Listener MK has kindly sent us his Byzantine bibliography to give you some more reading suggestions. As ever you can find my bibliography at the top right of this site. But have a read below for interesting comments and insights on books covering the whole period. Thanks Michael 🙂
A Partial Bibliography of Byzantium by Michael Kaiser
I am by no means an expert on this vast and complicated subject but rather a life-long interested observer/hobbyist. To be honest I found the Byzantine Empire by mistake. I was an eighteen year old freshman in college, there to wrestle (as I am sure people know in America sports are intertwined with University life). I was a history major(the only subject I was remotely competent in while in high school) and was assigned Byzantium. An Introduction to East Roman Civilization by Norman H. Baynes; H. St. L. B. Moss, A. H. M. Jones to read. I had no earthy idea what I was reading or why. It was a tough slog for an undisciplined adolescent mind but I finished and was fascinated. The fascination never let me go, two trips to Istanbul and the Balkans and a retirement spent reading everything I could get my hands on have left me feeling that I have only scratched the surface. I am so thankful for the podcast and all of the listener support and comments. I hope in some way this is a tiny contribution.
A Note: Some of the books I mention have already been cited but I wanted to provide an endorsement for them and their authors. I am the first to admit this list may be slightly top heavy with books about Theodora. In my humble opinion she was the last “Rock Star” of the ancient world rivaled only by Cleopatra (read Stacy Schiff’s book, Cleopatra: A Life…compelling). Her life would make for powerfully entertaining movie. I cannot believe no one has thought of that idea.
Without further ado, here is the bibliography:
Things that come in handy for keeping track of what is going on:
Habdas, William and Abigail. The Byzantine Emperors V. 8.0. Available at ITunes.com, 2014. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
An app. With a thumbnail sketch of every Byzantine Emperor from Constantine the Great to Constantine XI Palaiologos. The perfect bedside companion for keeping track of who is who. The emperors are listed by dynasty and chronological order.
Electric Pocket. BookLover. Available at ITunes.com. A great way to keep track of your reading material. You can scan your books into the app., or type the Name, Author and ISBN number into the entry page and it will automatically give you cover art. I have organized my books into three categories: “Reading Now,”, “Past Reads’” and a “Wish list” shelf so if I come across something I want to purchase later, I will remember it. The app is very easy to use. If you have questions about the app. Contact: email@example.com.
Boshilov, Ivan, Illustrated by: Atanas Atanassov, Rossen Toshev, Emilian Stankev, Plamen Vulchev, and Hristo Hadjitanev. Rulers of the Byzantine Empire from Constantine I the Great to Constantine XI Paleologus. Sofia, Bulgaria: Kibea Publishing House, 2005.
Robin has posted pictures from this book on the website. The entire volume is beautifully illustrated with short biographies of the emperors that the authors deem significant. My only disappointment was that there were no women included, Theodora, Irene, Zoe, etc. None-the-less if you are a Byzantine history buff, this book is definitely worth adding to your collection. It is available on Amazon or at the Bulgarian Tourist Ministry Bookstore. For more information contact: www.kibea.net.
Haldon, John. The Palgrave Atlas of Byzantine History. London, England: Palgrave/McMillian Publishing, 2005, 2010.
Robin’s selections of maps on the website are excellent and they inspired me to purchase something I could have at my fingertips. The scope of the demographic/geographic information contained in this volume is probably more than the average history buff would ever need or use. Still for those of us who are visual learners/geographically challenged, the maps come in very handy. The book is available at Amazon.
For the Younger Reader:
Someone posted the question if there was material available on the Byzantine Empire for younger readers. The following selection would be an excellent choice:
Barrett, Tracy. Anna of Byzantium. New York, New York: Fallen Leaf Publishing Company, 2000.
This description comes from Amazon:
“This uneven first novel is narrated by Anna, the first-born daughter of the Emperor of Byzantium, poised to inherit the throne. Inspired by the real Anna Comnena (1083-1153) who chronicled her father’s reign in The Alexiad, the story begins in a convent, where 17-year-old Anna lives in exile. Most of the book flashes back to the princess’s upbringing and her attempt on her brother John’s life that led to her monastic imprisonment.”
Personally I found the book to be fascinating in terms of palace intrigue and the constant jockeying for power between the Ducas and Comnene families. Also Anna, views John II in a far different light than history has.
The book is recommended for grades 6-12 but in my opinion it is a good read for adults also; especially if you want a quick overview of the Byzantine court at this particular period in history.
I have included a link to a comprehensive guide for teaching this book in a classroom and a link with student reviews of the book. This book is available at Amazon in Kindle, hardcover, and paperback and on ITunes as an IBook.
http://www.cmlibrary.org/readers_club/reviews/tresults.asp?id=1755 Anna of Byzantium Reader Reviews courtesy the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Public Library
Brownworth, Lars. Lost to the West. New York, New York: Crown Publishing, 2009.
This is a history book that reads like a fast-paced novel. It moves you through a complex period of history with ease and makes you want to know more. There is an accompanying podcast, Twelve Byzantine Emperors that is available on ITunes. It follows the outline of the book. The book is available at both ITunes and Amazon.
Veyne, Paul, Editor. A History of Private Life from Pagan Rome to Byzantium. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1987.
While most of this book is devoted to life in the Western Empire there is a section written by Evelyn Patlagean (1932-2008, a French historian and Byzantinist) that details day-to-day life in the empire during the 10th and 11th centuries (pp.641-553).
Herrin, Judith. Women in Purple, Rulers of Medieval Byzantium, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001.
Theoretically all power in Byzantium flowed from the male side of the family, reality was another matter. This book chronicles the lives of three empresses who ruled independently, and changed the religious and political landscape of the medieval empire. Dr. Herrin is a phenomenal scholar and a captivating writer.
Herrin, Judith. Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007.
A unique take on the telling of Byzantine history. Rather than a strict chronological approach, Dr. Herrin, focuses on different aspects of society. A fascinating read.
Both books are available at Amazon.
Herrin, Judith. What is Byzantium? A podcast available through ITunes U.
Prokopios, (Edited and Translated by Anthony Kaldellis). The Secret History. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, 2010.
If Prokopios did not invent the “Kiss and Tell All,” writing format, he certainly perfected it. Secretary to Count Belisarius, he had a front-row seat to the events in the court of Justinian and Theodora. As the notes on the back cover of this edition state,” By exposing the perversion, repression, corruption and injustice at the heart of Justinian’s regime, Prokopios’ The Secret History destroyed forever that emperor’s reputation as the great and benevolent ruler of a vast Byzantine state.” If Prokopios were alive today he would be making talk show appearances and attending book signing parties. His book, The Six Wars, is available at ITunes and Amazon.
Evans, James Allan. The Power Game in Byzantium: Antonina and the Empress Theodora. New York and London: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011.
The relationship between the two life-long friends and its influence on the politics, the religious policies, and wars of conquest during the reign of Justinian. Available at Amazon.
Duffy, Stella. Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore. New York: New York: Penguin Books, 2011.
Duffy, Stella. The Purple Shroud. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2012.
This is a two part biography of Theodora. The first book tells the story of her youth and young adulthood while the second focuses on her reign as empress, her relationship with Justinian and the people closest to her. I highly recommend both of these books. Both books are available at Amazon and ITunes in several different formats.
Thornton, Stephanie. The Secret History: The Life of the Empress Theodora. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2013.
Written in a style that makes Theodora seems a bit more contemporary, she comes across as strong, resourceful, witty, and ambitious even as a child. Well-written, very entertaining. Available on ITunes and Amazon.
Elson, Elizabeth. Theodora of Constantinople. 2013. An e-published book available on both Amazon Kindle and ITunes.
The Amazon review gives this book four stars and states, “The book examines the events that allowed this controversial personality to reach beyond class status, deception, and political maneuvering to create her own unique destiny and carve her place in the history of the Byzantines.”
She has also written, Julia: Rome’s Daughter, The story of Octavian’s daughter and her role in the political life of the Roman Empire.
Strickland, Carol. The Eagle and the Swan. 2013. An e-published book for both Apple ( IPad users must download the Kindle app first) and Kindle devices. Available at Amazon or at the website: www.theeagleandtheswan.com/readers-club. The website has great information about the main characters, the plot, as well as a place you can blog about the book.
Amazon has a brief description of the plot,” Theodora was a circus performer and daughter of the bear-keeper, until she caught the eye of a clever young military officer. The soldier and the swan dancer set out on a treacherous path to power that would lead all the way to the throne.”
Spector, Reynold. She Smiled on Constantinople: A Novel of Ancient Byzantium. Lulu.com, 2008.
The Iconoclast Movement viewed through the eyes of the fictional character, Nicetas Beser, an advisor and historian in the Byzantine Court. The book covers the period from Leo III-Irene (717-802 A.D.) and a little beyond. As one reviewer states, “Spector paints a believable picture of life behind Constantinople’s thick walls.” Informative and entertaining, available at Amazon and ITunes.”
Harris, Christopher. Memoirs of a Byzantine Eunuch. Sawtry, Cambridgeshire,United Kingdom: Dedalus Ltd., 2002.
The reigns of Michael III and Basil I (842-866 A.D.) narrated by the imaginary character Zeno. This is a highly enjoyable book. Available from ITunes and Amazon.
Phillips, Johnathan. The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2004.
A description from the back cover of the book, “By 1204 barbarism masquerading as piety had swept away one of the great civilizations of history. In this gripping account Johnathan Phillips using letters of knights and commoners alike, traces the series of errors that led to the expedition to commit the most infamous massacre of the Crusades.” Available at Amazon.
Graves, Robert. Count Belisarius. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2006 (Updated Educational Edition).
The life of Justinian’s greatest general by the author of I, Claudius.
Clothier, Meg. The Empress. London, England: Century Publishing, 2013.
From the Publisher:
Princess Agnes of France is thirteen when she marries the heir to Byzantium, an empire unmatched in wealth, power – and glamour.
But once she sets foot in the Queen of Cities, a decadent world where dazzling luxury masks unspeakable cruelty, she realizes that her husband is a deluded mother’s boy with mighty enemies and treacherous allies.”
This book was posted on the podcast site by a listener. I have not read it but it looks great and has very good reviews. The book’s setting is at the time of the murder of Alexios II and the overthrow of the government by Andronikos Komnenos who ruled for approximately two-plus years.
Garland, Lynda. Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium 527-1204. Oxford, England: Taylor and Francis Publishing, 2002.
Lynda Garland is a Professor of Humanities at The University of New England located in New South Wales, Australia. The description of the book comes from Good Reads:
“Byzantine Empresses provides a series of biographical portraits of the most significant Byzantine women who ruled or shared the throne between 527 and 1204. It presents and analyses the available historical data in order to outline what these empresses did, what the sources thought they did, and what they wanted to do.”
The book is available on Amazon but to my mind is very expensive, $36 (American) for a 238 page book. In spite of that I have ordered it because I am fascinated by the topic so we shall see. The few reviews that are around are good ones.
My Booklovers app on my IPad has approximately three shelves of books on Byzantium that I would like to read or at least browse through. I have done some research on the internet primarily by Googling books on Byzantium, looking for authors and lectures on the subject and by combing the archives of both Amazon and ITunes. There are some notable books missing from this list, mainly John Julius Norwich. My thought is that if you have an interest in Byzantium both he and Judith Herrin would be the logical places to begin your studies.
I am also posting this list in the hopes that podcast listeners can make comments, suggestions, supply book reviews, and opinions as I am quite sure I am missing something.
As an aside, after reading Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire and Women in Purple, Rulers of Medieval Byzantium, I had a brief moment of insanity and wrote a “fan letter” to Dr. Judith Herrin telling her how much I had enjoyed her books. She blew me away by responding with the most kind and gracious letter complete with the artwork for her two new books. I bet if someone would contact her, she would certainly contribute an endorsement or a piece for this podcast. Not only is she brilliant and a gifted writer, she is a class act all the way.
In no particular order:
Theophanes. The Chronicles of Theophanes (602-813 A.D.) (Edited and Translated by Harry Turtledove). Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982. Available at Amazon.
Harris, Jonathan. Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium. London, England: Continuum Press, 2007. Available at Amazon.
Harris, Jonathan. The End of Byzantium. New Haven, CT. Yale University Press. 2012
Nicolle, David. Manzikert: The Breaking of Byzantium. Oxford, UK: Osprey Press, 2013. Available at Amazon.
Herrin, Judith. Unrivaled Influence: Women in the Byzantine Empire. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2013. Available at ITunes and Amazon.
Herrin, Judith. Margins and Metropolis: Authority Across the Byzantine Empire. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2013. Available at ITunes and Amazon.
Turteltaub, H.N. Justinian. London, England: McMillian Press, 2010. Available at ITunes and Amazon
Connor, Carolyn L. Women of Byzantium. New Haven, CT. Yale University Press, 2004. Available at Amazon.
Goume-Peterson, Thalia. Anna Komnene and Her Times. Oxford, UK: Routledge Publishing, The Taylor-Francis Group Ltd. 2000. Available at Amazon.
Kastenellos, Paul. Count No Man Happy. Apuleius Books, 2011. Available at Amazon.
The tragic life of Constantine VI
Kastenellos, Paul. Antonina: A Byzantine Slut. Apuleius Books, 2011. Available at Amazon.
Baker, G.P. Justinian. Lanham, Maryland: Cooper Square Press, 2002. Available on ITunes and at Amazon.
Rosen, William. Justinian’s Flea. New York, New York. Penguin Books, 2008. Available on ITunes and Amazon.
McLachlan, Sean. Byzantium: An Illustrated History. New York, New York: Hippocrecne Books, 2004. Available at Amazon.
Neville, Lenora, Heroes and Romans in 12th Century Byzantium: The Material for the History of Nikephoros Bryennios. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Available from Amazon.
Tred gold, Warren T. A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Redwood City, California: Stanford University Press, 1997. Available from Amazon.
D’Amato, Rafael and Rava, Giuseppe. The Varangian Guard, 988-1453 (Men at Arms). Oxford, UK: Osprey Press, 2010.
D’Amato, Rafael and Rava, Giuseppe. Imperial Guardsmen 925-1025. Oxford, UK: Osprey Press, 2010.
Both Books are available at Amazon.
Carrie, Brian Todd. The Road to Manzikert: Byzantine and Islamic Warfare. Barnsley South Yorkshire, UK: Pen and Sword Publishing, 2012. Available at ITunes and Amazon.
Psellus, Michael (Translated By E.R. A. Sewter). Fourteen Byzantine Emperors: The Chronographica of Michael Psellus. New York. Penguin Books, 1979. Available on ITunes and Amazon.
Tarr, Judith. The Eagle’s Daughter. New York, New York: Tor Publishing Co. 1996. Available on ITunes and Amazon.
Cavello, Guglielmo. The Byzantines. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997. Available at Amazon.
Nicol, Donald M. The Life and Legend of Constantine XI Palaiologos: The Last Emperor of the Romans. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Available at Amazon.
Kalavrezou, Ioli. Byzantine Women and Their World. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Art Museum Press, 2002. Available at Amazon.
Wells, Colin. Sailing to Byzantium. New York, New York: Delacourt Press, 2007. Available on ITunes and Amazon.
Kean, Roger Michael. Forgotten Power: Byzantium, The Bulwark of Christianity. Ludlow Shropshire, UK: Thalamus Publishing, 2005. Available at Amazon.