100 books like The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium

By Alexander P. Kazhdan (editor),

Here are 100 books that The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium fans have personally recommended if you like The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Wars of Justinian

Warren Treadgold Author Of A History of the Byzantine State and Society

From my list on understanding the Byzantine empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first became interested in Byzantium in high school, when I read Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and I’ve been interested in Byzantine subjects ever since. I’ve traveled to almost every country that was once part of the Byzantine Empire, all around the Mediterranean seaboard. I’ve written ten books and many articles on Byzantine politics, Byzantine scholarship, Byzantine literature, the Byzantine economy, the Byzantine army, Byzantine religion, and Byzantine art (with my wife, a Byzantine art historian). It’s such an enormous field, spanning thirteen centuries, three continents, and Greek, Roman, Christian, and many other cultures, that there’s always something new, surprising, and marvelous to discover.

Warren's book list on understanding the Byzantine empire

Warren Treadgold Why did Warren love this book?

The masterpiece of Byzantium’s greatest historian is a dramatic military narrative by a gifted storyteller who happened to be the private secretary of Byzantium’s greatest general, Belisarius, during the reign of Byzantium’s greatest emperor, Justinian I (527-565). It’s in three parts: The Persian War, in which Belisarius defended Byzantine Syria against the Persians; The Vandal War, in which Belisarius conquered North Africa from the Vandals; and The Gothic War, in which Belisarius conquered most of Italy from the Goths, though the final conquest was the work of another great general, Narses. 

If you don’t have time to read the whole saga, I recommend reading The Vandal War, which is self-contained and particularly exciting. Procopius’ Secret History is more famous because it’s so scandalous, but it’s not as great a history as the Wars.

By Prokopios, H.B. Dewing (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wars of Justinian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fully-outfitted edition of Prokopios' late Antique masterpiece of military history and ethnography--for the 21st-century reader. "At last . . . the translation that we have needed for so long: a fresh, lively, readable, and faithful rendering of Prokopios' Wars , which in a single volume will make this fundamental work of late ancient history-writing accessible to a whole new generation of students." --Jonathan Conant, Brown University


Book cover of Fourteen Byzantine Rulers: The Chronographia of Michael Psellus

Jonathan Harris Author Of Byzantium and the Crusades

From my list on Byzantium from superpower to downfall.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first came across Byzantium when I read Robert Graves' Count Belisarius and studied as much of its history as I could while at King's College London. Later I taught English in Turkey and was able to visit the Byzantine sites of Istanbul, Iznik, and Cappadocia. I now teach medieval and Byzantine history at Royal Holloway, University of London. For those living outside eastern Europe and Russia, Byzantium may appear to be rather remote and exotic: that is part of its appeal! But just because it is strange and different does not mean that we should not try to understand it on its own terms. That is what I have tried to do in my books and teaching.

Jonathan's book list on Byzantium from superpower to downfall

Jonathan Harris Why did Jonathan love this book?

I love this book because it is the personal memoirs of a Byzantine statesman, Michael Psellus (c.1022-c.1080), who lived through the dramatic reversal of fortune of the mid-eleventh century. He tells the story through the lives of the emperors and empresses who ruled during his lifetime. To appreciate Psellus’ work, it is better to skip the first two biographies which are largely based on hearsay, and to start with the account of Romanos III (1028-1034). As the author himself says ‘I both saw Romanos and on one occasion actually talked to him.’

As Psellus rose through the ranks of the palace bureaucracy, he became the secretary and close adviser to one emperor after another. He describes events as he himself witnessed them, recording conversations and anecdotes, often illuminating the personal qualities and failings of the imperial incumbents. The work tails off at the end as Psellus reaches the time of…

By Michael Psellus, E.R.A. Sewter (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fourteen Byzantine Rulers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This chronicle of the Byzantine Empire, beginning in 1025, shows a profound understanding of the power politics that characterized the empire and led to its decline.


Book cover of The Alexiad

Jonathan Harris Author Of Byzantium and the Crusades

From my list on Byzantium from superpower to downfall.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first came across Byzantium when I read Robert Graves' Count Belisarius and studied as much of its history as I could while at King's College London. Later I taught English in Turkey and was able to visit the Byzantine sites of Istanbul, Iznik, and Cappadocia. I now teach medieval and Byzantine history at Royal Holloway, University of London. For those living outside eastern Europe and Russia, Byzantium may appear to be rather remote and exotic: that is part of its appeal! But just because it is strange and different does not mean that we should not try to understand it on its own terms. That is what I have tried to do in my books and teaching.

Jonathan's book list on Byzantium from superpower to downfall

Jonathan Harris Why did Jonathan love this book?

Anna Komnene (1083-c.1148) takes up the story where Michael Psellus left off. Like him, she was writing from inside the court: she was the daughter of Alexios I who reigned from 1081 to 1118. She gives a laudatory account of her father’s reign during which the tide of disaster was turned back and Byzantium began to recover some of the ground that it had lost. Some of the most memorable passages in The Alexiad are those that describe the passage of the First Crusade through Byzantium in 1096-7. Komnene takes a rather ambivalent tone in describing the hordes of bellicose warriors who had arrived from the west.

On the one hand, they were fellow Christians who had come to fight the common enemy, the Muslim Turks. On the other hand, might they not also constitute a threat, since they could be well tempted by the riches of Constantinople? That ambivalence…

By Anna Komnene, E.R.A. Sewter (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Alexiad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written between 1143 and 1153 by the daughter of Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, The Alexiad is one of the most popular and revealing primary sources in the vast canon of medieval literature. Princess Anna Komnene, eldest child of the imperial couple, reveals the inner workings of the court, profiles its many extraordinary personages, and offers a firsthand account of immensely significant events such as the First Crusade, as well as its impact on the relationship between eastern and western Christianity. A celebrated triumph of Byzantine letters, this is an unparalleled view of Constantinople and the medieval world.

This Penguin…


Book cover of Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome

Warren Treadgold Author Of A History of the Byzantine State and Society

From my list on understanding the Byzantine empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first became interested in Byzantium in high school, when I read Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and I’ve been interested in Byzantine subjects ever since. I’ve traveled to almost every country that was once part of the Byzantine Empire, all around the Mediterranean seaboard. I’ve written ten books and many articles on Byzantine politics, Byzantine scholarship, Byzantine literature, the Byzantine economy, the Byzantine army, Byzantine religion, and Byzantine art (with my wife, a Byzantine art historian). It’s such an enormous field, spanning thirteen centuries, three continents, and Greek, Roman, Christian, and many other cultures, that there’s always something new, surprising, and marvelous to discover.

Warren's book list on understanding the Byzantine empire

Warren Treadgold Why did Warren love this book?

The best survey of Byzantine civilization by the best Byzantinist of recent times, this book covers all the main features of Byzantine life, thought, and culture with profound but unobtrusive learning, including many interesting details and covering ethnography, religion, literature, art, and architecture.

Mango’s penetrating analysis often reveals defects of the Byzantines and their empire that other scholars usually overlook, and his overall evaluation of Byzantium is more negative than my own, but his writing is lucid, brilliant, and always worth reading. I particularly recommend this book as an introduction for readers who know little if anything about the Byzantines and their empire.

By Cyril Mango,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Byzantium as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Examining Byzantine life from the point of view of the average citizen, a noted historian deals with language, social and economic conditions, the disappearance and revival of cities, education, monasticism, and the Byzantine literary, artistic, and architectural legacy


Book cover of The Byzantine Legacy in the Orthodox Church

Victor Roudometof Author Of Globalization and Orthodox Christianity: The Transformations of a Religious Tradition

From my list on a quick introduction to Orthodox Christianity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a scholar of Orthodox Christianity for more than 20 years; & authored or (co-)edited several books. It took the fall of communism to overcome the relative poverty of Western literature & gain better knowledge of the Orthodox religious landscape. Personally, I am interested in the relationship between Orthodoxy and culture/politics. This relationship runs deep into the heart of several Orthodox nations – as the war in Ukraine aptly demonstrates. By the 21st century, Orthodox Christianity is no longer exclusively affiliated with its historical birthplace of Eastern and Southeastern Europe but there are millions of Orthodox Christians in North America and Western Europe.

Victor's book list on a quick introduction to Orthodox Christianity

Victor Roudometof Why did Victor love this book?

John Meyendorff’s works are indispensable for understanding the theology and history of Orthodox Christianity. 

While several of his contributions belong to the must-read list for students of Orthodox Christianity, this book in particular offers a lucid account and an indispensable introduction to the broader and enduring problematic regarding the deep-seated connections between Byzantium and the historical development of the Orthodox Church.

The book addresses a series of historical events rarely researched and studied and it is a pioneer work highly suited for scholars of religious history.

By John Meyendorff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Byzantine Legacy in the Orthodox Church as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For more than a millennium the Byzantine Empire and its capital, Constantinople guided the spiritual destinies of the Christian East. Even after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the influence of its culture, thought and institutions remained powerful, above all in the Orthodox Church.

In this collection of essays, Fr John Meyendorff, one of the most prominent Orthodox historians and theologians of our day, delineates the many facets of this Byzantine legacy. After an initial survey of the Byzantine Church, he explores such varies subjects as Byzantine political ideology, spirituality and ecclesiology. He clearly demonstrates the significance of Byzantium not…


Book cover of A Short History of Byzantium

Lilith Saintcrow Author Of A Flame in the North

From my list on European history books for writing Western epic fantasy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like any writer, I’m fascinated with what makes people tick and why they act the way they do. Naturally, this means I read a lot of history. I love reference reading; I love researching arcane questions for a tiny detail that will bring a character or their world to life. Creating epic fantasy is an extension of both my drives as a reader and a writer. Pouring myself into characters who inhabit different settings is a deeply satisfying exercise in both craft and empathy, and each history book has some small bit I can use to make my settings more compelling, more enjoyable for readers, and more real.

Lilith's book list on European history books for writing Western epic fantasy

Lilith Saintcrow Why did Lilith love this book?

I love reading history and am fascinated by the Byzantines.

Norwich has an absolute gift not just for overviewing the major trends and events in history but also for choosing telling details that solidify the picture, reaching across centuries to empathize with people who were not so very different than us.

Plus, he’s scorchingly funny when the occasion calls for it. Both the abridged and the three-volume work walk that fine line between major events and small, crystalline, and often poignant or hysterically amusing details.

By John Julius Norwich,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Short History of Byzantium as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Norwich is always on the lookout for the small but revealing details. . . . All of this he recounts in a style that consistently entertains."
--The New York Times Book Review

In this magisterial adaptation of his epic three-volume history of Byzantium, John Julius Norwich chronicles the world's longest-lived Christian empire. Beginning with Constantine the Great, who in a.d. 330 made Christianity the religion of his realm and then transferred its capital to the city that would bear his name, Norwich follows the course of eleven centuries of Byzantine statecraft and warfare, politics and theology, manners and art.

In…


Book cover of Ancient Greece: A Very Short Introduction

Robin Waterfield Author Of Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens: A History of Ancient Greece

From my list on ancient Greek history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a British scholar – a former university lecturer, many moons ago – now living in rural southern Greece. In fact, I have Greek as well as UK citizenship, which really pleases me because I’ve loved Greece and things Greek since boyhood. I started to learn ancient Greek at the age of ten! I’ve written over fifty books, mostly on ancient Greek history and philosophy, including many volumes of translations from ancient Greek. But I’ve also written children’s fiction in the form of gamebooks, a biography, a book on hypnosis, a retelling of the Greek myths (with my wife Kathryn) ... I’ll stop there!

Robin's book list on ancient Greek history

Robin Waterfield Why did Robin love this book?

This is an outstanding short introduction to Greek history – with a really neat gimmick. Instead of writing a standard kind of history, Cartledge picks on the eleven most prominent cities of ancient Greece and writes up their story in about ten or twelve pages. But the chapters are also organized chronologically, so that the first two cities, Cnossos and Mycenae, illustrate Greek prehistory. Then we move on to the Archaic Period (four places, including Sparta), then the Classical Period (three, including Athens), and then the Hellenistic period (one: Alexandria, the greatest city in the world before Rome). He ends with a leap into late antiquity and the eastern Roman empire with Byzantium. I’m always on the lookout for books that can turn people on to Greek history, get them to share my (and Cartledge’s) passion: this one does it brilliantly.

By Paul Cartledge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ancient Greece as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The contribution of the Ancient Greeks to modern western culture is incalculable. In the worlds of art, architecture, myth, literature, and philosophy, the world we live in would be unrecognizably different without the formative influence of Ancient Greek models.

Ancient Greek civilization was defined by the city - in Greek, the polis, from which we derive 'politics'. It is above all this feature of Greek civilization that has formed its most enduring legacy, spawning such key terms as aristocracy, oligarchy, tyranny and - last but by no means least - democracy.

This stimulating Very Short Introduction to Ancient Greece takes…


Book cover of Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World

Zachary Wingerd Author Of Syria Crucified: Stories of Modern Martyrdom in an Ancient Christian Land

From my list on Christians in the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was infuriated to learn how my government was misrepresenting the recent war in Syria. I learned of this deceit from Syrians who had fled their war-torn country and relayed a very different narrative from the one we're all hearing. From 2016-17 Baylor University’s Institute for Oral History sponsored and archived our collection of audio-recorded interviews of Syrian Christians. This book is the end result of their entrusting us with their harrowing testimonies. I'm a Senior Lecturer in History at Baylor University. I routinely teach, among other courses, the history of the United States from a Global Perspective in which I discuss with my students the same lessons I learned while writing Syria Crucified.

Zachary's book list on Christians in the Middle East

Zachary Wingerd Why did Zachary love this book?

Before the Holy Roman Empire, there was Byzantium. Prior to better-known names like Charlemagne or Thomas Aquinas, there were men like Justinian, who codified Roman law for posterity, or Photius the Great, who gave concise theological treatises to eager audiences of the highly literate populace of Asia Minor. Wells explores the heart of Roman civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean where the flourishing Byzantine Empire preserved ancient learning. Sailing from Byzantium investigates the historical and geographic forces at play which eventually made Byzantium a "forgotten" empire, yet which today—whether it's acknowledged or not—has left its indelible mark on the modern world in remarkable ways. This is not just a journey into history, but an intellectual pilgrimage into the time and setting of almost forgotten intellectual and spiritual giants. 

By Colin Wells,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sailing from Byzantium as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A gripping intellectual adventure story, Sailing from Byzantium sweeps you from the deserts of Arabia to the dark forests of northern Russia, from the colourful 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…


Book cover of Tastes of Byzantium: The Cuisine of a Legendary Empire

Andrew Jotischky Author Of A Hermit's Cookbook: Monks, Food and Fasting in the Middle Ages

From my list on food and drink in the Middle Ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in medieval food and cookery combines two of my great passions in life, but I first started to become seriously interested in the combination when researching religious dietary ideas and practices. I am fascinated by the symbolic role played by food and drink in religious life, and by fasting and self-denial as part of a religious tradition, but also in the ways in which medieval communities feasted and how tastes in food and drink developed through trade and cultural exchange. I teach an undergraduate course on Feast, Fast, and Famine in the Middle Ages because questions about production, consumption, and sustainability are crucially important for us all.  

Andrew's book list on food and drink in the Middle Ages

Andrew Jotischky Why did Andrew love this book?

Food and drink in the Byzantine Empire is not a well-researched topic, and Andrew Dalby has been a pioneer in bringing to life a lost culinary culture. In remarkable detail, he shows what was eaten at the imperial court, in ordinary homes, and in monasteries, and how it was cooked. Dalby describes the sights and smells of Constantinople and its marketplaces, uses travellers' tales and other original sources to paint a comprehensive picture of the recipes and customs of the empire, and their relationship to health and the seasons, love, and medicine. 

By Andrew Dalby,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tastes of Byzantium as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For centuries, the food and culinary delights of the Byzantine empire - centred on Constantinople - have captivated the west, although it appeared that very little information had been passed down to us. Tastes of Byzantium now reveals in astonishing detail, for the first time, what was eaten in the court of the Eastern Roman Empire - and how it was cooked. Fusing the spices of the Romans with the seafood and simple local food of the Aegean and Greek world, the cuisine of the Byzantines was unique and a precursor to much of the food of modern Turkey and…


Book cover of Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome

Denny Sissom Author Of The Bridge to the New Testament: A Comprehensive Guide to the Forgotten Years of the Inter-Testament Period

From my list on the inter-testament period and the New Testament.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I sought material to teach a class on the inter-testament period back in 1994, I discovered there was not much written on the subject. So, I decided to change that. From the creation of the world to the rebuilding of the Temple by Zerubbabel and reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, nothing has piqued my interest as much as what happened after these events. The study of inter-testament history is fascinating, important, and lacking in most Christian educations. Through our learning of the inter-testament, we can better understand the people, politics, and history of the New Testament.  

Denny's book list on the inter-testament period and the New Testament

Denny Sissom Why did Denny love this book?

Although not a history of Rome, per se, in this topically-arranged book, it covers a vast amount of Roman history. This is an outstanding book into the details of Rome’s religion, geography, administration, travel, and economy. It gives deep insight into what it was like to be a Roman citizen, whether one was a pleb or a member of the aristocracy. It presents the government of Rome, from the consuls and emperors down to the level of magistrates and civil servants. Many aspects of the history and structure of Rome’s military are covered in detail, and the book shows how it transformed and adapted over the years of the republic and empire. For any questions on Roman society, this book likely covers it.

By Lesley Adkins, Roy Adkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This handy reference provides full access to the 1,200 years of Roman rule from the 8th century BC to the 5th century AD, including information that is hard to find and even harder to decipher. Clear, authoritative, and highly organized, Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome provides a unique look at a civilization whose art, literature, law, and engineering influenced the whole of Western Europe throughout the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and beyond.
The myriad topics covered include rulers; the legal and governmental system; architectural feats such as the famous Roman roads and aqueducts; the many Roman religions and festivals;…


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