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Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire
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ANCIENT HISTORY > 5. BYZANTIUM... January 2nd ~ January 8th ~~ Part One - Chapter SEVEN and Part Two - Chapter EIGHT (70 - 98); No Spoilers Please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 24005 comments Hello Everyone,

For the week of January 2nd - January 8th, we are reading approximately the next 28 pages of Byzantium by Judith Herrin.

The fifth week's reading assignment is:

Week Five: January 2nd - January 8th (2012)::

Chapter 7: Roman Law 70

Part II: The Transition from Ancient to Medieval

Chapter 8: The Bulwark Against Islam 83


We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we did for other spotlighted books.

This book was kicked off on December 5th. We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle. This weekly thread will be opened up on January 2nd.

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Welcome,

~Bentley


TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

Byzantium by Judith Herrin by Judith HerrinJudith Herrin

REMEMBER NO SPOILERS ON THE WEEKLY NON SPOILER THREADS

Notes:

It is always a tremendous help when you quote specifically from the book itself and reference the chapter and page numbers when responding. The text itself helps folks know what you are referencing and makes things clear.

Citations:

If an author or book is mentioned other than the book and author being discussed, citations must be included according to our guidelines. Also, when citing other sources, please provide credit where credit is due and/or the link. There is no need to re-cite the author and the book we are discussing however.

If you need help - here is a thread called the Mechanics of the Board which will show you how:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2...


Glossary

Remember there is a glossary thread where ancillary information is placed by the moderator. This is also a thread where additional information can be placed by the group members regarding the subject matter being discussed.

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/5...


message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Dec 29, 2011 11:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 24005 comments Chapter Overviews and Summaries:

Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven deals with Roman Law and how the application of written law was fundamental to Byzantium throughout its long history, and ordinary citizens used the courts to secure a binding, legal solution to their inheritance, property and family quarrels. Byzantine law developed from the Roman legal system, which is recognized as one of Rome's great contributions to world civilization, elaborated by jurists between the fifth century BC and the first century AD. Herrin also hypothesizes that the Byzantine devotion to law may also have influenced another significant feature of its civilization, the notion of a just war.

Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight is titled: The Bulwark Against Islam. In this chapter, Judith Herrin goes on to explain and discuss how the arch enemy at Damascus of an Islamic caliphate created a permanent rival. Christian Byzantium considered Islam and the forces of Islam to be a great enemy.

Although holy war, jihad, was not one of the five pillars of Islam (the confession of faith, daily prayer, pilgrimage, fasting in the month of Ramadan and giving alms), it rapidly became a distinctive aspect of the new faith. It is probably felt that even today that this is still the case which is worrying the world's leaders as it should.

The primary achievement of the new medieval Byzantium was to prevent Muslim efforts to capture Constantinople, which would have opened the way to a rapid conquest of the Balkans, central Europe and probably Rome itself. As one can readily see after reading this chapter, the Islamists do not support a separation of church and state and/or freedom to choose one's religious beliefs without serious consequences. They forced their newly occupied lands and inhabitants to adopt Islam or else. If they did not convert they would be required to pay extra heavy taxes. Things would become gradually very unpleasant for these folks.

By resisting the Arabs, the Byzantines sustained Christianity in the eastern Mediterranean and then checked the expansion of Islam into Asia Minor. From this very limited base, they began the conversion of the Slavonic tribes, which was to have momentous consequences.


message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Dec 29, 2011 11:51PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 24005 comments After reading chapter eight and Herrin's discussion of jihad, what are the group members impressions of Islam and it's true aims? Is it really a peace loving faith?

And what did the group members feel about the excerpt from the Chronicle of Dionysios of Tel- Mahre (could not find citation in goodreads), ninth century - "Sulayman, king of the Arabs said, "I shall not cease from the struggle with Constantinople until I force my way into it or I bring about the destruction of the entire dominions of the Arabs."

The above sounds pretty hateful and destructive even to its own people. Were the Islamic forces bent on destroying Constantinople because its inhabitants were Christians who worshipped in different ways? What were they truly after then and now?

Can we make a comparison between the Christian Crusaders and the Arab occupiers/invaders? What came first: Arab occupation of Christian lands or the invasion of Christians in Arab occupied land?

What were your impressions of Chapter Eight?


message 4: by ☯Emily has reviews on Booklikes (last edited Dec 31, 2011 07:54AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

☯Emily has reviews on Booklikes Bentley wrote: "Chapter Overviews and Summaries:

The primary achievement of the new medieval Byzantium was to prevent Muslim efforts to capture Constantinople, which would have opened the way to a rapid conquest of the Balkans, central Europe and probably Rome itself. As one can readily see after reading this chapter, the Islamists do not support a separation of church and state and/or freedom to choose one's religious beliefs without serious consequences. They forced their newly occupied lands and inhabitants to adopt Islam or else. If they did not convert they would be required to pay extra heavy taxes. Things would become gradually very unpleasant for these folks.



The concept of a separation of church and state is a relatively new concept. It doesn't appear that Constantinople itself allowed much religious freedom since they were diligent in controlling 'heresy.' We know that the Roman Catholic church fought against any deviation from their doctrines when they controlled Europe politically. Even the Puritans who settled Massachusetts tried to monitor and control all religious beliefs and practices as they ruled politically. To see how one man fought for the separation of church and state, as well as individual freedoms, please read:

Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul by John M. BarryRoger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul by John M. Barry John M. Barry

I got this book recently as a Goodreads giveaway. It is technical in parts, but the punishments for deviant beliefs were horrifying.

The struggle for a separation of church rule from political rule is a long, bloody one that continues in this day. Even if it is not bloody in this country today, it could be in the future. I am a very religious conservative. However, I would not want one religious belief to dominate the executive, legislative and judicial system of this country. Just imagine if the Tea Party had control of all parts of government. That should be frightening to anyone who has a different belief from the political majority.

(I'm not sure that I did the referencing correctly.)


message 5: by Becky (last edited Dec 31, 2011 10:59AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1219 comments Islam has had many, many splits and schisms and prophets etc. since the time of Muhammed. Great book on all that is Destiny Disrupted  A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary - Tamim Ansary by Tamim Ansary which I read this past year and greatly enjoyed - it was certainly illuminating.

One thing about the Muslims is that although they've had some serious differences and battles, they've never really had a situation like the West's Protestant Reformation and the associated wars with a couple centuries of bloody battles to the death because the outcome had to do with the very souls of the participants. The Reformation  A History by Diarmaid MacCulloch by Diarmaid MacCulloch- Diarmaid MacCulloch is wonderful about the history of the Reformation in the West.


Jim | 69 comments On the issue of Islamic expansion, I'm struck that "the people of the book" (Jews and Christians) were accepted in Islamic society with only a tax burden (I have no doubt it got uglier in some instances). That strikes me as much more tolerant than so many other societies in history. In Western Europe (later on), I think of the Inquisition, the Religious wars, the expulsion of people who do not accept the state religion.

Something fascinating about this book (that I believe a few people have mentioned) is that it puts the idea of "The Dark Ages" in what I think for a number of us is a new perspective. In Byzantium, and seemingly the Islamic world, the wheels of progress still seemed to be turning, if not as quickly as in ancient Greece.


message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 24005 comments Emily wrote: "Bentley wrote: "Chapter Overviews and Summaries:

The primary achievement of the new medieval Byzantium was to prevent Muslim efforts to capture Constantinople, which would have opened the way to a..."


Yes, Emily, the thought of the tea party controlling any part of our government and not having the separation of church from state would be frightening for all of us. Interesting views and posts. Your citation had all of the parts necessary and more (smile).

Thank you.

Bentley


message 8: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 24005 comments Becky wrote: "Islam has had many, many splits and schisms and prophets etc. since the time of Muhammed. Great book on all that is [bookcover:Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes|624092..."

Thank you for the adds Becky and the citations. When there is no photo, there is no reason to add that icon.


message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 24005 comments Jim wrote: "On the issue of Islamic expansion, I'm struck that "the people of the book" (Jews and Christians) were accepted in Islamic society with only a tax burden (I have no doubt it got uglier in some inst..."

Well, Herrin obviously did not want to get into a debacle or more controversy but I think being non Muslim got a lot uglier than just a tax burden; but we have been focusing on the book and what the author indicated - so we can take her at her word. However, the Koran is much more explicit about Westerners. The fact that the Christians and Jews were not persecuted more was and is a good thing. I almost believe that what happened to non Muslims depended upon the leader or Sultan at the time.

I too was fascinated by what Herrin had to say about Constantinople and the Dark Ages. Maybe many of the books about the Dark Ages were Europe specific; hard to tell.


message 10: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryan Craig | 10428 comments You do get a sense there are a "evangelical" elements to Islam, especially during this time period. War and expansion are not part of the pillars of Islam. You can say the same for Christianity. But in both cases, you see militarized conquering and conversion, so there seems to be a universal element found beyond the texts.

However, the Islamic culture of war seems to be there during this period. War poetry, for example, was quite important. So, it could be a mix of culture and religion mixing together to drive this expansion.


Scott | 136 comments Bentley wrote: "Chapter Overviews and Summaries:

Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven deals with Roman Law and how the application of written law was fundamental to Byzantium throughout its long history, and ordinary cit..."

One reason for the conversion of Slavic peoples was the grandeur of the the liturgy. "Pagan Russian Prince Vladimir attended a service at Hagia Sophia in 987 and reportly exclaimed: 'We knew not if we were in heaven or on earth.. we only know that God dwells there among men and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations". Within a year, the Prince authorized Christian baptism in his lands".
(from "The Orthodox Church, heaven on earth" by Anne K. Turley. It is a two page brochure, which is probably why I could not find the title for 'add book'.
Much bitterness from the Byzantine era remains in the minds of some Orthodox Christians. I tell the following story as antedotal and a reflection of one person's opinion. I was told by an elder member of a local Orthodox Church that a muslim is commanded by his religion to ask a Christian if wishes to become a Muslim. If the Christian says yes, then his life is spared. If the Christian refuses, he is killed. In contrast, the elder told me, a Muslim is not required to ask for conversion when he prepares to kill a non-Christian infidel.


Scott | 136 comments Emily wrote: "Bentley wrote: "Chapter Overviews and Summaries:

The primary achievement of the new medieval Byzantium was to prevent Muslim efforts to capture Constantinople, which would have opened the way to a..."


Consensus and Continuity, 1776-1787Benjamin Fletcher Wright

As "Consensus and Continuity" points out, the founding fathers went out of their way to add many checks and balances to the Constition. The separation of church and state had an early test in colonial times when the Salem witch trails were ended by the by the Govenor of Massachusetts


Scott | 136 comments Becky wrote: "Islam has had many, many splits and schisms and prophets etc. since the time of Muhammed. Great book on all that is [bookcover:Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes|624092..."

When the Sunni government of Bahrain recently bulldozed many of the Shia mosques, little blood was shed, and the U.S. government, which has a naval base there, made no protests. It was just business as usual.


Scott | 136 comments Jim wrote: "On the issue of Islamic expansion, I'm struck that "the people of the book" (Jews and Christians) were accepted in Islamic society with only a tax burden (I have no doubt it got uglier in some inst..."

The Islamic world was tolerant of other religions, while the Christian world created the Inquistion. BTW, some Muslims do consider themselves 'people of the Book'. The Quran describes a special relationship between the Almithy and Abraham. Some Muslims see themselves as the descendents of Ishmeal, Abraham's son by his servant, when Abraham lost patience with Sarah not having children.


message 15: by Becky (last edited Jan 07, 2012 07:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1219 comments Karen Armstrong Karen Armstrong writes about the history of Muslims and Jews and the interaction in several books.

Jerusalem  One City, Three Faiths by Karen Armstrong is probably the best on this topic as she examines the Jews, Christians, Muslims and others involved in the history of Jerusalem - you can see the way the different religions treated each other in that one city alone. This is to say nothing of the Roman domination for its time.


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Bentley | 24005 comments Interesting posts - Scott and Becky. Thank you.


Karolyn | 71 comments Wars have been caught in the name of Islam and Christianity, although war and violence are not tenants of either faith. But, when religion serves as a passable reason, it's often used to justify conquest and expansion.

I was especially interested to learn that the Byzantines we're the first to codify laws into coherent volumes and in the process harmonize the law. I assumed they picked up where the Roman's left off with a comprehensive legal system. But, I was surprised to see how much they advanced the teaching and harmonizing of the law. They seemed to be ahead of their times.


message 18: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 24005 comments The Byzantines were remarkable - people and culture. Great post Karolyn.


Scott | 136 comments Emily wrote: "Bentley wrote: "Chapter Overviews and Summaries:

The primary achievement of the new medieval Byzantium was to prevent Muslim efforts to capture Constantinople, which would have opened the way to a..."


Emily, while I was googling 'separation of church and state' I found a site 'concordwatch.com.' In France, separation of church and state was not codified until 1905, which nullified Napoleanic law which made the Roman church the official church of France. Some of the 1905 laws were overturned during the Nazi occupation and were never reinstated.


Mary Ellen | 136 comments The Islamic policy of tolerating Christians & Jews in their conquered territories, but with the requirement of payment of an extra tax, remindedm e of the Roman practice. This approach probably made it a bit easier to maintain control over such a huge empire, with so many different peoples.

A few months back, I heard a speaker make several references to Islam as a religion of warfare & conquest, and I was really turned off by him. But after reading this chapter, I'm notso sure. It seems that Mohammad himself was a military leader as well as a spiritual one, and his followers made military conquest their modus operandi almost immediately. This contrasts with Christianity's origins and initial proselytizing. Of course, the geopolitical realities of the 2 periods - 1st and 7th centuries - were quite different. Christians seemed pretty comfortable with conversions at swordpoint once they were powerful enough to compel them.


message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jan 18, 2012 10:48AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 24005 comments Mary Ellen; part of the Islamic creed appears to state that they must spread Islam through conquering the infidels and nobody who is a Muslim can leave the religion. It does not seem like a religion of forgiveness and good deeds. But the Crusades left a lot to be desired on both sides.


Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2063 comments I found the chapter on Roman Law very interesting. It is kinda funny that "novel" meant a new law, but now it means a work of fiction. Are the words even related, or is it just happenstance that they sound alike in our day?

And I thought it very wise to decide to grant "a divorce on grounds of intense hatred, which prevented the consummation of the marriage even after the couple had been shut up together for a week" (page 77). (Although I can think of several unfortunate ways that it could be twisted a bit.)


message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 24005 comments I guess novel is one of those words with various meanings. A novel idea, a new novel, etc. I think the word clearly has the same derivatives no matter what meaning it might have.

Intense hatred should be grounds for a divorce no matter when that occurs (lol). Good comments and observations Elizabeth.


Scott | 136 comments Elizabeth S wrote: "I found the chapter on Roman Law very interesting. It is kinda funny that "novel" meant a new law, but now it means a work of fiction. Are the words even related, or is it just happenstance that ..."

Shutting a couple up for a week seems to me like a recipe for intensifying hatred. In Puritan times, an elder observed the newly married couple to make sure that they consummated the marriage. It would sure kill the mood for me if someone were watching. I guess that shows how little individual rights and feeling were considered in the past.


message 25: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 24005 comments Yes, they also did that for royalty. So odd; it is almost as if nobody considered human need or happiness.


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