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Byzantium (Vol. 3): The Decline and Fall (A History of Byzantium #3)

4.4  ·  Rating Details ·  726 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
A narrative story of Byzantium. From the accession of Alexius in 1081, through the Fourth Crusade - when an army destined for the Holy Land was diverted to Constantinople by the blind, octogenarian but crafty Doge of Venice - to the protracted struggle against the Ottomans. This book forms the climax to the story of Byzantium.
Published by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1995)
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Oct 12, 2016 Antigone rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The third and final volume of Norwich's trilogy on the Byzantine civilization carries the empire through the Crusades, the rise of the Ottoman threat, and the disintegration - through internal miscalculation and external apathy - of the culture that kept Greek and Roman influence alive throughout the Dark Ages.

Standing as a bulwark against the ravaging hordes of the East, she provided safe passage for resentful religious armies intent on "liberating" Jerusalem, came frequently to the negotiating
'Aussie Rick'
Jun 13, 2009 'Aussie Rick' rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, history
This, the final volume of a three book series, brings to end a rivetting and excellent history of the Byzantium Empire. I cannot add anything to the other reviews and comments on this series other than to say if your enjoy reading about history you should love these accounts of this Empire and its times. I found my first volume in a second hand bookshop without knowing anything about its author or the subject matter. It was a great read and I could not wait to buy the following two volumes. I on ...more
A.L. Sowards
Jul 18, 2013 A.L. Sowards rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes history reads like a tragedy, and the story of the final centuries of the Byzantine Empire is one of those times. Yet there is a certain beauty in tragedy, and that’s present too, perhaps best exemplified when Emperor Constantine XI removes his imperial regalia and charges into a hoard of enemy Turks as the city of Constantinople falls, the emperor never to be found and the city never to be redeemed.

John Julius Norwich does his own sum-up best: “The Roman Empire of the East was founde
Feb 21, 2013 Dergrossest rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Game of Thrones has absolutely nothing on the true story of the Byzantine Empire. Except for dragons, this last volume of Sir Norwich’s brilliant trilogy on the history of Constantinople has it all: mad kings and sultans, barbarian hordes, epic battles raging across continents, shifting alliances, diplomatic double crosses, lots of action between the sheets and a Hollywood ending full of death and glory.

A touch of sadness tinges this final volume as the Byzantines are betrayed by their fellow
Sep 01, 2015 Betsy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the final volume of a fabulous series on Byzantium. I read them many years ago when they were first published, and I still remember how eagerly I awaited each volume. The names and number of characters are mind-boggling, but Norwich does such an outstanding job with their presentation that the reader just wants more.
Sep 03, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love John Julius Norwich's writing and his grasp of history. I'll spare you all ten different reviews. This is narrative history without jargon and without poor writing. It has an air of authority that, in a lesser historian, might be covering a lack of knowledge. I don't seem to get that impression here, and, as I am pretty widely read on Byzantium, I feel qualified to say that Norwich consistently tells the story accurately and well.
Lars Brownworth
Oct 12, 2010 Lars Brownworth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The conclusion of the masterful retelling of the history of Byzantium. The story of the final decline is depressing, but enlivened by Norwich's masterful prose and the heroism of Constantine XI.
Chase Parsley
Jul 15, 2014 Chase Parsley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At 3:09am last night I finished my epic journey through Norwich's three books about Byzantium. I'm glad I did; history fans need to read these books as they are masterpieces. True, Norwich emphasizes the Empire's political history, but there is plenty of depth when taken as a whole. The plot twists and cast of characters are as colorful and lively as in any bestselling novel, and Norwich has wonderful prose. Any professional or amateur historian needs to read this series!

Some of my favorite part
Mar 27, 2016 Caracalla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a lot of affection for these books. They're narrative histories that cover the Byzantine empire from Diocletian to Constantinople's fall to the Ottomans. Despite their length, there's a lot that's missed out: art (although this is something Norwich is clearly interested in), literature (apart from the odd evaluation of a chronicler/primary source), economics (outside these books, there's a lot of interesting scholarship on land tenure) and intellectual history (although this is well treat ...more
Jun 12, 2014 Chathamharrison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magisterial but approachable. Some of the easiest-reading history I've ever encountered. Norwich's passion for the subject shines throughout. His narrative of the fall of Constantinople is an unparalleled elegy for the Byzantines.
Apr 14, 2012 Baniza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great trilogy, magnificient history of Byzantium..
Bill Tyne
Jul 12, 2017 Bill Tyne rated it it was amazing
Why do the Greeks hold Tuesday to be unlucky? Why were the Hesychats real navel gazers? Why did the Russian use the double headed eagle in their coat of arms and how did Moscow become known as the third Rome? Why must you never trust a Venetian or a Genoese? Why were the Crusades a ultimately disaster for Christendom? Why were there three Popes ruling at one time? Why was the ugly looking John called beautiful? Why was Andronicus terrible? Which Pope, a former pirate was deposed by a general cou ...more
Joshua Marney
Mar 18, 2017 Joshua Marney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No matter how many times I read the story I will still cry every time. Byzantium was too beautiful for this world.
Elliott Bignell
Dec 28, 2016 Elliott Bignell rated it it was amazing
This final part of Norwich's trilogy picks up the pace again after the rather boring period of success and prosperity covered by the second volume. Like Herodotus, who condemned the confoundedly tedious 38 years of peace under King Gyges to a single sentence, I seem to be succumbing to a taste for disaster stories. This, basically, is one.

Greek culture, it has recently been claimed, spread so far into Asia as to influence Chinese culture. (And this is a Chinese source saying so, mark you.) It ce
Mark Rossiter
The last in the series is an ever-more dizzying whirligig of passing characters and incidents, few of them with enough purchase for this to be more than a shallow parade. Maybe that is the nature of the subject matter, given the sources – but who were these people?

Among the positives, what does stand out is that the Roman Empire, for some time before the end came, was at last truncated to a few scraps of land around Constantine’s city and in the south of Greece, and to almost complete powerlessn
May 30, 2016 Barry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Reading this book is kind of like watching your neighbors bicker with other as they saunter down the path toward a bitter divorce. Alternately, it's like reading a history of the Cubs' drive for a World Series ring. In each case there are moments of happiness and hope, but you know that inevitably they will end in heartache.

But the sadness of the story is not Mr. Norwich's fault; he's just the storyteller of a tale that ends ruefully. And what a storyteller he is! I am tempted to rate this book
Scott Lepschat
Jan 22, 2017 Scott Lepschat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Norwich does a superb job in the conclusion of his trilogy covering the Crusades, Latin Empire, Restoration, and collapse. I truly found myself immersed in the story of the slow atrophy of the Empire and its institutions, so much so that there was more than a twinge of sadness as the history approached its end in the fateful days of 1453. The heirs of Constantine and Justinian reduced to vassals of Muslim Sultans and too weak to even mount a comeback when opportunities arose.

An excellent book, e
Graham Podolecki
Jan 22, 2014 Graham Podolecki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating, albeit depressing chronicle of the later years of the Byzantine Empire. Norwich gives us a picture, particularly after 1260 of an Empire surrounded by foes trying desperately to survive. We are given almost too much detail into the petty civil wars and diplomatic snafus that define the Paleologi dynasty. It is an interesting and very readable account. The history suffers from the problem of broad history's - focusing far too much on the people on top and leaving us to guess how li ...more
Richard Hakes
Nov 11, 2016 Richard Hakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A long read and to anyone not interested in the Byzantium I suspect an impossible one. But to those who do an indispensable task.

Maybe a little systematic, one chapter per Emperor is the rule, concentrating on the recorded history rather than any other physical evidence and almost omiting any reference to its art or culture. Can get a bit samey. But inspiration for a number of future visits.
and so concludes john julius norwich's excellent three-part history of the byzantine empire. this volume charts the decline of the fated empire as it's savaged by foreign powers and fractured by internal squabbles, before the final blow is dealt by the ingenious and ferocious mehmed ii. fascinating reading
Jesús Rodriguez
Dec 06, 2013 Jesús Rodriguez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend"...this is what I was thinking while reading this last great chapter of the Byzantium Empire. Eventually the enemies within and out got to be too much that eventually it blew in their face. There is enough blame to go around for it's destruction and the author does a good job remind us from time to time. Great book and must read.
Stephen Fisher
Jul 29, 2011 Stephen Fisher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finished the whole series now. It was a wild ride. I put this one off because I thought it would be depressing, but not so much. It has re-stirred those romantic yearnings to visit the Orient again. This is a fabulous series as a whole and important for anyone who loves reading non-fiction history. Byzantium lives on!
May 06, 2008 Ned rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Liberal Economists
Recommended to Ned by: HBOMC
the most recent take on this huge subject starts with the First Crusade and carries the view to the end and just into the 16th century following the descendants of the last families. Yep that's over 400 years in a little under 500 pages. I guess economy is the watchword for our times.
Aidan Owen
Jul 14, 2015 Aidan Owen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 2015
So much fun, and so tragic. Despite the overwhelming Islamopobia (though this trilogy is pre-9/11), the whole trilogy is a wonderful, engaging, and thrilling example of epic, big history. Game of Thrones has nothing on Norwich.
Hakan Kaysı
Apr 01, 2016 Hakan Kaysı rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kitabın dili çok akıcı, yazar bilimsellikten uzaklaşmadan olayları hikaye anlatır gibi bir üslupla anlatıyor. Bu topraklarda hüküm sürmüş koskoca bir imparatorluğun tarihini öğrenmek için çok güzel bir kaynak.
Oct 29, 2011 Sequelguerrier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Three volumes history of the rise and fall of Byzantium and Norwich is brilliant. It's full of memorable characters, evil deeds and suspense and it's supremely erudite while being not just readable but fun to read. Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall' has a worthy sequel in this.
Mar 01, 2013 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Third and final volume in a great history of The Byzantine Empire. Fascinating reader.
Apr 30, 2008 Keith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
final book in the series. All good things must end, huh.
Apr 02, 2012 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
its taken me about 10 years to read the whole series so I feel a huge sense of achievement as well as the highest regard for the author of this scholarly but highly readable work.
Nick Wallace
Feb 26, 2009 Nick Wallace rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rather like watching a school bus crash, this volume covers the steady decline of the Byzantine Empire following the disastrous battle of Manzikert
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Norwich is the only child of the Conservative politician and diplomat Duff Cooper and of Lady Diana Cooper, a celebrated beauty and society figure. Through his father, he is descended from King William IV and his mistress Dorothea Jordan.

He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, Canada (as a wartime evacuee), at Eton College, and at the University of Strasbourg. He served in the Royal Navy
More about John Julius Norwich...

Other Books in the Series

A History of Byzantium (4 books)
  • Byzantium: The Early Centuries
  • Byzantium: The Apogee
  • Byzantium: The Early Centuries/The Apogee/The Decline And Fall (3 Volumes)

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