• The Modern Scholar: Empire of Gold: A History of the Byzantine Empire

  • By: Thomas F. Madden
  • Narrated by: Thomas F. Madden
  • Length: 8 hrs and 19 mins
  • Lecture
  • Release date: 08-18-08
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Recorded Books
  • 4 out of 5 stars 4.1 (217 ratings)

Regular price: $49.95

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Publisher's Summary

In this epic course, esteemed university professor Thomas F. Madden offers a fascinating history of the remarkable culture and state that developed out of the ancient Roman Empire, particularly its eastern portion, throughout the Middle Ages. The story begins at the end of the Roman Empire in the third century AD and continues over the next one thousand years. With incisive commentary, Professor Madden leads a discussion covering Justinian's re-conquest of the West, the great city of Constantinople, and the aftermath and influence of this extraordinary empire. The term "Byzantine" was invented by modern historians to identify the final millennium of the Roman Empire. By the third century and into the fourth century, there were changes in the Roman Empire so profound that historians during the Enlightenment began to call the period Byzantine rather than Roman. Most historians would place the beginnings of the Byzantine Empire roughly around the reign of the emperor Diocletian, who instituted widespread reforms to halt civil wars and economic decline.
One of the primary characteristics of the Byzantine Empire was the relegation of Rome to a place of honor only. Rome was not the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The capital, instead, was Constantinople. Therefore, power was based in the eastern Mediterranean. Next was the dominance of Greek culture and eastern perspectives, and a final characteristic was the integration of Christianity into the social and political fabric of the empire. Constantinople was the beating heart of the Byzantine Empire and the greatest city in the Western world at this time. Constantinople sat at the crossroads of the world and controlled east-west land traffic. Eventually, the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks reverberated across the Christian world. Europeans now saw a world in which nothing stood between them as the last remnant of free Christendom and the ever-growing powers of Islam.
©2006 Thomas F. Madden (P)2006 Recorded Books, LLC
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Kristopher on 01-02-09

Solid Content, Great Presentation

As a history student, I always felt that the Byzantine Empire played a critical role in the development of Western civilization, yet it had always been shrouded in a cloud of mystery. This audio book blows that cloud away, allowing the listener to see the historical events that shaped European development as it emerged from a backwater collection of barbaric forces and into a viable player on the world scene.

Professor Madden is a competent lecturer; both thorough regarding pertinent facts as well as cyclical; meaning that he brings the listener back to points he had made earlier, effectively tying together sequences of events and how they interrelate.

After reading a review by another reviewer regarding the heavy "Christian bias" in this work, I feel that he must not be referring to this book at all, but another, for I found zero bias regarding any particular viewpoint. Christianity is certainly emphasized, as it must be with regard to the history of Byzantium (or of the West in general), for it played an enormous role in the shaping of policy, diplomacy and gave cause for empire-shaking wars and conquests.

Constantinople was filled with churches, monasteries, icons and the like. It was an extraordinarily religious city. It's relationship with Rome was hampered by differences in religious doctrine - minor points by atheists' standards or the generally non-religious, but the people of that time period were anything but that. Therefore, various doctrinal points regarding their eternal fates would certainly play a major role in all the aspects of their lives. Dr. Madden simply presents the facts. There is no bias.

Admittedly, I enjoy lectures. This cannot be said of all people. I enjoy a dry presentation as well as a sparkling one; provided the facts are straight. This is grade A material, sure to be enjoyed by any budding historical scholar.

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25 of 25 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Yvette on 02-17-13


Would you listen to The Modern Scholar again? Why?

I have downloaded just about all of Prof Madden's downloaded stuff and it is all excellent, amusing, clear, interesting and informative. He is a great lecturer and, as an additional bonus, has a lovely voice.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I've listened to this book about 4 times. Not in one sitting. The fact I've listened over and over again is testimony to how informative and interesting it is- and as a lecturer, Prof Madden is great. Not at all condescending.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Olivier on 01-29-13

An Engrossing Story Told By An Expert

I just finished listening to Professor Madden's lectures on the History of the Byzantine Empire and cannot recommend it enough to anyone interested in history.

Not only is the history of the of the Byzantine Empire interesting, per se, but one also learns a lot of background information about things in Western Europe. For example, one learns how and why the Pope came to rule extended lands in Italy, how Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire "by accident", and many others.

The text is excellent with a lot of wit, particularly when discussing all the various schisms that occured on religious grounds over 1000 years between the Popes and the Patriarchs of Constantinople.

The delivery of Professor Madden is a bit hesitant and stilted, at the beginning, but one gets used to it and around the middle of the series of lectures the sound engineers do some tweaking and the voice is less nasal. In any case it is obvious that these lectures are being given by someone who knows the Bizantine Empire inside out and one is left with an heavy heart when it finally collapses in 1453 (sorry for the spoiler ;-).

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By A. J. Barringer on 03-31-09

V informative

this was a very clear, easy to listen to and informative series of lectures on a subject that has been generally neglected and few know very much about.

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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