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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The bad thing is that this is the last volume...., 19 Aug 2003
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This review is from: Byzantium: The Decline and Fall (Paperback)
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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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart rending history as the Roman Empire dies fighting, 3 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Byzantium: The Decline and Fall (Paperback)
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A narrative to rate with the greatest, 4 Dec 2005
This review is from: Byzantium: The Decline and Fall (Paperback)
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings Byzantium to Life, 3 Jan 2004
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This review is from: Byzantium: The Decline and Fall (Paperback)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reviewing the trilogy: Volume Three, in which Norwich describes in sometimes agonising detail the crumbling of the empire., 29 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Byzantium: The Decline and Fall (Paperback)
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. And yet the book and consequently the whole trilogy ends on a note of indivdual pathos, as we learn of what happened to the descendents of the last Emperor.

All in all, Norwich's wonderful trilogy is one of those works that covers so many different topics that your subsequent reading may well go off in many enriching directions. On the back of reading these books, not only have I woken up to the richness of Balkan, Turkish, and middle eastern history, but it's given me a clearer take on church history, later roman history, and, of course, the splendour of Byzantine art and architecture. Next stop Istanbul, to see Hagia Sofia for myself!
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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
By 
madradubh (The Universe) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Byzantium: The Decline and Fall (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Trilogy Comes to an End, 2 Jun 2004
By 
D. Evans - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Byzantium: The Decline and Fall (Paperback)
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.
John Julius Norwich has achieved something great in that he can actually move the reader to the plight of a long destroyed civilisation.

His description of the long decline of the Byzantine Empire makes for painful reading. The fighting between the Orthodox and the Latin Christians, the plunder and destruction of Constantinople by the Crusaders and the collapse of dynasties are all covered. They all tell of an empire going through a long miserable death, but John Norwich manages to filter through these seperate events to reach a synthesis - lucidly explaining how the Empire was finally overwhelmed and destroyed.

It is in the final section of the book that the story is at its most powerful, as John Norwich tells us in dramatic descriptions how the Ottomans stormed the walls, and how Constantine XI died fighting for his city and his people.

I first read this trilogy about four years ago, and it still remains one of the finest narrative histories I have ever read. John Norwich is a fine historian who is able to write in a fluent and accessible way.

My only criticism of it is that it centers too much on the leading figures: the Emperors, generals and patriarchs, and less on the ordinary people who made up the bulk of the empire's population.

I personally believe that the Byzantium trilogy almost reaches the heights of Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall, but it just falls short of this achievement. Nonetheless it's quite an achievement all the same. A must read for anyone interested in the decline of an Empire whose demise brought about the beginning of the modern world.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BYZANTIUM: THE DECLINE AND FALL - JOHN JULIUS NORWICH, 30 Jan 2008
By 
Hillpaul (West Sussex, GB) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Byzantium: The Decline and Fall (Paperback)
The last in the trilogy whose title again imitates Gibbons and whose style is as readable and captivating. Where Norwich differs is his deep understanding and I would say love of this much-neglected area of history and goes a great way to redressing the balance toward a better understanding of this tragic empire which so long stood as bulwark as well as a relic. No more so than its Western counterparts did it have its share of good and bad men acting heroically or venally according to character, but Norwich does go a long way to addressing the misconceptions and prejudices that Gibbon helped to nourish in the popular mind.
Well illustrated with maps and family trees to help with the confusing proliferation of dynasties
And always in the background, muffled at first but ever louder, the drum-beat of the Turk coming closer and closer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 11 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Byzantium: The Decline and Fall (Paperback)
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I love it, 14 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Byzantium: The Decline and Fall (Paperback)
This, the final volume of a three book series, brings to end a rivetting and excellent history of the Byzantium Empire. I cannot add anything to the other reviews and comments on this series other than to say if your enjoy reading about history you should love these accounts of this Empire and its times. I found my first volume in a second hand bookshop without knowing anything about its author or the subject matter.
The author does a great job in bringing the characters and times to live
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Byzantium: The Decline and Fall
Byzantium: The Decline and Fall by John Julius Norwich (Paperback - 31 Oct 1996)
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