Vanished Kingdoms – Byzantion

This chapter in Norman Davies‘ book on states that have vanished from the European scene is an amazingly ironic one, I presume unintentionally.  The thesis of the chapter is that the Byzantine Empire gets a short shrift from Historians.  Davies demonstrates this by giving it short shrift in his book.

The state, that lasted from the 300s AD to 1453 AD, gets about 20 pages.  Tolosa, a state that was crushed by the Franks after living a hundred years or so, gets about the same.

But at least Tolosa gets to be discussed.  Byzantium’s chapter is about how historians refuse to give it credit for its accomplishments – as a historian doesn’t discuss them again.  He rails at Gibbon for dismissing the dynasties in a long chapter – as he works past them without any mention at all.  And he is disdainful of Enlightenment historians and their anti-Christian bias, while in the next sentence writing off Theodosius I as a “Ceasaro-papist”.

Not that I know what the hell that means, but since at the time there was no powerful Pope in Rome, and Bishop Ambrose of Milan famously made Theodosius do public penance for wrongdoing, this seems to be the pot calling the kettle black to me.

Then while decrying the absence of knowledge of later Byzantine history as he skips over it, he does have time to describe who got jobs recently in university teaching about it, and the chats they had with the hired workmen about it.

Byzantium may be the greatest of the Vanished Kingdoms as he writes.  It is certainly absent from this chapter.



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