Author Topic: What are you currently reading?  (Read 559823 times)

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Offline Jo498

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8180 on: July 14, 2017, 10:49:02 AM »
It is comparably short and light.
It was something like a "bridal gift" to Katia. The millionaire's daughter shares some features with her, among others she is also a student of maths and there is an  brilliant description how algebra lecture notes look to someone who has absolutely no clue about what they are supposed to be.
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Online milk

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8181 on: July 15, 2017, 05:12:31 PM »

Offline Alberich

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8182 on: July 16, 2017, 09:48:38 AM »
Having finished Julius Caesar, now reading King John.
"I am a shadowy reflection of you."

Offline Todd

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8183 on: July 16, 2017, 01:50:37 PM »



Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World, by Thomas Madden.  A short/medium length history of Istanbul (358 text pages), Madden's book zooms right through the ancient city's historical highpoints with just enough depth and a quick reading style.  Reading it, I have once again resolved to read more on the ancient eastern empires, and maybe this time the resolve will amount to something.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Jeffrey Smith

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8184 on: July 16, 2017, 02:48:20 PM »
For the Byzantines, Gibbon is still the best read. Norwich's three decker about the Byzantine Empire is possibly the best modern one, but not quite as good as his history of Venice. (He did a one volume history of Byzantium, but I haven't read that: I assumed it was an abridgement of the three volume work.). His one flaw is that he loves his subjects too much.

I remember reading Lord Kinross's history of the Ottomans and thinking it good, but there are alternatives there I don't remember reading.

Speaking of Norwich, I am reading this at the moment.

Offline Todd

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8185 on: July 16, 2017, 03:04:44 PM »
For the Byzantines, Gibbon is still the best read. Norwich's three decker about the Byzantine Empire is possibly the best modern one, but not quite as good as his history of Venice. (He did a one volume history of Byzantium, but I haven't read that: I assumed it was an abridgement of the three volume work.). His one flaw is that he loves his subjects too much.

I remember reading Lord Kinross's history of the Ottomans and thinking it good, but there are alternatives there I don't remember reading.


Thanks of the tips.  The Kinross looks like my speed for the Ottomans.  As a point on clarity, I meant more the Persian and Chaldean empires, but more info on the eastern remnants of Rome is always welcome.  (I'm just not sure I want a three volume history, at least for now.)
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Jeffrey Smith

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8186 on: July 16, 2017, 03:18:43 PM »

Thanks of the tips.  The Kinross looks like my speed for the Ottomans.  As a point on clarity, I meant more the Persian and Chaldean empires, but more info on the eastern remnants of Rome is always welcome.  (I'm just not sure I want a three volume history, at least for now.)

Can't help you there. Gore Vidal's Creation is a great historical novel, but it is 1)a novel and 2)used a view of the Persian Empire's chronology that was outdated even when he wrote it. But that's the only pertinent book I've read on Persia and Mesopotamia that was not narrowly focused on the Jews of those areas.
People like Tom Holland's books, but in what I have read of him, I have found errors in tangential matters that suggested in some things his research was confined to skimming for fun looking factoids.

Offline SimonNZ

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8187 on: July 16, 2017, 04:20:18 PM »


finished:

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

This much praised bestseller I found merely serviceable in laying out the chronology, letting a number of key players speak in their own words, debunking a few myths and giving equal weight to all the parts of his career. Where it lets itself down is in the constant repetition of already made conclusions and in the four or five same amateur-psychology "insights" that the author too easily falls back on and beats like a drum all the way through the book.




Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8188 on: July 16, 2017, 08:04:27 PM »
This fantastic column https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/opinion/how-we-are-ruining-america.html?_r=0

I will read the Small Differences book I think.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8189 on: July 16, 2017, 11:27:56 PM »


“Vasiliev’s survey of Byzantine history is unique in the field.  It is complete, including a sketch of literature and art for each period, while all other works of the kind, even the most recent, either are restricted to a shorter time, or neglect some side of eastern civilization. . . . This widely known and highly prized History of the Byzantine Empire needs not the commendation of any reviewer.  Written originally in Russian, it has been turned into English, French, Spanish, and Turkish.  It has always been a favorite with students.”—The Catholic Historical Review

I have it in the two-volume-in-one Romanian edition and can attest to its enormous scope and erudition.

And a small correction: The "Byzantine" Empire (originally an ideologically-motivated misnomer) was not some "eastern remnant of Rome" --- it was THE Roman Empire, continuing its existence, albeit in mostly diminished territorial extension, until 1453. The 476 Fall of the Roman Empire is a legend; nothing of the sort happened, and if somebody would have told the then-Emperor Zeno in Constaninople that the Empire felt, that person would have been (rightly) laughed off the court.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 11:29:27 PM by Florestan »
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Offline Christo

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8190 on: July 16, 2017, 11:41:35 PM »
And a small correction: The "Byzantine" Empire (originally an ideologically-motivated misnomer) was not some "eastern remnant of Rome" --- it was THE Roman Empire, continuing its existence, albeit in mostly diminished territorial extension, until 1453. The 476 Fall of the Roman Empire is a legend; nothing of the sort happened, and if somebody would have told the then-Emperor Zeno in Constaninople that the Empire felt, that person would have been (rightly) laughed off the court.
Correct, I never taught otherwise and will normally refer to the Roman Empire only. And of course to the so-called Holy Roman Empire, which lasted til 1809 in some enclaves of the German Order, and might be said to survive in the tiny form of Liechtenstein. :-)
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline Jo498

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8191 on: July 17, 2017, 12:08:15 AM »
Of course the Eastern part of the Roman Empire was still going strong for several centuries. But it is also misleading to claim that nothing happened in 476 when the western branch "fell"/was taken over by Germanic tribes. Or especially after the 7th century when the East lost quite a bit of its territory to Arab expansion. Or in 800 when Charlemagne claimed the title of Holy Roman Emperor (which pissed off the real (Eastern) Roman Emperor considerably). All these are important landmarks in European/Mediterranean history.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Christo

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8192 on: July 17, 2017, 12:42:43 AM »
Or especially after the 7th century when the East lost quite a bit of its territory to Arab expansion.
The most important game changer, and if one feels inclined to discern a 'Byzantine' period in Roman history, this is the only meaningful starting point.
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8193 on: July 17, 2017, 03:13:22 AM »
Of course the Eastern part of the Roman Empire was still going strong for several centuries. But it is also misleading to claim that nothing happened in 476 when the western branch "fell"/was taken over by Germanic tribes.

In any case, nothing akin to "the Fall of the Roman Empire". It is quite significant that after deposing the child emperor Romulus Augustulus*, Odoacer sent the imperial inisgnia to Constantinople**.

*A move which was actually of less practical importance for Odoacer than deposing the Magister Militum, Orestes, who happened to be Romulus Augustulus's father.

More importantly, perhaps, Orestes in his turn had deposed the previous emperor Julius Nepos in 475 and forced him to fled Italy, but the latter was still acknowledged as the only legitimate emperor by his colleague in Constantinople, so actually Odoacer deposed an usurper. Shall we then substitute 475 for 476 as "the year the Roman Empire" fell?

** "the Fall of Rome" would be even farther from being true: all throughout 476 AD life in Rome was business as usual in a rather unimportant city. Odoacer's coup took place in Ravenna, which had taken Rome's place as the capital of the Western Empire in 402.

Quote
Or especially after the 7th century when the East lost quite a bit of its territory to Arab expansion. Or in 800 when Charlemagne claimed the title of Holy Roman Emperor (which pissed off the real (Eastern) Roman Emperor considerably). All these are important landmarks in European/Mediterranean history.

True, but despite all these momentous events, all the "Byzantine" emperors, from Charlemagne's time up to the very last one in 1453, called themselves βασιλεύς Ῥωμαίων, "emperor of the Romans" and their state Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, "Empire of the Romans", while the inhabitants called themselves Ῥωμαίωί, "Romans". Inventing a "Byzantine" Empire ruled by "Byzantine" Emperors and inhabited by "Byzantines" has nothing to do with the historical reality and everything to do with ideology and prejudice. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then call it a rabbit.

For an in-depth discussion of what really happened in 476 and why "Byzantine" is a gross misnomer, prejudice-ladden and concocted for ideological reasons, see this excellent online article:

Decadence, Rome and Romania, the Emperors Who Weren't, and Other Reflections on Roman History
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 06:39:33 AM by Florestan »
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Offline aligreto

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8194 on: July 17, 2017, 07:49:35 AM »
Francoise Sagan: Bonjour Tristesse....





This one was recommended to me by my daughter and it it did not disappoint. I found the outlook to be incisive and mature for one so young.
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Offline Jeffrey Smith

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8195 on: July 17, 2017, 07:57:07 AM »
The Byzantines called themselves Romans, their empire the Roman Empire, and their emperor Emperor of the Romans until the bitter end.  But perhaps the best marker is linguistic:  Justinian was the last Emperor who spoke Latin as his mother tongue.  He was the one who reconquered Italy and North Africa, but even in his day laws and decrees were promulgated in vernacular Greek to ensure the populace understood them (even though the Institutes and related publications were written in Latin).  It seems people used to say Heraclius made Greek the official language, but that was mostly legend.  Still, it would seem that by the early 7th century, just before the advent of the Islamic Conquest, one could reasonably think of an Eastern Empire that was significantly different in organization and culture from its predecessor.

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8196 on: July 17, 2017, 09:34:52 AM »
The Byzantines called themselves Romans, their empire the Roman Empire, and their emperor Emperor of the Romans until the bitter end.  But perhaps the best marker is linguistic:

I beg to differ. Especially in the case of an Empire, the linguistic mark is more often than not misleading.

Quote
  Justinian was the last Emperor who spoke Latin as his mother tongue.
 

This is a fact, but its relevance is somehow offset by a number of other facts

1. Greek had been the second language of the educated Romans, and Greek preceptors were the most sought-after, long before the Empire was established. With the possible exception of some soldier-emperors who lacked a thorough education, in all probability all other Roman emperors, starting with Octavian Augustus and including Justinian himself, spoke and wrote Greek fluently, and some of them even used Greek for writing their works, the most famous example being Marcus Aurelius.

2. Justinian was preceded by several emperors whose mother tongue was not Latin and who weren't even ethnically Latin (he had himself Illyrian / Thracian blood in his veins and was born in present-day Macedonia), the most famous being Diocletian (born Diokles --- a Greek name --- in Dalmatia, present-day Croatia, probably of Illyrian descent), Galerius (of certain Thracian / Dacian origin, born in present-day Sofia) and Constantine the Great (born in present-day Serbia of Illyrian / Dacian - Greek descent).

3. Latin proper had been the language of only a fraction of the entire population of the Roman Empire, and even of the city of Rome proper, long before the administrative split of Diocletian.

There was hardly any town of importance in the West in which the Greek tongue was not in everyday use. In Rome, North Africa, and Gaul, the use of Greek was prevalent up to the third century.

Ironically, it is arguably only after Constantinople was founded and the Eastern Empire established and the Germanic tribes began to settle on Roman soil that Rome became a purely Latin-speaking city due to the Greek-speaking population massively going eastward and the Germanic peoples being gradualy "Romanized".

With the progressive "Romanization" and conversion of the races of the West, the influence of the Greek culture is gradually dethroned. According to H. Lietzmann, J. Jungmann, T. Klauser, "Greek lasted up until the middle of the third century, when the Roman Christians had made Latin their popular language and readily adopted it into the Roman culture."23 During the ensuing years, the gulf between the language of the Liturgy and the language of the people widened. Nevertheless in due consideration of the many problems involved, Greek in the Liturgy ceded definitely to Latin in the fourth century because Latin was then the common language of the people. (This evolution was accomplished in the course of two centuries—from the beginning of the third to the end of the fourth century.) The transition of the liturgical language took place in Rome, and the initiative for the change is attributed to Pope Damasus.


Quote
He was the one who reconquered Italy and North Africa, but even in his day laws and decrees were promulgated in vernacular Greek to ensure the populace understood them (even though the Institutes and related publications were written in Latin).

One more proof for #3 above.

Quote
it would seem that by the early 7th century, just before the advent of the Islamic Conquest, one could reasonably think of an Eastern Empire that was significantly different in organization and culture from its predecessor.

But that is the whole point of contention: the Eastern Roman Empire was not the successor of a preceding Roman Empire, nor was a preceding Roman Empire succeeded by the Eastern Roman Empire. The Eastern Roman / "Byzantine" Empire had always been simply the Roman Empire, period. And after the Western Empire disintegrated, it became THE Roman Empire.

As for "significantly different in organization and culture", the formula applies to the Roman Empire during Nero and during Diocletian before his move to administratively split it. Should we therefore say that they were two different empires?
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Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8197 on: July 17, 2017, 06:47:31 PM »
The Western Empire, which includes the little known town called Rome, indubitably did fall. It became fashionable in recent decades to (nonsensically) deny this. The Eastern Empire was whittled away over time, but I think Andrei has a point. It was the same empire in the same sense that modern England is still Plantagenet England, despite the different language.

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Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8198 on: July 17, 2017, 06:56:23 PM »
I beg to differ. Especially in the case of an Empire, the linguistic mark is more often than not misleading.
 

This is a fact, but its relevance is somehow offset by a number of other facts

1. Greek had been the second language of the educated Romans, and Greek preceptors were the most sought-after, long before the Empire was established. With the possible exception of some soldier-emperors who lacked a thorough education, in all probability all other Roman emperors, starting with Octavian Augustus and including Justinian himself, spoke and wrote Greek fluently, and some of them even used Greek for writing their works, the most famous example being Marcus Aurelius.

2. Justinian was preceded by several emperors whose mother tongue was not Latin and who weren't even ethnically Latin (he had himself Illyrian / Thracian blood in his veins and was born in present-day Macedonia), the most famous being Diocletian (born Diokles --- a Greek name --- in Dalmatia, present-day Croatia, probably of Illyrian descent), Galerius (of certain Thracian / Dacian origin, born in present-day Sofia) and Constantine the Great (born in present-day Serbia of Illyrian / Dacian - Greek descent).

3. Latin proper had been the language of only a fraction of the entire population of the Roman Empire, and even of the city of Rome proper, long before the administrative split of Diocletian.

There was hardly any town of importance in the West in which the Greek tongue was not in everyday use. In Rome, North Africa, and Gaul, the use of Greek was prevalent up to the third century.

Ironically, it is arguably only after Constantinople was founded and the Eastern Empire established and the Germanic tribes began to settle on Roman soil that Rome became a purely Latin-speaking city due to the Greek-speaking population massively going eastward and the Germanic peoples being gradualy "Romanized".

With the progressive "Romanization" and conversion of the races of the West, the influence of the Greek culture is gradually dethroned. According to H. Lietzmann, J. Jungmann, T. Klauser, "Greek lasted up until the middle of the third century, when the Roman Christians had made Latin their popular language and readily adopted it into the Roman culture."23 During the ensuing years, the gulf between the language of the Liturgy and the language of the people widened. Nevertheless in due consideration of the many problems involved, Greek in the Liturgy ceded definitely to Latin in the fourth century because Latin was then the common language of the people. (This evolution was accomplished in the course of two centuries—from the beginning of the third to the end of the fourth century.) The transition of the liturgical language took place in Rome, and the initiative for the change is attributed to Pope Damasus.


One more proof for #3 above.

But that is the whole point of contention: the Eastern Roman Empire was not the successor of a preceding Roman Empire, nor was a preceding Roman Empire succeeded by the Eastern Roman Empire. The Eastern Roman / "Byzantine" Empire had always been simply the Roman Empire, period. And after the Western Empire disintegrated, it became THE Roman Empire.

As for "significantly different in organization and culture", the formula applies to the Roman Empire during Nero and during Diocletian before his move to administratively split it. Should we therefore say that they were two different empires?

As to the last (good) question: AD 381. The Empire really did begin to change its culture and raison d'être after it became officially Christian. That was a process not an event but 381 is a good marker.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #8199 on: July 17, 2017, 10:14:10 PM »
The Western Empire, which includes the little known town called Rome, indubitably did fall.

I don't deny that, but as you correctly point out, it was a process, not an event. What I do deny is that the Roman Empire as an official, continuous entity fell at any other date than May 29, 1453.
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