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Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization Audiobook

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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (727 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Lars Brownworth Narrator: Lars Brownworth Publisher: Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In AD 476 the Roman Empire fell–or rather, its western half did. Its eastern half, which would come to be known as the Byzantine Empire, would endure and often flourish for another eleven centuries. Though its capital would move to Constantinople, its citizens referred to themselves as Roman for the entire duration of the empire’s existence. Indeed, so did its neighbors, allies, and enemies: When the Turkish Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople in 1453, he took the title Caesar of Rome, placing himself in a direct line that led back to Augustus.

For far too many otherwise historically savvy people today, the story of the Byzantine civilization is something of a void. Yet for more than a millennium, Byzantium reigned as the glittering seat of Christian civilization. When Europe fell into the Dark Ages, Byzantium held fast against Muslim expansion, keeping Christianity alive. When literacy all but vanished in the West, Byzantium made primary education available to both sexes. Students debated the merits of Plato and Aristotle and commonly committed the entirety of Homer’s Iliad to memory. Streams of wealth flowed into Constantinople, making possible unprecedented wonders of art and architecture, from fabulous jeweled mosaics and other iconography to the great church known as the Hagia Sophia that was a vision of heaven on earth. The dome of the Great Palace stood nearly two hundred feet high and stretched over four acres, and the city’s population was more than twenty times that of London’s.

From Constantine, who founded his eponymous city in the year 330, to Constantine XI, who valiantly fought the empire’s final battle more than a thousand years later, the emperors who ruled Byzantium enacted a saga of political intrigue and conquest as astonishing as anything in recorded history. Lost to the West is replete with stories of assassination, mass mutilation and execution, sexual scheming, ruthless grasping for power, and clashing armies that soaked battlefields with the blood of slain warriors numbering in the tens of thousands.

Still, it was Byzantium that preserved for us today the great gifts of the classical world. Of the 55,000 ancient Greek texts in existence today, some 40,000 were transmitted to us by Byzantine scribes. And it was the Byzantine Empire that shielded Western Europe from invasion until it was ready to take its own place at the center of the world stage. Filled with unforgettable stories of emperors, generals, and religious patriarchs, as well as fascinating glimpses into the life of the ordinary citizen, Lost to the West reveals how much we owe to this empire that was the equal of any in its achievements, appetites, and enduring legacy.

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Listener Reviews

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Review by Pat | 2/18/2014

    " The author is reading the book. Ugh. But the material is interesting. Finally put this back on the "shelf." I'll get back to it later--maybe. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Review by Melissa | 2/12/2014

    " history nerds will like this book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Review by Lucas | 2/7/2014

    " A complete and utter travesty. This book is little more than an epitome of J.J. Norwich's trilogy, which is quite bad. Brownworth writes well and tells a good story, but it's frequently a story very far from the historical reality. Given that he had the time to do some research between his podcast and the release of his book and it's disappointing to see that he did almost nothing. The picture of Byzantium represented here is very far from the ideas of modern scholarship, it's a crime to release such a volume on to the public. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Review by Nathan Miller | 2/5/2014

    " Lots and lots of information. About half of it is interesting information. "

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About the Author

Lars Brownworth is an author, speaker, broadcaster, and teacher based in Maryland. He created the first history podcast, “12 Byzantine Rulers,” which Apple recognized as one of the “top fifty podcasts that defined their genres.” He has written for the Wall Street Journal and been profiled in the New York Times, who likened him to some of history’s great popularizers. His books include Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire that Rescued Western Civilization, The Normans: From Raiders to Kings, and The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings.