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Fourteen Byzantine Rulers: The Chronographia of Michael Psellus (Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Michael Psellus , E. R. A. Sewter
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This chronicle of the Byzantine Empire, beginning in 1025, shows a profound understanding of the power politics that characterized the empire and led to its decline.

Product Description

About the Author

E. R. A. Sewter was a well-known Byzantine scholar and the editor of Greece and Rome. His translation of The Alexiad of Anna Comnena is still published in Penguin Classics. He died in 1976.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1283 KB
  • Print Length: 404 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (27 Sept. 1979)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9R8E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #289,397 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Michael Psellus, a court official in Constantinople, witnessed Byzantium's rapid military decline after it reached its peak at the death of Basil II. He paints a vivid picture of how bickering and scheming Court officials, combined with the astonishing succession of over 8 Emperors in 36 years after Michael IV (all fairly mediocre; in terms of their competence at least) led to the destruction of Byzantium's ambition and former reality of being a world power at the battle of Manzikert 1071.
This title should not present too many problems for those without much knowledge of the period in Byzantium as Psellus's text is nicely self contained, though a grasp of the general situation outside of the Empire may be useful to the reader. Byzantine idiom, such as Porphyrogenitus etc... are explained in the introduction and footnotes.
Psellus writes with first hand knowledge and erudition, the introduction is great and I heartily recommend his Chronographia to anyone interested in this period.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must about 11th century Bizantium 27 Sept. 2005
Fine edition of an oft forgotten (but indeed important) opus in Byzantine literature and history. The author, Michael Psellus (1018-1078 A.D.), born of an aristocratic family, was a pupil of John Mauropous (Archbishop of Euchaita), became Professor of Rhetoric and then, after being introduced to the court by Michael V, rose to be a first hand spectator of the rise and demise of several emperors, having occupied the posts of Secretary of State, Prime Minister and Grand Chamberlain. This explains why this is a valuable memoir of a contemporary witness to Byzantine life and the workings of the imperial court, under several rulers, from the reign of Basil II (976-1025) to the reign of Michael VII (1071-1078). Originally published as the first whole translation in English of Psellus work in 1953, under the title The Cronographia of Michael Psellus , this revised edition is a wonderful tool for those interested in Byzantine history. The scarce or relative interest that occurred in the field of Byzantine literature until a century ago, compared to the classical period, comprehensive of Greek and Roman history up to the reign of Justinian, has been surpassed due to the fine work of several modern scholars. But it has been clearly noticed that in addition to the well known classical works of Procopius, Menander Protector and Leo Diaconos, this opus by Psellus is unsurpassed or unique for the study of the period covered by the author. Indeed, he was in a position to fully comprehend the events that occurred at the death of Basil II (who ruled for more than 40 years, crushed rebellions, rescued the Empire's army, finances and pride ) in 1078, and the particular decadence that ensued in the following generations due to the unworthiness of the following rulers. Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
From the reign of Constantine IX onwards Psellus was a court insider so anything he has to say on this crucial period of Byzantine history is of the first importance. He is at pains to insist that he is writing history and not enconiums but he certainly can get pretty close to the latter, especially when writing about Constantine X and his son Michael VII. The accompanying footnotes remind us that neither of them deserved such fulsome praise. He is often self serving too, reminding us again and again that he is a philosopher and accomplished in just about all the other arts - a doctor for example, and a better military strategist than Romanus IV, though he never was even in the army far less led one! He makes quite a few digressions to tell us about his own career despite repeatedly telling us that he doesn't want to. He is very proud of his writing style and rhetorical abilities but his metaphors can be very laboured and (unintentionally) comical. Perhaps the height of his conceit is when he tells us how the Empress Eudocia regarded him : "In fact, she looked upon me as someting divine." (p345) Only a few lines later he recounts how she married Romanus Diogenes in secret and against his advice. Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, it is a brilliant book. He gives wonderfully concise snapshots of the follies and foibles of these emperors and empresses. He has a wicked sense of humour and can do a character assassination in a few mischievious lines. He wrings his hands in supposed anguish as he systematically destroys the reputation of Constantine IX, the emperor who first employed him and was his friend. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fourteen byzantine rulers 27 July 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
reading this book you know where the phrase byzantine comes from full of conspiracy, role playing at court and the survival of the dynasty
easy to read story of rise and fall of emperors and empresses of varied talent
the best part is the lovers raised from obscurity and often betrayed by the elderly empress sisters zoe and theodora
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars satisfactory 18 Jan. 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
from the first impression, this book seems no more than mere diagnosis from Basil 2 until michael 8th . However, it is a good supplemetary add collection for anyone who is interested in the Byzantine saga not only that it covered important phases , but also the author himself has lived among most of the emperors because of his political stamina as well as his social status wich gave him a narrative advantage in describing the political as well as historical circumstances that surrounded Bizantium.
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