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The Oxford History of Byzantium by Cyril Mango
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's review
May 03, 2009

really liked it
Read in May, 2009

In spite of Byzantium finally getting its fair share of attention among historians over the last century, good single-volume introductions to the empire are few. John Julian Norwich's A SHORT HISTORY OF BYZANTIUM, an abridgement of his massive popular work in three tomes, is one option. But I was happy to come across THE OXFORD HISTORY OF BYZANTIUM and would recommend this as a good introduction. Each chapter of the OXFORD HISTORY was written by a different scholar, adding some variety to the book and hinting at issues considered contentious among historians. The book is also lavishly illustrated, and being able to see the architectural, urban planning, or artistic achievements of Byzantium gives one a better idea of what made Byzantium special. But what really sets the OXFORD HISTORY apart from Norwich's book is that it isn't formed as a mere dry chronology of rulers. The chapters covering straight-up chronology are four: "The Eastern Empiere from Constantine to Heraclius (306-641)", "The Struggle for Survival (641-780)", "The Medieval Empire (780-1204)", and "Fragmentation (1204-1453)". In between these, there are chapters dedicated to literary achievements, the life of the average man, and other matters that Norwich didn't treat adequately.

The book is not perfect. A number of authors here love pointlessly knocking Orthodox Christianity, curious when Orthodox readers form such a large market for Byzantium items. Also, there is no discussion of the life of women in the empire, which would be interesting to contemporary readers.
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message 1: by William1 (new)

William1 Very helpful, Christopher. Thank you!

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