Byzantium - the name evokes grandeur and exoticism - gold, cunning,
and complexity. In this unique book, Judith Herrin unveils the
riches of a quite different civilization. Avoiding a standard
chronological account of the Byzantine Empire's millennium - long
history, she identifies the fundamental questions about Byzantium -
what it was, and what special significance it holds for us today.
Bringing the latest scholarship to a general audience in accessible
prose, Herrin focuses each short chapter around a representative
theme, event, monument, or historical figure, and examines it
within the full sweep of Byzantine history - from the foundation of
Constantinople, the magnificent capital city built by Constantine
the Great, to its capture by the Ottoman Turks.She argues that
Byzantium's crucial role as the eastern defender of Christendom
against Muslim expansion during the early Middle Ages made Europe -
and the modern Western world - possible. Herrin captivates us with
her discussions of all facets of Byzantine culture and society. She
walks us through the complex ceremonies of the imperial court. She
describes the transcendent beauty and power of the church of Hagia
Sophia, as well as chariot races, monastic spirituality, diplomacy,
and literature. She reveals the fascinating worlds of military
usurpers and ascetics, eunuchs and courtesans, and artisans who
fashioned the silks, icons, ivories, and mosaics so readily
associated with Byzantine art. An innovative history written by one
of our foremost scholars, Byzantium reveals this great
civilization's rise to military and cultural supremacy, its
spectacular destruction by the Fourth Crusade, and its revival and
final conquest in 1453.
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