The Byzantine Empire was one of the most impressive imperial adventures in history. It ruled much of Europe and Anatolia for a remarkable eleven hundred years. From Constantine I's establishment of Byzantium (renamed Constantinople) as his capital in 324 CE, until the fall of the city to the Ottomans in 1453, the Byzantine domain became a powerhouse of literature, art, theology, law and learning. Dionysios Stathakopoulos here tells a compelling story of military conquest, alliance and reversal, including the terrifying secret of Greek fire: of a state constantly at war, but not warlike, resorting wherever possible to a sophisticated diplomacy with its neighbours and enemies. Breaking with outdated notions of Byzantium as an unchanging, theocratic state, Stathakopoulos uses the most recent research to explore its political, economic, social and cultural history. He evokes the dynamism of a people whose story is one of astonishing resilience and adaptability; and whose legacy, whether it be the bronze horses of the Hippodrome, or the very term 'Byzantine', everywhere endures.
His new short history embraces individuals like Justinian I, the powerful ruler who defeated the Ostrogoths in Italy and oversaw construction of Hagia Sofia (completed in 537); his notorious queen Theodora, a courtesan who rose improbably to the highest office of imperial first lady; the charismatic but cuckolded general Belisarios; and the religious leaders Arius and Athanasios, whose conflicting ideas about Christ and doctrine shook the Empire to its core.
'Dionysios Stathakopoulos provides an easy-to-read narrative history of the whole of the Byzantine Empire from AD 330 until it fell to the Ottomans in 1453. Arranged chronologically, each chapter also discusses the most important thematic issues and the problems experienced by the Empire as they arose over this enormously long period. The final chapter helpfully discusses the aftermath of Byzantium and the contested history of Byzantine studies. The author’s experience in lecturing on the subject to undergraduates at King’s College London makes him an authoritative and reliable guide. This is a confident book by an established historian and teacher of Byzantine history, and it makes an excellent addition to I.B.Tauris' series of Short Histories.'
Averil Cameron, DBE, FBA, Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine History, University of Oxford, formerly Warden of Keble College, Oxford
‘In the early 21st century a building raised by a 6th-century Roman emperor in his capital, Constantinople, became controversial: should the church dedicated by Justinian to the Holy Wisdom (St Sophia) remain a museum, as it had been since the time of Ataturk, founder of the secular Turkish state? Or should it revert to the status of a mosque, as the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II had decreed as soon as he captured the city in 1453? Anyone wanting to understand the origins of this dilemma, and why the building’s status still matters, can now turn to this compact and pithy survey of the empire that Mehmet terminated. Byzantium’s thousand-year history, combining fixed points of faith with cultural metamorphoses and territorial fluctuations, is paradoxical and kaleidoscopic. To present its main features, internal dynamics and artistic feats coherently and concisely is no easy task. Dionysios Stathakopoulos has carried it off with panache, distilling extensive source-materials and the latest scholarship into a lively analytical narrative. His insights will be of interest to specialists, while he provides basic information to newcomers. This presentation of a variable-geometry empire that lasted, in one form or another, from Antiquity to the Italian Renaissance illuminates 21st-century geopolitics as well as the past.’
Jonathan Shepard, editor of The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire, formerly Lecturer in Russian History in the University of Cambridge
'A world without Byzantium is a pale place; a life without its appreciation an etiolated existence. Clearly delighting in the civilisation that was named “Byzantine” in only the 16th century, Dionysios Stathakopoulos offers us a Gibbon-antidote derived from years of original research. Reminding us that this was a culture that coloured and shaped three continents, and that controlled four million square kilometres at its height, the author keeps his firm hand on the tiller and steers us through the sensuous, scholarly, surprising world of Byzantium. Accessing the latest archaeology and freshest scholarship to illuminate both the material and the spiritual, this is an ideal and intelligent guide to over a thousand years of crucial history.'
Bettany Hughes, author and broadcaster
'For the inquisitive tourist who wants a quick skate through the subject or the beginner who wants to warm up to the subject gently this guide is an excellent overview.'
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co LtdHardback
Publication Date: 30 Apr 2014
Number of Pages: 192
Publication Date: 30 Apr 2014
Number of Pages: 192