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Judith Herrin was Stanley J. Seeger Professor of Byzantine History, Princeton University, 1991-1995 and is Director for the Centre for Hellenic Studies, King's College, London. (Bowker Author Biography)
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Judith Herrin argues here that neither later medieval/modern Western Europe nor the Islamic World would have developed as they did without the Byzantine Empire, and that religion was a key structural force in these varying developments. Byzantium was a buffer between the Dar al-Islam and much of Christian Europe, yet it was heavily influenced by Muslim aniconism; a rejection of iconoclastic extremes and also of Byzantine caesaropapism shaped how Christian institutions and particularly Carolingian power developed in western Europe. There are definite shades of Pirenne here, and parts of The Formation of Christendom have been superseded by later scholarship in the 30 or so years since this book was still published. Despite this and some other minor quibbles, there's still much to benefit from here; Herrin's explication of the icon controversy is authoritative.… (more)
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siriaeve | 4 other reviews | Nov 29, 2023 |
 
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AbneyLibri | 4 other reviews | Jul 22, 2023 |
As Rome declined in the later years of the Roman Empire, various other cities grew to rival it for power and influence. Constantinople is the most famous of these, of course, but Ravenna was another of the "New Romes." It benefited from an enviable location as a port city on the Adriatic that was surrounded by marshy land which made it difficult to besiege. Judith Herrin here recounts the city's history from the fifth through to the ninth century, arguing for its importance to understanding the development of early medieval Europe.

It's an argument which I think has some merit to it, but I'm not sure that the structure of the book was the best way for Herrin to make it. The need to provide framing political context meant that the narrative was constantly jumping away from Ravenna for extended stretches, while the written sources that survive from the city are fairly fragmentary. I came away from Ravenna with a clearer picture of some of the key political figures associated with it over the centuries than I did of what it might have been like to walk the city's streets—though undoubtedly with the wish to visit the city and see some of the magnificent buildings and mosaics about which Herrin writes with such knowledge and affection.
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siriaeve | 4 other reviews | Feb 22, 2023 |
A delightful exploration of the role of a city, that set its imprint upon the developement of Western Europe in the medieval period. Herrin's Ravenna is a narrative history of the Adriatic city, placing it in the context of the transiton from "Late Antiquity to "The Age of Charlemagne'" Her written sources are the historian Procopius, the book of Papal histories and the less authorative account of the Archbishops of Ravenna by Agnellus, an abbot of Ravenna, who wrote and embroidered his history in the 800's. The text is divided into nine sections which deal with the phases in which the city devolved from the operational capitol of the Western Roman empire into an argumentative, and evocative, but provincial, backwater. Her final chapter has a good view of her intentions: "Against both views, I have attempted to show that creation and innovation accompanied the conflicts and immiseration; that what had been the Western Roman Empire experienced the the birth pangs of a new social order as much as the death throes of the old one. A long process engendered the new social, military and legal order we call early Christendom."
There is a useful table paralleling Popes, Exarchs, the Archbishops of the City, and the Lombard Kings. The mapping is adequate, There are some unusual illustrations of the attractions of the city, not seen in other texts.
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DinadansFriend | 4 other reviews | Jan 2, 2023 |

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