Richly illustrated with b&w and color plates, this volume provides an up-to-date overview of many aspects of Byzantine history and culture, making it a useful text for undergraduate courses as well as the perfect introduction for the popular reader. The topics include archaeology, art, daily life, courtly life, the impact of Islam, religion, the iconoclast controversy, Byzantine missions, and the fragmentation of the last centuries. Mango, a celebrated scholar in the field, is emeritus in Greek language and literature from Oxford U.; the other contributors are scholars in the US and the UK. Annotation c. Book News, Inc.,Portland, OR
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. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.