- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (September 28, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691143692
- ISBN-13: 978-0691143699
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 50 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire 0th Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Offering a brilliant study of the history of the Byzantine empire, Herrin—whose groundbreaking The Formation of Christendom challenged traditional views on the development of Christianity—draws a similarly original portrait of a tradition-based yet dynamic empire that protected Christianity by checking the westward expansion of Islam. Herrin progresses in lively fashion, chronicling the 1,000-year history of Byzantium from its rise in A.D. 306 to its demise at the hands of the Ottomans. Along the way, Herrin, a professor at King's College, London, introduces an astonishing cast of characters, such as the empire's first leader, Constantine I; religious leaders such as Patriarch Photios; and Anna Komnene, the great 12th-century historian whose Odyssey-like epic, the Alexiad, celebrated the 37-year reign of her father, Alexios I. Drawing on letters, journals and other primary documents from both political figures and ordinary citizens, Herrin splendidly recreates an empire whose religious art, educational curriculum, tax and legal systems, and coronation rituals preserved the best of the empire's pre-Christian Greek past while at the same time passing along advances to the rest of the world. Herrin's history is hands-down the finest introduction to Byzantium and its continuing significance for world history. 8 color illus.; 16 b&w illus.; maps. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Judith Herrin, Winner of the 2016 Dr A.H. Heineken Prize, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
"The scope and shape of Herrin's survey of Byzantine history and culture are impressive. She moves from the foundation of Constantinople to its fall before the Turks in a series of twenty-eight short chapters. This allows the curious or impatient reader to sample, according to taste, such delectable topics as Greek fire, eunuchs, icons, and the Towers of Trebizond . . . "--G.W. Bowersock, New York Review of Books
"Offering a brilliant study of the history of the Byzantine empire, Herrin...draws [an] original portrait of a tradition-based yet dynamic empire that protected Christianity by checking the westward expansion of Islam. Drawing on letters, journals and other primary documents from both political figures and ordinary citizens, Herrin splendidly recreates an empire whose religious art, educational curriculum, tax and legal systems, and coronation rituals preserved the best of the empire's pre-Christian Greek past while at the same time passing along advances to the rest of the world. Herrin's history is hands-down the finest introduction to Byzantium and its continuing significance for world history."--Publishers Weekly
"The book is comprehensive, but the paragraphs are never dense and the prose retains throughout a lively quality."--J.W. Nesbitt, Choice
"The big, standard histories contain a wearying succession of emperors, patriarchs, battles, and sieges...At the other end of the scale there are lightweight travelogues, or books that pick out the juiciest moments (such as the final siege of 1453), leaving aside many things that are more important but less conducive to a good story. Judith Herrin has tried to find a middle ground between those two extremes, and has succeeded in a rather original way. Her book is a necklace of short chapters, each on a different topic, strung out in broadly chronological order. Some are devoted to places (Ravenna, Mount Athos and, of course, Constantinople itself); some are about people (Anna Comnena, Saints Cyril and Methodius, and the unforgettably named Basil the Bulgar-Slayer); and some are on general subjects, whether large (Greek Orthodoxy, the Byzantine economy, the Crusades) or small ('Greek Fire', and eunuchs)."--Noel Malcolm, The Daily Telegraph
"Judith Herrin, a professor at King's College London, sets out to show that there are far better reasons to study and admire the civilisation that flourished for more than a millennium before the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, and whose legacy is still discernible all over south-east Europe and the Levant. She presents Byzantium as a vibrant, dynamic, cosmopolitan reality which somehow escaped the constraints of its official ideology."--The Economist
"Others in recent years have made worthy efforts to interest us in the Byzantine achievement, but none has made it live in quite the way that Herrin does. She's been bold in foregrounding themes, concerned more with painting a panoramic picture of Byzantium's 'surprising life' than to establish a chronology--though the narrative's there to give the reader a sense of how it all progressed. Free from portentousness and pretentiousness, she doesn't insist on her subject's importance or relevance: the freshness and enthusiasm of her book is its real point. Not just an important work of scholarship but a delight to read, this study works a minor miracle in raising Byzantium, Lazarus-like, from its dusty grave."--Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman
"[A] remarkable new history...Herrin takes a fresh approach and focuses on manifold aspects of Byzantine culture, civilization, and religion. Herrin's scholarship is impeccable, yet she writes like the very best of travel writers. She paints vivid pictures of this prosperous and pious culture whose capital was a fortified city of sunlight glinting off the gilded church domes and spires, surrounded on three sides by the shimmering Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus.... From the first page, the author embraces the reader in the love of her subject. She entertains and captivates while throwing open the doors to her formidable treasury of knowledge."--M.M. Bennetts, Christian Science Monitor
"Byzantium's history is presented chronologically, which helps explain why there's no simple description of its legacy. Herrin's emphasis on the empire's proudest achievement, its culture--separate chapters are devoted to religion, economy, warfare, art and literature--is an armchair delight."--Brett Popplewell, The Toronto Star
"[Herrin] takes an innovative approach.... The scope is broad--religion, politics, art, war, gender--and the style lively and personal."--The Atlantic
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
While not a historical narrative, the chapter progress more or less chronologically, from its origins in late antiquity, to its fall as a way to presage the Renaissance. Founded at the great trade routes from East to West by the first christian emperor, Byzantium evolved into the first purely autocratic power with the legitimation rituals of traditional Asian kings. It thus served as the model for the monarchies and petty despotisms that were rising to its West. Herrin describes this better than anywhere I have seen this, in wonderful perspective. Byzantium was also the first true christian state, mixing dogmatic monotheistic religion with the functions of government. The way that it evolved and split into sects is clearly delineated by Herrin, the seeds of cultures we can see today.
Herrin also argues that Byzantium was not a mere preserver of classical tradition, but a synthesizer of old systems with the new, that is, Christianity. While I think she over-states her case - there is a genuine decadence to Eastern Rome's obsession with old forms - she makes one of the best cases I know for Byzantium's dynamism and creativity. Personally, I find its art, its attempts at consolidating and preserving (and updating) Roman law rather stilted and derivative, but she convinced me that my view is far too one-sided. In addition, she transmits the sense that Greek culture stayed very much alive in a more continuous and lively way than the Latin tradition did to the West.
Finally, Herrin describes the legacy of Byzantium, both as the last-line defense against the Arabs and then the Turks, but also the impact of the exodus of Greek scholars to the West, providing many of the sources that flowered in the Renaissance. I learned the most about the military history in this section, that the Byzantines had become accustomed to fighting the Persians in large military formations, leaving them vulnerable to Arab cavalry with its mobility and lighter-armed warriors fighting in the spirit of jihad. Once the Turks appeared, the Byzantines had become famously decadent, squandering their energy in civil wars, doctrinal disputes, and preoccupation with Slavic pagans that they converted to Greek Orthodoxy. The fall of Constantinople, in so many ways, signals the end of the Middle Ages, expertly evoked by Herrin in splendid prose.
Warmly recommended for any serious student of history.