(reblogged from Portia Bridget)
Byzantium. The name evokes grandeur and exoticism–gold, cunning, and complexity. In this unique book, Judith Herrin unveils the riches of a quite different civilization. Avoiding a standard chronological account of the Byzantine Empire’s millennium–long history, she identifies the fundamental questions about Byzantium–what it was, and what special significance it holds for us today.
Herrin focuses each short chapter around a representative theme, event, monument, or historical figure, and examines it within the full sweep of Byzantine history–from the foundation of Constantinople, the magnificent capital city built by Constantine the Great, to its capture by the Ottoman Turks.
Judith Herrin is a British archaeologist and academic of Late Antiquity – Professor Emerita of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King’s College London. Sounds very grand and serious right? Still surprise, surprise: she managed to write a very readable book concerning a topic most of people would call ‘dry’ and ‘scholarly’. How did I find her book ? An excellent question of its own.
Some time ago I met, chatted with and then followed a guy on Twitter. He claimed Byzantine history and culture was his hobby – pretty cool you have to admit. Still I was perplexed why he had chosen that period and a long-dead empire; not that he was a Greek or a Turk or, heavens forbid, a Roman (that would mean he’s been long dead but stranger things happen on Twitter ;p). To be honest I had known and befriended male history buffs before but none of them loved Byzantium; usually the Roman Empire, the IIWW or the Middle Ages were the most popular options. When I visited that guy’s blog (he writes using a nickname Alexios Komnenos, imagine that!) I saw the book of Judith Herrin mentioned time and again – allegedly it sparked off his interest in Byzantium. Intrigued, I decided to read it as well in order to understand the whole mystery a tad better.