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Summary

Byzantium is too-often considered merely the "Eastern rump" of the old Roman Empire, a curious and even unsettling mix of the classical and medieval. Yet it was, according to Professor Harl, "without a doubt the greatest state in Christendom through much of the Middle Ages," and well worth our attention as a way to widen our perspective on everything from the decline of imperial Rome to the rise of the Renaissance.

In a series of 24 tellingly detailed lectures, you'll learn how the Greek-speaking empire of Byzantium, or East Rome, occupied a crucial place in both time and space that began with Constantine the Great and endured for more than a millennium - a crucible where peoples, cultures, and ideas met and melded to create a world at once Eastern and Western, Greek and Latin, classical and Christian. And you'll be dazzled by the achievements of Byzantium's emperors, patriarchs, priests, monks, artists, architects, scholars, soldiers, and officials

  • Preserving and extending the literary, intellectual, and aesthetic legacy of Classical and Hellenistic Greece
  • Carrying forward path-breaking Roman accomplishments in law, politics, engineering, architecture, urban design, and military affairs
  • Deepening Christian thought while spreading the faith to Russia and the rest of what would become the Orthodox world
  • Developing Christian monastic institutions
  • Shielding a comparatively weak and politically fragmented western Europe from the full force of eastern nomadic and Islamic invasions
  • Fusing classical, Christian, and eastern influences
  • Helping to shape the course of the Humanist revival and the Renaissance

    PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses

What members say

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  • Jonathan
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • 03-01-15

Very Disappointing -- There's a Better Alternative

I have listened to many Great Courses and am a huge fan. But this was a very poor course in my opinion. It is a mixture of historical narrative and a discussion of the early development of Christianity, and these two components were not integrated at all. Morever the historical narrative did not across very well as a story and I did not find myself engaging at all with the main protagonists. I persevered to the end but was really fed up with it in the latter stages. I was frustrated that I didn't get a good feel for this topic so I decided to look for something else and found the Modern Scholar course, also on audible, "Empire of Gold" by Thomas Madden. I am now part way through this and it is really good -- what a contrast! I strongly recommend chosing that rather than Professor Harl's course.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • mr
  • west sussex, United Kingdom
  • 06-12-14

Good but not great

Good overall and very interesting but a bit sparse on the detail. The book could had done with being a lot longer. That said, still worth a listen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mike
  • 26-04-14

Traditional History at it's Best

Any additional comments?

I have listened to Professor Kenneth J. Harl many times and have never been disappointed. He delivers the traditional historical experience at its best.

This series of lectures covers the origins of the Byzantine Empire (or East Roman Empire) from its background and foundations in the late Roman Empire and its birth through the dynamic personality of Emperor Constantine the Great around 300 AD. It then provides an overview of that history right down to the empires final collapse in the epic and moving siege and fall of the city of Constantinople to it's Ottoman Turkic attackers in 1453 AD.

Those who are looking for an in-depth treatment of the topic should probably find a more thorough book to read. Those who are interested in getting an overview of the topic and enjoy listening to history will not be disappointed.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • jbfuller317
  • 02-09-13

Excellent Survey

If you could sum up The World of Byzantium in three words, what would they be?

Comprehensive integrative clear

What other book might you compare The World of Byzantium to and why?

It's a lecture series, so this isn't very relevant.

Have you listened to any of Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes

Any additional comments?

This is a good survey, which does a nice job of placing Byzantium in the context of more familiar and popular historical themes-- emergence of the Renaissance, the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the decline of the Western Roman Empire, humanism. Harl is a good scholar and an interesting and occasionally amusing lecturer. If you have an interest in knowing the basics, this is a worth listen.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • collin lau
  • 28-09-13

Another piece of the puzzle

Where does The World of Byzantium rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

WB ranks among the top. Dr. Harl provides another piece of the puzzle addressing the question of our relationship with the Middle East and Russia

Have you listened to any of Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No - will try another soon.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No - it was quite long. It was in two parts.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Shiloh yazdani
  • 09-01-18

great course

For someone with a passion for byzantology, I can say this course was very good. Sadly it focused very heavily on the early and middle empire, but mostly skimmed the later post mazikert empire. Which I found somewhat dissapointing since the Komnenoi are my favorite dynasty. But, all things aside it is an outstanding work of historical skill.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • C Morello
  • 06-09-16

Byz 101 (and deeper)- huge personal gain

5 stars for many aspects that were both well-conceived and well-executed. If you knew you were missing from your American education vital components of classical and antique history - because the Byzantine empire was glossed over - you came to the correct lecture set. The professor seems to have made it a mission to speak at the equivalent of 90 (substantive) words a minute, so get ready to pause and reverse innumerable times. I view that as a mark of quality, and think many would agree. Also has stimulated the need to dive into other sources, and maybe the one criticism i would make is that prof did seems not to have felt the need to cite sources as much as he should have- academic arrogance might be the culprit. If so, again, quality overall outweigheth.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ricky Vazquez
  • 05-04-15

Excellent narration.

I really loved this course. The narrator has a way of giving his information with ease and without boring you to death. It's nice being able to learn about a historical subject without wishing that you had something more interesting to do.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Tommy D'Angelo
  • 31-07-17

Hoped for More

What did you like best about The World of Byzantium? What did you like least?

Professor Harl is always a mixed bag for me. I absolutely love the topics he lectures on and they always rope me in. He is also an encyclopedia of knowledge and offers ample opportunities to learn something new in each of his lectures. The problem has always been him conveying this information/knowledge in a format/style that makes the listening experience enjoyable. While I can overlook the massive number of filler words ("umm", "uhh", etc.), it is hard to get used to a style in which he throws so much at you, so fast and hopping around from topic to topic, geographic area to geographic area that your head is left spinning trying to remember the main point.

The good: The professor provides some good political/military historical narrative on the late Roman Empire and its successor in the East: the Byzantine Empire from aprx. 200 AD to aprx. 1453 AD.

The bad:
• A good number of the lectures were just not that interesting and did not kept my attention (especially those on Christianity which to me are usually fascinating discussions; In this case he just couldn't pull it all together in a consumable manner to make his points)
• The professor covered important topics or events in a very quick/rapid-fire style leading to a lot of rewinding and re-listening to ensure I got the point; Would’ve liked it if he slowed down and focused on just one topic or event at a time and maybe provided more analysis on it; He loves to connect areas of the map and events with other events but does so in way too fast a fashion leaving you disoriented

If you have taken his other courses such as "The Ottoman Empire" or "The Era of the Crusades" you will find alot of the same material in this course.

The reaosn why I bought this course was because I was so intrigued with his lectures on the Byzantine Empire in "The Era of the Crusades" that I thought this course would really whett my appetite on more Byzantine history. Unfortunately, it just did not deliver in that respect.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • SAMA
  • 24-03-14

Where two worlds collide

Byzantium rarely receives the recognition and attention it deserves, especially when we realize the significance it had to the Muslim world and Christian Europe. This course explores the basic points of this rich empire without holding back.

Worth listening to for any history buff.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Svetlana
  • 01-08-14

it's as if he were paid by how fast he could speak

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

There were many interesting facts presented, but it was such a jumble that I felt like I was being thrown balls of yarn for me to unravel myself, but without the time to do so before he moved onto another topic.

Would you recommend The World of Byzantium to your friends? Why or why not?

Possibly. It might be better to get some solid texts on specific eras of the Byzantine world than to try and eat the entire empire whole. It proved an indigestible lump in this format.

What didn’t you like about Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s performance?

His pronunciations were all over the place. There was no rhyme or reason to them. He didn't follow the modern Greek pronunciation, certainly not the Byzantine Greek, nor Oxford pronunciation, or even standard American English. His pronunciation of words like caliph, European, and many more were difficult to accept without mental effort.

Could you see The World of Byzantium being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Far too broad a topic to be a movie. People would be born and then slain horribly by their relatives every 5 minutes.

Any additional comments?

It's as if he were given a period of time and only moments to sketch the events. Imagine a man told to draw birds in a nearby park. He half draws them before they fly off and then he starts on another and then it flies off then one comes back and he tries to sketch over his last version of the bird. Many chapters are exhausting and you feel like you don't know where the thread of one topic ends before another begins. He also drops in bits of trivia with little explanation - not enough to make this a good read for collecting trivia and just enough to make you hit rewind to confirm what you heard.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • DJH
  • 06-08-18

Needed to be longer

This course in the end was to much of a simple survey of the period. Prof Harl attempted to cover too much in a short period of time, as such there was a lack of depth and the listener is left without a confident feeling of having understood the rise and fall of Byzantium. That being said, if one follows the syllabus and suggested readings, just like taking the course in college, all of the missing pieces are put in place. I did this, but being a busy adult it was difficult to maintain momentum. The casual listener will be challenged to get much from this.

Recommended for those who have the time and dedication to use the supplemental materials.

This course would have been better served if it were divvied up into two or three courses concentrating on each period of Byzantium so that it might feel a part of the larger Roman Empire narrative and segue better into the Western Middle Ages after the fall of Byzantium. Something similar to Daileader’s three-part history of the Middle Ages or, as a short-course example, Bartlett’s “The Italians before Italy” would have been a better structure in my opinion.