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Emperor, Soldier, Saint

Peter Sarris



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Basic Books
10 October 2023
'A majestic, sparkling account of one of the most important rulers in history . . . this is modern history writing at its finest' Peter Frankopan

'Superb and gripping. Epic historical biography that brings the emperor to life . . . filled with new ideas and revelations' Simon Sebag Montefiore

'Effortlessly erudite, lucidly written, with a sharp eye for the telling detail, Sarris has written the great biography of the greatest of the Byzantine emperors' Rory Stewart

In this groundbreaking new biography of Justinian, Peter Sarris gives us an intimate insight into both the Emperor and his times. We meet a man who from the humblest beginnings, rose to become ruler of much of the known world achieving an almost god-like status.

An emperor who infused even the most mundane tasks with spiritual and religious significance. A gifted administrator obsessed with detail. A middle aged lover who fell for a dancing girl and changed the law so he could marry her, ruling with Empress Theodora by his side for over twenty years. A brilliant military strategist who was never on the frontline.

The challenges he faced - climate change, battles over culture and identity, the first recorded global pandemic -and many of the solutions he found to address them still resonate with us today. And his legacy remains all around us, in the massive building programme of which the most beautiful manifestation is surely Hagia Sophia; in our legal systems through the codification of the Corpus juris civilis; and in our culture and history by making a fundamental contribution to both the formation of Christendom and the emergence of Islam.

In this tour de force Peter Sarris shows us that in all his complexity and contradictions Justinian was, in many ways, a very modern Emperor.
Imprint:   Basic Books
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 232mm,  Width: 152mm,  Spine: 42mm
Weight:   680g
ISBN:   9781529365399
ISBN 10:   1529365392
Pages:   544
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Peter Sarris is Professor of Late Antique, Medieval and Byzantine Studies in the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He has published numerous books and articles on Justinian and his other publications include Byzantium - A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2015), which is currently being translated into Chinese, Greek and Polish. In addition to academic journals, he has written for The Times, The Literary Review, and History Today.

Reviews for Justinian: Emperor, Soldier, Saint

Magnificent. A vivid and authoritative biography of one of Rome's most fascinating rulers, Justinian is also a vibrant portrait of an entire world - a resurgent Roman Empire suddenly devastated by tragedy -- Kyle Harper, author of THE FATE OF ROME Justinian's long life mirrored that of ancient Rome itself: both rose from lowly origins to supreme power, survived revolt and conquered rivals, crafted laws and erected mighty monuments, only to be worn down by insurgents, invaders, and plagues. In a stunning tour de force, Sarris brings one of history's most momentous dramas back to life -- Walter Scheidel, author of THE GREAT LEVELER Effortlessly erudite, lucidly written, with a sharp eye for the telling detail, Sarris has written the great biography of the greatest of the Byzantine emperors -- Rory Stewart Spectacularly good: a wonderfully colourful biography of the man who remade the Roman Empire. Peter Sarris plunges us deep into a world of imperial conflict, religious paranoia, pandemics and climate change, while never losing sight of the extraordinary character at its heart. Based on decades of scholarship, this is the definitive history of the emperor and his times, and a thrilling testament to the glories of Byzantium -- Dominic Sandbrook, author of WHO DARES WINS A majestic, sparkling account of one of the most important rulers in history. Meticulously researched, beautifully written, filled with insights, this is modern history writing at its finest -- Peter Frankopan, author of THE SILK ROADS Justinian looms so large in the landscape of the ancient Mediterranean that it is almost impossible to take his measure. Yet Peter Sarris has done so convincingly, offering a lucid and persuasive account of a ruler as invested in the mechanics of government as in waging wars of conquest. A remarkable achievement -- Kate Cooper, Professor of History at Royal Holloway and author of QUEENS OF A FALLEN WORLD Superb and gripping. Epic historical biography that brings the emperor to life with analysis and empathy and a work of scholarship filled with new ideas and revelations -- Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of THE WORLD: A FAMILY HISTORY OF HUMANITY The author's passion for the subject and his respect for Justinian is clear throughout, keeping the reader engaged until the very end -- British Archaeology A thoroughly absorbing book, notable not only for its mastery of the sources, but its generosity to other scholars working in this flourishing field. It offers a vivid insight into Justinian's world and the mind of this impatient and notorious man -- The Times I've been looking forward to Peter Sarris's Justinian for a while, and I was not disapoointed. Justinian is perhaps the greatest of the emperors of Rome and New Rome . . . Sarris does his subject proud in a book that wears the author's learning lightly -- BBC History Magazine, Books of the Year A marvel of scholarship, told with great flair, Peter Sarris's magnificent biography brings alive their dazzling, doomed world, an age of plagues, riots, cults and climate change -- Sunday Times, History Books of the Year An expert, readable and thought-provoking biography . . . This book is essential reading for anyone curious about later antiquity and will give profit and pleasure to those with broader interests -- The Critic An engrossing account of an extraordinary man . . . the story of a remarkable period, which is still too little known -- Evening Standard, Books of the Year Masterful -- Anita Anand Wonderful -- William Dalrymple

  • Long-listed for The Runciman Award (Anglo Hellenic Society) 2024 (UK)

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