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A compelling and vivid narrative history of one of the founding civilizations of the modern world, the Byzantine empire, evocatively told through the lives of its 92 emperors.
The Byzantine empire was one of the most successful states of the Middle Ages, ruling over a huge terrain straddling Europe and western Asia for an unrivalled eleven hundred years. Yet its history remains largely unfamiliar. This chronicle brings this majestic yet turbulent period to life through the lives of its emperors: supreme military commander, Head of State and God’s representative on earth, no less.
These were the men and women that presided over many of the foundations of the modern world, from the establishment of the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith, to the magnificent artistic heritage of Hagia Sophia and Mount Athos, and the creation of a visual template for Christian art.
Each illustrated biographical entry contributes to the story of how Byzantium shaped our art, culture, religious beliefs and justice systems, and the role this extraordinary empire played in halting repeated invasions, allowing the idea of ‘Europe’ to flourish. Through stories of nobility and petty revenge, of religious devotion and brutal genocide, and of sexual intrigue and artistic brilliance; from soaring intellectuals to illiterate peasants, eunuchs and despots, this is a humanizing portrayal of individuals, whose role impacted the lives of millions.
'I love this book. The strangeness, the darkness, the madness, the gruesomeness, the politics, the families, the feuding, the deaths! It makes Game of Thrones look like a scrap in the playground' - Russell T. Davies
'This revelatory and brilliantly researched book opens the door to one of the best-kept secrets in art – the magnificent empire of Byzantium' - Waldemar Januszczak
'Kevin Lygo is a connoisseur, collector and specialist in the Byzantine era, which when combined with his flair for storytelling, make this a publication to savour' - Will Gompertz
'A highly readable, beautifully illustrated survey of the rulers of a great medieval empire that spanned more than a thousand years, from Constantine the Great to the fall of the Eastern Empire. Lygo has succeeded brilliantly in bringing this fascinating but strangely neglected subject to life' - Paul Lay, Editor, History Today, and author of Providence Lost: the Rise and Fall of Cromwell’s Protectorate
About the Author
Kevin Lygo is an expert in Islamic and Byzantine art who has travelled across Europe and the Middle East extensively. He has previously edited the publications Portraits of the Masters: Bronze Sculptures of the Tibetan Buddhist Lineages (2003) and Pages of the Qur’an. A study of Islamic Calligraphy (2011). He is Director of Television at ITV and was formerly Director of Television at Channel 4. Bettany Hughes is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster. Robert Peston is a journalist, writer and the Political Editor of ITV News.