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Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization
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Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  1,551 ratings  ·  179 reviews

"A hugely entertaining and often moving portrait of a civilization to which the modern West owes and immense but neglected debt." --Tom Holland, Author of Millenium, Persian Fire, and Rubicon

In AD 476 the Roman Empire fell–-or rather, its western half did. Its eastern half, which would come to be known as the Byzantine Empire, would endure and often flourish for another e

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Paperback, 329 pages
Published 2009 by Three Rivers Press
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jordan
Prospective readers of Lars Brownworth’s “Lost to the West” should be aware what they are getting. For those unfamiliar with Brownworth, he was made famous in a uniquely 21st century way when he produced a podcast called “12 Byzantine Rulers” a narrative retelling of 1,000 years of Roman history through the lives of 12 emperors who reigned from Constantinople. The podcasts, which were told with a mix of passion, humor, facts, and a dollop of melodrama, were a runaway hit, downloaded by over 100, ...more
Felicia
This was a FASCINATING and wonderfully readable history of Byzantium, I was blown away by the detail and how REAL everything felt in the hands of this author. Such rich and forgotten things happened in this part of the world that we just don't appreciate because of our Western Bias. I would read this book again just because it's so detailed I could absorb more info on a second pass. Definitely recc for history fans!
Robert Clancy
I've recently read three examinations of the fall of Rome and the Byzantine Empire and this is the easiest, most enjoyable, most interesting read. Gibbon's Decline & Fall is a seminal work and a must to understand the entire scope of Roman history since Augustus. However, it was written over 200 years ago. Peter Heather's new examination of the reasons for the fall of Rome is labored and frankly boring to read. Brownworth breathes life into the Byzantines while showing the differences betwee ...more
Jonathan Kent
Spoiler Alert: The Byzantine Empire finally collapsed in 1453...

What an incredibly frustrating book. On the plus side the subect matter is great. The history of the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) Empire is thoroughly neglected in Western Europe and this book goes some way to explaining why. It was an alien culture to most of the nascent Western nations emerging from the Dark Ages. It was ancient, cultured and sophisticated - probably decadent and declining too, the Western nations were vital and b
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Jameson
There are two kinds of history.



One is the dusty, desiccated version written by dusty, desiccated intellectuals and taught by dusty, desiccated professors. This is the history that teaches us empires rose or fell because a particular currency fluctuated by a particular percentage within a particular period, causing an already strapped and stressed middle class to be unable to purchase the grain that had been imported from overseas because trade tariffs had resulted in an embargo that made economi
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Ireney Berezniak
"Lost To West" is a highly accessible introduction to the history of the Byzantine Empire. The author focuses on the most relevant, high-level episodes of the empire's history, highlighting its more colourful and controversial leaders, and largely ignoring the less eventful reigns. As such, this title is certainly not aimed at serious scholars, but rather laymen such as myself interested more in a smooth overview, rather than a dry political or theological discourse.

Lars Bronworth's style is qui
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David Bales
Certainly one of the best books I've read this year, "Lost to the West" chronicles the Byzantine Empire, (or the Roman Empire in the east) from around 300 a.d. and the age of Constantine until 1453, when the empire fell to the Ottoman Turks. Amazing tales of intrigue with emperors, kings and generals over a thousand years. The Byzantine Empire served as a barrier between the East and West and was far in advance of Western Europe during the "Dark Ages" after the fall of the Western Empire. Brownw ...more
Rindis
It's a very good readable brief history of the Byzantine Empire, and I recommend it as such to anyone who would like to familiarize themselves with the subject.

However, the subtitle "The Forgotten Byzantine Empire that Saved Western Civilization" suggests a particular thesis for the book, which it does not follow. Byzantine culture is brought up on occasion, as well as the rise and fall of education during various periods. However, 'saving Western Civilization' only comes in at the end with the
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Douglas
This was a bad book. It begins with a false premise - that Byzantine history has been forgotten in the west. This is not true. I have read a number of books, all targeted at the non-scholar, about Byzantine history. John Julius Norwich's trilogy is excellent and far more detailed than Brownworth's breezy overview. Another false premise is that we are ingrates for supposedly forgetting Byzantium, because we owe it something for "saving Europe" from Islam. This would come as a surprise to the Span ...more
Liviu
Not bad but makes you appreciate more JJ Norwich masterpiece; a good narrative keeps the the book entertaining and the pages turn by themselves, though I strongly recommend to try JJ Norwich trilogy for a full appreciation (and even the abridged one volume is deeper than this one, as well as being quite entertaining too)
Adna
Lars Brownworth's podcast 12 Byzantine Rulers: The History of the Byzantine Empire was my entry into the world of history podcasts, and this book expands in expected and satisfying ways on that series whose title was, of course, no accident. Readers interested in the Roman Empire will be familiar with De vita Caesarum, known in English as The Twelve Caesars - a series of biographies of the first 11 emperors of the Roman Empire and the man that gave his name to their title, Gaius Julius Caesar.

Wr
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Nancy Wu
Notable quotes :

Regarding Basil of the Macedonian dynasty, which was both impressive in the Byzantine era, and was only labeled Macedonian by accident rather than by birth-right ---

"Basil asked his guest for advice on how to prevent dissension in the future. The answer, he was told, was to declare a virtual war on those of noble birth. “Exhaust them with unjust exactions, to keep them busy with their own affairs. Admit no woman to the imperial councils. Be accessible to no one. Share with few yo
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Sharon
Lost to the West apparent intended audience is those who are unfamiliar with the history of the Eastern Roman Empire that continued on after the 476 A.D. deposition of Romulus Augustulus. It is not intended for serious students of history but should be viewed rather as an introduction to the Byzantium Empire.

It deals mainly with politics and military campaigns. The biographies of a select few emperors are included as Brownworth seems to be a follower of the 'great man' theory of history.

If you k
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Jennifer Weibel
"Lost to the West" is a long recitation of Byzantine emperors. The empire expands, the empire contracts, either the emperor loses steam in his old age or shenanigans ensue and he is murdered. I was reminded of the "begat" part of the bible, with the occasional incest thrown in for a little spice.

This book had a chance to shine. The ancient history of the middle east is fascinating, especially in the paragraphs dedicated to the root differences between Orthodoxy, Christians, and Islam. The probl
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Warren Watts
Before reading this book, I knew little about the Byzantine Empire. I am embarrassed to say that I wasn't even aware it was the eastern offspring of the Roman Empire. This book definitely opened my eyes to a whole region of world history completely unknown to me.

The book is a lot more than an introduction to the Byzantine Empire, somewhat surprising considering it's relatively small size. The author does a great job of squeezing 1,100+ years of history into ~350 pages without drowning the reade
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Jennifer
Covering over 1000 years of history in 350 pages, Lost to the West is a fascinating and enjoyable overview of the Byzantine Empire. Focusing on the greatest emperors and the most significant events, Brownworth's love of the subject is contagious. As he states in his title, his two main points are that western civilization would not have survived without the presence of the empire seated in Constantinople, and that we in the west have forgotten them. The latter was plainly true for me, which is w ...more
Elizabeth Sulzby
A very readable account of the Byzantine world and how it kept literacy, philosophy, art, etc., alive during the so called "Dark Ages."

I learned lots from this book and it certainly provides part of the puzzle of what was working in the world that wasn't ruled by Roman Christianity. I had wondered when and why the "church" formally broke into Roman and Orthodox branches (Brownworth dates it as 1054). It gets tiresome because he goes through the Byzantine Tsars/csars/rulers one by one. On the oth
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Lynne

My problem with the book is its clear anti-Muslim sentiment. Though Brownworth paints the Crusaders poorly, they're at best portrayed as roving bands of thugs, while the Ottomans are "jihadists." He describes the capture of Constantinople as an event which plunged Europe into "five centuries of a living hell" and "enslavement." The Muslims are routinely excoriated while other atrocious acts by Westerners are at best tisked at. Now, did Mehmet commit atrocities? Of course -- they all did! It was
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Liz
I stumbled upon this title in the footnote of another history book (Civilization: The West and the Rest) and the reviews on Goodreads seemed to be universally quite good, so I was quite excited to pick up this book and perhaps broaden my knowledge of the Byzantine Empire.

However, after reading this book, I feel like I'm taking crazy pills, because I hated it by the end of the second sentence of the introduction. Maybe this is because I have a degree in Medieval Studies, but I take extreme umbrag
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David Withun
I was very, very disappointed with this book. I had a lot of very high expectations before I began reading and the book fell short of those in every possible way. Rather than the engaging read I was expecting, I instead got a rather boring rote recitation of dates, names, and places. The author also chooses to stick to the already quite debunked myths of people like Edward Gibbon on a great many matters, especially his examination of the reign of St. Constantine the Great. Then there are the unf ...more
Jordan Cloud
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, however I cannot rate higher than 2 stars in good conscience. As a work of history this book is hardly a success. While the author clearly knows his history, he appears to lack training in historical writing. Citations are few and far between and the book only offers a brief selected bibliography. The author also relies heavily on a handful of ancient sources, which are frequently unreliable. For some periods of history he reveals that he relies on a single source ...more
G33z3r
This was exactly the kind of book I was looking for: a straightforward, highly-readable story of a thousand years of the Eastern Roman Empire (now known as the Byzantine Empire.) The author. Lars Brownworth. avoids a lot of extraneous detail and skimps on the dates, glossing over many of the less-effective and shorter-lived periods, preferring to explain the significance of the most important emperors and generals in the history of the forgotten half of the Roman empire.

The fall of Rome and the
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Owen
I have been a fan of Lars Brownworth since I discovered his 12 Byzantine Rulers podcasts years ago, and they powered me through some excruciating data entry at a dead end job (and his Norman Centuries podcasts cannot come out fast enough). I listened to the audio version of the book, so it felt very familiar to have Dr. Brownworth talking to me as I drove. Lost to the West is indeed a tragic story, and one I wasn't all that familiar with. The Byzantines, despite the author's protestations, were ...more
Garrett
This is a decent one-volume history of the the Byzantine Empire. Brownworth does a decent job of boiling of down over 1000 years of history into a single book -- a herculean task by any stretch. Focussing on the emporers and empresses of the empire, Brownworth gives an unfamiliar reader a taste of this marvelous piece of history. Definitely written for those who are not familiar with Byzantine history and culture, but a good refresher for those who do.

He includes helpful information about the cu
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Lewis Manalo
In LOST TO THE WEST Brownworth argues that Rome didn't fall in 410 AD, the opinion of most historians, but that the center of the Roman Empire just moved, to Constantinople, where it survived through the Middle Ages. Despite a contrary view to most takes on Roman history, Brownworth's text is an entertaining read, as light as a documentary on the History Channel.

The antics and incest of the Roman royals out-do any telenovella for drama, but most interesting to me is the portrait of early Christ
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Kristie Kercheval
Yes, as other reviewers have said, it is told from an "old-fashioned" perspective of rulers and generals and wars, but I still enjoyed it. I don't want to give away the ending, but the technology of warfare did play a role in the end of the Byzantines. Plus, the personalities that led Byzantium are fascinating, so it makes sense to look at the Empire from this perspective.

I am biased in that I took a few Byzantine Art and History classes in college, so for me it was a refresher course. If you h
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Patrick
Amazon review:

“Rome never fell -- it simply moved five hundred miles East -- to Byzantium. For over a thousand years the Byzantines commanded one of the most visceral and vivid empires the world has ever known. And yet their achievements are consistently underplayed; written out of history. Lars Brownworth is a rare talent. His contagious passion brings murderous empresses, conniving eunuchs, lost Greek texts and Byzantine treasures of fairy-tale proportions blinking back into the light. Confide
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Lucas
A complete and utter travesty. This book is little more than an epitome of J.J. Norwich's trilogy, which is quite bad. Brownworth writes well and tells a good story, but it's frequently a story very far from the historical reality. Given that he had the time to do some research between his podcast and the release of his book and it's disappointing to see that he did almost nothing. The picture of Byzantium represented here is very far from the ideas of modern scholarship, it's a crime to release ...more
Jonathan
Lost to the West is a history of the Byzantine (East Roman) empire. It kicks off with the founding of Constantinople and follows it right up to the very bitter end. This is a huge period of time to cover, but overall Lars Brownworth does a solid job. Lars hits the high and low points, gets a little bit into personalities, and in general gives a nice broad overview of the history. If you have never really studied the Byzantine Empire, this is an excellent spot to get started.

This book had some fl
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Abraham Gustavson
I went looking for a fast-paced read on Byzantium and found everything I wanted in this book! Lars Brownworth brings the reader through almost 1,200 years of the history of Byzantium without getting bogged down in the gritty details which hampers other works I have read on this subject. Brownworth's footnotes are incredible, they usually give side story or explanation on the greater narrative. For example noting that the conqueror of Rome Alaric was buried under a diverted river and then those w ...more
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Lars Brownworth is an author, speaker and broadcaster based in Maryland, USA.

Mr. Brownworth created the genre-defining 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast, which prompted the New York Times to liken him to some of history's great popularizers. His recent book titled Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization, is available in bookstores and online. He answers questio
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More about Lars Brownworth...
The Normans: From Raiders to Kings Alexander III and Zoë (912-920) (Byzantium: The Rise of the Macedonians) Leo the Wise (886-912) (Byzantium: The Rise of the Macedonians) The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings Romanus Lecapenus: The Great Pretender (Byzantium: The Rise of the Macedonians)

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“Despite having murdered his wife and eldest son, he was venerated as a saint—quite an impressive feat for a man who was both deified as a pagan god and baptized by a heretic.” 1 likes
“Worst of all, they had thrown off the old Roman martial virtues of honor and duty and adopted Christianity with its feminine qualities of forgiveness and gentleness.” 0 likes
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