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The Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire began as part of the Roman Empire. When the Roman emperor Jovian died suddenly in 364 AD, officials chose a high-ranking military officer named Valentinian to succeed him. To help keep order in the huge empire, Valentinian I split it in half and made his younger brother Valens emperor of the East. This was not the first time that co-emperors had reigned over the empire, but it was the beginning of a permanent separation of the empire into two realms, East and West.

The Western empire was overthrown by barbarians in 476, but the Eastern empire lasted for almost a thousand years more. Over time it evolved into a society very different from that of ancient Rome, and later historians gave it a new name: the Byzantine Empire. The word Byzantine comes from Byzantium, the original name of the empire's splendid capital, Constantinople (modern Istanbul, in Turkey). The Byzantine Empire itself is also called Byzantium. It included Asia Minor, the Balkan Peninsula, and varying other territories.

Over time, the Byzantine Empire started to fall apart due in part to foreign invasions. It completely collapsed after the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in 1453.

Books About the Byzantine Empire

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Book topics: Byzantium, Reference, Empresses, Theodosius, Justinian, Heraclian, Phrygian Dyansty, Macedonian Dynasty, Basil II, Doukas Dynasty, Comnenian Dynasty, Palaeologan Dynasty, Society, Art, Constantinople, War, After Byzantium, Fiction, Children's Books, DVDs, Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire, Crusades

The Byzantine Empire


The Emperors of Byzantium by Kevin Lygo. A narrative history of the Byzantine empire, told through the lives of its 92 emperors.

Imperial Byzantine Portraits by Constance Head. A study of portraits of all Byzantine rulers as depicted in paintings, sculpture, coins, and illuminated manuscripts.

Emperor and Priest: The Imperial Office in Byzantium by Gilbert Dagron. The Byzantine emperor was sometimes also designated a priest.

The Emperor in the Byzantine World: Papers From the Forty-Seventh Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies edited by Shaun Tougher. Themes include dynasty and imperial families, the imperial court, imperial duties, and the emperor as author.


Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization by Lars Brownworth. The astonishing saga of the emperors who ruled Byzantium, from Constantine to Constantine XI.

The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c.500-1492 by Jonathan Shepard. Includes maps, a glossary, an alternative place-name table, and references to English translations of sources.

Oxford History of Byzantium edited by Cyril Mango. Essays and illustrations portray the emergence and development of the Byzantine Empire from the fourth century to the mid-15th century.

History of the Byzantine State by Georgije Ostrogorski. Long recognized as the basic history of the Byzantine Empire, this book captures the full sweep, grandeur, and tragedy of Byzantium's rise and fall.

A History of Byzantium by Timothy Gregory. A concise narrative of Byzantine history from the time of Constantine the Great (AD 306) to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

The Byzantine Empire by Robert Browning. An introduction to the Byzantine world. Browning rejects the traditional concept of decline and fall, seeing Byzantium as a changing and developing state that at some periods was the "superpower" of Europe.

A Concise History of Byzantium, 285-1461 by Warren T. Treadgold. Examines Byzantium's politics, military, and culture to explain the paradoxes of its long history.

Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire by Judith Herrin. Examines the complex ceremonies of the imperial court, as well as chariot races, monastic spirituality, diplomacy, and literature.

The Palgrave Atlas of Byzantine History by John Haldon. This historical atlas charts key aspects of the political, social and economic history of the Byzantine Empire.

Books by John Julius Norwich

Byzantium: The Early Centuries by John Julius Norwich, edited by Elizabeth Sifton. A captivating account of the origins and early years of the Byzantine empire. 48 pages of illustrations, 16 in color. Maps.

Byzantium: The Apogee by John Julius Norwich. The second volume of Norwich's trilogy covers the three centuries after Charlemagne was crowned, up to the coronation of Alexius Comnenus. 32 pages of illustrations and seven maps.

Byzantium: The Decline and Fall by John Julius Norwich. The third volume of Norwich's trilogy; describes the end of the empire, and the fall of Constantinople in May 1453. With 32 pages of illustrations and 10 maps and tables.

A Short History of Byzantium by John Julius Norwich. Condensing Norwich's three-volume history, this overview captures the splendor and strangeness of Byzantine rule, marked by family intrigues, constant warfare, political and religious strife, and personal ambition. (Review © Amazon.com.)

History of Specific Periods

History of Later Roman Empire by John Bury. Published in two volumes, this work covers the Eastern empire from the death of Theodosius I to the death of Justinian.

The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History AD 284-813 translated by Roger Scott. Theophanes was a Byzantine abbot who fell victim to the Iconoclastic persecution. His chronicle provides a unique source for the history of empire and of the Persians, Arabs, Bulgarians, and other neighboring peoples.

Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, c.680-850: A History by Leslie Brubaker and John Haldon. Reinterprets the history of the period when the legitimacy of religious art was debated in Byzantium.

The Making of Byzantium, 600-1025 by Mark Whittow. Covers the last decade of the Roman empire as a superpower, the catastrophic crisis of the seventh century, and how the embattled Byzantine empire hung on in Constantinople and Asia Minor.

Byzantium: The Imperial Centuries AD 610-1071 by Romilly Jenkins.

The Byzantine Revival, 780-842 by Warren Treadgold. How the Byzantine Empire, led by a succession of extraordinary rulers, emerged from a long decline to reclaim its place as a leading state of the medieval world.

A Synopsis of Byzantine History, 811-1057: Translation and Notes by John Skylitzes, translated by John Wortley. Covers the reigns of the Byzantine emperors from the death of Nicephorus I in 811 to the deposition of Michael VI in 1057, the only surviving continuous narrative of the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The author was a high official in the late 11th century.

The Emperor and the World by Alicia Walker. Exotic elements and the imaging of Middle Byzantine imperial power, 9th to 13th centuries C.E.

Byzantine Court Culture From 829 to 1204 edited by Henry MacGuire. Includes information about court costumes, ceremonies, palace gardens, and courtiers.

Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood: The Rise and Fall of Byzantium, 955 A.D. to the First Crusade by Anthony Kaldellis. Covers the imperial conquest under the great emperor Basil "the Bulgar-Slayer"; the emergence of new foreign enemies (Pechenegs, Seljuks, and Normans); and the collapse of the empire during the second half of the eleventh century.

The Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261-1453 by Donald M. Nichol. The Byzantine empire had to rebuild itself after dismemberment by the Fourth Crusade. This book narrates the empire's struggles for survival from 1261 until its final conquest in 1453.

Books About the Roman Empire
Books About the Crusades

Reference Books

Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium edited by Alexander P. Kazhdan. A three-volume, comprehensive dictionary of Byzantine civilization. The first resource of its kind, it features over 5,000 entries written by eminent Byzantinists, covering all aspects of life in the Byzantine world.

Encyclopedia of the Byzantine Empire by Jennifer Lawler. Over 1500 entries, from Adrianopolis to Zoe, on a broad range of topics.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium by John H. Rosser. Includes a chronology; overview of Byzantine civilization; a dictionary people, events, and important aspects of Byzantine culture; and a bibliography.

Byzantine Empresses

Books About Byzantine Empresses

Dynasties of Valentinian and Theodosius

Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D. edited by Noel Lenski. The first comprehensive biography of Valens and account of his troubled reign.

Theodosius: The Empire at Bay by Stephen Williams and Gerald Friell. Theodosius I was the last Roman emperor to rule over both East and West. His reign was a turning point in the history of the late Roman Empire.

Law in the Crisis of Empire 379-455 AD by Tony Honore. The Theodosian dynasty and its quaestors.

Medieval Portraits From East & West by Eleanor Duckett. Biographies of 15 people, including 4th century Eastern emperor Theodosius II and his sister Pulcheria, who served as his regent. (No other Byzantine royals are profiled in this book.)

Leonid Dynasty

Roman Emperor Zeno: The Perils of Power Politics in Fifth-Century Constantinople by Peter Crawford. The life and career of the fifth-century emperor whose reign was littered with conflict.

Justinian I & Successors

Books About Justinian and His Dynasty

Heraclian Dynasty

Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium by Walter E. Kaegi. Evaluates the life and empire of the controversial and poorly understood emperor.

The Reign of Heraclius 610-641: Crisis and Confrontation by G. J. Reinink, Bernard H. Stolte, and Peter Van de Verhelst.

Justinian II: The Roman Emperor Who Lost His Nose and His Throne and Regained Both by Peter Crawford. Assesses the Byzantine emperor's troubled career and asks if he deserves his poor reputation.

Phrygian (Amorian) Dynasty

The Emperor Theophilos and the East, 829-842: Court and Frontier in Byzantium During the Last Phase of Iconoclasm by Juan Signes Codoñer. Topics include the context in which Theophilos came to power, the continuous warfare with the Arabs, and the image of the emperor as a good ruler.

Macedonian Dynasty

Basil I, Founder of the Macedonian Dynasty by Norman Tobias. A study of the political and military history of the Byzantine empire in the ninth century.

The Reign of Leo VI (886-912): Politics and People by Shaun Tougher. Leo the Wise has been characterized as a careless and ineffectual emperor, but this book presents a more considered account of Leo and the politics of his age.

Leo VI and the Transformation of Byzantine Christian Identity: Writings of an Unexpected Emperor by Meredith L. D. Riedel. Emperor Leo VI (886-912) was a scholar, and his religious education made him an unusual ruler.

The Emperor Romanus Lecapenus and His Reign by Sir Steven Runciman. A study of 10th century Byzantium.

De Administrando Imperio by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, translated by R. J. H. Jenkins. Written by a 10th century emperor, this is an excellent source of information about the empire's neighbors, the Slavs and Turks.

Fourteen Byzantine Rulers: The Chronographia by Michael Psellus. The death of Basil II in AD 1025 ushered in decades of turbulence, corruption, and incompetence. For the following half-century of extraordinary decline, our main source is Michael Psellus (1018-96). His vivid and forceful chronicle, full of psychological insight, both portrays and exemplifies the Byzantine way of life.

Sowing the Dragon's Teeth: Byzantine Warfare in the Tenth Century by Eric McGeer. New translations of the Praecepta Militaria of emperor Nikephoros Phokas and the revised version included in the Taktika of Nikephoros.

Basil II

Basil II and the Governance of Empire, 976-1025 by Catherine Holmes. The first book-length study in English of the Byzantine emperor Basil II, who governed with both subtle persuasion and brute force.

The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-Slayer by Paul Stephenson. The reign of the Byzantine emperor Basil II (976-1025) has been considered a golden age, in which his greatest achievement was the annexation of Bulgaria. This book reveals that the legend of the "Bulgar-slayer" was created long after his death.

The Days of the Warlords by Paul A. Blaum. The struggles of two Byzantine warlords, Bardas Sclerus and Bardas Phocas, against emperor Basil II.

Byzantium in the Year 1000 edited by Paul Magdalino. Ten scholars from six countries reassess key aspects of the empire's politics and culture during the long reign of Basil II Bulgaroctonus.

Doukas Dynasty

Serving Byzantium's Emperors: The Courtly Life and Career of Michael Attaleiates by Dimitris Krallis. A microhistory of 11th-century Byzantium built around the biography of a state official whose life raise questions of identity, governance, elite culture, Romanness, Hellenism, science and skepticism.

The History by Michael Attaleiates, translated by Anthony Kaldellis and Dimitris Krallis. In 1039 Byzantium was the most powerful empire in Europe and the Near East. By 1079 it had become a politically unstable state half the size. The History of Michael Attaleiates is our main source for this astonishing reversal.

Comnenian Dynasty

The Alexiad by Anna Comnena. The author of this classic history was the daughter of Alexius I. Her book covers her father's reign and the First Crusade.

Anna Komnene and Her Times edited by Thalia Gouma-Peterson. About women's literature in Byzantium and princess Anna Comnena.

Anna Komnene: The Life and Work of a Medieval Historian by Leonora Neville. Byzantine princess Anna Komnene is known for two things: plotting to murder her brother to usurp the throne, and writing an epic history of her father. This book re-establishes her identity as an author rather than as a failed conspirator.

The First Crusade: The Call from the East by Peter Frankopan. According to tradition, the First Crusade began at Pope Urban II's instigation. But what if the real catalyst was Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos?

Deeds of John and Manuel Comnenus by John Cinnamus. Account of the reigns of John II and Manuel I, written by a secretary of Manuel I.

John II Komnenos, Emperor of Byzantium: In the Shadow of Father and Son edited by Alessandra Bucossi and Alex Rodriguez Suarez. Papers about the Byzantine emperor John II Comnenus, who reigned from 1118 to 1143.

The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos, 1143-1180 by Paul Magdalino. This book, the first devoted to Manuel's reign for over 80 years, re-evaluates the emperor in the light of recent scholarship.

The Development of the Komnenian Army: 1081-1180 by John W. Birkenmeier.

Palaiologos Dynasty

Imperial Twilight by Constance Head. The Palaiologos dynasty and the decline of Byzantium.

The Early Palaeologan Renaissance 1261-C. 1360 by Edmund Fryde. How emperors and high officials revived the glories of ancient Greek culture after the recovery of Constantinople in 1261.

The Reluctant Emperor by Donald M. Nicol. A biography of John Cantacuzene, Byzantine emperor and monk, 1295-1383.

Manuel II Palaiologos (1350-1425): A Byzantine Emperor in a Time of Tumult by Siren Çelik. This biography constructs an in-depth picture of Manuel as a ruler, author and personality.

Manuel II Palaeologus (1391-1425): A Study in Late Byzantine Statesmanship by John W. Barker.

The Immortal Emperor by Donald M. Nichol. Biography of Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last Christian emperor of Constantinople and Byzantium. The book also discusses recent claimants to the Byzantine throne.

The Fall of Constantinople 1453 by Steven Runciman. This classic account shows how the fall of Constantinople in May 1453, after a siege of several weeks, came as a bitter shock to Western Christendom. To the Turks, victory guaranteed that their empire would last.

Books About the Ottoman Empire

Byzantine Court and Society

Julian the Apostate in Byzantine Culture by Stefano Trovato. Julian died young, but his attempt to reinstate paganism resonated for centuries.

Flavours of Byzantium by Andrew Dalby. A study of the food that was eaten at the court of the Eastern Roman Empire at Constantinople in the Middle Ages.

Byzantine Dress: Representations of Secular Dress in Eighth- to Twelfth-Century Painting by Jennifer L. Ball. Examines how Byzantine clothes reflected, rank, wealth, and fashion.

The Perfect Servant: Eunuchs and the Social Construction of Gender in Byzantium by Kathryn M. Ringrose. Eunuchs were prominent in both the imperial court and the church, and uniquely suited for important roles in Byzantine life.

Daily Life in the Byzantine Empire by Marcus Rautman. Learn about Byzantine time-keeping, weddings, sports, games, skin care, humor, education, and more.

A History of the Byzantine State and Society by Warren Treadgold.

The Economic History of Byzantium edited by Angeliki E. Laiou and Charalampos Bouras. Covers the Byzantine economy from the 7th through the 15th century.

Books About Byzantine Women

Byzantine Art & Architecture

Byzantine Art and Architecture: An Introduction by Lyn Rodley. Covers the whole Byzantine period from the 4th to the 14th century by period. Illustrated with over 300 maps, plans, and halftones.

Oxford History of Art: Byzantine Art by Robin Cormack. Focuses on the art of Constantinople from 330 to 1453.

Art of the Byzantine Era by David Talbot Rice. A complete account of Byzantine art from the reign of Justinian to the fall of Constantinople.

Sacred Founders by Diliana Angelova. From the time of Roman emperor Augustus through early Byzantium, the connection between imperial and sacred art helped legitimize the authority of the emperor and his family.

Glory of Byzantium: Arts and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843-1261 edited by Helen C. Evans and William D. Wixom. A stunning, 604 page coffee-table artbook based on the exhibition of the art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557) edited by Helen C. Evans, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This book, the first to focus exclusively on the last centuries of the Byzantine era, presents hundreds of objects in all media.

The Road to Byzantium: Luxury Arts of Antiquity by Andrei Alekseyev. Focuses on objects made for wealthy patrons from precious materials such as gold, silver and ivory.

Books About the Hagia Sophia

City of Constantinople

Istanbul: The Imperial City by John Freely. Tells the story of the city from its foundation to the present day.

Byzantine Constantinople: Monuments, Topography and Everyday Life edited by Nevra Necipoglu.

Books About Istanbul in Ottoman Times

Byzantine Military & Wars

Fighting Emperors of Byzantium by John Carr. Assesses the contribution of emperors whose military leadership determined the survival of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Byzantium and Its Army 284-1081 by Warren Treadgold. The first general book on the Byzantine army in any language. The author traces the army from its reorganization under Diocletian (284-305) until its disintegration after the battle of Manzikert (1071).

Warfare, State And Society In The Byzantine World 565-1204 by John Haldon. Examines Byzantine attitudes toward war, effect of war on society and culture, strategy and tactics, and more.

Byzantium at War, AD 600-1453 by John Haldon. Tells the full story of the Byzantine Empire, from the days when it was barely clinging to survival until its last emperor died fighting on the ramparts.

The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society, 1204-1453 by Mark C. Bartusis. Examines in detail the use of the Byzantine army as an instrument of policy, and as an institution in itself.

Byzantine Tradition After Byzantium

Byzantium After Byzantium by Nikolae Iorga, translated by Laura Treptow. Argues that Byzantium did not die, but continued to influence European history up to the beginning of the 19th century.

The Byzantine Hellene by Dimiter Angelov. Highly illustrated biography of Theodore II Laskaris, who ruled over the Byzantine state of Nicaea after the fall of Constantinople in 1204.

Fiction About the Byzantine Empire

The High City by Cecelia Holland. Byzantine emperor Basil II's most trusted troops are foreign mercenaries, including the son of an Irish slave, who comes to the notice of the emperor's wife.

Novels About Justinian I and Justinian II

Children's Books

The Byzantine Empire by Elsa Marston. Children's book.

Anna of Byzantium by Tracy Barrett. A young adult novel about Anna Comnena, Byzantine princess and historian.

In the Heroic Age of Basil II: Emperor of Byzantium by Penelope Delta. Fiction for children ages 9 to 12.

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Documentaries, Movies, and Music

These DVDs are formatted for North American audiences.

Byzantium: The Lost Empire. Documentary from the Discovery Channel. Pass through the gates of Constantinople, the eye of the world, where East still meets West. Explore the magnificent mosque of Hagia Sophia. Visit the treasury of St. Mark's in Venice, and see antiquities never before filmed for television. 3 hours, 29 minutes.

Documentary About Justinian
Videos & DVDs About the Roman Empire
Videos & DVDs About World Royalty

Byzantine Music

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