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How to ruin a fair book in one brief statement January 20, 2016

Posted by Tantumblogo in asshatery, Basics, disaster, error, foolishness, General Catholic, history, horror, paganism, persecution, pr stunts, rank stupidity, reading, scandals, secularism, self-serving, silliness, Society.

So I’ve always wanted to learn a bit more about the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire. I think the Byzantine Empire generally gets very short shrift in the West.  It’s just basically ignored, or at most a footnote. But the Byzantine Empire preserved very high standards of  the Greco-Roman civilization for centuries after the West had been reduced to bare barbarism, and, more importantly, largely kept Islam out of Eastern and Central Europe single-handedly.  They preserved a great deal of ancient knowledge that, when transferred back west during the course of the Crusades, greatly assisted in the great achievements of the High Middle Ages.

So I got a mass market book that provides a sparse but fairly useful broad overview of the thousand-year run of the Byzantine Empire from the collapse of Rome to its sad fall to the Turkish Mohammadans in the 1450s.  It’s called Byzantium by Giles Morgan.  It was a pretty fair book, though much of it read as if it had been cobbled together from Wikipedia and other online sources.  But it did about what it was sold to do in workmanlike, if far from inspired, fashion – give a very brief synopsis of the high points of Byzantine history.

But ate the very end the author made a statement that was so hair-pullingly inane that it really undermined whatever worth the rest of the work held.  In fact, the author made a similar statement early on that I let pass.  But once it was repeated I had to assume he really believed what he was saying.  Here it is:

Within the arena of modern popular culture, Byzantium continues to fascinate in ways that often deeply divide opinion.  The best-selling author of The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, caused huge controversy with his questioning of the origins of Christianity, and, in particular, with his suggestion……..that Constantine the Great had invented the divinity of Jesus Christ, turning Him from a man into a God through the medium of the Council of Nicaea.  

Well……..that’s true.  It’s true in the sense that 2001: a space odyssey continues to polarize students of the history of the manned space race between the Americans and Soviets, what with its claims of manned missions to Jupiter in 1999 and the proof of intelligent life off the planet earth uncovered on the moon.

That is to say, it’s not true at all.  It’s completely, totally made up, and is “controversial” only in the sense that any outrageously stupid and obviously false claim is controversial.

Talk about obliterating the credibility of the author.  The history of Byzantium is inexorably bound up with the Christian Faith.  And to reveal such a shocking, mind-blowing ignorance of the subject matter at hand – there are literally thousands of references to the Divinity of Jesus Christ prior to the Council of Nicaea, including the entire Canon of the New Testament – reveals a level of ignorance of the subject matter under study that it simply beggars the imagination.  Sadly, but predictably, especially given the modern-day progressive milieu from which the Brit Giles Morgan hails, the author appears to feel that Dan Brown’s fabulist screed is as worthy of belief/debate as orthodox Christian belief, instead of simply completely dismissing them as ludicrous as any responsible historian would do.  That is the only conclusion I can reach from his twice mentioning Brown’s claims, in a book on a subject matter which really merited no such inclusion.

It is almost like he was trying, in a rather underhanded way, to cast doubt on Christian belief for his (presumed) reading audience. Obviously, knuckle-dragging faithful Christians haven’t the least interest in history, right?

So, can anyone make a recommendation for a decent one-volume history of the Byzantine Empire and its culture?





1. Observer - January 20, 2016

‘Lost to the West’ by Lars Brownsworth is a single volume work that has received good reviews, but the most authoritative and comprehensive history of Byzantium is probably the three volume effort by John Julius Norwich. Each book: ‘The Early Centuries’, ‘The Apogee’ and ‘The Decline and Fall’, can be read independently.

Tantumblogo - January 20, 2016

Many thanks! I’ll check out the three volume set, though that’s a bit more than I intended! But to cover such a vast and important topic that stretches over 1000 years, I’m sure three volumes barely scratches the surface.

Steven Cass - January 20, 2016

I concur with the Norwich recommendation. To be sure, Norwich is no friend of the Church, but he is an excellent historian. He also wrote a shorter one volume history of Byzantium cleverly named “A Short History of Byzantium” that you may be interested in. God bless!

2. Observer - January 20, 2016

PS The Oxford History of Byzantium edited by Cyril Mango is a bit friendlier in its presentation of maps and artwork.

3. John Taratuta (@johntaratuta) - January 20, 2016

Check out any related works of historian Jaroslav Pelikan. He converted to Orthodoxy before he died.

4. c matt - January 20, 2016

Maybe he tossed that Dan Brown thing in there to increase sales.

5. camper - January 20, 2016

I suggest the latter half of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Unknown to most, the latter half of the work covers Byzantium.

6. Faith of Our Fathers - January 21, 2016

How anyone with -Half a Brain – could have taken that book D Code by Brown with any credibility was beyond me .I was at work and an Atheistic Protestant threw that book over the table To Me and said “read that,that’s what Christianity is all about ” before I even opened it he went on about The Knights Templars and where,so called unlucky Friday13 came about . Right away I told him that Friday13 came about through The Cruxifiction of Jesus Christ on the first Good Friday and that there were 13 at The Last Supper. Christ and the 12 Apostles. Browns book to me ,was one of the worst I had ever read. As I am not a fiction fan it amazed me how the so called HERO in his book practically went through the whole Fairy Story and never once had a nights sleep. Also one of his worst mistakes in his story is that as you get near the End everything speeds up . This is because having sent half the story to the Publisher they then told him to hurry up and finish as there was a very Gullible Public out there willing to make both Brown and his Publishers loads of money . The film version has been on T V often and I watched about 10 minutes,it was really ROTTEN and I was surprised the Hank put his reputatation up to appear in such garbage.

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