My interest in Byzantine, Late-Antique, Levantine and Ottoman history isn't going away anytime soon. Here's an updated selection:
Written in the mid-12th c. by the daughter of Alexios Komnenos. Ostensibly sets out to protect his reputation for posterity; in bringing the period of the First Crusade to life, achieves much, much more. Also: the first ever history book by a woman.
The Byzantine Republic: People and Power in New Rome
Puts forward the surprising yet well-argued thesis that Byzantium did, in fact, retain Roman political roots. Byzantine Emperors ruled very much 'for the people' — or else.
Fourteen Byzantine Rulers
A court advisor's vainglorious first-hand account of the disastrous period immediately following Basil II's hard-fought reconquests. The biases on display are glaring and amusing. A great book to read before or alongside 'The Alexiad'.
In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire
How Arab raiders overran the wealthiest parts of the Roman Empire and the entire Sasanian Empire in a few years. Holland's overly-dramatic prose can get repetitive, but the subject matter is too enthralling to put down.
Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City
Updated version (2010) of this celebrated 1970s guide to the city's many layers, starting with contemporary Istanbul before delving deeper and deeper into the past.
The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History
The medieval world's wild territorial fluctuations, mapped and annotated from the 4th to the 14 c. Pre-requisite: an opinion on what neat lines and borders mean in a world before the nation-state.
The Origins of the Ottoman Empire
This short book quickly dismisses the legends surrounding the rise of the House of Osman in favor of a much more plausible narrative. While the other post-Seljuk Beyliks boxed themselves into Anatolia, only the Ottomans had room to expand — into Byzantium.
'A rather modest elementary handbook', the manual of war that defined Roman military tactics as the age of standing armies was coming to an end. The ethnographic run-down of Byzantium's enemies' strengths and weaknesses is priceless.
The World of Late Antiquity
Extraordinary read that shifts your perception of a dark 'fall' of the Roman Empire to that of a vivid world in transition. The defining book on Late Antiquity.
The Urban Image of Late Antique Constantinople
Constantinople's monuments, described and situated within the ideological framework of the new capital. If this site ever deserved an accompanying book, this would be it.
Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean
Colorful snapshots of 16th-20th c. life in Smyrna, Beirut and Alexandria. Beyond the repetitive theme of combustible cosmopolitanism, I found Mansel's structure a little chaotic.
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