on 4 January 2007
Much as I love reading history one of my more frequent gripes, however well written the narrative in a book, is the lack of maps and illustrations. With a topic like Byzantium where the empire gained and lost territory with dizzying frequency flicking to line drawn maps at the front of a book is tedious in the extreme. This is undoubtedly where this book scores, every page has illustrations and there must be more maps than any other Byzantine book Ive come across.
In terms of narrative given the space given over to the illustrations its obviously an overview though topics such as iconoclasm get their own sections. The key advantage the book has is the life it breathes into its subject. For the best narrative starting point on Byzantium still go to John Julius Norwich's Short History but to get a sense of the scale of Byzantium this will whet your appetite enormously.
on 14 July 2015
Before reading this book I would strongly recommend 'The Complete Chronicle of the Emperors of Rome ' by the same author. The two books have a similar style, although I personally would like to see this book take the same uniform approach as the above mentioned as 'Byzantium' strays from that uniformity by including photographs and even some drawings of period soldiers.
Perhaps Roger Michael Kean would consider writing a book named ' The Complete Chronicle of the Emperors Of Byzantium' and with the help of the illustrator Oliver frey produce the same uniform feeling to the artwork without the need for photos etc.
Byzantium succeeds in the same way as 'The Complete Chronicle of the Emperors of Rome' by mixing a easy to read narrative that is very informative on the subject matter but also on occasion gives little titbits of knowledge on related subjects. Where this book differs however is that it recalls the events and characters of Byzantium rather than a low down on each emperor and the events in their lives and thus the empires. This means that some of the lesser emperors share their stories intermingled with the events and other emperors and characters within a similar period and so the dating in some of the narrative can dominate the detail in parts.
The book is brought together by its numerous maps. These are the defining feature of the book and allow constant reference points to the narrative that I find indispensable.
I strongly recommend that this book be your starting point if you are interested in byzantine history and that it be your reference book for the more knowledgeable people out there because of its very useful map work.