A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from History's Most Orthodox Empire


by: Kaldellis, Anthony
Format: Hardcover

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Product Description Weird, decadent, degenerate, racially mixed, superstitious, theocratic, effeminate, and even hyper-literate, Byzantium has long been regarded by many as one big curiosity. According to Voltaire, it represented "a worthless collection of miracles, a disgrace for the human mind"; for Hegel, it was "a disgusting picture of imbecility." A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities will churn up these old prejudices, while also stimulating a deeper interest among readers in one of history's most interesting civilizations. Many of the zanier tales and trivia that are collected here revolve around the political and religious life of Byzantium. Thus, stories of saints, relics, and their miracles-from the hilarious to the revolting-abound. Byzantine bureaucracy (whence the adjective "Byzantine"), court scandals, and elaborate penal code are world famous. And what would Byzantium be without its eunuchs, whose ambiguous gender produced odd and risible outcomes in different contexts? The book also contains sections on daily life that are equally eye-opening, including food (from aphrodisiacs to fermented fish sauce), games such as polo and acrobatics, and obnoxious views of foreigners and others (e.g., Germans, Catholics, Arabs, dwarves). But lest we overlook Byzantium's more honorable contributions to civilization, also included are some of the marvels of Byzantine science and technology, from the military (flamethrowers and hand grenades) to the theatrical ("elevator" thrones, roaring mechanical lions) and medical (catheters and cures, some bizarre). This vast assortment of historical anomaly and absurdity sheds vital light on one of history's most obscure and orthodox empires. Review "If the Holy Spirit was not ashamed to tell this story, how much less should we place it under a shadow." --John Chrysostom, Homily on the Gospel of Matthew "I rarely ever finish, or even read, books, but I finished this one!" --Anonymous "Pray for the author, pray for him, for he is wretched and unworthy." (ms. colophon) "If I had to burn all other books, I would keep Plato's Timaeus and this one." --Proklos, from Marinos' Life of Proklos "Not even the most philosophic, the most piercing, the most curious intellect has, or can ever have, a more exalted object." --Gregory of Nazianzos, patriarch of Constantinople and saint, Oration on Saint Athanasios of Alexandria "All the wasteful expenses of mortals and their luxurious fare are poured out here without any of their previous charm. Too late a man realizes that he has spent gold on what was nothing but dust." --Agathias, Epigram on the public latrines "This book is crammed full of childish and implausible things, it is badly written, false, and idiotic. He tells absurd and infantile stories about the resurrection of dead men and cows. His tales are, moreover, contradictory to each other, impious, and irreligious. If you were to call it the source and mother of all heresy, you would not be far from the truth." --Photios, Ten Thousand Books About the Author Anthony Kaldellis is Professor of Classics at The Ohio State University, and the author of The Christian Parthenon: Classicism and Pilgrimage in Byzantine Athens, Hellenism in Byzantium: The Transformations of Greek Identity and the Reception of the Classical Tradition, and Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood: The Rise and Fall of Byzantium, 955 A.D. to the First Crusade.


Product Code: 9780190625948
ISBN: 0190625945
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2017-10-02
Number of Pages: 248 pages
Languages: english
Edition: Illustrated
Dimension: 5.2 x 0.79 x 8.39 inches
Shipping Weight: 0.85 pounds