"Byzantium: The Surprising Life of Medieval Empire" Book Review by Nicky

An analytical review of Judith Herrin's "Byzantium: The Surprising Life of Medieval Empire."
# 145848 | 1,469 words | 3 sources | MLA | 2010 | US
Published on Nov 30, 2010 in History (European) , History (Middle Eastern) , Literature (English)

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This paper provides a review of Judith Herrin's book "Byzantium: The Surprising Life of Medieval Empire." The paper notes that this book provides an overview of the history of the great empire and its greatest city. The writer explains that Herrin's central thesis is that far from the footnote to history, to which it is often reduced, Byzantium civilization played the critical role in preventing the Islamic empire to spread through all of Europe, and thus played a vital part in making the Western World what it is today, for better or for worse.The reviewer concludes that Herrin's main accomplishment is that she tells a great story and manages to make a defense for Byzantium without seeming anti-Turkish or anti-Islam, a notable achievement the contemporary era which is, equally fraught with religious controversies as Byzantium itself.

From the Paper:

"Herrin's technique is engaging even for readers unfamiliar with the period: she uses micro issues to address issues of 'macro' importance. One of the most interesting chapters, for example, is on Byzantine iconography. If the lay reader is familiar with any aspect of Byzantium it is likely this artistic practice. She argues that icons cannot be primarily understood as artworks, as they are today, but must be placed in their historical and theological context to be properly interpreted. For example, manufacturing icons was seen as providing worshippers with a direct form of access to God. The artist was a kind of medium, or vehicle of inspiration to the saints or other figures in heaven. This stands in profound contrast to the reverence for the individual artist in Western culture, and its emphasis on religious reproduction of theological figures, rather than the veneration of theological art. This highlights an essential difference between Western and Eastern Christianity that exists even today. In Byzantium, gazing at icons was a religious, not an aesthetic experience, and physical veneration of manmade artworks and was not considered blasphemy--for most of Byzantium, anyway."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Bridge, Mark. "Who said this stuff is priceless? The Times. 23 Aug 2008, p.6. ProQuest. Document ID: 1543137691 17 Feb. 2009 <http://www.proquest.com/>
  • Herrin, Judith. Byzantium: The Surprising Life of Medieval Empire. Princeton: PrincetonUniversity Press, 2008.
  • "Professor Judith Herrin. "King's College, London. 17 Feb. 2009. http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/humanities/depts/bmgs/staff/herrin.html

Cite this Book Review:

APA Format

"Byzantium: The Surprising Life of Medieval Empire" (2010, November 30) Retrieved May 27, 2023, from https://www.academon.com/book-review/byzantium-the-surprising-life-of-medieval-empire-145848/

MLA Format

""Byzantium: The Surprising Life of Medieval Empire"" 30 November 2010. Web. 27 May. 2023. <https://www.academon.com/book-review/byzantium-the-surprising-life-of-medieval-empire-145848/>