This excellent post by Darren Goossens highlights a truly wonderful little book that I remember years ago: Isaac Asimov’s capsule history of Byzantium! Asimov was one of the most brilliant people of the 20th century, and when he got interested in something, he usually ended up writing a book about it. This was one of the first books I ever read about Byzantium and it helped spark my interest in this wonderful empire. It’s old (1970) but still highly readable and recommended. Great post!

Darren Goossens

Constantinople: The Forgotten Empire by Isaac Asimov, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1970. 293 pages.

This book charts the life of the Eastern Roman Empire, now known to us as the Byzantine, from the time of Diocletian and Constantine through to the final fall of Constantinople in 1453 and, in a brief epilogue, beyond.

constasnConstantinople: The Forgotten Empire by Isaac Asimov. Dust jacket.

Each chapter begins with a line drawing, each section with a smaller drawing, about the size of a stamp, and maps of the Mediterranean and surrounds show the fluctuating fortunes of the empire, or at least of its geographical extent.

This is a most excellent introductory history. Asimov writes with sympathy and clarity, and a thoughtful awareness of how history is written by the victors and rarely without an axe to grind. Thus we get sections like:

If Iconoclasm had won out in the end, there is no question…

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