Although the Western Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century A.D., the Eastern Roman Empire continued to exist, although with a vastly reduced influence until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This book recounts the history of the Eastern-Roman empire—called the Byzantine Empire in its later years—from its rise under Constantine, to its greatest extent under Justinian, through the disastrous Moslem conquests of the seventh century, through the iconoclast controversies and schism of the tenth century, through the crusades of the later middle ages, and to the final collapse under pressure from the Ottoman Turks.
INTERIOR OF ST. SOPHIA.
Fifty years ago the word "Byzantine" was used as a synonym for all that was corrupt and decadent, and the tale of the East-Roman Empire was dismissed by modern historians as depressing and monotonous. The great Gibbon had branded the successors of Justinian and Heraclius as a series of vicious weaklings, and for several generations no one dared to contradict him.
Two books have served to undeceive the English reader, the monumental work of Finlay, published in 1856, and the more modern volumes of Mr. Bury, which appeared in 1889. Since they have written, the Byzantines no longer need an apologist, and the great work of the East-Roman Empire in holding back the Saracen, and in keeping alive throughout the Dark Ages the lamp of learning, is beginning to be realized.
The writer of this book has endeavoured to tell the story of Byzantium in the spirit of Finlay and Bury, not in that of Gibbon. He wishes to acknowledge his debts both to the veteran of the war of Greek Independence, and to the young Dublin professor. Without their aid his task would have been very heavy with it the difficulty was removed.
The author does not claim to have grappled with all the chroniclers of the Eastern realm, but thinks that some acquaintance with Ammianus, Procopius, Maurice's Strategikon, Leo the Deacon, Leo the Wise, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Anna Comnena and Nicetas, may justify his having undertaken the task he has essayed.
Charles C. W. Oman
OXFORD, February, 1892