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Byzantium: The Apogee (A History of Byzantium #2)

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  758 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
In Byzantium: The Early Centuries John Julius Norwich told the epic tale of the Roman Empire's second capital up to Christmas Day AD 800 – when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as a rival emperor. This second volume of his magnificent history covers the following three centuries. In it he continues his compelling chronicle up to the coronation of the heroic Alexius Comnenu ...more
Paperback, 389 pages
Published 1993 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published January 1st 1991)
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(showing 1-30)
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Mar 19, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The second volume in Norwich's highly-touted trilogy on Byzantium, this work takes the civilization from 800 through 1081 A.D. - or roughly the start of the crusading influences - and contains a good deal more detail than the first. (Apparently, around the year 800, Byzantians began to see the worth in actually writing things down.) While not quite as melodramatic as Seutonius' Lives of the Twelve Caesars, there's enough high-handed behavior here to have kept the gossips fed for centuries. Norwi ...more
Aug 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This author has written several book on Mediterranean history - I first read The Kingdom in the Sun, about medieval Sicily, many years ago and loved it. He writes in a very readable style: his interest in culture and art generally, and in historical figures as real people, makes his books a great introduction to what would otherwise be quite an academic area. This one is the middle of a trilogy covering the thousand year history of the Byzantine Empire, which despite being thoroughly Greek in la ...more
T. Fowler
Jul 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I found this to be a fascinating book as it finally revealed to me the glorious story of the Byzantine Empire during the period when it was at its height of prestige and power from 800 to 1110 A.D. I had wanted to know this history for a long time but had not read anything about it, and this satisfied me greatly. It is a tale of courage and cowardice, of heroes and knaves, of great victories and terrible defeats, all told within the story of the rise and fall of so many who sought to take over t ...more
Elliott Bignell
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
This second volume of Norwich's "Byzantium" collection is once again highly accessible. Engagingly written and occasionally witty, it is sandwiched between the rise and the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire and covers its most powerful and successful emperors. Yet at the same time it did not excite me to quite the degree that its companion volumes have.

Norwich has undertaken a noble work in writing a popular history covering the whole of Byzantium, as it is truly neglected in the West in favour o
Chase Parsley
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Norwich second installment about the Byzantines is an absolute atom bomb of a book that cannot be missed. The book covers the years 800-1081, and it is on par with the greatest page-turning fiction story out there.

I recently rated Norwich's first Byzantine book and wrote my top five memories from it. If I may continue the tradition, here are my top five from "The Apogee" (SPOILER alert):

5) The death of Leo V. Like something out of a Jason Statham movie, the Emperor is attacked on Christmas Day,
Mark Rossiter
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Second volume: more of the same, equally entertaining and well-written, with the same caveats. Most monstrous character: Basil the Macedonian, who maneuvered himself from stable boy to imperial confidant to Michael III, murdered the emperor’s uncle (who had effectively been running the state), persuaded Michael to proclaim him co-emperor, then disabled the locks on his co-emperor’s sleeping quarters and had him murdered in his sleep. Most hideous atrocity: Basil II, after capturing in battle a B ...more
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
With another well-written book, Mr. Norwich continues his march through Byzantine history, crafting a highly readable and equally enjoyable tale. His writing style fluid, Mr. Norwich knows how to present history in an engaging manner while sprinkling in just the right amount of wit and delightful vocabulary. Byzantine history would be helped tremendously if those olden folk had branched out away from the eight or so names they seemed to be have recycled endlessly. By the end of the book I found ...more
Casey Mahon
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished reading Byzantium: The Apogee by John Julius Norwich. Great book by one of the better popular historians of Byzantium and Late Antiquity.
Though the title implies the whole book is of the Golden Age, a good chunk is about the Byzantine state's military struggles against the Caliphates, the Bulgars, & the Rus; political maneuverings against the Western Church and the western emperors; and numerous rebellions and usurpers. The Macedonian dynasty, I realized, wasn't so much a time of
Gordon Doherty
May 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This second book in Norwich's trilogy eloquently takes the reader through Byzantium's tangled and complex high period. The journey is intriguing, at times hair-raising (most memorably the desperate and sorry end of Michael V: and beautifully written throughout.

The author writes with an obvious passion, critical eye and at times a dry wit as he takes the reader over the years starting with the crowning of Charlemagne, through the phases of Iconoclasm and th
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second volume covering the history of the Byzantium Empire is just as entertaining as the first. The book is a very high-level survey of leaders and battles, court intrigue and religious schisms. As the title suggests, this volume gets us to the height of Byzantium's power and prestige under Basil II, though upon his death, the empire goes into a quick and steady decline. The author's sense of humor and his enthusiasm for sifting through source material to explain what we think happened when ...more
Jesús Rodriguez
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second part of the Byzantine empire and may have been even better than the first one. Same old what if's in this book. What if an emperor Isaac Comnenus did not die two years of his reign before rebuilding the army that was in disarray in the 11th century, what if the Patriarchs were more diplomatic with the popes in Rome, what if the "traitor" Adronicus Ducas did not betrayed emperor Romanus IV Diogenes at the battle of Manzikert and lot's, lot's more... Fantastic read and recommended for a ...more
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Narrative history that's very well written. There's little insight beyond the personalities of the prominent figures and the character of the main events but there's little source material on the Byzantine economy anyway and there's enough here to come to your own conclusions on the politics. Choice quotes of the chronicles throughout. If I find a cheap copy of the final volume, Id definitely buy it for a light read.
Joseph Sexton
In the author's own words, this is a strictly non-academic narrative work on those terms it's a very worthy effort, carrying on for the opener to this trilogy. It's not a lengthy work and the pace is fast but it hits all the important points. Byzantine studies is an emerging field and this lacks some of the nuance of the most recent scholarship but as far as getting a grounding goes, this is absolutely fine.
Graham Podolecki
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent survey of the Byzantine Empire at its apex. Provides a fascinating portrait of the men and women who are recorded from this time, and Norwich provides a very fascinating argument as to why the Empire began to decline after the death of Basil II. The greatest drawback of this book is how, like most broad history's tends to fall into monarch chronicling and making life in the Imperial court as life in the Empire. Besides that, it is a very compelling read.
Richard Hakes
Took a long time to read this, slow work basically an interesting time and as usual well researched but it all happend far away and long ago so there is little detail to keep it interesting. The book get better as he deals with more modern and better recorded times. A little more non academic common sence aprasal would help.
Oct 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Three volumes history of the rise and fall of Byzantium and Norwich is brilliant. It's full of memorable characters, evil deeds and suspense and it's supremely erudite while being not just readable but fun to read. Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall' has a worthy sequel in this.
Hakan Kaysı
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kitabın dili çok akıcı, yazar bilimsellikten uzaklaşmadan olayları hikaye anlatır gibi bir üslupla anlatıyor. Bu topraklarda hüküm sürmüş koskoca bir imparatorluğun tarihini öğrenmek için çok güzel bir kaynak.
RYU Cheol
Nov 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I cannot avoid reading murders in the palaces. The emperors were from the generals of the army. The power came from the ability than the kinship. I hope I can read more on the lives of the common people rather than nobles. I hope I can learn on the culture I had.
Jul 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Long before this book was written, it's title became a synonym for ornate confusion. As good and clear a writer as Norwich is, one can easily see from this series how this came to be.
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
second in the series on Byzantium. One gets heady with the power of an empire at full bloom. Norwich can really tell a tale.
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very readable and entertaining history of the twists and turns of Byzantine history.
Oct 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Norwich continues his history of the Byzantine Empire. An enjoyable read by a master.
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Second volume in a great history of The Byzantine Empire. Fascinating reader.
Steven Burkhardt
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are not a history buff you will find this dry, boring, and long. I on the other hand am interested in history. I didn't know much about the Byzantine Empire so I have found this fascinating.
Nick Wallace
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read and learn of the Bulgar Khan Krum and his drinking cup made from an emperor's skull! Marvel at the rise of Basil II Bulgaroctonus (the Bulgar-slayer) and his revenge!
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magisterial but approachable. Some of the easiest-reading history I've ever encountered. Norwich's passion for the subject shines throughout.
David Worth
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, detailed but understandable.
Eileen Iciek
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous, like all of his books.
Lawrence Gottlieb
a classic, beautifully written.
rated it it was amazing
Feb 28, 2015
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Norwich is the only child of the Conservative politician and diplomat Duff Cooper and of Lady Diana Cooper, a celebrated beauty and society figure. Through his father, he is descended from King William IV and his mistress Dorothea Jordan.

He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, Canada (as a wartime evacuee), at Eton College, and at the University of Strasbourg. He served in the Royal Navy
More about John Julius Norwich...

Other Books in the Series

A History of Byzantium (4 books)
  • Byzantium: The Early Centuries
  • Byzantium: The Decline and Fall
  • Byzantium: The Early Centuries/The Apogee/The Decline And Fall (3 Volumes)

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