Saturday, May 7, 2011

5+ Best Books on Byzantine Emperors


P. Magdalino, The empire of Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180)

The reign of Manuel I (1143-1180) marked the high point of the revival of the Byzantine empire under the Comnenian dynasty. It was however followed by a rapid decline, leading to the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204. This book, the first devoted to Manuel's reign for over 80 years, reevaluates the emperor and his milieu in the light of recent scholarship. It shows that his foreign policy was a natural response to the Western crusading movement and the expansionism of the German emperor Frederick Barbarossa. It also shows that what he ruled was more than the impoverished rump of a once great empire, or a society whose development had been arrested by a repressive regime. The twelfth century is presented here as a distinctive, creative phase in Byzantine history, when the empire maintained existing traditions and trends while adapting to a changing world.


Liz James, Empresses and power in early Byzantium

The role of the Byzantine emperor has been exhaustively analyzed; the place of the Byzantine empress -- often perceived as an appendate to male imperial power -- is more problematic.Elizabeth James begins her study with Helena, mother of the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great, and ends with Eirene, the only woman to rule as an "emperor" in Byzantium. More than simply a biography of each empress in the period between the fourth and eighth centuries, this book analyzes the nature of female imperial power during that time. What rights and responsibilities, what access to power, if any, did the office of empress carry?




Averil Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire

Many reasons can be given for the rise of Christianity in late antiquity and its flourishing in the medieval world. In asking how Christianity succeeded in becoming the dominant ideology in the unpromising circumstances of the Roman Empire, Averil Cameron turns to the development of Christian discourse over the first to sixth centuries A.D., investigating the discourse's essential characteristics, its effects on existing forms of communication, and its eventual preeminence. Scholars of late antiquity and general readers interested in this crucial historical period will be intrigued by her exploration of these influential changes in modes of communication.
The emphasis that Christians placed on language--writing, talking, and preaching--made possible the formation of a powerful and indeed a totalizing discourse, argues the author. Christian discourse was sufficiently flexible to be used as a public and political instrument, yet at the same time to be used to express private feelings and emotion. Embracing the two opposing poles of logic and mystery, it contributed powerfully to the gradual acceptance of Christianity and the faith's transformation from the enthusiasm of a small sect to an institutionalized world religion. Many reasons can be given for the rise of Christianity in late antiquity and its flourishing in the medieval world. In asking how Christianity succeeded in becoming the dominant ideology in the unpromising circumstances of the Roman Empire, Averil Cameron turns to the development of Christian discourse over the first to sixth centuries A.D., investigating the discourse's essential characteristics, its effects on existing forms of communication, and its eventual preeminence. Scholars of late antiquity and general readers interested in this crucial historical period will be intrigued by her exploration of these influential changes in modes of communication.
The emphasis that Christians placed on language--writing, talking, and preaching--made possible the formation of a powerful and indeed a totalizing discourse, argues the author. Christian discourse was sufficiently flexible to be used as a public and political instrument, yet at the same time to be used to express private feelings and emotion. Embracing the two opposing poles of logic and mystery, it contributed powerfully to the gradual acceptance of Christianity and the faith's transformation from the enthusiasm of a small sect to an institutionalized world religion.




Catherine Holmes, Basil II and the Governance of Empire
This is the first book-length study in English of the Byzantine emperor Basil II, the "Bulgar-slayer." Basil presided over a Byzantium which was the superpower of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in the century before the Crusades. Catherine Holmes peels away the layers of later interpretations to reveal an empire that was governed by a potent mixture of subtle persuasion and brute force.







M. McCormick, Eternal Victory. Triumphal Rulership in Late Antiquity
As the Roman empire declined and 'fell', contemporary glorification of the emperor's triumphal rulership reached new heights, strewing traces of the empire's perennial victory across the physical and mental landscape of late antiquity. In this, the first comprehensive study of how a great imperial ceremony actually developed and how it influenced both the eastern and western heirs to the Roman legacy, the Roman triumph's resurgence and afterlife is documented from the Tetrarchy to the end of the Macedonian dynasty in Byzantium and to Charlemagne's successors in the early medieval West. This perspective shows that celebrations of the ruler's victory experienced unceasing change in ritual form and content and that these changes mirrored broader trends in the development of society and the monarchy. At the same time, it casts new light on the late Roman origins of the trappings of early medieval kingship. Far from the imperial capital, the cult of triumphal rulership permeated local elites, as commanders in the provinces imitated the supreme victor by staging triumphs of their own, and the new Germanic kings followed suit. Classicists, medievalists, Byzantinists, specialists of art and ritual will find here new data and approaches to a central problem in the transformation of the Roman Empire which culminated in the new civilization by Byzantium and the Germanic Kingdoms.

Gilbert Dagron, Emperor and Priest
This is a revised and translated edition of Gilbert Dagron's Empereur et prêtre, an acknowledged masterwork by one of the great Byzantine scholars of our time. The figure of the Byzantine emperor, a ruler who sometimes was also designated a priest, has long fascinated the western imagination. This book studies in detail the imperial union of 'two powers', temporal and spiritual, against a wide background of relations between Church and state and religious and political spheres. Presenting much unfamiliar material in complex, brilliant style, it is aimed at all historians concerned with royal and ecclesiastical sources of power.



N. Lenski, ed., The Cambridge companion to the Age of Constantine
The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine offers students a comprehensive one-volume survey of this pivotal emperor and his times. Richly illustrated and designed as a readable survey accessible to all audiences, it also achieves a level of scholarly sophistication and a freshness of interpretation that will be welcomed by the experts. The volume is divided into five sections that examine political history, religion, social and economic history, art, and foreign relations during the reign of Constantine, who steered the Roman Empire on a course parallel with his own personal development. Each chapter examines the intimate interplay between emperor and empire, and between a powerful personality and his world. Collectively, they show how both were mutually affected in ways that shaped the world of Late Antiquity and even affect our own world today.

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