Peter Sarris

Beware of Latins Chasing Debts

The Lost World of Byzantium

By

Yale University Press 264pp £25) order from our bookshop

To Edward Gibbon, Byzantine history represented ‘a tedious and uniform tale of weakness and misery’. ‘On the throne, in the camp, in the schools,’ he opined, ‘we search, perhaps with fruitless diligence, the names and characters that may deserve to be rescued from oblivion.’ Hegel was no less critical, declaring of the empire that ‘its general aspect presents a disgusting picture of imbecility: wretched, even insane passions stifle the growth of all that is noble in thoughts, deeds and persons.’ At the root of such hostility lay antipathy towards Byzantium’s apparent elevation of autocracy to the level of a political ideal and the profound and often mystical Christian faith that the organs of the Byzantine state espoused.

Of course, such anti-Byzantine rhetoric displayed a certain lack of self-awareness on the part of supposedly enlightened philosophes,

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Darley’s book is not a mad dash through this most compelling and complex of English counties. Nor is it another ti… ,
    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,