw a parallel between the books and what Lord Norwich said about the Byzantine Emperors: "Some of these Emperors were heroes, others were monsters; but they were never, never dull."
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