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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read, 20 Mar 2006
By 
madradubh (The Universe) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1 (Paperback)
Norwich from the outset says that this book is not for academics - with that in mind we can settle down to a glorious read. The book is a fast paced easy to follow read and will enthrall new readers and students of Byzantium alike. Norwich's has a wonderful conversational tone and gives the feeling of a sly guide into this world. You feel his passion for the era and his juicy and scandalous gossip approach to controversial events or naughty titbits is briliant. This book cannot come with high enough praise - you will not be able to put it down - enjoy.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent narrative history about a fascinating city & culture, 28 Sep 2006
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1 (Paperback)
Starting with Constantine and his rather dubious 'conversion' to christianity (i.e. he never quite got round, like most Romans, to abandoning the pagan gods... just in case!) this is a wonderfully succinct and almost luxurious history of not just the city of Byzantium but the culture and context of it. Norwich is excellent on the twilight of the roman empire, a period little known, understood or written about, but also peoples his history with vivid character portraits. He wears his learning extremely lightly making even the complexities of religious debate and heresies comprehensible for the layman, although there are times where he takes too much knowledge for granted (e.g. when discussing Arian and the Donatists, he doesn't bother to explain who the Donatists are). However this is a minor quibble and it doesn't slow up the narrative at all. Altogether an excellent read.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Byzantine History for everyone, 24 Aug 2002
This review is from: Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1 (Paperback)
Although I am not an expert, I have read numerous books on the subject of Byzantium, in Greek and in English, varying from school textbooks, to the widely accepted books of famous scholars like Vasiliev and Ostrogorski. I must admit that John Julius Norwich in his trilogy "Byzantium", is succesful in producing by far the most intriguing and "easy" byzantine history books that I have read. Once started, it is very diffcult to lay the book back on the table. This is partly due to the fascinating nature of Byzantine history, but also to the wonderful writing style of John Julius Norwich; he not only has a deep knowledge of the subject, but he is also a great writer. His book conveys the full scale of historical events and characters of the history of a christian empire born out of the ashes of the Roman state.
Founded in 330, a year that marks the glorious opening of the "city of cities", Constantinople, Byzantine history ends with the sacking and destruction of this very same city by the turkish hords in 1453, that has since stood on the Bosporus only to remind us of its past greatness. During its 1123 years, the empire progressed to an unforeseen glory and wealth in all aspects of human activity, and has laid the foundation of Europe and the Western civilization in general.
This first book covers the first four centuries, starting from the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great, the founder of Constantinople, and ends with Irene the Athenian, that ruled in the East during the days of Charlemagne in the West.
Dates and important events are noted in the headers of every odd page, making random reference very easy. The book comes in its usual poor paperback quality.
If you decide to buy this book, which I personnaly strongly recommend, I believe that you'd better buy all three books of Norwich's "Byzantium" series together. They are definitely worth it.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and entertaining history, 16 Jan 2001
By 
emilycleaver@hotmail.com (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1 (Paperback)
The first instalment of John Julius Norwich's trilogy telling the story of the Byzantine Empire will leave you itching to get on with the next two books. It may sound like a bit of a stuffy history marathon, but in fact it reads more like an block-busting epic. The history is told with lots of engaging details, such as the Emperor Constantine pacing out the walls of his new city of Constantinople, to mysterious reports of the secret weapon Greek Fire which made Constantinople an undefeated stronghold for centuries.
The book successfully engages our interest in an Empire which had been written off by Western historians as corrupt and worthless. The reader is introduced to a huge and rather confusing cast of colourful characters, but John Julius Norwich's own obvious fascination with the personalities of the emperors and other major players is transmitted very successfully to the reader, and the book is full of memorable figures. There is also a wealth of political intrigue, lots of failed marriages and an array of battles, all set against the majestic gold and incense saturated background of Byzantine architecture and art.
This is a great read, and will appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in the period or the place. If you haven't a clue what the Byzantine Empire was, this is the painless place to find out. Read the next two volumes for the story of why it's now Istanbul not Constantinople ...
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read, 3 May 2003
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This review is from: Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1 (Paperback)
This is a wonderful book. Of course, this is so-called "popular history" and therefore - it is clearly stated in the foreword - it is not made for scholars and researches.
As far as the rest of the world, this is a highly readable account of the first centuries of the byzantine empire.
Norwich's style is addictive: a good balance between a synopsis of the available sources (which he seems to have studied quite well, by the way) and tasty anecdotes. Briefly, you won't put it away until you have finished it. Here events are mainly explained on the basis of individual motives, such as ambition, envy, skill, cruelty: like Cornelius Nepos did a few centuries ago.
Little description is given of the administrative and economic organisation of the empire, and theological debates (very important at the time) are also explained.
But still, if you want an enjoyable, beautifully written and serious history of the byzantine empire, buy this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Change your world, in three charming books, 29 Jun 2009
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This review is from: Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1 (Paperback)
I'm trying to think of some area of the arts and humanities of which this series of books has not affected my understanding. History (duh: but not just Byzantine, it provided me a framework for the whole period), Geography, Art, Architecture (admittedly, indirectly), Theology...

In short, these books lead me, as a humble student, to spend a considerable amount to go exploring Turkey. Buy them, read them, experience them for yourself: I cannot vouch for them enough.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is how History should be written., 14 July 2007
This review is from: Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1 (Paperback)
Having read Steven Runciman's epic trilogy of the Crusades, which I though until now was the best set of history books available, John Julius Norwich's account of Byzantine History easily equals it (if not surpasses it). Characters, heroes, villains and battles are all brought to life by the author. This book is quite succinct, in that it doesn't go into painful detail, just regurgitating facts and figures. It captures the time, mood and atmosphere vividly. I could go on and on, point being - buy this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining History, 16 May 2012
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This review is from: Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1 (Paperback)
Criticisms first, I found it slightly old fashioned and could have
benefitted from a few maps etc.
Ignoring these minor faults I have to say this was a truly entertaining version of events.
How funny can a history of Early Byzantium be?
Believe it or not the answer is very, when written by Mr Norwich.
Highly recommended.
Not just funny but highly informative.
Can't wait to read parts II & III.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. Just wow., 7 April 2011
This review is from: Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1 (Paperback)
I read a lot of history. And although I am only 200 odd pages into the first of this trilogy, I am moved to write a review becuase it is, quite simply, fantastic.

I am such a fan of history, I'll read anything, even textbooks. But for a treat, you cannot beat a real "storyteller". I don't know why, perhaps because he was never a historian, but John Julius Norwich is a master at making history come to life and, most importantly, telling the story. And Byzantium (so far - I'm only as far as Justinian) is one hell of a ripping yarn.

If you like history, you'll relish these books. One of the best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining, 18 Nov 2010
By 
The Emperor (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1 (Paperback)
A fantastic book. JJ Norwich is a great writer. The endless parade of rulers and religious disputes in Byzantium's history can get a bit tiring but he does very well in keeping it interesting. His personal views are always well measured and considered and he clearly indicates where there are areas of controversy.
This is a general history and I think that in a few areas there have been some new discoveries but this book is still considered to be accurate.
A very pleasurable read.
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Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1
Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1 by John Julius Norwich (Paperback - 6 Dec 1990)
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