The eastern Roman Empire was the largest state in western Eurasia in the sixth century. Only a century later, it was a fraction of its former size. Surrounded by enemies, ravaged by warfare and disease, the empire seemed destined to collapse. Yet it did not die. In this holistic analysis, John Haldon elucidates the factors that allowed the eastern Roman Empire to survive against all odds into the eighth century.
By 700 CE the empire had lost three-quarters of its territory to the Islamic caliphate. But the rugged geography of its remaining territories in Anatolia and the Aegean was strategically advantageous, preventing enemies from permanently occupying imperial towns and cities while leaving them vulnerable to Roman counterattacks. The more the empire shrank, the more it became centered around the capital of Constantinople, whose ability to withstand siege after siege proved decisive. Changes in climate also played a role, permitting shifts in agricultural production that benefitted the imperial economy.
At the same time, the crisis confronting the empire forced the imperial court, the provincial ruling classes, and the church closer together. State and church together embodied a sacralized empire that held the emperor, not the patriarch, as Christendom’s symbolic head. Despite its territorial losses, the empire suffered no serious political rupture. What remained became the heartland of a medieval Christian Roman state, with a powerful political theology that predicted the emperor would eventually prevail against God’s enemies and establish Orthodox Christianity’s world dominion.
Haldon masterfully integrates contemporary historical records, numismatic studies, and agricultural data to create an overall coherent picture of a turbulent age.
The Empire That Would Not Die is the latest contribution from a prolific scholar who has been laying the foundations of Byzantine history for the last twenty-five years. Haldon returns to seventh-century Byzantium with a new approach full of fresh insights.
A magisterial synthesis by a historian at the height of his powers, drawing on decades of sustained enquiry and scholarship. One hopes that this book will draw greater attention to its subject as a significant moment in world history.
- 432 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.