Post-classical history

Byzantium: The Surprising Life Of A Medieval Empire

Byzantium: The Surprising Life Of A Medieval Empire

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.

Introduction: A Different History of Byzantium

Part I - Foundations of Byzantium

Chapter 1. The City of Constantine

Chapter 2. Constantinople, the Largest City in Christendom

Chapter 3. The East Roman Empire

Chapter 4. Greek Orthodoxy

Chapter 5. The Church of Hagia Sophia

Chapter 6. The Ravenna Mosaics

Chapter 7. Roman Law

Part II - The Transition from Ancient to Medieval

Chapter 8. The Bulwark Against Islam

Chapter 9. Icons, a New Christian Art Form

Chapter 10. Iconoclasm and Icon Veneration

Chapter 11. A Literate and Articulate Society

Chapter 12. Saints Cyril and Methodios, ‘Apostles to the Slavs’

Part III - Byzantium Becomes a Medieval State

Chapter 13. Greek Fire

Chapter 14. The Byzantine Economy

Chapter 15. Eunuchs

Chapter 16. The Imperial Court

Chapter 17. Imperial Children, ‘Born in the Purple’

Chapter 18. Mount Athos

Chapter 19. Venice and the Fork

Chapter 20. Basil II, ‘The Bulgar-Slayer’

Chapter 21. Eleventh-Century Crisis

Chapter 22. Anna Komnene

Chapter 23. A Cosmopolitan Society - Byzantium Becomes a Medieval State

Part IV - Varieties of Byzantium

Chapter 24. The Fulcrum of the Crusades

Chapter 25. The Towers of Trebizond, Arta, Nicaea and Thessalonike

Chapter 26. Rebels and Patrons

Chapter 27. ‘Better the Turkish Turban than the Papal Tiara’

Chapter 28. The Siege of 1453

Picture Section

Conclusion: The Greatness and Legacy of Byzantium

Further Reading

List of Emperors Named in the Text

Chronology