Filled with unforgettable stories of emperors, generals, and religious patriarchs, as well as fascinating glimpses into the life of the ordinary citizen, Lost to the West reveals how much we owe to the Byzantine Empire that was the equal of any in its achievements, appetites, and enduring legacy.
For more than a millennium, Byzantium reigned as the glittering seat of Christian civilization. When Europe fell into the Dark Ages, Byzantium held fast against Muslim expansion, keeping Christianity alive. Streams of wealth flowed into Constantinople, making possible unprecedented wonders of art and architecture. And the emperors who ruled Byzantium enacted a saga of political intrigue and conquest as astonishing as anything in recorded history.
Lost to the West is replete with stories of assassination, mass mutilation and execution, sexual scheming, ruthless grasping for power, and clashing armies that soaked battlefields with the blood of slain warriors numbering in the tens of thousands.
The once common idea that the lights went out on classical and Western civilization when Rome fell in 476 C.E. has long since been debunked, but Brownsworth weighs in to illustrate that the Roman Empire's center of power simply shifted to Constantinople. In a narrative by turns spellbinding and prosaic, Brownsworth marches us through centuries of history, beginning long before the fall of Rome, and introduces the successive rulers of Byzantium, from Christian emperors to Muslim sultans, detailing a culture he describes as both familiar and exotic. He follows religious, political and cultural change up through the Islamic conquest of 1453. Christian refugees fled Byzantium into Europe, taking with them their longstanding love of ancient culture and introducing Western Europe to Plato, Demosthenes, Xenophon, Aeschylus and Homer, fanning the flames of the renaissance of Hellenistic culture that had already begun in various parts of Europe. Although Brownsworth admirably illustrates the ways that the Byzantine Empire lives on even today, Judith Herrin's Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire offers a more compelling and thorough history of this empire. Maps.