Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization
"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...more
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...more
Lars Bronworth's style i...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
The fall of Rome and the...more
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...more
He includes helpful information about the cu...more
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...more
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...more
“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...more
I do NOT mean that as an insult. It is a stellar, one-volume history of the incredibly diverse, complex, and occasionally completely mystifying history of an empire that spanned over a 1000 years NOT including the near-half-millennium of Roman Empire that preceded it and that contemporaries did not consider at all separate from the latter empire we call Byzantine.
See? You're already confused.
I _love_ the Byzantines and the Ottomans, so I read...more
A dedicated middle-schooler could read this with help, high school students could read it independently. Excellent for religious studies as well as basic history fans.
The patterns are the same in modern times, also. That was per...more