Tuesday, February 20, 2007

And You Are There...

Currently reading one of the most interesting history books I've ever read, and for me, that's saying something. 14 Byzantine Rulers is by Michael Psellus. What makes this book so much more fascinating than the others? It's a fist hand account. Psellus actually lived and wrote in 11th Century Constantinople. He was a member of the court of Emperor Constantine IX and he (not surprisingly) spends more time talking about that Emperor than any of the others. There's quite a bit of fascinating information about the rulers who preceded and followed Constantine IX as well, but it's the chapters about his time with Constantine that really stand out. Amazing to get an insiders view of history in this way. The translator's introduction talks at length about the difficulty of translating Psellus's prose and keeping the jocular, colloquial speech intact. I think he succeeded. The book is really more of a memoir than a history and it shows me yet again how humanity isn't really any different now than it was 10 centuries ago. Highly recommended.

2 comments:

cliff said...

That's why I was so fascinated with Tacitus' history of Rome; he may have been cynical, but he was there and saw what was going on, writing from experience and from first-hand accounts. Give it a try!

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Sounds like me. Thanks! I'll check it out.