The Rise of Byzantium, AD 350-800
with Charles Freeman (Independent Scholar)
at the School of Music, Woodbridge School, Burkitt Road, Woodbridge IP12 4JH,
on Saturday 26th January 2019.

This study-day will explore how the Eastern ‘Roman’ Empire of Byzantium established itself between AD 350 and 800 as a very different kind of empire from the one ruled previously by Rome.

Provisional Programme

10.00 – 10.30:  Coffee on arrival

10.30 – 11.30:   Foundations: the legacy of the Greek Roman empire 350-530 – How did the Greek experience under the Romans shape what followed? The emergence of the Christian emperor.

11.30 – 12.00:   Coffee break

12.00 – 13.00:   The Age of Justinian – Success and failure in defining a new empire: attempted conquests, great building projects, the Justinian law Code.

13.00 – 14.00:   Lunch break

14.00 – 14.45:   Religion through art – how Byzantine art expressed the new Christianity

14.45 – 15.15:  Tea break

15.15 – 16.00:   Challenge and Conflict, AD 600-800 – The Byzantine empire was rocked by the Arab invasions and then convulsed by iconoclasm. How did it respond and survive?

c.16.00:            Thanks and Close

About Charles Freeman

Charles Freeman is a Suffolk-based freelance historian with broad interests in the ancient world.. His published books include The Closing of the Western Mind (2002), A New History of Early Christianity (2009), and Holy Bones, Holy Dust, How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe (2011).  His Egypt, Greece and Rome is now in its third edition (2014) with Oxford University Press.

He is Historical Consultant to the Blue Guides series and has contributed to the historical introductions for the city of Rome.

He also runs study tours of the Mediterranean and has led several tours of Istanbul.


When asked ‘What was best about the day?’ at previous Study Days by Charles people said:

  • The way Charles explained things so clearly. A fantastic resource, thank you
  • Our lecturer’s clear exposition of a complex subject with enthusiasm and deep knowledge
  • The lecturer maintained our interest throughout the day. Never a dull moment.
  • Excellent speaker – so knowledgeable and interesting.
  • Charles is a riveting speaker! Very informative. Knowledgeable, clear, concise. A must for all people who are even slightly interested in the subject.


Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

  • Averil Cameron, Byzantine Matters (Princeton, 2004) – Cameron is the top Byzantine scholar and these are her reflections on the empire’s history and culture; best read after one of the introductions below.
  • Robert Cormack, Byzantine Art (Oxford University Press, 2018)- a new edition in the Oxford History of Art series by the recognised authority.
  • Jonathan Harris, The Lost World of Byzantium (Yale, 2015).
  • Peter Heather, Rome Resurgent, War and Empire in the Age of Justinian (Oxford University Press, 2018) – just out, and I have not yet read it, but the reviews are excellent.
  • Judith Herrin, Byzantium, The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire (Penguin, 2008) – excellent survey.
  • Michael Maas, The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian (Cambridge University Press, 2005) – very reliable and scholarly essays.
  • Cyril Mango (ed.), Oxford History of Byzantium (Oxford University Press, 2002) – excellent selection of essays; inexpensive used copies available
  • online.
    Online podcasts include the exhaustive Robin Pierson’s  The History of Byzantium podcast (use the Index/Archive buttons to find what interests you; Justinian begins at Episode 15) and an episode on Byzantium from the BBC series, In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg (broadcast 19th July, 2001).