Sailing From Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World

by Colin Wells

Paper Book, 2006




New York : Bantam Dell, 2007, c2006.


"In Sailing from Byzantium, Colin Wells tells of the missionaries, mystics, philosophers, and artists who against great odds and often at peril of their own lives spread Greek ideas to the Italians, the Arabs, and the Slavs."--BOOK JACKET.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ianracey
The Byzantines saw themselves as inheritors and continuators of the Imperial Roman legacy, and, as part of this, as the guardians of the one true Christian faith. But their European contemporaries, and many Westerners see it quite differently: we see ourselves as Rome's descendants to one degree or another, but the Byzantines are not part of that for us. They're alien, mediaeval, Orthodox, effete, decadent--Other.

But we're doing the Byzantines a disservice when we see them as outside the Western progression from Rome, to the Middle Ages, to the restoration of ancient knowledge in the Renaissance. They had an inestimable impact on each of the three major civilisations that surrounded them--Europe to the West, the Arabs to the East and the Slavs to the North; and in each case, that impact took a radically different form. It's the nature of this cultural diffusion that is Colin Wells's subject in Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World.

The book is fairly short, only 293 pages in the hardcover edition. It's divided into three sections: first the West, detailing how the diaspora of Byzantine scholars who fled Constantinople following its fall to the Turks in 1453 reintroduced the Greek language, and thereby Ancient Greek scholarship, to the humanists of the early Italian Renaissance; then the East, where Byzantine society and culture gave the primitive Muslim warriors who burst out of the Arabian desert a model of how to govern a multinational empire and establish a sophisticated cultural identity even as they gobbled the empire up piece by piece; and lastly the Slavs, who received from Constantinople literacy (the Cyrillic alphabet was invented by a Byzantine missionary), and religion, and lastly Russia's claim to Rome's imperial legacy, through intermarriage with the Byzantine royal houses and Tsar Ivan the Great's adoption of the imperial title and Byzantine regalia after Constantinople's fall.

Sailing From Byzantium is fully accessible to the casual reader. It's not a scholarly study and doesn't pretend to be, but it's a great jumping in point.
… (more)
LibraryThing member jerry-book
Did the Byzantine scholars who fled Constantinople provide the spark for the Italian Renaissance? Did the Byzantines provide the bulwark against the Muslim invasion in the Middle Ages? Did the Byzantines dwell way too much on their past? All these questions are dealt with in this informative book.
LibraryThing member kaitanya64
This is one of those tricky books that I want to like more than I do. It's hard to pitch a history like this exactly right. There were parts where I felt the author was going into more detail than I wanted, since I picked the book based on prior interest. In other places, I wanted him to connect the dots more. So, how does this relate to what I already know? Why do I feel like there is a big hole here? I know there's something missing but I can't quite remember what? So, in some ways it is overspecialized and in other ways underspecialized.… (more)
LibraryThing member Sandydog1
Even though this book is short, it was a bit overwhelming. Comprehension was complicated by the lack of clear chronology and the amazing number of historical figures, each with a very long Latin, Greek or name Slavic name. 'Not a Rocco, Tony, Paulie, Frankie, or Nico - in the bunch!

A thorough overview, worthy of a re-read. That should help with the comprehension.… (more)



Page: 0.1427 seconds