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Procopius of Caesarea: Tyranny, History, and Philosophy at the End of Antiquity 0th Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0812237870
ISBN-10: 0812237870
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A masterly corrective, which establishes Procopius as a first-rate historian. . . . No scholar of late antique and Byzantine literature can afford to leave it unread."—Mouseion



"Fresh, bold, independent, provocative, and, accordingly, controversial."—Journal of Near Eastern History



"Important, well argued."—Choice

From the Publisher

Anthony Kaldellis teaches Greek and Latin at The Ohio State University. He has translated Genesios's On the Reigns of the Emperors and has written books on Psellos's Chronographia and (in Greek) on the Roman and Byzantine history of Lesbos.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (February 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812237870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812237870
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,912,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Kaldellis's Procopius of Caesarea is the most up-to-date work on Procopius and is a must for anyone interested in the period or author. It is also a brilliantly argued book, fascinating in its insights and style, even if these are sometimes perhaps pushed a little too far.

Before Kaldellis, orthodoxy on Procopius rested with Averil Cameron, who saw Procopius' classicism as literary affectation masking the voice of a sixth-century Christian writer. Kaldellis argues Procopius' classicising voice is genuine, and therefore a guide to his ultimate message. His achievement is to have used the works' very genre, especially the Wars, to show how a thorough decoding may be performed. Thus while Cameron writes that Procopius had little political vision and that the Wars were only burdened by Procopius' need to imitate classical historians, Kaldellis argues that, on the contrary, one must go beyond skimming and look for the information this style itself makes available.

Though the Wars apparently had wide appeal, the classically educated reader would have picked up Procopius' borrowings from, and allusions to, classical Greek poets and historians. This made possible the communication of a second, potentially subversive meaning behind the text. Kaldellis found, for example, that the text of Justinian's decision to embark on the Vandal wars, in Wars III, is exactly modelled on Herodotus' version of Xerxes' words upon attacking Greece. Justinian is thus implicitly labelled a tyrant by Procopius, something which he was of course not at liberty to do explicitly (except in the unpublished Secret History, in which he does attack Justinian openly, indeed with vitriol). In another example, Procopius mentions the Star of Autumn in his description of Justinian's statue as Achilles, in Buildings.
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Format: Hardcover
A summary of the review on StrategyPage.Com

'The last notable historian of the ancient world, Procopius (c. 500-c. 560), renown for his history of the wars of Justinian, having accompanied the great general Belisarius on many campaigns, and also of the Emperor’s many building projects, as well as the famous tell-all' Secret History' that would have cost him his head had it been published in his lifetime. In this work Prof. Kaldellis (Ohio State) breaks with long held views of Procopius to make a case that the man was well grounded in the Classics, was not a committed Christian but a firm believer in chance (Tyche) rather than Providence, and was in tune with less popular contemporary trends in philosophy. He also argues that Procopius adopted a style and vocabulary that enabled him to be subtly critical of imperial excess, many of his contemporaries, and the events of his times without risking imperial displeasure. All of this, Kaldellis argues, makes Procopius’s work valuable not only for his account of events, but for insights into the complexities of contemporary culture, politics, dissidence, and philosophy. Of particular value for serious students of Late Antiquity, this is so well written that even the casual reader will find it interesting and at times even entertaining.'

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Kaldellis has revived the interest in Procopius which of later years has turned into a bit of a hate-fest. His ability to reinvigorate a classical work that has been around since the 5th Century AD with new and meaningful insight exposes the need for a new way of thinking about the worlds of antiquity, and moving away from the stagnating classical history of today's ancient historians back to the inventive and philosophical views of, dare I say it, the antiquarians of old. Kaldellis takes an opposing view of his contemporaries who sneer at the "classicism" of Procopius, writing in Attic Greek at a time when Byzantium was waxing as Rome and classical Greece waned as the dark clouds of northern barbarians dimmed the bright light of the ancient world; and within two hundred years, Islam would set the rest of the world on fire. How did the Dark Ages come about? How did classical civilization falter? How did the technical, architectural and industrious world of the Romans finally give way to the cruel and unenlightened world of the early Middle Ages? How did the West step out of the light for a thousand years? Could it happen again? These are the threads that Procopius has woven into his works and modern historians need to re-weave into a cautionary tale of how a modern prosperous society, compounded by a litany of inept decisions and poor foresight, drove itself into extinction.
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