The History Book Club discussion

Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire
This topic is about Byzantium
MEDIEVAL HISTORY > ARCHIVE - 13. BYZANTIUM... February 27th ~ March 4th ~~ Part Three - Chapter TWENTY-THREE and Part Four - Chapter TWENTY-FOUR (242- 266); No Spoilers Please

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 22, 2012 09:25PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

For the week of February 27th - March 4th, we are reading approximately the next 24 pages of Byzantium by Judith Herrin.

The THIRTEENTH week's reading assignment is:

Week Thirteen: February 27th - March 4th: :

Week Thirteen: February 27th - March 4th:

Chapter 23: A Cosmopolitan Society 242

Part IV: Varieties of Byzantium

Chapter 24: The Fulcrum of the Crusades 255

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.

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.




Byzantium The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire by Judith Herrin by Judith Herrin Judith Herrin



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.


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:


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.

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments It is kinda funny to look at discrimination from the distance of time and/or space. For example, on page 244 it says that the emperor's doctor was "the only Jew allowed to ride on horseback." Seems like such a weird restriction to not let Jews ride on horses. I'm guessing it was one of those status things where one has to be "good enough" to merit the speed/comfort/versatility of riding a horse.

I very much enjoyed the paragraph about Harald made it through the sealed Golden Horn on page 245. I like that kind of ingenuity and people working together to solve a problem.

message 3: by Elizabeth S (last edited Mar 03, 2012 09:36AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments All the talk of trying to unite the two Christian churches was either interesting or eye-rolling. Disputes about the exact wording of creeds, "differences over leavened or unleavened bread, the number of genuflections and the days and degrees of fasting" (page 261)... Okay, I can understand holding fast to one's version of the creed, as changing the creed is basically changing beliefs. But arguing about the number of genuflections? Sheesh.

Back to the translation issue, "In all these meetings of East and West, language was a basic problem: few Greeks knew Latin, and even fewer westerners knew Greek" (page 260). It wasn't just a problem with translating scripture, but also with people not knowing each other's language. That would make discussion a little harder.

message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Great comments Elizabeth S and very strange restrictions.

No wonder there was a schism right.

Karolyn | 67 comments I'm finally getting caught back up with this book. These were quite interesting chapters. I have read little about the Crusades, but what I do know has all been from a Western European perspective. It was quite something to read that the Byzantines asked for military help and got a bunch of pilgrims in the First Crusade. And how the Venitians turned on their former friend to sack Constantanople in the Fourth.

I have to agree that it's sometimes quite bizarre what leads to schisms and discrimination. I would not have thought wearing pants and riding horseback were big deals. And I understand that the wordings of the creeds are deeply tied to the foundation of one's beliefs... But I've never understood going to war over leavened vs unleavened bread.

message 6: by Scott (new)

Scott | 134 comments Elizabeth S wrote: "All the talk of trying to unite the two Christian churches was either interesting or eye-rolling. Disputes about the exact wording of creeds, "differences over leavened or unleavened bread, the nu..."

Whenever people split hairs like this, these minute points are usually just a smoke screen. By this time, both sides were saying 'my way or the highway'.
It semms as if every time they agreed, one side came up with another non-negotable point.

message 7: by Zeljka (last edited Mar 22, 2012 03:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zeljka (ztook) | 83 comments Crusades were definitely at the lowest moral level at the time of the sack of Constantinople, as by then they didn't even pretend they went to the war for any purpose but for the pocket enrichment. The tragic example of Zara shows that evidently. The Venetians were felt seriously threatened by the economic growth of that city in their vicinity, so they thought why not to combine the business with pleasure, meaning - they didn't have enough money to finance the crusade, so they guided the oblivious (I find it hard to believe that they weren't aware of consequences of their actions, they just didn't care...) crusaders to the sack of Zara. The destruction of Constantinople simply followed the same route. I find it sad, such events break all the faith some might have in the human nature :-(

back to top