Customer Reviews for

Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Fun and fascinating read!

This is by far the best popular history of the eastern Roman empire of the four I've read over the years. Engaging, comprehensive, and fun to read, it brings the solemn, grimy, hugely brown-eyed figures of Byzantine iconography alive as real people whose motivations one...
This is by far the best popular history of the eastern Roman empire of the four I've read over the years. Engaging, comprehensive, and fun to read, it brings the solemn, grimy, hugely brown-eyed figures of Byzantine iconography alive as real people whose motivations one can understand.

Very important book as well, if you would truly understand the world as it is today with the split in what used to be Western civilization with Eastern European civilization. As one reads the lessons of the Byzantines, for good and ill, one can see the problems they faced and created playing out in very similar ways in today's headlines.

If the world of the Byzantines is a place you've not been in your reading to date, this would definitely be the place to start.

posted by ChuckRC on January 2, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

In A Nutshell

Somewhat of a disapointment to me. This book is more of an overview of the Byzantine Empire that you might get from a history class, than a serious study. The writing is in a style that is more storytelling(as described in one of the reviews on the book)than history. Th...
Somewhat of a disapointment to me. This book is more of an overview of the Byzantine Empire that you might get from a history class, than a serious study. The writing is in a style that is more storytelling(as described in one of the reviews on the book)than history. The dates fly by and the main characters have a couple of quick antecdotes or events, then on to the next chapter. Nice appendix on the emperors though which helps to keep the story straight. Might try Gibbon next.

posted by Marek on April 3, 2010

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  • Posted July 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Deserved Homage to Byzantium

    Brownworth at least proves the thesis of this brief history: the Byzantine Empire did, in fact, hold the line for the West for nearly a millennium. Not only did it preserve the classics of Greece and Rome lost to the West in the centuries that elapsed between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance, but it also - just as, if not more, importantly - managed to prevent the soldiers of Mohammed from swarming west and devouring a fractured, sub-developed Europe. "The great walls of Constantine's city.delayed the Muslim advance into Europe for eight hundred years," Brownworth points out, "allowing the West the time it needed to develop" (p. 302).

    This is all that can be fairly said for it though. The annals of Byzantium offer very little distinct from the late Western Roman Empire. Both were plagued by ceaseless cycles of political, economic and social instability. With an admittedly fair share of exceptions, an individual would usurp the crown of the basileus, murder/blind/tonsure him and any other potential rivals, and then, sooner or later, suffer the indignity of a similar fate himself.

    Beyond that which it preserved from the Ancient Greeks and Romans it is a struggle to come up with anything distinctive of the Byzantines that would serve to guide and inspire posterity. When the minds of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment looked back it was to the Classical Age, not to the Byzantines, that they found something worthy.

    The Byzantines' contribution was to ensure that the fruits of the Classical Age were still there. Byzantium essentially served as a bridge between that epoch and the modern one to which we today are a part. Without them not only would our earliest heritage have been (in keeping with the spirit of this history's title) completely lost to us but the West itself would have fallen beneath the conquering sword of Islam.

    No Byzantium, no Western Civilization.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    In A Nutshell

    Somewhat of a disapointment to me. This book is more of an overview of the Byzantine Empire that you might get from a history class, than a serious study. The writing is in a style that is more storytelling(as described in one of the reviews on the book)than history. The dates fly by and the main characters have a couple of quick antecdotes or events, then on to the next chapter. Nice appendix on the emperors though which helps to keep the story straight. Might try Gibbon next.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 23, 2010

    Worth a look

    A good introduction on the Byzantines, but even now after finishing the book, I can recall my college history professor telling me when the Roman Empire ended. It was not when the Byzantines were crushed in 1453 or Russia in 1917. But the 5th century. Period. It's a quick read, focuses on the highlights very much like you would read in college. Nevertheless, public libraries should consider adding this book to their collection.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2013

    Chatty and anecdotal, the book shows signs of hasty writing (or

    Chatty and anecdotal, the book shows signs of hasty writing (or sloppy editing): the phrase "spent force" is used way too many times; clangers like "stand toe-to-toe with Norman arms" and "laconic defenders" (maybe they just had nothing to say) occur too frequently. But it is overall a good introduction to a subject usually ignored or skimmed over in most introductory Western Civ. courses. Give it a try, but don't expect great scholarship.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted June 9, 2010

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    Posted December 2, 2010

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