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REVIEWS 238 The same exoticism and allure of the world across the Mediterranean, where all seems covered in silk, reappears in Chapter 5, “Women Mapping a Silk Route from Saint-Denis to Jerusalem and Constantinople (Le Pèlerinage de Charlemagne ).” Chapter 6, “Silk Between Virgins: Following a Relic from Constantinople to Chartres,” focuses on representations of the Virgin’s chemise on pilgrims’ badges. Either depicted as a Byzantine silken garment, or one made from French linen, the Virgin’s chemise recounts the relationship between medieval women and the trade of relics, textiles, and clothing. Rather than being a symbol of eastern excess, the silk within relics of the Virgin’s own garment transformed the material into a symbol of piety and veneration. Silk’s appeal cancels any fear of the corrupting east. Within the female geography of silk, the extraordinary Saracen work made the exotic Saracens somewhat more familiar. CRISTINA STANCIOIU, Art History, UCLA The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c. 500–1492, ed. Jonathan Shepard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2009) xv + 1207 pp. The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire (CHBE) is a one-off volume of collected essays, most reprinted from the Cambridge Ancient History (CAH) or New Cambridge Medieval History (NCMH) series, generally aimed at presenting Byzantium within the context of its relationships with its neighbors while “following the fortunes of the Empire,” primarily through studies of political facets of the Empire (2). Although it claims a narrower focus by jettisoning the cultural aspects found in the old Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 6 (1966), even in its title it seeks to jar the typical understanding of end of the Byzantine Empire with the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman in 1453, or perhaps even the capitulation of the final Byzantine micro-state in Trebizond in 1461, by extending the range of influence to 1492 (the year 7000 according to Byzantine reckoning anno mundi). The CHBE is composed of twenty-four chapters (two of which are further divided), arranged chronologically into three parts: the earlier Empire (ca. 500– ca. 700); the middle Empire (ca. 700–1204); and the Byzantine lands in the later Middle Ages (1204–1492). It also contains maps for nearly every chapter, a number of illustrations, a glossary and genealogical tables and lists. It opens with a long introduction by the editor, also subdivided, which presents “approaches ” to Byzantine history; its highlight is the fourth section on primary sources in translation, a boon to non-specialists or those without Greek. It is in the introduction that we also find hints that much of the work, fifteen of the twenty-four chapters, were published in other Cambridge volumes (10 n. 24); apart from another remark in the preface, the nature of the previous publication of these chapters is never acknowledged. They are, however, often some of the best overviews on specific area (Thomas Brown’s essay on Byzantine Italy, for example, which originally appeared in NCMH vol. 2 in 1995), and have been updated primarily with respect to their bibliography. The fact that some essays are used without substantial revision for the CHBE, especially those without a clearly Byzantine emphasis, is even more jarring than the attempt to reconstitute a timeline of the Byzantine Empire, and is the root cause of the main flaws of this volume: uneven coverage and a non-Byzantine focus. REVIEWS 239 The clearest example of these problems can be seen in the first section of the volume on the earlier Empire. Although the coverage is nominally on the period of Byzantine reorganization around the rule of Justinian in the sixth century , the primary focus is on the world outside of the borders. This focus is not a problem in and of itself, but in a volume purporting to cover the history of the Byzantine Empire, including chapters on the political make-up of the Sassanian empire, Armenian history, or the situation in the Western Mediterranean does not really provide strong footing for understanding the transitions of the Middle Byzantine period, or really even any depth about the Justinianic period. In addition to this unevenness of coverage, the CHBE is less effective as some of its recycled essays are not aimed...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1557-0290
Print ISSN
0069-6412
Pages
pp. 238-239
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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