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By Jonathan Shepard

Byzantium lasted one thousand years, governed to the top by means of self-styled 'emperors of the Romans'. It underwent kaleidoscopic territorial and structural alterations, but recovered time and again from catastrophe: even after the near-impregnable Constantinople fell in 1204, variation varieties of the empire reconstituted themselves. The Cambridge historical past of the Byzantine Empire tells the tale, tracing political and army occasions, spiritual controversies and financial switch. It deals transparent, authoritative chapters at the major occasions and classes, with extra distinct chapters on specific outlying areas, neighbouring powers or facets of Byzantium. With aids similar to a word list, an alternate place-name desk and references to English translations of assets, will probably be worthwhile as an creation. in spite of the fact that, it additionally deals stimulating new ways and critical new findings, making it crucial interpreting for postgraduates and for experts.

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The capital was, in effect, permanently in a frontline position and this raises a second aspect of the empire’s involvement with outsiders: every generation or so Constantinople’s citizens faced a major ‘barbarian’ incursion 20b and 21 in NCHM, V; chapters 22 and 23 in NCMH, VI; chapter 24 in NCMH, VII; and chapters 2a, 2b and 2c in CAH, XIV. , ed. Thurn, pp. 367–8; French tr. Flusin and Cheynet, p. 305. 26 See below, p. 707. 27 Haldon (1999a), pp. 37–8. 12 general introduction Map 1 Physical geography of the Byzantine world i.

847–8). 21 22 general introd uction Our story might accordingly begin with the new covenant between God and mankind which Constantine the Great (306–37) made upon accepting the Christian religion and basing himself in the city of Byzantion. That is when the emperor became a figure of universal value to influential Christian churchmen such as Eusebius (see above, p. 6). Triumphalist notions about the Christian empire’s destiny and hopes of individual spiritual rebirth started to filter through the lettered and propertied classes of the Roman Mediterranean and other strata of society, providing a sense of purpose and consolation through military setbacks and periodic devastation.

The balance between maintaining military effectiveness and ensuring trustworthiness already coloured Byzantine political thinking and strategy in Justinian’s era. But the problem gained a new edge from the Arabs’ ongoing challenge and, as Walter Kaegi shows, emperors were very fortunate that comparable tensions dogged the Muslim leadership and stymied its capacity for major invasions (see below, pp. 365, 373, 375, 392). By around 700 the Muslims were tightening their hegemony over Armenia after a brief revival of imperial influence there (see below, pp.

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