This is my review of Byzantium: The Early Centuries: The Early Centuries v. 1 by John Julius Norwich.
Previous reviewers were right. This is an informative and entertaining read. It goes into more detail than I expected for a "non-academic" text, but it held my attention through the frequent little anecdotes. I was left marvelling at the scholarship which gave the writer access to such details, which he then communicated with such effortless ease. The occasional "blanks" where he had to admit that "no one knows what actually happened" make one realise how remarkable it is that we know so much. I plan to read the book again at some stage to absorb all the facts – hard to take it all in fully on a first reading, and have already obtained the second volume to read on.
Perhaps the two main achievements of the book are to help one to understand the significance of Byzantium and to bring home the huge variety and scale of activity going on in the so-called Dark Ages. Amongst other things, the barbarous Vandals and Goths were often surprisingly cultured. Yet, even the great Byzantime emperors could indulge acts of great cruelty, such as cutting off tongues and noses.