"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, July 3, 2015

From Rome to Byzantium

A colleague of mine, a medieval historian, recently started teaching a course called "The Dark Ages: Were They All That Dark?" More recent scholarship continues to suggest that we have been too quick not only to label that period "dark" but, more generally, to police past periods in light of present politics in service of today's agendas. A recent book continues in the process of re-evaluating the past rather than blithely assuming it was all darkness and chaos: A.D. Lee, From Rome to Byzantium AD 363 to 565: The Transformation of Ancient Rome (Edinburgh University Press, 2013), 360pp.

About this book we are told:
Between the deaths of the Emperors Julian (363) and Justinian (565), the Roman Empire underwent momentous changes. Most obviously, control of the west was lost to barbarian groups during the fifth century, and although parts were recovered by Justinian, the empire's centre of gravity shifted irrevocably to the east, with its focal point now the city of Constantinople. Equally important was the increasing dominance of Christianity not only in religious life, but also in politics, society and culture. Doug Lee charts these and other significant developments which contributed to the transformation of ancient Rome and its empire into Byzantium and the early medieval west. By emphasising the resilience of the east during late antiquity and the continuing vitality of urban life and the economy, this volume offers an alternative perspective to the traditional paradigm of decline and fall.

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