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Extended Audio Sample Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World Audiobook, by Colin Wells Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.82 out of 53.82 out of 53.82 out of 53.82 out of 53.82 out of 5 3.82 (22 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Colin Wells Narrator: Lloyd James Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2006 ISBN: 9781400172856
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A gripping intellectual adventure story, Sailing from Byzantium sweeps you from the deserts of Arabia to the dark forests of northern Russia, from the colorful towns of Renaissance Italy to the final moments of a millennial city under siege.... Byzantium: the successor of Greece and Rome, this magnificent empire bridged the ancient and modern worlds for more than a thousand years. Without Byzantium, the works of Homer and Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle, Sophocles and Aeschylus, would never have survived. Yet very few of us have any idea of the enormous debt we owe them. The story of Byzantium is a real-life adventure of electrifying ideas, high drama, colorful characters, and inspiring feats of daring. 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. Their heroic efforts inspired the Renaissance, the golden age of Islamic learning, and Russian Orthodox Christianity, which came complete with a new alphabet, architecture, and one of the world's greatest artistic traditions. The story's central reference point is an arcane squabble called the Hesychast controversy that pitted humanist scholars led by the brilliant, acerbic intellectual Barlaam against the powerful monks of Mount Athos led by the stern Gregory Palamas, who denounced "pagan" rationalism in favor of Christian mysticism. Within a few decades, the light of Byzantium would be extinguished forever by the invading Turks, but not before the humanists found a safe haven for Greek literature. The controversy of rationalism versus faith would continue to be argued by some of history's greatest minds. Fast-paced, compulsively readable, and filled with fascinating insights, Sailing from Byzantium is one of the great historical dramas-the gripping story of how the flame of civilization was saved and passed on. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A superb survey of Byzantium’s many cultural bequests…In this deft synthesis of scholarship, classicist Wells shows how the Byzantines exerted a profound influence on all neighboring civilizations.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • Wells's arguments are delivered with scholarly precision by Lloyd James…. James reads with the passion that Wells has for his subject. AudioFile
  • “This history is a needed reminder of the debt that three of our major civilizations owe a debt to Byzantium. Highly recommended.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “In this work of extraordinary learning…readers will find themselves guided on a fascinating journey through a story that has never before been presented in such an accessible and thought-provoking fashion.”

    Thomas R. Martin, Jeremiah O’Connor professor of classics at the College of the Holy Cross

  • A History Book Club Pick

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kristen | 2/19/2014

    " A really great look at the influence of Constantinople on Italian humanists, Muslim science, and Russian orthodoxy. The final third -- that of the influence on the Russian church -- was possibly the least interesting of the three, but still a good read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Diane | 1/26/2014

    " This book traces the Byzantine Empire's influence on Western society, Islamic society, and Eastern Orthodox society. It is well written, although clearly intended for a popular, as opposed to a scholarly, audience. I found the sections on the Islamic world and the Eastern Orthodox world particularly interesting, since I'm less familiar with that history than I am with the Western history. However, I was disappointed that Wells didn't make the case that Byzantium continues to influence our world. He seems to think Byzantium's influence disappeared within a few generations, but he never really explains why. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Thomas | 1/23/2014

    " There were many fine facts in this book. Many names. Many dates. The author clearly traces the influence of Byzantine thought and politics upon various figures. I should be much more knowledgeable and in awe of the auther. But I found it very difficult to absorb all of the Nicephoruses and Kantakuzinoses. Reading it as an audiobook probably didn't help. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Maria | 1/16/2014

    " Simply written, not too complex, excellent history for the person who has no previous knowledge of the subject. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Daniel | 1/15/2014

    " This book was far better than I was expecting. I thought it was going to be a lightweight summary of Byzantine culture for people who have barely heard about Byzantium, but it turned out to be quite a bit deeper. The second act dealing with the Italian Renaissance was especially well done. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rachel | 1/12/2014

    " I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I appreciated how it was divided into three sections: Byzantium's influence on the West, on the Islamic world, and the Slavic world. I also loved how the themes of Athens and Jerusalem were traced throughout. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 James Murphy | 12/25/2013

    " I hadn't known Byzantium was so important. Wells's book relates how, in the centuries following the end of the Roman Empire, Byzantium, the surviving portion in the east, continued to influence the Mediterranean world and the Middle East, as well as Russia and the Balkans. By preserving Greek culture and transporting it to those areas, Byzantium made possible the philosophic, religious, and artistic movements behind the Renaissance, the era of Arabic science and learning, and the rise of Russian Orthodoxy. Despite pressures from neighboring peoples, Byzantium was able to remain intact during the dark years following Rome's demise and was able to preserve the twin values of Greek culture and Christianity which were responsible for its own flowering and to pass them along, thereby exporting science and learning to the Arabic world and Christianity to the north. It's not so much a history of Byzantium as it is the story of how it was the fertile seed ground for the ideas and values of the ancient Aegean and how it used its influence to sow them in the surrounding regions, to finally come to us. The book isn't a big one. I suspect the story's huge and much more complex than Wells's account, but his clear demarcations of the benchmarks of the region's cultural history and influence make for comprehension while laying the foundation for broader reading. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amy | 12/22/2013

    " fantastic. this book has convinced me that i'm right to be fascinated with byzantium. enjoyable, interesting and very well-written. wells is funny and intelligent in his assessments of byzantium influence on western, islamic and slavic cultures. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Glenn Robinson | 12/19/2013

    " Learned a great deal of the Byzantines, and the Orthodox Church, both Greek, Russian and then Catholic churches. Many new notables, philosophers, scientists, military leaders and rulers of a wide part of the world from 500-1550 and how they all tie in to Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chris Faulkner | 12/4/2013

    " You have to really really be interested in Byzantine and Renaissance history to enjoy this. It was a tough slow read but really meaty. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 11/27/2013

    " Very good book. Details intellectual decline in Byzantium hundreds of years before it finally fell. However, as it fell, books and translators left the city and sparked the Renaissance in Italy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Csaunders | 12/5/2012

    " this was a fabulous read - easy but informative, well laid out and a fantastic perspective on the area's history "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joe | 10/1/2012

    " Excellent book shows importance of Byzantium influence and how it kept alive Greek and Roman culture and enriched subsequent civilizations "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Karen E. | 6/11/2012

    " Disappointing. Will I ever find a book about the Byzantine Empire that is readable, scholarly, and thesis driven? This certainly isn't it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alice | 5/6/2012

    " The subtitle says it all. A little dry, but interesting information "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tanner | 6/27/2011

    " Affect of Byzantium on the West, Islam, and Russia... Good historical information but not a joy read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mike | 4/14/2011

    " A very well written book. I liked the book, its style, and its flowing read. It is nonfiction. Constantinople is the epicenter and the narrative is divided into three major spheres of impact; West (Rome and Athens), Islam, and the Slavs. Interesting............... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Daniel | 1/21/2011

    " This book was far better than I was expecting. I thought it was going to be a lightweight summary of Byzantine culture for people who have barely heard about Byzantium, but it turned out to be quite a bit deeper. The second act dealing with the Italian Renaissance was especially well done. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alice | 6/29/2010

    " The subtitle says it all. A little dry, but interesting information "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Csaunders | 3/8/2009

    " this was a fabulous read - easy but informative, well laid out and a fantastic perspective on the area's history "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bizzaro! | 12/9/2008

    " An interesting look at the influences of the Byzantine Empire on Europe and Asia, Christians and Muslims. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tanner | 11/23/2008

    " Affect of Byzantium on the West, Islam, and Russia... Good historical information but not a joy read. "

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About the Author

Colin Wells (1933–2010) studied with eminent Byzantinist Speros Vryonis Jr. at UCLA and held an MA from Oxford University in Greats (Greek and Latin language and literature). He wrote numerous articles on world history and culture.

About the Narrator

Lloyd James (a.k.a. Sean Pratt) has been narrating since 1996 and has recorded over six hundred audiobooks. He is a seven-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award and has twice been a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award. His critically acclaimed performances include Elvis in the Morning by William F. Buckley Jr. and Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitzkin, among others.