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Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization
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Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  3,901 ratings  ·  374 reviews
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 eleven centuries. Though its capital would move to Constantinople, its citizens referred to themselves as Roman for the entire duration of the empire’s existence. Indeed, so did its neighbors, a ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 15th 2009 by Crown (first published 2009)
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4.08  · 
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 ·  3,901 ratings  ·  374 reviews


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jordan
Sep 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Prospective readers of Lars Brownworth’s “Lost to the West” should be aware what they are getting. For those unfamiliar with Brownworth, he was made famous in a uniquely 21st century way when he produced a podcast called “12 Byzantine Rulers” a narrative retelling of 1,000 years of Roman history through the lives of 12 emperors who reigned from Constantinople. The podcasts, which were told with a mix of passion, humor, facts, and a dollop of melodrama, were a runaway hit, downloaded by over 100, ...more
Felicia
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This was a FASCINATING and wonderfully readable history of Byzantium, I was blown away by the detail and how REAL everything felt in the hands of this author. Such rich and forgotten things happened in this part of the world that we just don't appreciate because of our Western Bias. I would read this book again just because it's so detailed I could absorb more info on a second pass. Definitely recc for history fans!
Lynne
Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was ok

My problem with the book is its clear anti-Muslim sentiment. Though Brownworth paints the Crusaders poorly, they're at best portrayed as roving bands of thugs, while the Ottomans are "jihadists." He describes the capture of Constantinople as an event which plunged Europe into "five centuries of a living hell" and "enslavement." The Muslims are routinely excoriated while other atrocious acts by Westerners are at best tisked at. Now, did Mehmet commit atrocities? Of course -- they all did! It was
...more
Jonathan Kent
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
Spoiler Alert: The Byzantine Empire finally collapsed in 1453...

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
Robert Clancy
Nov 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
I've recently read three examinations of the fall of Rome and the Byzantine Empire and this is the easiest, most enjoyable, most interesting read. Gibbon's Decline & Fall is a seminal work and a must to understand the entire scope of Roman history since Augustus. However, it was written over 200 years ago. Peter Heather's new examination of the reasons for the fall of Rome is labored and frankly boring to read. Brownworth breathes life into the Byzantines while showing the differences betwee ...more
A. Sowards
I borrowed this from my library (in ebook form) because I’m skeptical about books that cover a thousand years of history in a few hundred pages. Quite often books like that only scratch the surface, and by not going into anything in any depth, they end up being boring. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case with this book. Brownworth included enough detail to keep things both interesting and informative, and I soon purchased a copy. Of course, given all the wars, internal squabblings, and poisonings, ...more
Ash Jogalekar
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have never watched or read “Game of Thrones” and now I don’t think I ever will because the history of Byzantium seems to rival any of the violence and sexual and political intrigue that the show presents. Lars Brownworth’s “Lost to the West” is a terrific although somewhat sparse history of the glorious rise and tragic fall of the Byzantine Empire which lasted for more than a thousand years before the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Beginning with Diocletian’s division of the Roman Empire into
...more
Jameson
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There are two kinds of history.



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
Liz
Jul 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
I stumbled upon this title in the footnote of another history book (Civilization: The West and the Rest) and the reviews on Goodreads seemed to be universally quite good, so I was quite excited to pick up this book and perhaps broaden my knowledge of the Byzantine Empire.

However, after reading this book, I feel like I'm taking crazy pills, because I hated it by the end of the second sentence of the introduction. Maybe this is because I have a degree in Medieval Studies, but I take extreme umbrag
...more
Dorin
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lost to the West is a try at restoring the forgotten history of the Roman Empire. It tries to cover 1123 years of history in a few hundred pages, and it does this by skipping from important figure to important figure.

It's a pretty good read; the author doesn't bore us with details, and each page is crowded with fascinating detail. Where I feel that the book lacks in detail is in describing the lives of the common people, and although hints about their situation are dropped from time to time, I w
...more
Liviu
Nov 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Not bad but makes you appreciate more JJ Norwich masterpiece; a good narrative keeps the the book entertaining and the pages turn by themselves, though I strongly recommend to try JJ Norwich trilogy for a full appreciation (and even the abridged one volume is deeper than this one, as well as being quite entertaining too)
Doreen Petersen
Apr 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Interesting book but to me it lacked that certain something. I leave it to others to judge this book. I tried but it just wasn't for me.
Fred
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Most astonishing of all to the citizens of Constantinople, however, was the emperor’s habit of wandering in disguise through the streets of the capital, questioning those he met about their concerns and ensuring that merchants were charging fair prices for their wares. Once a week, accompanied by the blare of trumpets, he would ride from one end of the city to the other, encouraging any who had complaints to seek him out. Those who stopped him could be certain of a sympathetic ear no matter how ...more
Rindis
It's a very good readable brief history of the Byzantine Empire, and I recommend it as such to anyone who would like to familiarize themselves with the subject.

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
Zouina Sid Ahmed
This is a very informative account on the Byzantine Empire and its history. The narrative takes you right back to the heart of the events and was beautifully worded. However the author seemed to have faced difficulties in covering all the important events and seemed to skim on some very crucial parts of Byzantine History that I'd wished he'd explore in depth, he's hardly to blame though, summarizing over a thousand years of rich history full of turmoil is no easy task. This book offers a concise ...more
James (JD) Dittes
This is a remarkable, readable, short history of an empire that lasted 1000 years.

Brownworth has a deft hand with history. He knows how to bring out the key figures in the Eastern Roman Empire without getting bogged down in details that would drive away those, like me, with merely a casual interest in the empire.

We see the glories of Constantine, Justinian, and the Macedonian line. There are brilliant generals, among them Bellisarius, who race from east to west, defending the empire from a host
...more
Adna
Lars Brownworth's podcast 12 Byzantine Rulers: The History of the Byzantine Empire was my entry into the world of history podcasts, and this book expands in expected and satisfying ways on that series whose title was, of course, no accident. Readers interested in the Roman Empire will be familiar with De vita Caesarum, known in English as The Twelve Caesars - a series of biographies of the first 11 emperors of the Roman Empire and the man that gave his name to their title, Gaius Julius Caesar.

Wr
...more
Brian
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Most Westerners think the Roman Empire ended in 476 with Odoacer's conquest of Ravenna--or more accurately, they probably think it ended "a long time ago" for "reasons"--but the popular view is wrong. The empire continued for a millennium afterward, finally ending in a heroic last stand in 1453. Western Europeans dismissed Byzantium as the "Empire of the Greeks," but its continuity is reflected in how from 476 straight through to the empire's last day, the citizens of Byzantium referred to their ...more
Sean
A tremendous little book. I missed the podcast that was the genesis of Brownworth's history, though I've since listened to a few episodes and recommend it as a companion.

This is a quick skim of Byzantine history, covering 1,500 years in a compact volume. It's all politics and emperors with a pinch of battle and a dash of art and culture. So if you're looking for an in-depth treatment of the theological struggle over iconography, say, keep moving. If you'd like to fill in some gaps in your knowle
...more
Ireney Berezniak
"Lost To West" is a highly accessible introduction to the history of the Byzantine Empire. The author focuses on the most relevant, high-level episodes of the empire's history, highlighting its more colourful and controversial leaders, and largely ignoring the less eventful reigns. As such, this title is certainly not aimed at serious scholars, but rather laymen such as myself interested more in a smooth overview, rather than a dry political or theological discourse.

Lars Bronworth's style is qui
...more
Jennifer Weibel
Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
"Lost to the West" is a long recitation of Byzantine emperors. The empire expands, the empire contracts, either the emperor loses steam in his old age or shenanigans ensue and he is murdered. I was reminded of the "begat" part of the bible, with the occasional incest thrown in for a little spice.

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
David Bales
Dec 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Certainly one of the best books I've read this year, "Lost to the West" chronicles the Byzantine Empire, (or the Roman Empire in the east) from around 300 a.d. and the age of Constantine until 1453, when the empire fell to the Ottoman Turks. Amazing tales of intrigue with emperors, kings and generals over a thousand years. The Byzantine Empire served as a barrier between the East and West and was far in advance of Western Europe during the "Dark Ages" after the fall of the Western Empire. Brownw ...more
Roxana Chirilă
Jan 02, 2016 rated it liked it
A readable history of the Byzantine Empire, but one which left me with a bitter taste (and not just because the Empire finally succumbs to Turks). It feels rushed, which is perhaps a given for a short book covering an entire millennium of history... and it focuses on the many military campaigns and struggles of Constantinople's emperors, which are uniformly depicted in a downcast light. For all intents and purposes, it sounds like an empire with unfortunate rulers, which took its sweet time dyin ...more
Piper
Nov 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent, easy to follow overview of the Byzantine empire.
Phoenix
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-east, history
The Empire in and of the Middle

The Roman Empire didn't fall in 476 AD with the surrender of the last Roman emperor, the teenage Romulus Augustus to the barbarian general Odoacer, it had merely shifted its home address eastward to Constantinople and had done so 150 years earlier. It finally disappeared on May 29, 1453 when Mehmed the II's army using massive cannon breached the walls of the city. Ironically the cannons' design was that of a Hungarian designer named Urban who had first offered his
...more
Lirazel
Apr 29, 2019 rated it liked it
3.0 stars

I enjoyed the obvious passion Brownworth has for his subject, and I really appreciate him saying straight-out that he was hoping this book would just be a launching pad for people who want to learn about Byzantine history--that he hopes that they will go out and read widely on the topic and not take his word for things. The writing is straightforward and enjoyable enough, and he definitely does a good job of showing just what a rollercoaster ride Byzantine history was.

But he puts way t
...more
Amy
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I went into this book knowing very little about the Byzantine Empire. I recently read another of Lars' books, The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings, which mentioned the B.E. enough to pique my interest. While not exhaustive, (or exhausting for that matter) I closed this book with an understanding of the Byzantine Empire's place in the world, the role it played in European history, and the depth of the loss when it finally fell in 29 May 1453 to the Ottomans.

The Roman Empire fractured into Eas
...more
Stephen
The Roman empire not not fade quietly into history in 474, when a Gothic warlord decided to run the city of Rome directly instead through a faux-imperial proxy. It went out in a blaze of glory, in an epic battle in which an Emperor himself stood in the line and bid a massing enemy to do its worst. For Rome continued long after the Empire faded from Italy, and it not only prevailed but flourished against a host of enemies until finally falling a millennium later. Lost to the West is highly storie ...more
Amber Ray
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Interesting--it's fascinating to hear about Asia Minor and the Byzantine empires contribution to civilization. It's quite a large parade of emperors and kings to keep up with though--and not to resist the pun, it gets rather Byzantine at times!
Mark
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well, what a wonderful book that serves as a beautiful reminder of an almost forgotten empire in history. Most of us probably only heard of Byzantium in passing during history class at best, but this 1000 year old empire deserves so much better!

I felt totally invested in the Byzantines that with each high I too was soaring and with each low I felt great pain. Brownworth does a wonderful job of hitting the important parts of the history and keeping the story interesting and moving along. I felt l
...more
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Lars Brownworth is an author, speaker and broadcaster based in Maryland, USA.

Mr. Brownworth created the genre-defining 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast, which prompted the New York Times to liken him to some of history's great popularizers. His recent book titled Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization, is available in bookstores and online. He answers questio
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“the whole idea of a “holy” war was an alien concept to the Byzantine mind. Killing, as Saint Basil of Caesarea had taught in the fourth century, was sometimes necessary but never praiseworthy, and certainly not grounds for remission of sins. The Eastern Church had held this line tenaciously throughout the centuries, even rejecting the great warrior-emperor Nicephorus Phocas’s attempt to have soldiers who died fighting Muslims declared martyrs. Wars could, of course, be just, but on the whole diplomacy was infinitely preferable. Above all, eastern clergy were not permitted to take up arms, and the strange sight of Norman clerics armed and even leading soldiers disconcerted the watching hosts.” 4 likes
“*Vladimir had been interested in changing religions for some time. According to legend, he sent ambassadors to the major surrounding religions to help him decide. Islam was rejected for being without joy (especially in its rejection of alcohol and pork!), and Judaism was rejected since the Jews had lost their homeland and therefore seemed abandoned by God. Settling on Christianity, he sent his men to discover if the Latin or the Greek rite was better. It was hardly a fair fight. The ambassadors to the West found rather squat, dark churches, while their compatriots in Constantinople were treated to all the pageantry of a Divine Liturgy in the Hagia Sophia. “We no longer knew,” they breathlessly reported back to Vladimir, “whether we were in heaven or on earth.” The Russian prince was convinced. Within a year, he had been baptized, and Russia officially became Orthodox.” 3 likes
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