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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization » User review

The Forgotten History of the Roman Empire

  • Sep 23, 2009
  • by
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+5
The Roman Empire fell on Tuesday, May 29, 1453, when Mehmed II sacked Constantinople, and Constantine XI Dragases stripped off his imperial battle gear and died alone and unrecognized. If you dated the fall to September 5, 476, when Romulus Augustulus surrendered his crown and scepter to the Vandal Odoacer, you would be half right. That is indeed when the western half of the empire fell, setting off the so-called "Dark Ages" in earnest. But the eastern half lived on for another 1000 years, waxing and waning in influence from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates and from the Balkans to the Nile. It was finally eclipsed by the triumph of the Ottomans, never to rise again.

Lars Brownworth is not a professional historian, but he is a fantastic history-teller. "Lost to the West" is a portrait of the history of the eastern half of the empire from its founding by Constantine the Great to its demise under his namesake. The major "great men" (and women) as well as big events find a place in his fast-moving narrative: Constantine, Justinian, Belisarius, the Council of Nicea, the erection of Hagia Sophia, the Great Schism, and the centuries long battle with Islam.

Professional historians will probably find something to quibble with here and there. But if you know nothing about Byzantium (as the eastern empire came to be known), then Brownworth is the place to start. He includes a list of primary and secondary sources at the end of the book, as well as a chronological list of eastern emperors.

Highly recommended.

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More Lost to the West: The Forgotte... reviews
review by . September 20, 2009
The Byzantine Empire - and by extension, the Roman Empire- existed for 1,123 years and 18 days. Yet most of us know little about it other than he word "byzantine" being vaguely synonymous for highly intricate, complex, murky or devious dealings. In fact, the story of the Byzantine Empire is the telling of what we now know as Western Civilization. Beginning as the capital for the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, its primary city Constantinople became the center of a very vibrant society the preserved …
review by . September 27, 2009
This book comes recommended by Anthony Everitt and Tom Holland, two of the best popularizers of ancient Western history. As such, I figured it had to be pretty good. Following his successful podcast, Lars Brownworth introduces the Byzantine empire to the modern world. Often overlooked, Byzantium was the heir to Rome and a major civilization that lasted 1,000 years after the "fall of Rome" in 476. As Brownworth points out, Western civilization owes a huge debt to Byzantium, from modern legal codes …
About the reviewer
George Paul Wood ()
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I'm happily married to a maximally perfect woman, and we have a baby cuter than which none can be imagined. For a living, I'm the Director of Ministerial Resourcing at AG HQ in Springfield, MO. … more
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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'sByzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empireoffers a more compelling and thorough history of this empire. Maps.(Sept.)
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ISBN-10: 0307407950
ISBN-13: 978-0307407955
Author: Lars Brownworth
Genre: History
Publisher: Crown
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