Demetra's Reviews > A Short History of Byzantium

A Short History of Byzantium by John Julius Norwich
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it was amazing

I thought I left a comment on this and now can not find it.


As I wrote before I first encountered this book in college while looking for something extra to read about the late Roman empire. I enjoyed it as a 20 year old I enjoy it now that I am much older.

It's a wonderful tour of history and it is - rather unexpectedly - hilarious. I kept on saying to myself "this is no way to run an empire," and it wasn't.

I feel that the history of Byzantium is often ignored, there are no movies about the place, no TV series (a la "Rome") but it was an important time in the development of the West.

This book is a good primer, no it doesn't go in depth into a great deal of Byzantine history - for that I suppose you'd want to read "Ἀλεξιάς" (Alexiad) and other primary sources; but it does give you a good overview.

One of my favorite accounts in the book is that of Belisarius and Justinian. Two great men: Justinian a pretty good Emperor (by Byzantine standards) and Belisarius - one of the greatest generals the world has ever known. Belisarius fights for the empire, wins back Rome and is thanked by Justinian with betrayal. It's awesome, it's heartbreaking, it's NO WAY TO RUN AN EMPIRE!

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 12, 2011 – Shelved

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