This book is an excellent, up-to-date reassessment of the Byzantine empire during a crucial phase in the history of the Near East. Well illustrated with original maps, it covers the last decade of the Roman empire as a superpower of the ancient world, the crisis of the seventh century, and the means whereby its embattled Byzantine successor hung on in Constantinople and Asia Minor until the Abbasid Caliphate's decline opened up new perspectives for Christian power in the Near East. Chapters cover social and economic change, iconoclasm, the institutions of the Byzantine state, the military development that allowed the empire to strike back in the tenth century, the growing political tensions that led to civil war in the 970s and 980s, and the halt to further advance by that war's victor, Basil II. The author gives full attention to the empire's neighbors, allies, and enemies. The origins of Russia, relations with the nomad power of the steppe world, the competition between Bulgars, Romans and Slavs in the Balkans, and the rich but frequently ignored world of the Transcaucasus are all given extended treatment.
Mark Whittow is a medieval historian and archaeologist at Oriel College, Oxford. He has published articles on Byzantine cities and castles and is currently directing a project surveying medieval castles in western Turkey.