Empire Forever - Rediscover the incredible people of 9th Century New Rome
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Basil I - pauper to prince of power - fiction vs. history
Launch of Queen of Lies hypertext edition
Riots, economic stagnation and political malaise - what's new?
Is Byzantium a dirty word?
Better the Sultan's turban than the Pope's tiara - Part 2

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Basil I - pauper to prince of power - fiction vs. history

Would you "clean up" the family tree if you were concerned that your ancestry was not as noble as one might expect?
 
Basil I being crowned by Michael III, from the Skytlizes manuscript
 
Well, that is what Constantine VII Porphyrogennitus may have done for his grandfather, Basil I, easily one of the most incredible people of 9th Century New Rome.
 
 
What we do know for sure is that Basil started off life as an impoverished peasant, and ended it as the founder of a new Imperial dynasty. But we know very little about his origins or his ascendancy to the Throne.

Launch of Queen of Lies hypertext edition

As part of responding to everyone who has read and commented on Queen of Lies, there is now a new Kindle version with both inline and internet links.
 
Readers wanted more help with getting to grips with the subject matter and more background information, and I hope that this will supply them with a growing source of this information.
 
More details on my Novel page along with some recent reviews.
 

Riots, economic stagnation and political malaise - what's new?

Does some of that sound familiar?
 
It should. It's a description of large parts of grief-stricken Europe today. But these problems are as old as humanity itself. And their solutions are pretty much the same too.
 
The 9th century saw a period in which the Byzantine empire had shrunk and with it the economy. Taxes claimed from distant territory diminished as the provinces oscillated between control by Constantinople and rule by outsiders. Michael III's choice of the scholar Photios as Patriarch was a catalyst for riots to break out across the Near East, even after Michael's mother, the

Is Byzantium a dirty word?

Inspired by personal responses to my earlier blog on Middle Eastern innovation in the 9th Century, I penned this short piece on modern takes on Byzantium. Thanks to Helen Hollick for posting it on her blog!
 
 

Better the Sultan's turban than the Pope's tiara - Part 2

I am really talking about a Caliph rather than a Sultan, and I don't think the Pope had much in the way of a tiara yet.
 
A page from Al-Khwārizmī's The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and BalancingBut the rather late Byzantine viewpoint of the title of this blog (probably due mostly to the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 by the Venetians) could easily be applied much earlier, when it was clear that the real source of learning and intellectual life in Late Antiquity, at least in the sciences, lay in the Near East, not in the moribund West.

Boys ... just work it out!

 
David Bowie's quirky observation is  nowhere more apparent than in the extraordinaryrelationshipof Vassilis and Michael, the first a peasant, the other a scion of the Amorion dynasty of New Rome, and their connections with court starlet Ingerina.
 
There must have been many agendas. Vassilis, already a chamberlain, yearned for power of some kind. The beautiful Eudokia Ingerina, thwarted as she must have been by the decisions of those in power (the Regent and the Eunuch Logothete decided she was not to wed Michael in a Bride Show) must have had similar ambitions.

YouTube Launch of Queen of Lies - this Sunday at 8 pm GMT.

#ImagineByzantium launched Sunday 8 pm GMT February 3rd on YouTube:
 
 
 
 

50 Shades of Purple?

 
The dimness of the past is hardly something to think about as we start a fresh, new year.
 
Yet it is exactly this freshness which we can find in the past. I think you all know my favorite period.
 
On this feast day of Saint Vassilis, we can also celebrate a man whose tenacity and good looks saw him rise from the forests of Macedonia to the imperial throne of New Rome.
 
WasVassilis the First(a.k.a. Basil I) the one primarily responsible for the new golden age of Byzantium which flowered in the late ninth century?

Inching closer to publication

Just thought I'd let my fans know that I have released a trailer for King of Lies and the near-final edit of the first three chapters.
 
Please sign up here if you want to be notified of final release, expected in the fall. 

Losin' mah religion

On a recent chat forum which I follow the discussion leader asked the simple but profoundly complex question:why did Byzantium collapse? 

At this time I happened to be watching The Fall of the Roman Empire, the last of the grand old Hollywood epics, and the answer was there, pure and simple: Empires crumble from within.

Should we try to map the beginning of the end? No, I would say – it is a futile task. You will point to some event (for example - the great sacking of Constantinople in 1204 at the hands of the Fourth Crusade and the Venetians) and I will find something earlier (the constant and debilitating onslaught of the Normans after the Arab threat had receded – I'm talking about the beginning of the 10 century)

The confidence of friends - part 2

Following up from last weeksblog, which started as an exploration of the following question, I advance an hypothesis of how 'the Establishment' seriously sidetracked Christianity far from its original message, and conclude that the most important source of power for the individual in any context is the community which defines them. 

The original question was: 
Do love/adoration for God and love/nurture for our fellow humans at the same time not exclude one other, almost by definition?

The Confidence of Friends – Part 1

 
The last few months of no blogging have seen me deep in the shed, exploring some personal issues, one of which I will post today and next week in this blog.
 
One of them is about being paralyzed by the fear of being too plugged in to the world, that it becomes impossible to find oneself anymore. Anyone on social media will know what I mean.
 
In exploring this I'll advance an hypothesis of when and how Christianity got seriously sidetracked from its original message (when: 313 AD, how: by the state).

A Tale of Two (possibly Three) Mothers

 
It's thanks to two women in the late 8thto 9th centuries that Iconoclasm never made it big. And it's thanks to a third, that New Rome was able to pull itself out of the ordure it had got stuck in, and make it to the big time again.
 
I am talking about the Empresses Irene, Theodora, and Ingerina. Their stories are textbook cases in what it mean to be a woman struggling for survival and control in the very male medieval world.
 
But first - why should we care today about Iconoclasm today?

Let him who is without religious baggage cast the first stone

 
How long has Jihad been around? Christian Jihad, that is?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In light of the political unrest in many Middle Eastern states there is much polemic in the West about the social failings of Islam and, almost in the same breath, much derision of the warlike character of the Muslim message. Let us look briefly at the historical context of this through the lens of Byzantium.
 
It is tempting to look at the many periods in the past when Christianity and Islam "came into conflict" and what the call of Jihad meant, in fact, for both religious groups.

I'm just a poor boy ... nobody (real) loves me.

This is my tale of a certain Michael inspired by the many similarities with the beloved pop-star hero shown here.
 
If you know anything about Michael III of Byzantium, then reward youself with a smug sense of satisfaction and go to the front of the class. That's largely because history has chosen to neglect him or, when it refers to him, to write disparagingly.
 
 
 
Let's start at the end, my favourite place for getting to know someone.
 
Michael was murdered by those answering to the man who was both his chamberlain and companion in arms.