Byzantium linked the ancient and modern worlds, shaping traditions and handing down to both Eastern and Western civilization a vibrant legacy. The Oxford History of Byzantium is the only history to provide in concise form detailed historical coverage from the Roman beginnings to the fall of Constantinople and assimilation into the Turkish Empire. Against a backdrop of stories of emperors, intrigues, battles, and bishops the contributors to this beautifully
illustrated volume explore everyday life in cities and villages, manufacture and trade, machinery of government, the church as an instrument of state, minorities, education, literary activity, beliefs and superstitions, monasticism, iconoclasm, the rise of Islam, and the fusion with Western, or Latin,
The Byzantine Empire receives a wide-ranging but unfocused treatment in this volume of essays by U.S. and U.K. academic historians. Several chapters provide a comprehensive if somewhat rushed chronicle of the empire, from the founding of Constantinople to its conquest by the Ottomans in the 15th century. Others discuss aspects of Byzantine Christianity, social life and literature, while Byzantine art and architecture are abundantly represented in the many photos and full-color plates of castles, monasteries, mosaics and icons. Individual essays are intelligent and clearly written, but also somewhat dry and noncommittal; while broadly representative of contemporary scholarship, they do not quite add up to a compelling portrait of Byzantine civilization. Writers complain of the paucity and unreliability of Byzantine sources, and sometimes shy away from decisive historical interpretations. Political history chapters, which focus on the deeds of the emperors and the relatives, generals and miscellaneous usurpers who were forever overthrowing them, are a welter of conspiracies, rebellions, blindings and revenge blindings that can only be described as, well, Byzantine. And in a narrative crammed with battles and campaigns, there is little in-depth discussion of the Byzantine military as an institution and a fighting force-a curious oversight for a study of an empire that was often fighting for its life. Color and b&w photos and illustrations throughout.