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The Chronicle of Theophanes: Anni Mundi, 6095-6305 (A.D.602-813) (The Middle Ages Series) [Paperback]

The Confessor Theophanes , Harry Turtledove

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Book Description

1 April 2006 The Middle Ages Series
The most important illuminating source that survived from the two centuries termed "the dark ages of Byzantium" is the chronicle of the monk Theophanes (d. 817 or 818). In it Theophanes paints a vivid picture of the Empire's struggle in the seventh and eighth centuries both to withstand foreign invasions and to quell internal religious conflicts. Theophanes's carefully developed chronological scheme was mined extensively by later Byzantine and Western record keepers; his chronicle was used as a source of information as well as a stylistic model. It is for us the framework upon which all Byzantine chronology for this period must be based. Important topics covered by the Chronicle include:
  • The Empire's struggle to repel explosive Arab expansionism and the Bulgar invasion.
  • The iconoclastic controversy, which caused civil war within Byzantium and led to schism between the churches of Constantinople and Rome.
  • The development of the Byzantine thematic system, the administrative and social structure that would bring the Empire to the height of its power and prosperity.
Almost all the sources used by Theophanes have perished, leaving his chronicle as the most important historical literature from this period. Turledove's translation makes available in English this crucial primary text for the study of medieval Byzantine civilization. Harry Turtledove has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, and at California State University at Fullerton. He is a prolific novelist who has written historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction.

Frequently Bought Together

The Chronicle of Theophanes: Anni Mundi, 6095-6305 (A.D.602-813) (The Middle Ages Series) + Fourteen Byzantine Rulers: The Chronographia of Michael Psellus (Classics) + A History of Byzantium (Blackwell History of the Ancient World)
Price For All Three: 51.68

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Product details

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (1 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812211286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812211283
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 22.9 x 1.3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 384,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Harry Turtledove has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, and at California State University at Fullerton. He is a prolific novelist who has written historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shedding light on a dimly understood period 7 Dec 2007
By Florentius - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This excerpt from the Chronicle of Theophanes is a useful work covering a period in Late Roman/Early Byzantine history where the primary source material is scanty at best. Indeed, for the period covered here between AD 602 and AD 813, Theophanes is, sadly, the best we've got.

This portion of the chronicle sheds light on the eventful reigns of Heraclius, Justinian II, Leo III, Constantine V, and the Empress Irene, among others. It details the conquest of much of the Roman east by the forces of Islam, as well as the on-again-off-again Iconoclastic convulsions of the 8th century. Aside from a few minor typos, the translation seems to be readable and well-executed.

My only minor quibble is that the translator does not give any indication of the criticisms historians commonly reserve for Theophanes--that his chronology is sometimes strangely inaccurate, as if to fill up the years where his sources had little data, he simply moved in passages from other years.

Regardless, this is a valuable historical work and Turtledove is to be commended for making it available in a form that allows general readers easy access to it.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Chronicle 29 Mar 2006
By llywrch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I own an earlier paperback printing. The book was originally published in 1982.

Turtledove's translation is clear & simple, avoiding the affected 19th-century diction some translators slip into. One topic the Editorial Review above overlooks is that Theophanes provides a rather coherent account of the Islamic conquest of the Middle East & North Africa. If you are interested in the history of the Byzantine Empire, this is one primary source you should own.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine, accesable translation of Theophanes 29 April 2009
By Kirialax - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Harry Turtledove has done a good job translating this snippet of Theophanes. The translation is crisp and most of the transliterations are well done. Occasionally some modern colloquialism sneaks in, but it is usually minor. Turtledove does an excellent job in rendering Greek wordplay and puns into English, and the fact that he cites it in the footnotes just goes to improve this edition.

Nonetheless, this edition isn't perfect. The issue of length may lie with the publisher, as Penn Press has similarly sized editions of the Strategikon and Gunther of Paris' history. Starting at Phokas doesn't provide the reader enough background, and while the text from Phokas on may be the only historically valuable part, would it have been so hard to add the reign of Maurikios? Additionally, the notes occasionally aren't all that useful or critical. While they often describe transliterated Greek terms, they are not sufficient to make this the standard edition of Theophanes. It's value lies in its availability and afford-ability, something that the Mango text cannot claim.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very important source and a darn fine read! 30 Jan 2009
By Ronald L. Shimek - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Dr. Turtledove's translation achieves a rare goal: a clear treatment that is not only an important historical reference but also "a good read." Although Theophanes must take primary credit for the historical content, I think Turtledove must be credited with the latter. My only gripe is that while this treatment is moderately well footnoted, I would have liked to see a bit more information about sources of information, perhaps in an "afterword."

Modern treatments of this period are often superficial and imply that the interactions between "Romania" (Theophane's term)and the Arabs were one-sided with the Byzantines always coming out second best;Theophanes clearly shows that such a view is far too simple. Turtledove's well-chosen words allow the reader to get a grasp of the complexity of the situation.

The detail of Byzantine political and religous strife is cleanly detailed - obviously by a translator well-familiar with the material. The translator has the choice of the words and phrases to present to the reader; an uninspired translation can be spot on with the correct words, but dreadully dull and pedantic. The stupified reader loses context, interest, and fact in these situations. Fortunately, Turtledove has a natural-born writer's grasp of the "turn of a phrase" that keeps the factual heart of the translation true to the author's intent while making the narrative not only readable but in many places, quite gripping. Unusual for such a scholarly work, this book is, in places, literally "a page turner."

I would urge this book to any historian of this period, be their interest vocational or avocational. It provides insight into a period of history that - for most Americans - is poorly understood and seldom read about. This short book provides a great deal of information that helps remedy both failings.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Chronicle of Theophanes 31 May 2012
By Bookworm - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the paperback edition of the translation of the Chronicle of Theophanes by Harry Turtledove, published by the university of Pennsylvania press. The translation covers the years AD 602 to 814. The Greek chronicle actually starts with Diocletian, about AD285, a date often used as an era by Eastern Christian sources. However Theophanes only becomes a primary source after 602, because all of the sources he used after that date have not survived. Theophanes is the fullest source I am aware of upon the tyrrany of Phokas, who is up there with Caligula, Nero and Commodus in the rankings of imperial crazies. He preserves what I think is a Christian idealised account of the great campaigns of Heraclius, and he gives an account of the early conquests of Islam attributing Christian disaster to imperial heresy, and there is some implication of blaming the Jews and heretic Nestorians for the problems of the empire. he is almost the only source for the first, little recorded siege of Constantinoplie by the forces of the Khalif Muawiyah in the years 673 onwards.He is a fuller source for the second siege in 717, and the Iconoclast/Iconodule religious conflict of the Eighth century, of the reign of the empress Irene, and the Bulgar victory of Krum, and the defeat and death of the emperor Nikephorus in 811.

The introduction tells us what we know about the chronicler, indicating that his chronicle survives because of the close links between his family and the Macedonian dynasty. It describes some of the Chronological problems arrising from the complex chronological structure of the chronicle.Theophanes uses Anno Mundi dates for every year, and then enters the regnal and episcopal year for the Pope, the bishop of Constantinople, the reigning emperor and the eastern potentate - Persian up to c640, Muslim after that date. The AM date used is 5,500 BC = 1BC. There is a small error of about 1 year between these two sources, (probably arising from using AD1 as the base year? Theophanes also uses AD dates for some entries, and oddly these are always 7/8 yerars too early, not just in the early entries, but also in the last entries, made in Theophanes own life. Hence for Theophanes Michael 1 is proclaimed emperor in AD804, and not AD811/812, the true date. How could Theophanes not know an AD date for an event ten years before the time he was writing? If they were inserted later, why would the ammender of the text not ensure his corrections were accurate to at least a year or so? Harry Turtledove gives a brief summary of the sources and construction of the chronicle, and a set of tables on the post holders whose dates are used to buttress the chronicle by Theophanes.
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