Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

Judith Herrin

Language: English

Pages: 416

ISBN: 0691143692

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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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reliable fineness over 700 years. 23. Chalice of Romanos II, sardonyx, gold, cloisonné enamel plaques, with representations of Christ and saints, and pearl decoration, c. 960. This is the type of Byzantine luxury gift sent to foreign powers. It might have formed part of the loot taken to Venice after the sack of Constantinople in 1204. 24. A sixth- or seventh-century earring made of gold decorated with semi-precious stones on nine loops that hang from a circular frame of notched gold wire

Mehmed II allowed three days of looting and then spent many years rebuilding and repopulating the city. Its domed churches inspired his own foundation, the Mosque of the Conqueror (Fatih Camii), erected on the site of the church of the Holy Apostles to which the imperial mausoleum was attached. Even after its conquest, Constantinople lived on as the capital of the Ottoman Empire. For five hundred years it was known as ‘the Sublime Porte’, a centre of international diplomacy and Near Eastern

Viewed by the Arabs (Cambridge, Mass., 2004), p. 206. Krijnie Ciggaar, Western Travellers to Constantinople: The West and Byzantium, 962–1204 (Leiden 1996). Sandra Benjamin, ed., The World of Benjamin of Tudela: A Medieval Mediterranean Travelogue (Madison, Calif., 1995). S. Blöndal and B. S. Benedikz, The Varangians of Byzantium (Cambridge 1978). Lynda Garland and Stephen Rapp, ‘Mary “of Alania”: Woman and Empress Between Two Worlds’, in Garland, ed., Byzantine Women (as above in chapter

military uniform, in a reference to Roman victories over Persia achieved by Belisarius. He reconstructed the Senate House, with magnificent white marble columns supporting a portico embellished with coloured marbles, its roof topped by numerous statues. He also commissioned two new hospices, as well as the huge cistern now called Yeri Batan Saray, to the west of Hagia Sophia. By all this rebuilding, Justinian left his mark on the centre of the city of Constantine. Twenty-one years later, an

translations of authorized Greek models, and pressed for greater harmonization with Constantinople. Balsamon developed the tradition of sophisticated commentaries on canon-law work and included many examples of illicit and improper Christian behaviour recorded in the late twelfth century. Despite the immense disruption of the Latin occupation of Constantinople from 1204 to 1261, these high standards were maintained by the patriarch in exile in Nicaea and by church courts elsewhere. Records of

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