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Reviews

  • Herrin's claims for Ravenna are both sweeping and convincing. ... Herrin's book, then, is about a good deal more than its ostensible subject. It aims to answer some fundamental historical questions. How did the Roman empire in western Europe decay and mutate? What were the influences on the civilisation of medieval Christendom, and how did they interfuse? To what extent was Christianity touched by the trace elements of Greek and Roman civilisation? Notoriously problematic though these issues are, they are ones that Herrin has spent a distinguished career studying, and which Ravenna brilliantly serves to elucidate.

    Tom Holland, Financial Times
  • the book is absolutely gorgeous, with magnificent colour reproductions of Ravenna's churches and mosaics. Relics of an age that seems almost impossibly remote, they are the foundations on which modern Europe stands.

    Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
  • Beautifully illustrated, impeccably researched and accessibly presented, it traces Ravenna's career as the capital of the Roman empire in the west ... Buildings are also brought to life alongside the people who built and used them. ... It is this linking of tangible remains and historical record that is the book's great strength

    Jonathan Harris, BBC History Magazine
  • This book is a triumph of accessible, innovative, lively scholarship from one of the very best Byzantine historians we have. It casts an unexpected but deeply illuminating light on how the "European" political and religious mind became what it is.

    Rowan Williams, New Humanist
  • The northern Italian city of Ravenna, with its wondrous mosaicked churches and gilded mausolea that miraculously survived the aerial bombardments of the second world war, was manifestly also a Byzantine city. Herrin shows how this was so in her scrupulously researched history of the city in its imperial heyday through the period Edward Gibbon chose to call the Dark Ages ... eminently worth reading. The colour plates are so sumptuous that the Ravenna mosaics fairly glow on the page.

    Ian Thomson, Spectator
  • Judith Herrin's Ravenna ... performs the seemingly impossible task of rescuing its subject from obscurity, charting an improbably journey from marsh-enfolded outpost to imperial capital and cultural dynamo.

    Philip Parker, Literary Review
  • Herrin tells the changing story of Ravenna as it unfolds from the end of the fourth century to the ninth in a series of short, accessible sections with the aid of luscious illustrations.

    Averil Cameron, History Today
  • Herrin spent nine years researching her narrative of the three and a half centuries of Ravenna's ascendancy ... By the time we can easily visit Ravenna the city again it should be with the advantage of having read Ravenna the book

    Christopher Howse, Daily Telegraph
  • lively, startling ... The author evokes lost worlds in surprising anecdotes ... From chariot races to bust-ups between neighbourhood gangs, readers are vividly reminded that for all its grandeur, Ravenna was in its heyday a flawed and hectic place.

    Economist
  • Ravenna shows us an earlier stage in the relationship between Byzantium and the west. It was an impregnable port city, selected as a redoubt during the depredations of Attila the Hun. It was the residence of the western Roman emperors, of the Gothic kings who succeeded them and then of the exarchs, Byzantine officials who preserved this toehold of imperial control into the eighth century. It was also the seat of powerful archbishops, whose rivalry with the Pope in Rome fills pages of local history. Each of these different rulers left their own stamp on the city through their building work and mosaics. Judith Herrin's book provides a rich illustration and analysis of this legacy ... Herrin is equally adept at drawing out the wider, international legacy of Ravenna. An important example of this comes after the city's heyday, when ... Charlemagne, the Frankish emperor, was a visitor to the city, and in Ravenna he saw models of Roman rulership expressed in stone and mosaic.

    Philip Wood, Prospect

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