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Empires of Faith: The Fall of Rome to the Rise of Islam, 500-700.

Empires of Faith: The Fall of Rome to the Rise of Islam, 500-700. Peter Sarris. Oxford University Press. [pounds sterling]35.00. xv + 428 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-926126-0. In this latest volume in the Oxford History of Medieval Europe Mr Sarris asserts in a prose that is clear and well argued that these centuries 'witnessed a series of crucial developments' that were to do much to define the 'medieval world'--the collapse of Roman authority in the West (to be replaced by local 'martial elites') and in the East the creation of a specifically Byzantine empire. The first two chapters are concerned with the creation of a 'highly fractured and fragmented social and economic landscape' in the western Empire by the end of the fifth century, with special emphasis on the army, landholding and taxation. The unending debate over collapse v transformation is explored on a regional basis with emphasis on the importance of localised leaders' military strength. From here he moves to the eastern Empire (in particular the reign of Justinian and his 'imperial Christianity'), the collapse of the recently reimposed imperial authority in Italy, the situation in the Balkans and Britain, and the importance of religion in political and social developments (and vice versa) which is a most interesting discussion. After this the book moves back to the Eastern empire, the role of Justin II, the Persian threat, the rise of Mohammed and his new militaristic religion which was 'engaged with wider debates and concerns that were coming to dominate the religious life of the Mediterranean world', the 'western' threat to Constantinople, the Arab incursions into modern Spain, Merovingian rule to the north and the rise of England as 'the first "nation" of Europe'. By 700 Europe was experiencing an economic rejuvenation based on a more established localised order. (R.G.C.)
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Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2012
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