If Goodreads rating system went to 10 instead of 5 then I would give this book 9.5. Not because it doesn’t deserve 10 but because I’m convinced it cannot be better than the three volumes that this is a condensed version of. The author admits that much has been left out in the production of this single volume and if I knew what I know now then I would have tried to obtain the original three volumes.
Having said that, this is a fantastic book for anyone who has more than a passing interest in Byzantium. It’s a shame that we in the West know so little about Byzantium. Such a shame that the history of Byzantium has been sidelined and written out of what we teach in history. Hitler dreamt of a thousand year Reich – too late Adolf, Byzantium got there first. Not as a Nazi Reich you understand but as a magnificent Roman Empire stretching from Europe into Asia Minor and North Africa. Coupled with this Imperial Empire you also have the continuing history of the Orthodox church.
John Julius Norwich’s book manage to twine together the historical and political story of the Western and Eastern Empires and also the intricacies of the relationship between the Latin and Eastern churches to produce what is to me a work of art. It’s also a powerful book, almost reducing me to tears when reading about the final days of the Empire and the profane desecration of the Hagia Sophia, that majestic icon of the Orthodox church.
A must read.