Byzantium was dismissed by Gibbon, in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,and his Victorian successors as a decadent, dark, oriental culture, given up to intrigue, forbidden pleasure and refined cruelty. This great empire, founded by Constantine as the seat of power in the East began to flourish in the fifth century AD, after the fall of Rome, yet its culture and history have been neglected by scholars in comparison to the privileging of interest in the Western and Roman Empire. Michael Grant's latest book aims to compensate for that neglect and to provide an insight into the nature of the Byzantine Empire in the fifth century; the prevalence of Christianity, the enormity and strangeness of the landscape of Asia Minor; and the history of invasion prior to the genesis of the empire.
Michael Grant's narrative is lucid and colourful as always, lavishly illustrated with photographs and maps. He successfully provides an examination of a comparatively unexplored area and constructs the history of an empire which rivals the former richness and diversity of a now fallen Rome.
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Michael Grant, the noted classical historian, opens his newest book by observing that while most classicists can name the Roman emperors in chronological order, few can say anything about Byzantium other than that it was founded by Constantine in the aftermath of a vision in which Christianity became the official religion of his empire. Grant does much to educate his colleagues, and his many readers, in this well-written, heavily illustrated book about Byzantium's first century, when Rome fell to German invaders and Constantinople, far to the east, rose. Byzantium, Grant says, was "in many ways a pretty nasty place," thanks to a succession of despotic governments, civil wars, and intrigues. But it would last a thousand years and leave a mark on world history, still commanding our attention today. --Gregory McNameeAbout the Author:
Michael Grant is author of numerous books, including, most recently, Severans (1996) and Art in the Roman Empire (1995), both published by Routledge.
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