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The Making of Byzantium, 600-1025

The Making of Byzantium, 600-1025
Autor: Mark Whittow
Data publikacji: 1996-08
ISBN: 9780520204973
Wydawca: University of California Press
Język: angielski
Wymiary: 14 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
Oprawa: miękka
Liczba stron: 500
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Opis produktu:

This book is an excellent, up-to-date reassessment of the Byzantine empire during a crucial phase in the history of the Near East. Well illustrated with original maps, it covers the last decade of the Roman empire as a superpower of the ancient world, the crisis of the seventh century, and the means whereby its embattled Byzantine successor hung on in Constantinople and Asia Minor until the Abbasid Caliphate's decline opened up new perspectives for Christian power in the Near East. Chapters cover social and economic change, iconoclasm, the institutions of the Byzantine state, the military development that allowed the empire to strike back in the tenth century, the growing political tensions that led to civil war in the 970s and 980s, and the halt to further advance by that war's victor, Basil II. The author gives full attention to the empire's neighbors, allies, and enemies. The origins of Russia, relations with the nomad power of the steppe world, the competition between Bulgars, Romans and Slavs in the Balkans, and the rich but frequently ignored world of the Transcaucasus are all given extended treatment.

Mark Whittow's first major publication took a series of commonplaces about the late Roman and early Byzantine empires and turned them upside down. The book is built around a narrative core, but is unusual in its attention to the peripheral areas of the empire and to the empire's neighbours: the longest chapter, 8, deals with the non-Muslim neighbours of Byzantium across a long stretch of the early middle ages.
Whittow's interests lie primarily in political, military and socio-economic history. His views on the religious life of the period are among the most controversial areas of the book: Whittow argues interestingly, if not always persuasively, that the rifts in late antique Christianity were not, contrary to received wisdom, decisive in facilitating the Islamic conquests. The evidence conventionally used to reconstruct those conquests is dissected from a broadly anthropological standpoint, revealing the flaws which other academics find it convenient to ignore. On top of this, Whittow's general view of the 'state of the empire' in 600, his starting point, is radically different to that found in the textbooks: where other writers see an empire crumbling through the sixth century, thanks to structural economic weakness accentuated by the Justinianic plague, Whittow paints a picture of prosperity and basic healthiness. He occasionally exceeds the evidence, but is frequently able to point out where others have done the same.
'The making of Byzantium' is written essentially as a textbook, but its strength lies not so much in this area, clear and comprehensive though it is, as in its capacity to provoke thought - even where, on reflection, one disagrees with the author. It should be essential reading for all students of the period.

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