Subscription Update

Hello everyone, this is an update on the subscriptions and the Byzantine stories series.

It was the 26th July 2015 when I released the special feed which you can subscribe to that gives you access to all the paid-for episodes I’ve produced.

We are now 2 weeks away from that 12 month period coming to an end. For those of you who bought the subscription back then, you will soon get an email offering you the chance to resubscribe.

The price has gone up to $42 as the History of Byzantium will soon be my only job. It’s very exciting as I can spend more time researching the show, producing episodes more quickly and discovering more fascinating lives that the narrative glossed over in our Byzantine Stories series.

You can resubscribe as soon as you receive the reminder email. Your new 12 month sub will begin when your old one ends so you can renew early and be all set up ahead of schedule.

In that 12 month period you will get another six bonus episodes. In addition to the six you got in this 12 month period. And don’t worry, number six for this year is just about to come out. It covers the life of the greatest charioteer of the 6th century but also delves into the history of Roman chariot racing and the Hippodrome in particular. It’s going to be a two part episode. So part 1 will be your sixth bonus episode and part 2 will be the first of the new 12 month period.

For those of you who subscribed later on in 2015 or in 2016, you don’t need to do anything. You will get an email reminder 2 weeks before your sub comes due.

Let me know if you have any questions And thank you for listening.


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Byzantine Stories Episode 2 Announcement

Listen here for an announcement about the second episode in the Byzantine Stories series and an increase in the subscription price.

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The Syrian Refugee who changed Western Civilization

While on holiday I was reading about the refugee crisis and decided to write this article. I thought you might enjoy…

The Syrian Refugee who changed Western Civilization

1300 years ago a boy was dragged from his home and taken to Europe. We should remember the vital role he played in world history.

Did you hear the story about the Syrian refugee? The one about the boy named Konon from a Christian family living near the border. As a small child he was forced to flee his home and migrate across Turkey to a Greek port. You can imagine where the story goes from there.

Leo III (from 'Rulers of the Byzantine Empire' published by KIBEA)

Leo III (from ‘Rulers of the Byzantine Empire’ published by KIBEA)

His family was given prime farming land by the European government. Then he was offered a lucrative career in the army. Finally aged just 32 he became the most powerful politician on the continent and emerged victorious from one of the most important battles in world history. You must have heard this story before?

These events took place between 685 and 718 AD. This period of history offers a strange reflection of our own time as if glimpsed in a fairground mirror. The Middle East was in ferment with war and political chaos everywhere. Refugees were arriving in Europe by the boatload and precious relics from the past were being smashed to pieces.

But the Arab peoples were not the ones suffering from the tumult. Instead they were the military superpower looking to extend their influence. A generation after the Prophet Muhammad passed away (c632) the Arabs had united under one government for the first time. A Caliphate. The model of Muslim government which IS wants to recreate today.

It was the European power that was collapsing into civil war and suffering fresh disasters every day. The Eastern Roman Empire (often called Byzantium) had been shocked by the arrival of the Arab armies. Shoddy military intelligence left them unprepared for the assault and the provinces of Egypt, Palestine and Syria slipped from their control in barely eight years.

The Caliphate of the 7th century was a largely tolerant place though. No strict codes of behavior or dress were handed down. If people were prepared to continue their lives as before then they would be left in peace.

Those who did flee to Europe were not housed in camps or left to wait on beaches. On the contrary the shell-shocked Romans needed every ounce of talent they could find. These people were given empty land to work or encouraged to work for the state. During a break in the fighting the Imperial government ordered troops to cross the Taurus Mountains (the border between the two Empires) into Syria to deport local Christians. These former Romans had remained to work the land within the Caliphate but were now moved ‘home’ at the point of a sword. One such family was that of young Konon.

Konon’s unique experience would take him far in the Roman world. The trauma of being uprooted and having to start a new life hundreds of miles away made him tough and flexible. Once fully grown he joined the army and was quickly promoted to become an officer with considerable responsibility.

The conflict he found himself in the middle of was a clash of civilizations. Instead of western powers dictating democratic solutions, it was the Arabs who were reshaping the world to their way of thinking. The Caliphate was on the warpath and had the Roman capital Constantinople (modern Istanbul) was in its sights. The anger and frustration which fuels IS-like organisations today was being felt on the European shore. The Romans had been successful for a millennium and now suddenly found themselves impotent in the face of Arab power.

By the summer of 717 their capital was surrounded by a huge army and fleet. If the city had been incorporated into the Caliphate then the future of Europe would have changed beyond all recognition. But it didn’t, thanks in large part to Konon.

He had grown up around the Arabs and may have spoken the language. He was a senior general by 717 and as they approached the city he was given the ultimate promotion, to Emperor, to deal with the crisis. Through skillful diplomacy and ruthless warfare the Syrian refugee, now known as Leo III, saved the Roman world.

This battle is largely forgotten today, yet we should remember its significance in shaping the modern world. Constantinople would not ultimately fall until 1453 leaving Western Europe to develop its unique culture. Only four decades after the Roman state finally disappeared Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World.

Perhaps we should also look differently at those desperate to reach Europe today. They may possess the talent and the perspective to shape the world of tomorrow.

Robin Pierson is the presenter of The History of Byzantium podcast. The story of the Eastern Roman Empire from 476-1453.

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The Eleven Constantines

The one Constantine we have no trouble remembering

The one Constantine we have no trouble remembering

Here is an update on the Constantine Acronym or Acrostic or Mnemonic or whatever we decide to make it which I mentioned back in episode 76. A few brave listeners sent in suggestions and I thought I’d post the two best I’ve seen. I’ll keep updating them every century until we find a version that works the best. Let me know what you think.

Listener SM

Christianized the Roman state,
Oldest of three heirs of the Great.
Never made it past month four,
Stopped the Arabs at the door.
Theophanes called him dung,
Assassinated by his mum.
Newborn in purple was his name,
Tall and cruel, inept and lame.
I fought alone against the Normans,
No more Italy for the Romans.
Emperor fell and so did the Byzantines,
So we have eleven Constantines.

Listener JF

Constantine the great was first; he built the imperial city,
Constantine the second, died young, his three year reign gave pity,
Constantine the third, of the west, reigned along with another,
Constantine the third, of the rest, split with his half-brother,
Constantine the fourth, reigned long, his son’s nose was slit,
Constantine the fifth, broke idols, he gave the Bulgars shit,
Constantine the sixth, raised at nine, killed blind as a fighter,
Constantine the seventh, purple-born, from the shadows to a writer,
Constantine the eighth’s daughter Zoe, was stately in her carriage,
Constantine the ninth, wed Zoe to gain the throne by marriage,
Constantine the tenth, zealot & bureaucrat, used mercenaries not the army,
Constantine the eleventh lost the empire to the Turks which sent the listeners barmy….

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Listener Survey

Hey everyone. Listener DT is doing a dissertation on podcasting as a medium for producing works of history and needs our help. Would you mind answering this one question about your relationship with the History of Byzantium podcast?

You don’t need to comment on Facebook, you can comment here or on the poll if you like.


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An interview with Robert Horvat of

A written interview with me has just gone online at Robert Horvat’s excellent blog You can read it here

You can also see pictures of my bookshelf and recording equipment. As well as my current list of Top 5 Emperors. You can begin sending the hate mail now because Justinian isn’t on it and Heraclius is not number one.

Check out Robert’s blog while you’re there. He does an excellent job writing about Byzantium.”

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Islam Origins Sale Episode

Please DON’T buy the Islam Origins sale episode even though it is listed as for sale. We have not sorted out some technical issues yet.

I will release a podcast announcing its availability when it’s ready. I will also explain what you need to do then if you have or don’t have an existing account.

To the few of you who have paid already I will get you the episode as soon as it’s ready.

Thanks for your patience,


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Another Listener Bibliography

Listener AB has added his own extensive bibliography on Byzantium. As he says, it “includes studies by famous Byzantinists, besides relatively popular books on the Empire. It includes material not directly related to Byzantium, but that enhances understanding of the period and the major players involved.” Thank you so much for letting us see it.

A Research Strategy for Byzantine Archaeology’, Byzantine Studies/Études byzantines Rosser, J.H.
Abu ʻAmr ʻUthman al-Tarsusiʼs, “Siyar al-Thughur and the Last Years of Arab Rule in Tarsus (Fourth /Tenth Century) Bosworth C. E.
Art of Late Rome and Byzantium in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Gonosová, A.(ed)
Art of Late Rome and Byzantium in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Kondoleon, C. (ed)
Burial and Urbanism at Late Antique and Early Byzantine Corinth (c. ad 400–700) Ivison, E.A.
Byzance Diehl, Charles  
Byzantine and Medieval Greece Hetherington, Paul  
Byzantine Armies, AD 886–1118,”Men-At-Arms McBride, Angus
Byzantine Armies, AD 886–1118,”Men-At-Arms” Heath, Ian
Byzantine Fortifications; an Introduction Foss, Clive David Winfield  
Byzantine Fortifications; an Introduction Winfield, David  
Byzantine Military Unrest, 471 — 843, An Interpretation Kaegi, W. E  
Byzantine Silk Weaving ad 400 to ad 1200, Muthesius, A.
Byzantine Theology, Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes Meyerndorff, John  
Byzantinische Gürtelschnallen und Gürtelbeschläge im Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum I, Die Schnallen ohne Beschläg, mit Laschenbeschläg und mit Festem Beschläg des 5. bis 7. Jahrhunderts, (Kataloge vor- und frühgeschichtlicher Altertümer Band 30) Schulze M.
Byzantium and the Crusades Harris, Jonathan  
Byzantium and the Rise of Russia Meyerndorff, John  
Byzantium at War Haldon, John  
Byzantium confronts the West, 1108-1204 Brand, Charles M.  
Byzantium, A History Haldon, J. F  
Byzantium, New Peoples, New Powers: The Byzantino-Slav Contact Zone, from the Ninth to the Fifteenth Century Kaimakova, A
Byzantium, The Early Centuries Norwich, John Julius  
Byzantium, the Islamic World, and India — AD 476 — 1526 New Vanguard
Byzantium, Vol. 2 The Apogee Norwich, John Julius  
Byzantium, Vol. 3 The Decline and Fall Norwich, John Julius  
Byzantium: The Bridge to the Middle Ages Angold, Michael  
Byzantium: The Empire of the New Rome Mango, Cyril  
Byzantium: Treasures of Byzantine Art and Culture from British Collections Buckton, D. (ed.)
Byzanz: Das Licht aus dem Osten. Kult und Alltag im Byzantinischen Reich vom 4. bis 15. Jahrhundert Stiegemann, C.
Castles, a History and Guide Brown, R. Allen  
Christianity and Paganism in the 4th  to 8th Centuries MacMullen, Ramsey  
Christianizing the Roman Empire: AD 100-400 MacMullen, Ramsey  
Chroniques Gréco-romanes inédites ou peu connues Hopf, C. H. F. J.  
Church and Society under the Comneni, 1081-1261 Angold, Michael  
Cities and Planning In the Ancient Near East Lampl, Paul  
City In the Desert: Qasr al-Hayr East Grabar O
Clubs To Cannon Hogg, O. F. G  
Corinth: results of excavations conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Vol. 12: The Minor Objects Davidson, G.R.
Crisis in Byzantium, The Filioque Controversy… Papadakis, Aristeides  
Das Papstum und Byzanz Norden, Dr. Walter C.  
Der Vierte Kreuzzug im Rahmen der Beziehungen ….. Norden, Dr. Walter C.  
DhikraSaif al Daula Wormhoudt, A
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry (Luke 12:19) Food and Wine in Byzantium Kallirroe Linardou  
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry (Luke 12:19) Food and Wine in Byzantium Leslie Brubaker  
Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in late Antiquity Fowden, G
Essai sur le règne d’Alexis Ier Comnène Chalandon, Ferdinand  
Essays on the Crusades Munro, Dana Carleton  
Etudes Byzantine Diehl, Charles  
Etudes sur l’administration byzantine dans l’exarchat de Ravenne Diehl, Charles  
Fortification In Islam before AD 1250 Creswell, K. A. C
Fortifications and the Development of Defensive Planning In the Latin East Chevedden, R.E
From Rome to Byzantium: the 5th Century AD Grant, Michael  
Geoponica: ‘Farm Work’. A Modern Translation of the Roma Dalby, Andrew  
Geschichte der ersten lateinischen Patriarchen von Jerusalem Kühn, Fritz  
Geschichte der Frankenherschaft in Griechenland Gerland, Dr. Ernst  
Geschichte des lateinischen Kaiserreiches in Konstantinopel Gerland, Dr. Ernst  
Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt Seeck, Otto  
Greek Jewellery, 6000 Years of Tradition Kypraiou, E.g. E. (ed.)
Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium Kaegi, Walter E.  
Histoire des relations de Venise avec l’empire d’Orient Armingaud, J.  
History of the Byzantine Empire Chadwick-Oman, C.W  
History of the Byzantine Empire from 716 – 1057 Finlay, George  
History of the Byzantine State Ostrogorsky, George  
History of the Crusades Proctor, George  
Intensive Archaeological Survey and its Place in Byzantine Studies’, Byzantine Studies/Études Byzantines 13 Gregory, T.E.
Islamic Science and Engineering Hill, D.R
Islamic Technology: An Illustrated History Hassan A. Y. al
Islamic Technology: An Illustrated History Hill, D.R.
Jean II Comnène, 1118-1143 Chalondon, Ferdinand  
Julian The Apostate Bowersock, G.W.  
Julian, Philosopher and Emperor Gardner, Alice  
Julien l’Apostat – Vol I, II & III Allard, Paul  
Justinien et la civilization Byzantine au VIe siècle Diehl, Charles  
Kaiser Julian der Abtrünnige Koch, Wilhelm  
Kaiser Julianus Geffcken, Johannes  
Kirbat al-Mafjir Hamilton, R. W
L’empereur Héraclius et l’empire byzantin au VII siècle Drapeyron, Ludovic  
La Prise de Constantinople Clari, Robert de  
Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization Brownworth, Lars
Manuel I Comnène, 1143-1180 Chalondon, Ferdinand  
Material Culture and Well-Being in Byzantium (400–1453) (Veröffentlichungen zur Byzanzforschung Grünbart, M


Material Culture and Well-Being in Byzantium (400–1453) (Veröffentlichungen zur Byzanzforschung Kislinger, E.
Material Culture and Well-Being in Byzantium (400–1453) (Veröffentlichungen zur Byzanzforschung Muthesius, A.
Material Culture and Well-Being in Byzantium (400–1453) (Veröffentlichungen zur Byzanzforschung Stathakopoulos, D.Ch.
Medieval Siege Weapons (2), Byzantium, the Islamic World, and India — AD 476 — 1526 Nicolle David
Medieval Siege Weapons (2), Byzantium, the Islamic World, and India — AD 476 — 1526 Thompson, Sam
Muslim Military Architecture In Greater Syria Kennedy, H
On Barbarian Identity: Critical Approaches to Ethnicity in the Early Middle Ages Gillett, A. (ed.),
Post-Roman Towns, Trade and Settlement in Europe and Byzantium Henning, J. (ed.),
Quatrième Croisade: La diversion sur Zara et Constantinople Tessier, Jules  
Redating some South Italian Frescoes: The First Layer at S. Pietro, Otranto, and the Earliest Paintings at Sta Maria Della Croce, Casaranello’ Safran, L.
Robert de Clari – ein altfranzösischer  Chronist des IV Kreuzzuges Wanner, Ernst  
Sowing the Dragon’s Teeth. Byzantine Warfare In the Tenth Century McGeer, Eric  
State, Army, and Society In Byzantium. Approaches To Military, Social, and Administrative History Haldon, J. F  
Studies In Indian Weapons and Warfare Pant, G
Tastes of Byzantium: The Cuisine of a Legendary Empire Dalby, Andrew  
The Alexiad Comnena, Anna  
The Bogomils, c. 1110 Comnena, Anna  
The Byzantine Commonwealth Obolensky, Dimitri  
The Byzantine Empire 1025 — 1204, A Political History Angold, Michael  
The Byzantine Wars Haldon, J. F  
The Castle Explorer’s Guide Bottomely, Frank  
The Coastal Cities of Palestine During the Early Muslim Period ElʼAd, A
The destruction of the Greek Empire …. Pears, Edwin  
The Eastern Schism: a Study of the Papacy and the Eastern Church Runciman, Steven  
The Economic History of Byzantium. From the Seventh through the Fifteenth Century Laiou, A.E.
The Emperor Julian Browning, Robert  
The Emperor Julian Martin, Edward James  
The emperor Romanus Lecapenus and His Reign Runciman, Steven  
The Fall of Constantinople Pears, Edwin  
The Filioque Siecienski, Edward  
The Fireship of Al-Salih Ayyub and Muslim Use of Greek Fire Haldane, D
The Fortifications of Armenian Cilicia Edwards R.W
The Fourth Crusade Munro, Dana Carlton  
The Fourth Crusade and the Conquest of Constantinople Villehardouin, Geffrey de  
The Fourth International Conference on the History of Bilad al-Sham During the Umayyad Period Bakhit (ed)
The Fourth International Conference on the History of Bilad al-Sham During the Umayyad Period Shick R. (ed)
The Glory of Byzantium. Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, ad 843–1261 Evans, H.C.
The Glory of Byzantium. Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, ad 843–1261 Wixom, W.D.
The History of Fortification Hogg, Ian  
The History of the Sling (Gophana) In India and Other Countries Between C. B.C. 3000 and AD 1900 Gode, P.K
The Late Byzantine Army. Arms and Society, 1204 — 1453 Bartusis, M. C  
The Late Roman Army Dixon, Karen R  
The Late Roman Army Southern, Pat  
The Making of Byzantium, 600-1025 Whittow, Mark  
The medieval fortifications Annaev, A.
The medieval fortifications Brun P.
The Medieval Siege Bradbury, Jim  
The Oxford History of Byzantium Oxford History  
The Remnants’, 12th and 13th centuries. Byzantine objects in Turkey Ödekan, A.
The Secret Weapon of Byzantium Davidson, Ellis
The Social Structure of the Byzantine Countryside in the First Half of the Xth Century’ Oikonomidés, N.
The Topography of Baghdad In the Early Middle Ages Lassner, J
The Varangians and Byzantium Benedict Benedikz
The Varangians and Byzantium Sigfus Blondal
The World of Byzantium Parts I & II (VHS) Harl, Dr.Kenneth W.  
Three Byzantine Military Treatises Dennis, G.T
Trébuchets Hill, D.R
Ukhaidir Bell, G. L
Venedig und die Wendung des vierten Kreuzzuges … Streit Ludwig  
Warfare in Roman Europe, AD 350–425 Elton H  
Warfare, State and Society In the Byzantine World, 565 — 1204 Haldon, J. F  
Women in Purple Herrin, Judith  
Categories: News | 1 Comment

A Listener’s Bibliography

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, 2014. For more information contact:

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 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:

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:

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. 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: 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., 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:

“Constantinople, 1179

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 Wish-List

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.

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I will be back soon…the research is nearly done

Plus life got in the way a little.

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