on 2 August 2011
I'm usually a fan of the VSI series, but for me this fails absolutely as an introduction to late antiquity because as I find it so dodgy on areas where I do have some knowledge, I can't trust the author on the areas which are new to me. It is also obsessed with Augustine. Once the author moves beyond Augustine, and perhaps neo-platonism, everything becomes rather fragile, and, occasionally, bizarre. Augustine was certainly a formidable figure, but almost everything, in a volume covering c250-750 CE, is referred back, at one point or another, and in a rather uncritical and decontextualised reading, to Augustine. For example the index reveals Augustine mentioned on 31 out of 116 pages, that is over a quarter of the book, and it is by far the largest entry in the index. By comparison the index indicates both Constantine and Constantinople are on 9 pages, and Justinian on 10. There are numerous lengthy quotes, but the reader is rarely made aware of the sources of the quotes. Tellingly the author's blurb only mentions previous editorial activity. There is no mention of authored work.