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The Secret History

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,479 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
'The Secret History' is a highly opinionated and unflattering account of the Byzantine Emperor Belisarius, and an insight into Byzantine culture.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published March 25th 1982 by Penguin Classics (first published 550)
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Jan 01, 2016 Markus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 2015, byzantium
When some people lose their jobs, they’ll write a post on Facebook about how much of a scumbag their boss is. Procopius wrote a book.

Once the official court historian of the emperor and an important member of the Byzantine Imperial court, Procopius wrote the History of the Wars of Justinian and worked on his great chronicles for decades. Then he got fired…

The Secret History is his story of how things really were in the dark heart of the Byzantine Empire, meant to be published only after his deat
Sarah (Presto agitato)
Mar 10, 2013 Sarah (Presto agitato) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah (Presto agitato) by: 11
I found this book after reading Bird Brian’s
terrific review
. First, though, I read Count Belisarius, a work of historical fiction by Robert Graves (author of I, Claudius) written about the same people - the Byzantine/Roman Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora, and leading general Belisarius and his wife, Antonina. In Graves’s novel, Belisarius emerges as a sympathetic character. In Procopius’s contemporary history - not so much.

Procopius lived during the first half of the 6th century. He was
An extended gossip sheet of the Eastern Roman Empire. Filled with accusations so extreme that they move from just regular tales of horrifying corruption to the downright hilarious. (One trillion deaths? Doing what with their nipples?) I can't vouch for its accuracy in detail, but it is still a morbidly entertaining read.
Mar 20, 2015 Yann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Justinien et Théodora

L’homme de main du fameux Bélisaire est, outre d'une histoire des guerres Byzantines, l’auteur de cet ouvrage qui contient de mordantes invectives contre l’empereur Justinien(483-565) et surtout contre l’impératrice Théodora (morte en 548). Leurs réformes furent en effet très mal reçues par la classe de possédant, et cette dent dure de Procope de Césarée (première moitié du VIeme siècle) est l’expression de l’exaspération que suscitèrent les impôts et expropriations rendues
Liz Janet
This author is the definition of this meme, I am very pleased.

Sep 16, 2013 11 rated it really liked it
Shelves: woldview
Forget everything you thought you knew about the Imperial court of 6th century Byzantium!

NEW! From the mild-mannered historian who brought you The History of the Wars series, Procopius's disillusioned tell-all The Secret History gives you the lowdown on what was REALLY going on in the palace of Emperor Justinian!

Constantinople's most-lauded historian pulls off the kid gloves and tells it like it was: the depravity, the corruption, the scandal; NO HOLDS BARRED! Don't trust the official party-lin
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
Jan 02, 2016 ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) by: Markus
Markus said "depravity." And "power-hungry bastard." And "tales of evil deeds." And "vile courtiers."

And I said "HELL YES."

Jun 05, 2007 Siria rated it liked it
This is an odd, odd little book. It's probably the strangest ancient work of history you will ever come across. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that Procopius is otherwise a respected author of sixth century Byzantine history, one would be inclined to dismiss this work as the work of someone who was more than a little biased, sex-crazed, and, well, insane.

As it is, it contrasts strangely with Procopius' other works, which are neutral-to-favourable on the subject of Justinian and Theodora, th
فاطمة الابراهيم
May 24, 2014 فاطمة الابراهيم rated it really liked it
أوائل القرن الخامس الميلادي يسير الإمبراطور الروماني جوستنيان بخطى ثابته مستمعا لقائده العسكري بليزاريوس عن آخر حملة عسكرية شنها على الأراضي الشرقية ، ويتبعهما إمرأتهما ثيودورا وأنطونينا وهمس يعقبه ضحكة تنم عن الخبث ، وبروكوبيوس في مؤخرة السير يسترق السمع من ورائهما ، يهم ذلك الأخير بأداء عمله على أكمل وجه كأمين سر ومستشار قانوني ومناصب أخرى أعطيت له تكليفا أكثر من كونه تشريفا !

وحينما يحل الظلام يعود إلى حجرته وعلى أثر شمعته الوحيدة يدون بريشته " هنا تكمن الحقيقة !"

لطالما أشادت المصادر التأريخي
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
This is probably the racist, most scurrilous history book ever written!
Oct 01, 2015 Marijan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
jao, koji je tračer bio taj Prokopije!
I'm a bit puzzled by the allegation that the same Procopius of Caesarea wrote this as wrote History of the Wars because the tone is so different. The one gossipy and imprecise with millions of Ethiopians (ie inhabitants of North Africa) dying as a result of the reconquest of Vandal occupied North Africa the other careful and sober.

The Secret History is a dirt dishing account of the reign of Justinian. The validity of argument was for me undercut by its hyperbole, it's rather like reading The Li
Elizabeth Parks
Jan 10, 2009 Elizabeth Parks rated it did not like it
Think of this as the Byzantine equivalent to one of those trashy pop biographies of a celebrity that consists mainly of sexual rumors. Procopius apparently harbored a secret hatred of the Empress Theodora and everyone associated with her, and, secretly, wrote this vituperative companion to his other, public, more neutral works, apparently for the point of detailing the sexual excesses and blatant immoralities of the Justinian court. Examples of the Empress' behavior include: anointing her genita ...more
Jun 17, 2015 Susan rated it did not like it
Shelves: owned-books
This is a real cookie full of arsenic, as J. J. Hunsecker would say.

It's hard for me to credit the truth of all these evil machinations of Justinian I. According to Procopius, instead of tending to the Byzantine empire the entirety of his time on the throne was spent trying to figure out how he and his cronies could best sack it.

Given the litany of his crimes it seems impossible for anyone to find the time and means to accomplish all of it.

Procopius had previously written books somewhat favor
Jan 28, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
I’ve never yet been to Istanbul — formerly Constantinople and before that Byzantium — but I have been to Ravenna on Italy’s east coast. Here the visitor can glimpse some of the glory that was Byzantium of old in the form of the magnificent mosaics, located in various surviving structures such as the Arian Baptistry, the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo and the Basilica of San Vitale. Amidst splendid religious mosaics of Christ’s baptism and the Adoration of the Magi are more secular images, in ...more
Malini Sridharan
Aug 04, 2009 Malini Sridharan rated it liked it
Apparently, one of the political factions in Constantinople wore haircuts that sound exactly like mullets (he says it was cut short at the temples and grew long in the back or something like that). Procopius did not approve.
Joshua Lister
Dec 28, 2015 Joshua Lister rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The nature of this book compared to other works from Procopious and the scandalous claims that smear Justinian's historical legacy are what make this work so fascinating. I will let the academics debate the validity of the claims in "The Secret History" and take the majority of them as basically true. It is not a coincidence that Justinian passed more legislation than any emperor before him and had more money and power than any emperor before him. Legislation from rulers is historically the mean ...more
Second Review [May 31, 2014]

Having finished reading "Count Belisarius" (Penguin Books, 2006) by Robert Graves, I thought I should reread this book to make sure if I had had the right images of Belisarius, his wife Antonina, the Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodoara so that I would compare them to what Procopius has written to record their misdeeds. ...

First Review [August 27, 2011]

I think this book is all right for those interested in ancient history since it's a bit tough to follow what the
Mar 09, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Procopius. THE SECRET HISTORY. (AD 550; this ed. 1990). ****. After re-reading Robert Graves’ novel, “Count Belisarius” a while ago, I decided to go back and re-read Graves’ principal source book. Procopius was a literary servant to Belisarius and accompanied him on all of his battle campaigns. These works are known as “The Discourses About the Wars,” and include histories of the expeditins against the Persians in Mesopotamia, against German and Vandal hordes in North Africa, and against the Got ...more
Dec 07, 2013 Ben rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia-minor
I've no idea how much of this history is true, and how much of it is polemic, but it is quite a guilty pleasure seeing some of the most revered historical figures, Justinian and Theodora, brought down to size and dragged through the mud. Some of the charges are so perfectly scandalous to a 6th century mindset, particularly those relating to Theodora's early life, that I'm certain a great amount of the narrative is nothing more than inflammatory bluster. It's hard to tell how much. Certainly the ...more
This is the first book I've read about the Byzantine Empire or any of it rulers. It was quite a start. It is both scary and fascinating to see how the strings of government can be used by a greedy and corrupt leader. Eerily, while reading you forget this happened 1500 years ago. Undoubtedly much of the credit goes to the translation but in a society so closely patterned to ours today you feel like this could have been only a few decades ago. Absolutely fascinating, this is a great read not only ...more
Lars Sanders
May 14, 2014 Lars Sanders rated it liked it
want to know what a penned dripping with vitriol is? Read this! But iut does get a bit monotonous after a while.
Maan Kawas
Oct 08, 2014 Maan Kawas rated it it was amazing
A wonderful, disturbing, and shocking book about tyranny in the late Roman Empire in Byzantium, during the reign of Emperor Justinian! The book provides vivid description of the court, characters, and mischievous deeds of the Emperor Justinian and his wife Empress Theodora, starting first with a chapter about Besilarius and his wife Antonina and their immoral deeds as well. The book shows huge immorality, greed, cruelty, adultery and illegal relationships (even an incestuous relationship), bribe ...more
Apr 05, 2010 Garrett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"... they were bitterly hostile to the astrologers. Accordingly the official appointed to deal with burglaries made a point of ill-treating them simply because they were astrologers, flogging the backs of many of them and setting them on camels to be shown to jeering crowds all over the city, although they were old men and respectable in every way. Yet he had nothing against them except that they wished to be authorities on the stars in such a place as this."
Feb 11, 2013 Nick rated it it was amazing
This was one of the primary sources for my thesis and I am a wee bit biased. Results may vary! You probably won't give it 5 stars, but it is a surprisingly sultry book full of juicy, controversial, potentially false, certainly embellished, but historically fascinating gossip! A must read for any aspiring Byzantinist or amateur Byzantium fan such as myself.
Jan 20, 2014 Wawan rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Procopius, known as the historian from the Byzantine Empire (or the Eastern Roman Empire or the Roman Empire) during the reign of Justinian, here presents a totally different description of the age than the one he presents in his two other important works, the Wars and On Buildings. In the two other works Procopius glorifies Justinian and his reign as the apogee of the Roman Empire in the East, because this is the moment when the Roman Empire won again the Western parts (the European part of the ...more
Dec 24, 2014 Vuslat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Arkadaş, ne dedikodu yapmış Prokopios! "Onlar hayattayken tam yazamadım da aslında bildiğin şeytan ve canavarlardı Theodora ve Iustinanus, öyle böyle değil." temalı hard core entrika ve dedikodu kitabı. Çok eğlencel ama.
Dec 15, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it
A first-hand account of life under the Byzantine Emporer Justinian and his wife Theodora. The author claims to be providing insights that he couldn't talk about during his subjects' lifetimes. Better than a soap opera.
Feb 18, 2014 anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unofficial history recounting what the author really thought about the 5th century Byzantine establishment. Biting, vitriolic and pulling no punches 'The Secret History' has been described as the Early Medieval version of salacious tabloid gossip. Certainly, there does seem to be an element of exaggeration because some of the events and actions the author described are almost so extreme and deplorable it is hard to believe them true.
However, the fact that he specifically requested that it no
A real character assassination; if only a fraction were true then Justinian and Theodora were truly evil people!
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Procopius of Caesarea was born in the latter years of the fifth century at Caesarea in Palestine. He originated from the land-owning provincial upper class and, like Zosimus, became a civil servant. As early as A.D. 527, before the emperor Justin's death, Procopius became counsellor, assessor, and secretary to Belisarius, whose fortunes and campaigns he followed for the next twelve or fifteen year ...more
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