In this exceptional history, Judith Herrin regards the period between the fall of the Roman Empire in western Europe and the rise of Charlemagne, roughly the 5th to 9th centuries. Her focal point is Ravenna as she traces the lives of the city’s rulers, chroniclers and inhabitants, revealing it as a meeting place of Greek, Latin, Christian and barbarian cultures and, essentially, the pivot between East and West.
Moreover – despite the waning of Rome, the Goth and Lombard invasions, the rise of Islam and the divisions of Christianity – we discover this was not a period of decline, but one of intense creativity.
Ravenna, argues Herrin, was the crucible in which Europe was formed.
As Tom Holland has written in the FT Weekend:
“While there is no lack of drama in [Herrin’s] narrative, the real excitement lies in the unexpected light it sheds on reaches of history that otherwise might seem confused and lost to darkness.”
Beautifully illustrated with specially commissioned photographs, and drawing on the latest archaeological and documentary discoveries, “Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe” brings the early Middle Ages to life through the history of this dazzling city.
Hardback, Penguin Books, £30
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