Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization

By Lars Brownworth

In advert 476 the Roman Empire fell–or quite, its western part did. Its japanese part, which might end up referred to as the Byzantine Empire, could suffer and infrequently flourish for an additional 11 centuries. although its capital might circulation to Constantinople, its voters spoke of themselves as Roman for the complete period of the empire’s lifestyles. certainly, so did its associates, allies, and enemies: whilst the Turkish Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople in 1453, he took the identify Caesar of Rome, putting himself in a right away line that led again to Augustus.

For some distance too many differently traditionally savvy buyers, the tale of the Byzantine civilization is anything of a void. but for greater than a millennium, Byzantium reigned because the glittering seat of Christian civilization. whilst Europe fell into the darkish a while, Byzantium held quick opposed to Muslim growth, conserving Christianity alive. while literacy all yet vanished within the West, Byzantium made basic schooling to be had to either sexes. scholars debated the benefits of Plato and Aristotle and generally dedicated everything of Homer’s Iliad to reminiscence. Streams of wealth flowed into Constantinople, making attainable extraordinary wonders of artwork and structure, from extraordinary jeweled mosaics and different iconography to the nice church often called the Hagia Sophia that used to be a imaginative and prescient of heaven in the world. The dome of the nice Palace stood approximately 200 toes excessive and stretched over 4 acres, and the city’s inhabitants used to be greater than twenty occasions that of London’s.

From Constantine, who based his eponymous urban within the yr 330, to Constantine XI, who valiantly fought the empire’s ultimate conflict greater than 1000 years later, the emperors who governed Byzantium enacted a saga of political intrigue and conquest as miraculous as something in recorded historical past. Lost to the West is replete with tales of assassination, mass mutilation and execution, sexual scheming, ruthless greedy for strength, and clashing armies that soaked battlefields with the blood of slain warriors numbering within the tens of thousands.

Still, it was once Byzantium that preserved for us at the present time the good presents of the classical global. Of the 55,000 historical Greek texts in lifestyles at the present time, a few 40,000 have been transmitted to us through Byzantine scribes. And it used to be the Byzantine Empire that shielded Western Europe from invasion till it used to be able to take its personal position on the heart of the area degree. jam-packed with unforgettable tales of emperors, generals, and spiritual patriarchs, in addition to interesting glimpses into the lifetime of the normal citizen, Lost to the West finds how a lot we owe to this empire that was once the equivalent of any in its achievements, appetites, and enduring legacy.

From the Hardcover edition.

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This time his objective was once to dispose of the Muslim energy that stored attempting to take over Armenia. Marching into the little Armenian city of Manzikert, he annihilated the Arab emirate and liberated the province. Turning south, he swept into Syria, simply taking the most important towns of Emesa and Edessa, and in 969 controlled to reconquer Antioch—the old capital of Syria and seat of 1 of the 5 nice patriarchates of the Christian Church. no longer because the reign of Heraclius had an emperor set foot within the urban, and it’s becoming that Nicephorus—whose identify intended “bringer of victory”—would be the only to get better it. observing south, he in brief thought of marching directly to the Holy urban, Jerusalem, however the campaigning season was once approximately over, and a famine was once plaguing either Byzantine and Arab lands. After twelve years of unbroken luck, he may possibly have enough money to delay the conquest of Jerusalem for one more 12 months. it is going to nonetheless be there with the spring, and without doubt he deserved a leisure. Swinging his nice military round, the emperor marched wearily—but triumphantly—to his capital. but for all his victories, Nicephorus used to be more and more unpopular at domestic. as well as his certainly abrasive character, his assaults on ecclesiastical wealth had alienated the church, whereas the crippling taxes he levied to pay for his never-ending wars had misplaced the help of everybody else. His hated brother, Leo, had already been stuck attempting to artificially elevate the cost of wheat in the course of a famine, and it used to be now largely believed that he was once plotting to homicide Theophano’s younger sons, Basil and Constantine. The emperor would possibly not were in my view concerned with those fees, yet he took no motion opposed to his brother, additional tarnishing his broken attractiveness. commonly blamed for the emerging fee of foodstuff and (rather unfairly) a bad harvest, Nicephorus turned a digital recluse. Alarmed by way of a prophecy that he will be killed within the nice Palace by way of considered one of his personal voters, he equipped a wide wall setting apart it from town, barricading himself within. whilst he ventured out onto the streets in any respect, he needed to courageous torrents of abuse or even the occasional (poorly aimed) brick thrown at his head. attempting to decrease tensions, the emperor scheduled a ridicule conflict contained in the Hippodrome, yet a rumor unfold that he meant to slaughter the inhabitants, and the sight of drawn swords sparked a stampede, which left a number of hundred spectators overwhelmed in its wake. now not strangely. Nicephorus escaped the oppressive weather of the capital at each chance, yet this in flip earned him an enemy extra bold than any he had met at the battlefield. His spouse, Theophano, now twenty-eight and fully tired of an austere and absent husband, had fallen head over heels in love together with his nephew John Tzimisces. The unbelievable younger normal used to be every little thing that her husband wasn’t. rushing and clever with blond hair and piercing blue eyes, he was once gracious and fascinating, impossible to resist to women—especially the lonely, cloistered empress. whilst John fell out of fashion and was once relieved of his command, it used to be the paintings of a second for Theophano to strength her adoring husband to bear in mind him to Constantinople.

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