A Times of London Book of the Year
Longlisted for the Runciman Award
“The most compelling fusion yet of narrative history with the recent findings of environmental research and scientific data. It will change the way we understand key events and transformations in the Eastern Empire.”—Anthony Kaldellis, author of Romanland
“[A] major contribution…Brings the world of New Rome alive with exceptional learning and a magnificent openness to modern scientific methods that breathe life into conventional narratives of political and social history.”—Peter Brown, New York Review of Books
“A sweeping survey of the disintegration of the western Roman empire and the emergence of Byzantium…This impressive chronicle offers an eye-opening perspective on a period of dramatic change.”—Publishers Weekly
Long before Rome fell to the Ostrogoths in 476 AD, a new city had risen to take its place as the beating heart of the empire, the glittering Constantinople, known as New Rome. In this strikingly original account of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and emergence of Byzantium, Paul Stephenson offers a new interpretation of the forces that coalesced—dynastic, religious, climactic—to shift the center of power to the east. His novel, scientifically minded interpretation of antiquity's end presents evidence found not only in parchments and personalities, but also in ice cores and DNA.
From 395 to 700 AD, the empire in the east was subjected to a series of invasions and pandemics, confronting natural disasters and outbreaks in pathogens previously unknown to the empire’s densely populated, unsanitary cities. Politics, war, and religious strife sparked by the rise of Islam drove the transformation of Eastern Rome, but they do not tell the whole story. Deftly braiding the political history of the empire together with its material, environmental, and epidemiological history, New Rome offers a surprising new explanation of why Rome fell and how the Eastern Empire became Byzantium.
[A] major contribution to our knowledge of the sheer richness and importance of the world of East Rome in its initial headlong centuries…Brings the world of New Rome alive with exceptional learning and a magnificent openness to modern scientific methods that breathe life into conventional narratives of political and social history…Stephenson’s approach takes us directly into the heart of East Roman society.
The eastern Mediterranean witnessed major turbulence and transformation between the fifth and seventh centuries: climate change, wars, plague, religious strife, the end of classical antiquity, and the rise of Islam. In this striking new history, Stephenson gives us a portrait of Byzantium that is informed by environmental science and the material records left behind by the men and women of New Rome. Conventional histories of the last days of the Roman Empire will no longer suffice after you read this book.
How did the Eastern Roman Empire of late antiquity become the civilization known as Byzantium? Stephenson’s New Rome is the most compelling fusion yet of narrative history with the recent findings of environmental research and scientific data. It will change the way we understand key events and transformations in the Eastern Empire.
Stephenson…has a wonderfully sharp eye for data and detail…Anyone who has shrugged at the suggestion that the weather had anything to do with the demise of such a mighty empire will, I think, come away from this book persuaded that climate change and natural disasters provide an important part of the answer. Far from being moralistic and attempting to apply the examples of the past as a warning, Stephenson lays down the evidence unemotionally, and lets it speak for itself…A sobering but fascinating history. Not for a long time has a book surprised me as much as this one did…I have been quoting passages and surprising facts to everyone around me ever since putting it down.
A genuinely new way of looking at later Late Antiquity, firmly anchoring the old stories of emperors and barbarians in their physical and environmental context. Stephenson’s gift for narrative is matched by an eye for arresting images and quirky anecdotes that will surprise and delight even jaded readers.
Casts brilliant shafts of light on the material conditions and spiritual quests of the ruling and the ruled in the Mediterranean world of Late Antiquity. Long-studied monuments and texts are fused with Egyptian papyri and fresh scientific data on habitats and climate change to present a masterly synthesis.
A sweeping survey of the disintegration of the western Roman empire and the emergence of Byzantium…Stephenson draws on the ‘new science of Roman history’ to reveal how climate change, pandemics, invading tribes, and near-constant warfare led to the decline of ancient cities…This impressive chronicle offers an eye-opening perspective on a period of dramatic change.
Centers on the Byzantine world in the period 395–700 A.D., combining modern scientific methods with traditional history to explain which parts of Rome migrated east and what became of them.
This early history of Byzantium is sure to be enjoyed by a wide audience.
- 464 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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