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God's City (Hardback)

Byzantine Constantinople

Social History

By Dr Nic Fields
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 289
ISBN: 9781473895089
Published: 20th November 2017

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Byzantium. Was it Greek or Roman, familiar or hybrid, barbaric or civilised, Oriental or Western? In the late eleventh century Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Christendom, the seat of the Byzantine emperor, Christ’s vice-regent on earth, and the centre of a predominately Christian empire, steeped in Greek cultural and artistic influences, yet founded and maintained by a Roman legal and administrative system. Despite the amalgam of Greek and Roman influences, however, its language and culture was definitely Greek. Constantinople truly was the capital of the Roman empire in the East, and from its founding under the first Constantinus to its fall under the eleventh and last Constantinus the inhabitants always called themselves Romaioi, Romans, not Hellênikés, Greeks. Over its millennium long history the empire and its capital experienced many vicissitudes that included several periods of waxing and waning and more than one ‘golden age’.

Its political will to survive is still eloquently proclaimed in the monumental double land walls of Constantinople, the greatest city fortifications ever built, on which the forces of ‘barbarism’ dashed themselves for a thousand years. Indeed, Byzantium was one of the longest lasting social organisations in history. Very much part of this success story was the legendary Varangian Guard, the élite body of axe-bearing Northmen sworn to remain loyal to the true Christian emperor of the Romans. There was no hope for an empire that had lost the will to prosecute the grand and awful business of adventure. The Byzantine empire was certainly not of that stamp.

Scholars and historians have long debated whether Byzantium was a Greek or Roman city, familiar or hybrid, barbaric or civilized, Oriental or Western? In the late eleventh century Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Christendom, the seat of the Byzantine emperor, Christ's vice-regent on earth, and the center of a predominately Christian empire, steeped in Greek cultural and artistic influences, yet founded and maintained by a Roman legal and administrative system. Despite the amalgam of Greek and Roman influences, however, its language and culture was definitely Greek. Constantinople truly was the capital of the Roman empire in the East, and from its founding under the first Constantinus to its fall under the eleventh and last Constantinus the inhabitants always called themselves Romaioi, Romans, not Hellenikes, Greeks. Over its millennium long history the empire and its capital experienced many vicissitudes that included several periods of waxing and waning and more than one 'golden age'. Its political will to survive is still eloquently proclaimed in the monumental double land walls of Constantinople, the greatest city fortifications ever built, on which the forces of 'barbarism' dashed themselves for a thousand years. Indeed, Byzantium was one of the longest lasting social organizations in history. Very much part of this success story was the legendary Varangian Guard, the elite body of axe-bearing Northmen sworn to remain loyal to the true Christian emperor of the Romans. There was no hope for an empire that had lost the will to prosecute the grand and awful business of adventure. The Byzantine empire was certainly not of that stamp. Exceptional historical scholarship at its very best, "God's City: Byzantine Constantinople" by Nic Fields (a freelance author and researcher based in southwest France, specializing in ancient military history) is impressively informative and expertly written, organized and presented. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library World History collections in general, and Byzantium History supplemental studies lists in particular.

Midwest Book Review
Dr Nic Fields

About Dr Nic Fields

Dr Nic Fields started his career as a biochemist before joining the Royal Marines. Having left the military, he went back to university and completed a BA and PhD in Ancient History at the University of Newcastle. He was Assistant Director at the British School at Athens, then a lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Edinburgh.

Now a freelance author and researcher based in south-west France and writing mainly for Osprey, his most relevant previous work is The Roman Army of the Punic Wars (2007). One previous work for us, Warlords of Rome, is in production.

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