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Memoirs of a Byzantine Eunuch by Christopher…

Memoirs of a Byzantine Eunuch

by Christopher Harris

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Having bought this on an impulse, I wish I had read the Amazon sample beforehand. I may have decided not to spend my money. The story depicted 9th century Contantinople in its glory and, mostly, its hedonism. It was vivid in portraying that time and place.

This is Zeno's story told from his comfortable old age. When still a lad from the country, he is captured by Rus warriors [we would know them as Vikings], becomes the slave of Inger, and is castrated. From a squalid tavern at which the drunken Inger's comrades leave him behind and sail to the North and where Inger marries the hostess and has a daughter, Eudocia; he is bought by a Byzantine scholar and is brought to the city. Years pass, then Zeno crosses paths with future Emperor, Michael III. Through the orders of his master and another scholar, Zeno leads him down the path of depravity. In the tavern, Michael meets Eudocia, now a beautiful young lady; she becomes Michael's mistress. After Michael becomes emperor, she is married off to Basil, his favorite, a base-born peasant and stable hand. Much of those types of description were gratuitous and I feel could have been left out. Some of them turned my stomach. The graphic descriptions of violent male rape were especially disturbing. The opening scene: a travesty of the Liturgy, was shocking. Zeno became involved in Byzantine politics, religious heresies and intrigue. I didn't like any belittlement of ecclesiastical institutions. Michael, the last of the Phrygian dynasty, is gruesomely assassinated in bed. Right before dawn, a peasant [Basil the Macedonian] and former tavern-girl [Eudocia] rule the Roman [Byzantine] Empire.

I would have rated this book higher had there not been so much debauch. I didn't like any belittlement of ecclesiastical institutions. When I saw something of either nature coming I skipped over or skimmed it. How much was inserted purely for shock value? Because of so much of this nature, the last few chapters after the murder of Michael were rushed through to the conclusion. The author did a good job of evoking Constantinople, although I don't think I would have wanted to live there at that time. There was a very interesting 'Historical Note'. ( )
  janerawoof | Aug 19, 2014 |
Zeno is kidnapped and castrated by the Rus, taken to Constantinople, where he is sold to a scholar and eventually finds place in Emperor's inner circle. Depicts an exotic and dangerous society in which differences in doctrine or palace intrigue can lead to disaster.
  ritaer | Mar 14, 2013 |
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