The Secret History

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Having dutifully written the official war history of Justinian's reign, Procopius turned round and revealed in The Secret History the other faces of the leading men and women of Byzantium in the sixth century. Justinian, the great law-giver, appears as a hateful tyrant, wedded to an ex-prostitute, Theodora; and Belisarius, the brilliant general whose secretary Procopius had been, is seen as the pliable dupe of his wife Antonina, a woman as corrupt and scheming as Theodora herself.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140455281
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/18/2007
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 415,382
  • Product dimensions: 5.07 (w) x 7.76 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

G.A. Williamson was born in 1895 and was a Classical Exhibitioner at Worcester College, Oxford, graduating with a First Class Honours degree. He was Senior Classics Master at Norwich School from 1922 to 1960. He also translated Josephus: The Jewish War (1959) and Procopius: The Secret History (1966) for the Penguin Classics. He died in 1982.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Secret History

    The modern reader of history must typically depend on the research of equally modern historians. Which is certainly not a bad thing. Modern historians have access to a vast number of resources and often at least strive to present a more objective view of the past, while most ancient historians had no appreciation whatsoever for objectivity in composing their accounts of what would have been for them contemporary events and figures. While true objectivity may be impossible, I prefer a more balanced approach to history over the panegyrics of the past.

    Having said that, it is still a pleasure to read ancient historians now and then, despite their shortcomings. And no historian was better placed to report on the lives of Justinian, Theodora, and Belisarius of the eastern Roman Empire than was Procopius, who produced eight volumes on the history of one of the greatest, most renowned Byzantine emperors - Justinian I. In his Secret History, Procopius not only casts aside panegyrics, but delves perhaps a bit too avidly into the revulsion he felt at his mighty emperor and empress. This is a history certainly worth reading for anyone whose view of Justinian is limited to praise for him as a devoted Christian ruler and appreciation for his sacral architecture, such as the fantastic Hagia Sophia in Konstantinopolis. Procopius details the greed and cruelty of his emperor, as well as the malice and lasciviousness of his wife, Theodora.

    Which is interesting reading, although I can't help but feel it is more than a bit overstated and undersupported. Unfortunately, ancient writers also lacked a concern for citing their sources. You can't simply assume that because Procopius was a contemporary of Justinian, therefore he personally witnessed all that he writes about. Nor does he suggest so himself. In which case, how much of his account is hearsay, is simple rumor based on rumor, and how much of it - if any - can be further documented? I at least walk away from this book with a sense that Justinian and Theodora were extremely suspicious characters. Yet, while Procopius insists that Justinian was the worst ruler in all of history, just how much worse were he and his wife from other rulers in the ancient world? Or, for that matter, our own?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2006

    one of a kind

    This book is about 1,500 years old, but it's written in a way that's just as newsy and down-to-earth as anything today, which just goes to show you that people don't change. it is basically the history of Justinian and Theodora, two of the most influential rulers of Byzantium ever, from the perspective of a historian who hates their guts. A great way to discover ancient literature.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2000

    Is this book funny or what?

    WOW...I didn't believe ancient people would write stuff like this... This book is hilarious.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2000

    Entertaining read

    Procopius writes a very readable discription of Byzantium at the time of Justiniun. He takes you to the corrupt court of the emperor giving you details that a tabloid would be proud of. You wonder how much to accept at face value, but the book is well worth reading anyway.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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