Main SourcebooksAncientMedievalModern

Subsidiary SourcebooksAfricanEast AsianGlobalIndianJewishIslamicLesbian/GayScienceWomen

About IHSP Help Page IHSP Credits

A Guide to "Byzantine" Literature
V. 1.3

Paul Halsall,

December 1995, September 1996

Additions between V. 1.2 and V.1.3 preceded by *

"Byzantine" Novels

Historical fiction varies in quality from anachronistic potboilers to beautifully written and well-researched works of literature. Although Greek and Roman antiquity has been the setting from a huge number of such works, with Mary Renault in English and Marguerite Yourcenar in French among the best practitioners, late antiquity and Byzantium have fared less well. Here is a list of "Byzantine Novels", with Byzantine being defined here as any part of the Roman Empire from the time of Constantine I to 1463. From this list I have compiled I suspect Vidal's Julian is the best, but that is hardly Byzantine..

Almira, Jacques, 1950-, La fuite a Constantinople, ou, La vie du comte de Bonneval : roman , (Paris : Mercure de France, 1986)

Anderson, Poul, There Will Be Time, (Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday [1972)
A wide ranging time travel story that includes a long section on Constantinople before and after the 4th Crusade. [from Rob Dean <[email protected]>]

*Anderson, Poul, Rogue Sword, (New York : Avon, 1960)
About the conquest of Sicily from the Byzantines by a brave family of Normans in the eleventh century. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

*Anderson, Poul, The Last Viking, VOL 1: The Golden Horn, (New York, N.Y. : Kensington Pub. Corp, 1980)
The adventures of the Viking Harald Hardrada who served in the 1030s as a guard to the Empress Zoe of Byzantium. The first part of a trilogy on his life. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

*Anderson, Poul, The Boat of a Million Years, (New York : T. Doherty Associates, 1989, pb. 1991)
A book of a connected stories about the adventures of immortals at various periods. Include a story "the same kind" set at Byzantium. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

*Bar-Yosef, Joshua, The Child from Bar-Am, (Tel Aviv?: 1987) (in Hebrew)
A miraculous child born to a Jewish family in Byzantine Palestine circa 7th century CE. Based on an ancient mystical legend, the book gives a good view on a rather neglected period and on the oppression of the Jews by the Byzantines. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

Bradshaw, Gillian, Imperial Purple, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1988).
An interesting novel about the wife of a purple fisherman from Tyre in the middle of a court plot c. 450. [from "Gerald E. Ottenbreit Jr." <[email protected]>], also mentioned by Rob Dean <[email protected]> I read Imperial Purple. It was quite excellent, about a silk weaver and her family who got caught up in the imperial 'conspiracies' surrounding the exile of Eudokia. Bradshaw provides a brief historical epilogue justifying her decisions about plot and characterization (of the 'important' figures). [from Edward J. Schoenfeld <[email protected]>]

Bradshaw, Gillian, The Beacon at Alexandria, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986).
Probably the most interesting of Bradshaw's novels. It covers the 5 or so years (she fudges a couple of years) before the Battle of Adrianople, and shifts from Smyrna (or was it Ephesos, I don't have it in front of me) to Alexandria to the Danube River area. [from "Gerald E. Ottenbreit Jr." <[email protected]>] This is about a noble girl from the city of Ephesus, Asia Minor, in the time of the Eastern Emperor Valens 364-78, who disguises herself as a eunuch and sails to Alexandria in order to study medicine and become a doctor [from Jeri Fogel <[email protected]>]

Bradshaw, Gillian, The Bearkeeper's Daughter, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987).
Justinian and Theodora in the later years of her life from the perspective of Theodora's illegitimate son who is passed off as her nephew. An interesting approach. Her Narses and Graves' Narses are two wholly different people! [from "Gerald E. Ottenbreit Jr." <[email protected]>], and [from Philip Johnson, <[email protected]>] This is the story of Theodora in the 6th century, with her rumored son as the hero. Mostly a romance and intrigue book set in Constantinople, though there are some battle scenes. (We get to see Narses in action in an early battle of his career.) Bradshaw has a good modern style and is an easy read. [from Paul Georgian <[email protected]>]

Crichton, Michael, Eaters of the dead : the manuscript of Ibn Fadlan relating his experiences with the Northmen in A.D. 922, (New York : Knopf, 1976)
A tenth-century fantasy--based on Beowulf, actually. Pretty weird, and only tangentially Byzantine, but there's a little historical work on the Roman empire behind it. [from Jeri Fogel <[email protected]>]

Currier, Charles Warren, 1857-, Dimitrios and Irene; or, The conquest of Constantinople. A historical romance, (Baltimore: Gallery & McCann, 1894)

Dahn, Felix, Julian the Apostate, 3 vols. (date?) [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 233].
"Once proclaimed a minor masterpiece"

Davis, William Stearns, 1877-1930, The Beauty Of The Purple; A Romance Of Imperial Constantinople Twelve Centuries Ago, (New York: Macmillan, 1924)

DeCamp's, L. Sprague, Lest Darkness Fall, (Philadelphia: Prime Press, 1949)
If one doesn't mind drifting off into science fiction, I've always liked, a time travel story set in Rome in the 530s (during Justinian's first Italian campaign) [from Rob Dean <[email protected]>]

*Dickinson, Peter, The Dancing Bear, (London: Victor Gollancz, 1972)
Tells the tale of a boy Silvester who becomes involved in the events of Justinian's reign. The story starts in The City and after many adventures involving the Avars and others ends up in Dacia. [From John Chapman <[email protected]>] A children's book set in 558 CE in Byzantium - the story of a boy, a bear and a saint who go on a quest to save a girl from the Huns. An excellent juvenile adventure novel. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

Dixon, Pierson, Sir, The glittering horn; secret memoirs of the Court of Justinian, (London: J. Cape, 1958)

d'Ormesson, Jean, La Gloire de l'Empire, (first pub. France 1971; Eng translation 1975)
Whilst not strictly a "Byzantine" novel I would recommend this. D'Ormesson draws heavily on Byzantine themes an historical incidents to construct his own version of the Empire in the 9C. [from Elliott W. James" <[email protected]>]

Duggan, Alfred, Lord Geoffey's Fancy, (London: Faber and Faber 1962, reissued NEL 1975)
This is actually a novel set in the crusader kingdom in Greece in the aftermath of the 4th Crusade. [from"Elliott W. James" <[email protected]>, Set in the Frankish Kingodom that some navigationally challenged would-be crusaders extablished in Greece. A charming, light-hearted book, unlike Duggan's other, darlker, output. A personal recommendation, [from Philip Johnson, <[email protected]>]

Duggan, Alfred, The Lady for Ransom, (Weybright and Talley, 1953)
This is set in the 11th century, narrated by a Norman mercenary of Roussel de Bailliol in Byzantine service and describes the actions immediately prior to, during and after the Battle of Manzikert. This is the only fictional book on Manzikert that I am aware of and the battle scenes are awesome. Very favorable attitude towards Byzantium. This is my second favorite Byzantine book. The character development is sparing (as with all Duggan books) but the writing is modern and the descriptive narration, powerful. [from Paul Georgian <[email protected]>]

Dunnett, Dorothy, House of Niccolo [a series of novel, which take place in the 1450s and 1460s, with much action in Asia Minor, esp. Trebizond. [from M Rautman <[email protected]>]

Eddy, Daniel C., (Daniel Clarke), 1823-1896, Walter in Constantinople, (New York : Sheldon and company ; Boston : Gould and Lincoln, 1865, c1864)

Ennis, Michael, Byzantium, (New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989)
Set in the early 11th Century after the death of Basil II, it chronicles the career of Harold Hardrada, the future Norse king as a Varangian in Byzantine service and his interactions with the various Byzantine factions in Constantinople. A lot of modern romance stuff, fortunately offset with some great battle action against Moslem pirates and Bulgar rebels. Crisp, modern writing style. [from Paul Georgian <[email protected]>]. Another novel that is remarkably well written and reasonably accurate is Byzantium (1985?) by Michael Ennis. It concerns the period of the Empress Zoe and her successive husbands in the 1030s; the protagonist is Harald Hardrada as a member of the Vangarian guard. Highly entertaining! [from Dale Streeter [email protected]>]

Fetler, Andrew, To Byzantium : stories, (Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 1976)

Fischer-Pap, Lucia, Eva, Theodora : Evita Peron, Empress Theodora reincarnated, (Rockford, Ill. : LFP Publications, c1982)

*Ford, John M. The Dragon Waiting : a Masque of History, (New York: Timescape, 1983)
A great alternate history novel set in a world in which Julian kept the Empire pagan - the novel himself is set in a pagan alternate 15th century in which a pagan Byzantine empire continues to flourish as alternate history this novel is almost equal to Turtledove's books. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

France, Anatole, L'empereur Julien, (Paris: 1892) [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 233]

*Gardonyi, Geza, Lathatatlan ember; regeny. (Budapest: Dante Kiadas, 1915, reiussed, Buenos Aires] Editorial Transsylvania, 1957, and Budapest, Mora Ferenc Konyvkiado, 1964), trans as Slave of the Huns. by Andrew Feldmar. Illustrated and with a foreword by Victor C. Ambrus. (Budapest: Corvina Press, 1969)
A story about Attila the Hun - gives a good picture of Hunish civilization. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

*Garnett, Richard, The Twilight of the Gods, [and other tales], (London: John Lane, 1988, new ed. 1911)
A collection of "pagan" stories of which at least one "The Cupbearer " is Byzantine set at the time of Basil II (958-1025). The story can also found in The Oxford book of Historical Stories (1994) [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

Gerson, Noel Bertram, 1914-, Theodora, a novel, (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969)

Graves, Robert, Count Belasarius, (New York : Literary Guild, 1938; London: Cassell, 1938)
Graves narrates the life of perhaps the most glamorous Byzantine general. Given Graves gripping view of the early Empire in I, Claudius and Claudius the God, the availability of Procopius as a source, and the dramatic events and personalities of Belasarius's carerr, it is hard to see how Graves could have failed. Most readers though seem to find the novel pedestrian and, frankly, boring.

Greek Byzantine Novels, Mention should be made of the thousands of novels about Byzantium written I in Greek. I will only cite the 2 vol novel by P. Kanellopoulos, entitled "I Was Born in 1402." [from Marios Philippides <[email protected]>]

Haasse, Hella S., Threshold of Fire, (Chicago: 1993, translation of (Dutch) Nieuwer Testament) a novel of fifth century Rome. [from Jeri Fogel <[email protected]>]

*Halter, Mordecai. Asevuya Meziporri (The Captive Girl from Sepphorris) (Tel Aviv?: 1946) (in Hebrew)
About the "Galus Rebelion" of the Jews against the Byzantines at 351 CE. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

Harrison, Frederic, Theophano, The Crusade of the Tenth Century, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1904)
My all time favorite Byzantine novel. This is it folks! 10th Century Byzantium at its glittering heights! The cast of characters includes Emperor Nikephoros Phokas, John Tzimiskes, Leo the Deacon, Emperor Rhomanus II, his Empress Theophano (hence the title), the Chamberlain Joseph Bringas and even Digenes Akritas! The novel begins in 956 AD and runs through the murder of Nikephoros in 969 AD. It runs the epic sweep of the 10th century Byzantine counterattack against Islam led by Nikephoros, first as Domestic and then as Emperor. The novel includes the reconquest of Crete and Cilicia, the attack on Aleppo and the taking of Antioch among others. This is truly epic stuff. The sweep of the action spans everything in the Mediterranean from embassies to the Kaliphate of Cordova, battles in Italy and intrigues in the Moslem courts. The attack on Crete alone is worth the price of admission. Great descriptions of the Byzantine army at its height in action against a variety of foes. This book is pro Byzantine. No apologies, no hesitation. The Byzantine good guys attack, and beat (mostly) the misguided, but usually honorable Moslems. The only real villain is, of course, that nasty old Theophano who plots against our hero, Nikephoros. The history is very good. Harrison must have used a copy of Leo the Deacon's history as his basis. Like Turtledove, he was a practicing Byzantine historian. The writing style is unfortunately, early 20th century and it's overly florid descriptions jar modern reading sensibilities and make some parts a tough read, but not to excess. (Personal note: I first read this novel as a student, while working the Harvard's Widener Library where there was a copy in the English Literature section. I spotted it by sheer chance while shelving books nearby. I made it one of my main intellectual pursuits thereafter to obtain my own copy. After 15 years of fruitless searching in used bookstores on two continents, I finally found my copy in a bookstore in my hometown of Boston. Finding it was as close to an intellectual orgasm as I've ever had. What a joy and triumph to successfully accomplish such a search. Interestingly enough, I saw a second copy, only two years later.) [from Paul Georgian <[email protected]>]

Holland, Cecelia, The Belt of Gold, (New York: Knopf, 1984)
This novel is set in the reign of the Empress Irene around 800 AD. The hero is a Frankish nobleman visiting Constantinople. It is mostly a romance and intrigue novel with the Byantines portrayed as fairly decadent compared to our stalwart and bluff Frankish hero. As with all of Holland's works eminently readable and entertaining, nonetheless. [from Paul Georgian <[email protected]>]

Hubbard, Elbert, and Alice Hubbard, , Justinian and Theodora, a drama; being a chapter of history and the one gleam of light during the dark ages, (East Aurora, N.Y., The Roycrofters, c1906)

Jennings, Gary, Raptor (New York 1992)
About Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths 454?-526. Historical fiction about the Goths who were invading the Empire. [from Jeri Fogel <[email protected]>]

Jouay, Étienne, Julien dans les Gaulles, (Paris: 1823) [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 233]

Kanellopoulos, P. [I Was Born in 1402] (in Modern Greek)
This is a very scholarly undertaking, more than a novel, and presents a handy collection of selections of various primary sources. It is a pity that it has not been translated into English. [from Marios Philippides <[email protected]>]

Kraus, Rene, 1902-1947, Theodora, the Circus Empress, translated from the German by June Head. , (Garden City: Doubleday, Doran, 1938)

Lamb, Harold, 1892-1962, Theodora and the Emperor; the drama of Justinian, (Garden City, N. Y., Doubleday 1952)

Leo I, Edward J. Schoenfeld <[email protected]>
I also read a much older a novel based on the early career of Leo I, which was mixed up with a lot of speculation about on the development of Greek fire, but (alas) do not recall the author or title.

Letraz, Jean de, 1897-, Moumou ; L'extravagante Theodora ; Une nuit chez vous ; Madame!, (Paris : Nagel, c1949)

Lovett, James, East of the Fall of Rome: A Byzantine Bedside Companion, (Iress, 1975).
Here's another Byzantine fiction book that I haven't seen mentioned yet. Probably hard to find in a used bookstore, but some libraries must have it. I picked it up in a little bookstore in Istanbul in 1986. It has three short stories set in the 9th century. No wars or grave matters, these stories are playful and entertaining looks at Byzantine life and the imperial court. I love the title; I want to steal it sometime. [from Thomas F. Madden <[email protected]>]

Macaulay, Rose, Dame, The Towers of Trebizond, (London: Collins, 1956)
A modern novel about an Anglican feminist mission to Eastern Turkey with the intention of liberating Muslim women by converting them to Anglicanism. It is a camp classic. Much of the action takes place in and around the ruins at Trebizond.

Mahler, Helen A., Empress of Byzantium. translated from the German original by the author with the assistance of Leona Nevler, (New York: Coward-McCann, 1952)
About the life of Athenais-Eudokia. A truly anachronistic and misinformed novel, reissued a number of times in popular paperback.

Masefield, John, 1878-1967, Basilissa, a tale of the Empress Theodora, (London: Heinemann 1940; New York: Macmillan, 1940)

Masefield, John, 1878-1967, Conquer, a tale of the Nika rebellion in Byzantium, (New York: Macmillan, 1941)

Merezhkovsky, Dmitri, Julian the Apostate. (1894) [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 232]

*Michener, James A. (James Albert), The Source, (New York, Random House, 1965)
A book of connected stories about the history of Israel from ancient times . includes a story "the law" about Palestine under Byzantine rule in 351 CE and about the conflict between Jews and Christians then. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

Mitcham, Howard, Four tales from Byzantium, [illustrations were made by the author], (Newnham, Tasmania [Australia] : Wattle Grove Press, 1964?) Not sure if this is fiction!

Palfrey, Antonia, Princess in the Sunset, (pub details? 1950s]
Popular in the 1950's by, and centered around Constinius III, Galla Placidia and Ataulfus. [from Paul Georgian <[email protected]>]. Published in the early fifties. Reviewers at the time remarked on the gruesome realism of the aftermath-of-battle scenes., [from Philip Johnson, <[email protected]>]

*Philipson, Ludwig, Sepphores und Rom (1880) (in German)
About a little known Jewish rebellion against Roman-Byzantine rule in Palestine circa 351 CE. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

Rachet, Guy, Theodora : Roman (Paris : Olivier Orban, c1984)

Robinson, Kathleen, Heaven's Only Daughter, (New York: 1993), Set in the time of the Emperor Honorius (395-423 CE). [from Jeri Fogel <[email protected]>]

Schonover, Laurence, Gentle Infidel, [from Marian Neudel <[email protected]>]

*Shaw, Irwin, 1913-, Evening in Byzantium, (New York, Delacorte Press, 1973)
Not really anything to do with Byzantium - but its title compels it to be here.

Schurfranz, Vivian, Roman Hostage, (Chicago: 1975). Set in 4th-century Constantinople, hero is a young Visigoth who returns to his people to play a part in the Battle of Adrianople (378). [from Jeri Fogel <[email protected]>]

Southgate, Horatio, 1812-1894, The cross above the crescent : a romance of Constantinople ... , (Philadelphia [etc.] : Lippincott, 1878)

Tarr, Judith, Golden Horn,
set in Constantinople in 1204. It has some fantasy elements, but that shouldn't be too distracting. (Less than a typical hagiography, I expect...) [from Rob Dean <[email protected]>]

Trabert, Adam, The Emperor Julian the Apostate, (1894) [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 233]

*Tsalka, Dan, Masa' ha-shelishi shel ha-"Aldebaran" : sipur li-vene ha-ne'urim, (The Third Voyage of the Aldebran), (Tel Aviv: ha-Kibuts ha-me'uhad,, 1979) (in Hebrew)
An excellent time travel story for children. A boy traveling in time and among other periods visits Palestine under Byzantine rule in 549 CE. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

Turtledove, Harry, Agent of Byzantium, (New York : Congdon & Weed in association with Davis Publications ; Chicago, Ill. : Distributed by Contemporary Books, c1987; Toronto ; New York : Worldwide, 1988, c1987)
This is one of my favorite "what-if" novels, it assumed that Mohammed converted to Christianity and so the world is free of Islam (oh, we wish) and there the Byzantine and Persian Empires survive into the 14C. It has just been republished in "a new expanded form" - a this time they genuinely added a new short story. Turtledove has also written a series of "fantasy" novels which have a very "Byzantine" flavor and taken incidents from history to add a feeling of authenticity. [from Elliott W. James" <[email protected]>] Turtledove's Agent of Byzantium is not strictly historical. It is a "what-if" collection of short stories about a Byzantine agent of the Bureau of Barbarians set in the 14th century of a world where Mohammed, converted to Christianity and became one of the pillars of Byzantine society and as a result the Byzantine and Persian empires were never overthrown by Islam. Byzantium rules most of the Mediterranean and is in conflict with cross Danubian barbarians and Northern Europeans as well as the Persians. [from Paul Georgian <[email protected]>] You don't mention, so may not realize, that Harry Turtledove's Agent of Byzantium is _science fiction_; set in a history where Mohammed, instead of founding a new religion, became a Christian monk and the author of some of the most popular hymns in the Christendom. The Westerrn Empire has become a nonentity, and the enemy to the East is a powerful Zoroastrian Persia. He has also written two set fantasy novels set in the mythical land of Videssos. A tetralogy (titles elude me, but most containing Videssos) about a Roman legion magically transported there and a duology (Krispos Rising; Krispos of Videssos). Videssos is Byzantium in all but name, the parallels being very, very close; both culturally and geographically (e.g. the narrow strait on which Videssos stands is 'the cattle-crossing; and Krispos's career is closely modelled on that of the Emperor Wossname the Armenian). They are well worth reading and give a very good 'feel' for place and period. [from Philip Johnson, <[email protected]>] Harry Turtledove's a friend of mine so I'm not exactly unbiased. He's done two series set in Videssos (pseudo-Byzantine, er, later Roman Empire), and the first book of a third has recently been published. The first, the "Legion" series, takes place in the analog of 1071 and following, so almost counts as anoter fictional treatment of Manzikert. The "Krispos" series covers the rise of Basil the Macedonian, and the latest book, The Stolen Throne_ starts the story of Heraclius, but told from the perspective of the Persian-analogs. He's working on a straight historical about Justinian II (subject of his thesis), and anyone wishing to send encouragement can send him a note at [email protected] . (-: [from Rob Dean <[email protected]>] Harry Turtledove has also written an entire "Videssos Cycle" ( The Misplaced Legion, Emperor for the Legion, The Legion of Videssos, and The Swords of Videssos). These are reputedly books about a hypothetical Roman legion lost in China; reworking of Byzantine history with some Republican Rome thrown in (versions of stories from Polybius and others). Also, Death in Versunna [what's that about???] [from Jeri Fogel <[email protected]>] On Turtledove, I don't know him (although I am a friend of a friend!), but I didn't think as highly of Agent of Byzantium as some. I realize that it was published as a series of short stories, but the stories themselves were very formulaic. In each there is a problem in which a modern invention comes forward to solve: be it a magnifying glass, cow pox vaccine, or labor unions. I will say, though, that the environment of Constantinople is well represented, and he accurately depicts Byzantine piety, while taking jabs at it nonetheless. I suppose it is because of the nature of publishing serial style that Turtledove has to kep beating his reader over the head with St. Mahoumet. OK, OK, I get it. He was a Christian bishop. But he comes up more than the Virgin! [from Thomas F. Madden <[email protected]>]

Underhill, Clara., Theodora, the courtesan of Constantinople, (New York, Sears, c1932)

Vidal, Gore, Julian, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1964; pb. New York: Ballantine, 1984) Addresses the life of Julian "the Apostate" (emperor 361-363). Julian is cast in a positive light and the Christians made to look bigoted. This is one of the better written "Byzantine" novels.

Vigny, Alfred de, Daphné, (1837) [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 232]

*Wallace, Lew, The Prince of India; or, Why Constantinople Fell, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893)
By the author of Ben Hur, a story of the wandering Jew whois the chief cause for the fall of Byzantium to the Turks in 1453. A lively and colorful story but with strong anti-Semitic overtones. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

*Walsh, Jill Paton, The Emperors Winding Sheet, (London: Macmillan, 1974)
[From John Chapman <[email protected]>] About an English boy who is shipwrecked off the Peloponnese and arrives in Mistra where he is adopted as a servant and good luck charm by Constantine XI and accompanies him to Constantinople and observes the seige of 1453. This novel won the Whitbread Literary Award for Childrens Books in 1974.

Waltari, Mika, Mikael Hakim, [from Tomi Vainionp<[email protected]>]

Waltari, Mika, The Dark Angel, trans Naomi Walford, (New York: 1953), [Johannes Angelos in Finnish, Spanish translation available] [from Luis de Constantinopla <[email protected]>], English translation [?] mentioned by Marian Neudel <[email protected]>. The book is, as a matter of fact, the second novel on the subject by the same author. The first one is (originally) called "Mikael Hakim", and is more related to italian and muslim surroundings. "Johannes Angelos" can be read as a separate volume, but the author has an incredible ability to bring the era to life. I recommend them both.[from Tomi Vainionp<[email protected]>] A couple of footnotes on Byzantine novels: The Waltari novel (one of the greatest historical novels) was translated into elegant English by Naomi Walford under the title "The Dark Angel" (New York 1953). It was written to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople. Waltari prepared for it by finding his inspiration through daily contemplation of his reproduction of Benozzo Gozzoli's fresco in Florence, which inludes portraits of John VIII and Patriarch Joseph. After Waltari's death his various drafts for this novel were discovered; they were published as the preliminary to the Dark Angel. This novel has been translated into Greek (but not into English thus far).It covers the Council of Florence and the crusade of Varna.

Walter, Eugene, 1921-, The Byzantine riddle and other stories, (London : Methuen, 1985)

Waugh, Evelyn, 1903-1966., Helena, a Novel, (Boston, Little, Brown, 1951 [c1950])
Waugh uses the story of Helena's "invention" of the Cross to argue for the historic nature of Christian faith. Helena is presented as a sensible Bristih girl from the Home counties who looks at the various Neoplatonic phantasmogoric worlds as so much whooey. Best scene: Constantine leaves Rome saying to the pope, "You can now govern the West". The pope says "can I have that in writing", as two monsignori in the background respond, sotto voce, "We will your Holiness, we will."

*Wellman, Paul Iselin, The Female, (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1953)
Yet another novel about Justinian and especially Theodora.. This is the story of her life. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

White, Eliza Orne, 1856-1947, The Coming of Theodora [a novel], (Boston, New York, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1895)

Yarbro, Chelsea Quinn, 1942-, A Flame in Byzantium, (New York : Tor, c1987) A vampire story.

*Yavin, Y.H. Ahaya A. Reviait¸ (The Fourth Animal) in Amalcut Asher Lo Tasuf (The Kingdom Which Will Not be Destroyed) (1967) ( in Hebrew)
The story of the rebellion of the Jews of Palestine against the Emperor Heraklios and against the command of Benyamin of Tiberias in 629 CE. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>]

"Byzantine" Poems

Auchmuty, Arthur C. (Arthur Compton), b. 1843. Julian the apostate : a prize poem recited in the Theatre, Oxford, July II. MDCCCLXII, (Oxford : T. & G. Shrimpton, 1862)

Benjamin, S. G. W. (Samuel Greene Wheeler), 1837-1914, Constantinople, the isle of pearls : and other poems, (Boston : N. J. Bartlett, 1860)

De Vere, Aubrey, Sir, 1788-1846., Julian the Apostate : a dramatic poem, 2nd ed., (London : Printed for B.J. Goldsworth ... 1823)

Fairfield, Sumner Lincoln, 1803-1844, The siege of Constantinople : a poem, (Charleston, S.C. : W. Riley, 1822)

Fane, Violet, 1843-1905, Betwixt two seas : poems and ballads (written at Constantinople and Therapia) (London : John C. Nimmo, 1900)

Mallet, David, 1705?-1765, Amyntor and Theodora: or, The hermit. A poem. In three cantos (London: Printed for Paul Vaillant, 1747)

Sachs, Hans, Poem on Julian. 16th C, [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 229]

Yeats, William Butler, 1865-1939, Byzantium, paintings by David Finn, (Redding Ridge, CT : Black Swan Books, c1983)

Finneran, Richard J., ed., William Butler Yeats: the Byzantium poems, (Columbus, Ohio, Merrill Pub. Co. 1970)

O'Donnell, James P. (James Preston), 1917-, Sailing to Byzantium; a study in the development of the later style and symbolism in the poetry of William Butler Yeats, (Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1939; repr: New York, Octagon Books, 1971)

"Byzantine" Plays

Anonymous in England, Play on Julian. 1596 [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 229]

Anonymous in Lucerne Switzerland, Play on Julian. 1624 [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 229]

Busch, Charles, Three plays, (Garden City, N.Y. : Fireside Theatre, 1992)
Busch is a serious "male actress" who writes his own plays. This collection includes Theodora, She-Bitch of Byzantium.

Carlisle, George William Frederick Howard, Earl of, 1802-1864., The last of the Greeks; or, The fall of Constantinople. A tragedy, (London, J. Ridgway, 1828)

Crisostómo Velez de Guevara, Juan (Spain). 17th C.[reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 228]

de Medici. Lorenzo. Play on Julian. 1489 [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 228]

DeVere, Aubrey, Sir, 1788-1846, Julian the Apostate, and The Duke of Mercia. Historical dramas, (London, B. M. Pickering, 1858)

Herbin, Johannes (Germany), Play on Julian. 1668, [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 229]

Ibsen, Henrik, Emperor and Galilean. 1873 [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 229], Browning comments "both bad history and bad theatre".

Kazantzakis, Nikos, Julian the Apostate, (1845) [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 233]. Staged in Paris in 1948.

Maleguzzi, Flaminio, 1537-1552, La Theodora : comedia, ([Bologna] : A. Forni, 1979?) Series title: Teatro italiano antico : La commedia del XVI secolo ; n. 9.

Mitford, Mary Russell, 1787-1855, Julian: a tragedy, in five acts, As now performed at the Theatres Royal, London..., (London, J. Cumberland, n.d.)

Molitor, Wilhelm (Germany), Julian the Apostate, (1866) [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 233]

Phillips, Watts, 1825-1874, Theodora, actress and empress : an original historical drama, in five acts, (London : T.H.Lacy, 1850?)

Rhangavís, Kleon, Julian the Apostate, (Athens: 1877) [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 232] 1500 lines of prose and 5000 of verse - far to long to be staged.

Riethmuller, Christopher James, d. 1895, Julian the apostate : a tragedy : in two parts, (London : J. S. Virtue, 1883)

Riotte, Hermann, 1846-1916, Julian der Abtrunnige. Trauerspiel in funf Acten, (Leipzig, Druck von Ferber & Seydel, 1870)

Sardou, Victorien, 1831-1908, Theodora. Drama in funf aufzugen und acht bildern, Deutsch von Hermann von Lohner ... (Leipzig, P. Reclam jun. [n.d.])

Sardou, Victorien, 1831-1908., Theodora, drame en cinq actes et sept tableaux ..., (Paris, Impr. de l'Illustration, c1907)

Shakespeare, William, Titus Andronicus, (set in late Empire, before reign of Saturninus; Titus Andronicus is a Roman general fighting the Goths). [from Jeri Fogel <[email protected]>]

Vidal, Gore, Romulus, This was a Broadway adaptation from the original Romulus the Great by F. Durrenmatt, translated by G. Nellhaus, preface by G. Vidal, (New York 1966), about Romulus Augustulus. Almost Byzantine, I guess! [from Jeri Fogel <[email protected]>]

Weyl, Fernand, 1874-1931., Three gallant plays: A Byzantine afternoon, Beauty and the beast, The slippers of Aphrodite, by Fernand Noziere [pseud.]; translated by Clarence Stratton, (New York, W. E. Rudge, 1929)

Zoppio, Melchior (Italy) . Play on Julian. 1612 [reported in Robert Browning, The Emperor Julian, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), 229]

"Byzantine" Music

Handel, George Frideric, 1685-1759. Theodora; an oratorio ... [Leipzig] Printed for the German Handel Society [pref. 1860. Ridgewood, N.J., Gregg Press, 1965].

Leroux, Xavier Henri Napoleon, 1863-1919, [Theodora. Vocal score.] Theodora : drame musical en trois actes et six tableaux de Victorien Sardou et Paul Ferrier. (Paris : Choudens, c1907)

Tippett, Michael, 1905-, Byzantium : for soprano and orchestra, 1989-90, (London ; New York : Schott, c1994.)

"Byzantine" Movies

*FABIOLA directed in Italy by ENRICO GUZZANOI (1917)
Chronologically just a short time before the foundation of Byzantium [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

Directed in Italy by ALESSANDRO BLASSETI (1949)
Both movies are adaptions of the famous novel by Cardinal Wiseman about the persecutions of the Christians at Rome just before her conquest by Constantine. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

Directed in Italy by Lionello de Felice (1961) staring CORNEL WILDE and BEELINDA LEE.
The story of the founder of Byzantium in the center of which is the scene of the flaming cross which the Emperor sees in the sky just before the big battle. The movie gives a conventionally pious view of Constantine. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

Directed in Italy by ANTONIO MARGHERRITI
About the time after the death of Constantine when sporadic persecution was still being carried out. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

- on Attila

directed by FEBO MARI [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

directed by DOUGLAS SIRK Jack Pallance starring as Attila [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

directed by PIETRO FRANCISCI ( 1955) Starring ANTHONY QUEEN as Attila and SOPHIA LOREN as Honoria. The 2 films which where made almost at the same time are naturally quite similar in the subject matter and in both the central subject is of the barbarian who is defeated by Christianity. It is hard to say which is better ,but each has some good things. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

- Byzantium proper

directed in Italy by Ernesto Mario Pasquali [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

*THEODORA (1912)
directed in France by HENRY POUCTAL [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

*TEODORA (1913)
directed in Italy by AMBROSIO (1913) [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

*ORA (1919)
directed in Italy by GIOVANNI VITROTTI and LEOPOLDO CARLUCCI [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

*TEODORA (1921)
produced in Italy at 1921 ( no other details available) [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

directed in Italy by RICCARDO FREDA The most important movie about Theodora (though that really is not saying much) starring GIANNA MARIA CANAL and GEORGE MARCHAL [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley]

a West German\Italian movie directed by ROBERT SIODMAK ( 1968-69)
Probably the most ambitious Byzantine movie ever which in its original German version was released in 2 part of some 4 hours. (everywhere else the movie was shown in only half its length). Based on a 19 century novel by FELIX DAHN it presents the struggle of the daughters of the Gothic king Theodoric for power after his death. and then the conquest of their kingdom in Italy by the Byzantine general Belisarius . ORSON WELLS played JUSTINIAN, SYLIVA COSCINA is Theodora and LANG JEFFRIES played Belisarius. the movie won a very bad critical views but it is very grandiose and detailed. [From Eli Eshad <[email protected]>, using The Epic Film by Derek Eley].


Additional suggestions and comments were made by the following people. Acknowledgment given in the text *after* the contributor's comment:

*John Chapman <[email protected]>

Luis de Constantinopla <[email protected]>

Rob Dean <[email protected]>

*Eli Eshad <[email protected]>

Jeri Fogel <[email protected]>

Elliott W. James <[email protected]>

Philip Johnson, <[email protected]>

Paul Georgian <[email protected]>

Thomas F. Madden <[email protected]>

Marian Neudel <[email protected]>

Gerald E. Ottenbreit Jr. <[email protected]>

Marios Philippides <[email protected]>

Dale Streeter <[email protected]>

Edward J. Schoenfeld <[email protected]>

Tomi Vainionp<[email protected]>

Part of the Byzantium: Byzantine Studies on the Internet

© Paul Halsall 1996. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.


The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 6 October 2023 [CV]