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Byzantium: The Decline and Fall v. 3 [Hardcover]

John Julius Norwich
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Oct 1995
The Byzantine Empire lasted for 1123 years, a period longer than that which separates us from William the Conqueror. The third and final volume of the author's history of Byzantium, this book tells of the dire consequences of the defeat of the Seljuk Turks at the battle of Manzikert in 1071; of the Fourth Crusade, whose Crusaders, led by the octogenarian Doge of Venice, turned their attention away from the holy places to hurl themselves against Constantinople, sacking the city and setting up a succession of Frankish thugs on the imperial throne; and of the 200-year struggle by the restored Empire against the inexorable advance of the Ottoman Turks. This account of the city's fall, the last great epic in the history of the Middle Ages, is the climax of the story. The Byzantines, under their last Emperor, Constantine XI, heroically held out against the immense army of the Sultan Mehmet II for 55 days until, in 1453, the massive walls of Constantinople crumbled at last.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st edition (5 Oct 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670823775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670823772
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 5.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 333,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
This is another masterpiece of popular history (although based on serious research and rigorous)by Julius Norwich.
The book is actually the final volume of the Byzantium trilogy by the same author, which covers all the over 1000 years of history of the Byzantine empire.
Readers who have already read the previous volumes already know how enjoyable and informative they are: the third volume adds to the virtues of the first two parts a tragic - at times pathetic - tone: this is the history of an agony, starting with the fall of the Comneni dinasty and extending over two centuries, during which the Byzantine empire is progressively reduced in its size, depleted of its riches, divided by internal strifes. It is a sad history indeed: and Julius Norwich is a master in striking a perfect balance between the need to give a serious account of a decline which has manifold causes, and that of keeping the reader involved in the narration.
He succeeds perfectly: at the end of the book you will know why Byzantium fell, and at the same you will feel sorry for it, after having ventured into the captivating account of the last siege by Mehmet the Conqueror (although this part of the book is basically a summary of Professor Runciman's previous work, as acknowledged by Norwich himself).
Finally, as suggested by other reviewers, I would recommend if possible NOT to buy the one-volume synopsis of Norwich's trilogy: don't be put off by the size of the three volumes, they are thoroughly enjoyable! Go for the big read!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
John Julius Norwich is a great author and historian. Here he is given one of the worlds great tradgedies as his background and he uses it to create a compelling history.
From it's opening through to Mehmet "The conqueror" praying in Hagia Sophia, the spiritual heart of the empire, the whole book brings to life the death of Byzantium. It should be read after savouring the previous two books in the trilogy. I enjoyed the sequence so much it led me to visit Istanbul which proved to be one of the best vacations I have had.
The account of the final fall on that fateful Tuesday is brilliantly created. The heroism of Constantine as he dies fighting on the walls sums up the life of an empire which bridged the classic, medieval and modern worlds.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings Byzantium to Life 3 Jan 2004
By Puffin
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This series of books (permit me to include mention of the other two in the trilogy here) is a great read, a telling of the complete saga of Byzantine history, covering a period of 1000 years. The author lays bare the facts about the various Emperors of Byzantium, the good, the bad, the incompetent and the heroic, giving as good idea as possible about each of their character, deeds and misdeeds, and the times and events in which they existed. He does it in a style that draws the reader in and captivates the interest which I find admirable. This is definately the way history should be written.
I was disappointed by the maps at the beginning of each book: they only give a very vague idea of where things are happening, and I would have loved to have seen what areas the Empire controlled at various points in its history. It seems a shame to have to look elsewhere for such maps, considering the quality of the writing.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A narrative to rate with the greatest 4 Dec 2005
This was the first book i ever read on Byzantium, loaned to me via my history teacher (Kinghorn) and since then i have rarely had the book out of my possession. It is a truely gripping tale detailing the rise and then fall of the Comneni dynasty, the sack of the city by the travesty that was the fourth crusade, the final revival, and then the glorious fall of Constantinople. Norwich has a flair for the dramatic, and he knows how to spin a yarn so to speak, as he charts the decline of the greatest metropolis in the world, until it ends up empty, hollow and impoverished. Sadly, so many historians share the bias of Gibbon, and have had a tendency to loathe Byzantium as a corrupt and decadent civilisation, and this is perhaps the best major work a reader can find. Though the maps are small, they detail key locations, and generally give you an idea of the area, all that is needed. By the end of the book, you will nearly be in tears at the pitifulness of what was a great empire at the beginning of the book.
A book that should be read by all, detailing the most glorious end to any empire on earth.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning conclusion to an amazing trilogy 20 Mar 2006
I defy you not to read this work in one sitting. Norwich's final hours of Byzantium are tinged with sadness, stupidity and remarkable valour on the part of the final Emperor. This is a beautiful book which leaves the reader's curiosity about this remarkable empire parched - you will want to study more about Byzantium when you finish this trilogy - Norwich's account of the siege of 1453 is amazing - filled with real empathy for the people he has divested a great deal of time he has spent writing about. A stunning conclusion to his 'magnus opus.'
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For a long time to come this trilogy of books will be the first and last word for the general reader looking to learn about this most vibrant, fascinating, ignored and downright misunderstood of civilisations.

Now that I'm drawing to a close with volume three, I wanted to take the time to give an overview of the whole series of books. I'll say first that these are really first rate books, the kind of history text that you could give to anyone an they'd enjoy them and learn from them. Norwich is a wonderful writer, with a confident grasp of the facts and possessed of an urbane, engaging and fluent style.

He is also disarmingly honest about his books' perceived limitations. Look elsewhere, he says, if you are a scholar who wants to learn from something new. Look elsewhere also if you want a real nuts and bolts account of dailt life and socio-ecomonic history of the empire. That's not to say he doesn't give us glimpses of what daily and spiritual life might have been like for the ordinary Byzantine. But for the most parts it's the key events and the key players that interest him and us.

VOLUME THREE is the spectacular culmination of Norwich's trilogy. Of course, we all know what's coming, but that doesn't make it any less hard-hitting when we read about the fall of Constantinople. After hundreds of pages and months of reading, it almost felt like someone I knew had died! This book is slightly different in tone again from its predecessors, in that it deals with history on the broadest of canvasses. How could it be otherwise? This was a time when Byzantium was caught up in- and eventually swept away by- events and antagonists coming at it from both east and west. This book covers the period of the crusades and the rise of the Turks to true preeminence.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Not quite as great as Part 1 & 2 but still amazing, paticularly the final fall. Definitely worth getting the three parter rather than the short version in my opinion.
Published 8 months ago by loondoob
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
This, the final volume of a three book series, brings to end a rivetting and excellent history of the Byzantium Empire. Read more
Published 10 months ago by joao vicente
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent work
What a great work on Byzantium,a must have for History boffins,Great and easy read,at times humourous and really gripping. Read more
Published on 27 Aug 2012 by Tony Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great end to a great trilogy
Of all 3 I enjoyed this one the most. Very moving. Made me shed a tear at the final chapter.
Published on 17 April 2012 by DavesTheName
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable historical survey
I knew the general outline of Byzantine history, but a lot of the detail was just a blank to me. No longer. Read more
Published on 17 Mar 2011 by Jezza
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Just as good as the previous two volumes. Though it can be a little bit sad at times reading about the fall of the Byzantium Empire.

A fantastic book. Read more
Published on 18 Nov 2010 by The Emperor
5.0 out of 5 stars A sad decline of a great civilisation
The story of the Byzantine empire is rivettingly told by Norwich - how in effect the Roman empire continued well into the next millenium but slowly and inexorably succumbing to the... Read more
Published on 25 Jun 2009 by Aquinas
The last in the trilogy whose title again imitates Gibbons and whose style is as readable and captivating. Read more
Published on 30 Jan 2008 by Hillpaul
4.0 out of 5 stars Full Stop
Most empires only fade away; Byzantium died spectacularly. It's a rare example in history of a definite full stop, the end of 2000 years of the old Graeco-Roman civilisation. Read more
Published on 27 April 2005
5.0 out of 5 stars The Trilogy Comes to an End
Many factual books are readable, informative and stirring. But rarely are they moving. Byzantium: The Decline and Fall manages to be all of the above and so much more. Read more
Published on 2 Jun 2004 by D. Evans
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