REFERENCE

The Byzantine Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia

ABC-CLIO. 2 vols. Sept. 2019. 715p. ed. by ed. by James Francis LePree & Ljudmila Djukic. ISBN 9781440851469. $204. REF
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LePree (medieval history, City Coll. of New York), art historian Djukic, and seven other scholars explore the history of the Byzantine Empire, from 284 to 1453. A lucid introduction by Matthew Herbst (history, Univ. of California San Diego) places Byzantium on the continuum of Roman history and discusses the role of Roman law, Greek language, and post-Constantinian Christianity. The encyclopedia proper covers government and politics, organization and administration, individuals, groups and organizations, events, military, objects and artifacts, and places. An overview essay precedes each section; see-also and further reading suggestions follow entries; both volumes reprint the index. The selection of entries targets a range of readers, though some articles (such as those on government or economics) are quite abstruse. Topics have been sacrificed: there is no entry or index reference for literature, science, medicine, music, or philosophy. Surprisingly, there are no maps. The rich and varied art of this lengthy period is extensively covered but underserved by the relatively few (though informatively captioned) small black-and-white photos of statues, structures, coins, and images. The quality of writing varies from notably poor (“Military”) to notably good (the entries written by Djukic, Brenda Thacker, and Herbst). Recent single-volume surveys of Byzantine history (but not art or architecture) include Jonathan Shepard’s revised 2019 Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire and Cyril Mango’s Oxford History of Byzantium.
VERDICT Packed with information on the 1,200 years of this influential empire and accessible to nonspecialist general readers, these volumes will also be of use to undergraduates studying medieval history.

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