Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World

Written by Colin Wells
Review by Lessa J. Scherrer

Before reading Sailing from Byzantium, the whole of my knowledge about this empire was that their capitol was Constantinople and that the adjective “Byzantine” meant intricate, overly complicated and difficult to understand. Little did I know that the Byzantine Empire had at least as much influence over modern societies as the Romans. Byzantium held safe the treasure of Reason and other ancient Greek knowledge, until the Western Europeans, the Islamic world and the Slavic world were ready to “re-discover” them.

                Despite his subject matter, Colin Wells’ book is anything but Byzantine, at least in the modern sense. He writes in a clear, accessible style and has included numerous maps, a list of major characters, and a concurrent timeline as well as end notes, a bibliography and an extensive index. I found the section on Byzantium and the developing Islamic world particularly interesting in light of current world events. This book is a must read for lovers of Renaissance history or non-Western world culture.