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Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  63 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
In the early Middle Ages, the greatest city in Europe was not Paris, London or Berlin but Constantinople, capital of Byzantium. It was an article of faith that a saintly emperor, divinely appointed, had founded Constantinople and that the city was as holy as Rome or Jerusalem. The Byzantine emperors assiduously promoted the notion of a spiritual aura around the city. Thus, ...more
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published December 20th 2007 by Continuum
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Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Jonathan Harris has managed to tell in a short way the large history of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire in general. With "Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium" he examines, as he tells us, the intriguing interaction between the spiritual and the political, the mythical and the actual with heyday of the year 1200 as his main reference (the peak of the empire). If someone wants to read something about this less known empire (despite it lasting for 1000 years) this book is a good introducti ...more
Other reviewers have said it well; Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium is an eminently readable book about one of the world's most fantastic cities during its prime as the capital of the Roman Empire of the East. For those of us who are captivated by Byzantine history, Constantinople is not just the capital; it IS Byzantium. Here we learn the layout of the city, how the Orthodox clergy interacted with the Emperor, Court and citizens, how the city was managed and citizens fed, the political rami ...more
zu Serrahn
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This book did what I wanted it to do - provide me a sense of Byzantine society and culture throughout the wide sweep of Byzantine history. Neither the writing nor analysis were brilliant, but some episodes of intrigue were well narrated. Worth a read if you want to learn more about this subject.

I read the second edition.
Hans Kerrinckx
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Jonathan Harris offers a service to the general reader interested in the history, culture, and mystique of the Byzantine Empire and the Queen of Cities.

"Constantinople Capital of Byzantium" is an excellent introduction to Byzantine history taken from the perspective of the history of the city of Constantinople as it would have been in the year 1200. Through most of the book, Harris focuses on how Byzantines living in late twelfth century Constantinople would have seen their own history, looking
Mar 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Constantinople follows the glamour, mythos, and corruption that was world's premier city Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire.

The city is treated as the main character of the book and its long tale of continaul deceptions for the Byzantine crown,its mythos as to why the capital lasted for over 1000 years in a vulnerable crossroads, its veneration to the saints, and its final days are lovingly covered.

Surprisingly, a book on a city with this much history and subsequent history-makers
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is not your traditional history book. Harris' effort starts off reading like a tourist guide, more or less, guiding the reader through a snapshot of Contstantinople taken in 1200.

Gradually, however, he starts jumping back and forth, from the early days of the city to its bitter end, giving a more complete picture of how the final version of this great metropolis came to be. Mind you, this is not by any means a history of Byzantium; it's more of a tale of the city, its civilisation, its rich
Aug 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This book provides some interesting tales and glimpses of Constantinople, and is good at describing how superstitions and religion shaped peoples' outlooks. It doesn't provide a narrative framework, or thesis but is rather more a collection of facts and stories. I wish it had better maps. I like history books where the writer asks and tries to answer questions, and this doesn't do enough of that for me. For example, why did imperial politics involve the blinding or exile of competitors, rather t ...more
Sep 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I wouldn't recommend this book for a really in depth look at Byzantine history, but I think it's a fantastic supplement. I really appreciated the way that it's arranged by topics, rather than by chronology, and I love that a lot of the myths and ideas and beliefs of the Byzantine people are included--I feel like I got a pretty good of a sense of how folks living in Constantinople back then might have seen the world, which I haven't really gotten from any other book on Byzantium I've read. I also ...more
Eileen Iciek
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am a huge fan of Byzantine history, but many Byzantine historians, who have done wonderful research, have not quite mastered the art of writing a book that can be enjoyed by the general public. Jonathan Harris has managed that feat. "Constantinople" brings out many details about the city that even the most devoted aficionado of this civilization will not know. The book is broad in scope, which is my only complaint about it. There are times when I would have liked more of a street level view of ...more
David Gwartney
Dec 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Harris gives an overview of the Byzantine Empire from the perspective of the events around the year 1200, as well as through legends and anecdotes that encapsulate the city's history. It is an enjoyable way to get an overview of something as daunting as the history of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire. I might have preferred a few more timelines and charts to get a better perspective of the history, but for those who can get buried in the all the details, this book is a good survey of a hi ...more
Jul 19, 2012 rated it liked it
An interesting review of Constantinople's history it contains illuminating information on the cultural significance of the city. Political or historical analysis is not the goal of this work, however, it is sufficiently present to give form to his wider narrative. Harris' work is well researched and clearly laid out but suffers from geographic confusion, furthered by poor map usage, as well as an under utilization of pictures.
Gwen Perkins
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm still reading this but thus far, I love his description of the city itself. This is a book for the casual Byzantinist, in my opinion, easy to read but with great facts and not dry at all. I do wish that he would have gone more in-depth on some of the rulers. He hits some of the great stories of Byzantium but leaves out details that I think would intrigue many lovers of popular history.
Nov 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Tells a lot about the Eastern Roman Empire and Eastern Orthodoxy, by way of its capital city. Shows how far from the truth the catholic church went, by showing the general history of its capital city. A must read for any student of the period. Though it purports to be the history of Constantinople of 1200, it gives its whole history. Really just an introduction. Could have been much longer.
Oct 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Quick read. Mostly a collection of stories about Byzantine intrigue- an interesting topic about which I know very little, but not quite the overarching sweep of history that I really like to read about.
Sean Vangordon
Good overview of the city and culture.
Andrea Gualchierotti
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Un saggio scorrevole e di solidi contenuti, ideale per aprire la strada a letture più approfondite ( sebbene richieda già una conoscenza di base della storia bizantina).
Apr 06, 2010 marked it as unfinished
Shelves: 2010, travel
I give up. It's plenty good as far as non-fiction goes, but it just isn't working with my short attention span.
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Amazing -- this was a fascinating look at Constantinople in the year 1200. It was a great look into the functioning of a late Mediaeval city.
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Professor of the History of Byzantium.

Research interests: Byzantine History 900-1460; relations between Byzantium and the west, especially during the Crusades and the Italian Renaissance; the Greek diaspora after 1453.
More about Jonathan Harris...