Bibliography for GURPS Hot Spots: Constantinople, 527-1204 A.D.
Literature in English on the Byzantine empire is quite poor relative to that of any Western European nation. Many important Byzantine sources have yet to be translated into English. For example, The Book of Ceremonies, the best single source on Byzantine court procedures, only exists in English in fragments, and the most recent French translation dates to the 1930s. Moreover, where there are few primary sources, good secondary works are relatively scarce. Nevertheless, a wealth of information is still available.
Anna Comnena (E.R.A. Sewter, translator). The Alexiad of Anna Comnena (Penguin, 1979). Though extremely generous in its treatment of its subject for obvious reasons, this book contains a huge amount of important and useful information around the First Crusade.
Constantine Porphyrigenitus (Gyula Moravscik, editor, and Romilly J.H. Jenkins, translator). De Administrando Imperio (Dumbarton Oaks, 1967). A handbook on Byzantine foreign policy, written by, or at least in the voice of, an emperor for the benefit of his successor. The manuscript for this translation nearly fell afoul of international relations itself, surviving the Second World War in a besieged city in eastern Europe before the translation could be completed.
Ibn Battuta (H.A.R. Gibb, translator). The Travels of Ibn Battuta (Cambridge University Press and Haklyut Society, 1971; Goodword Books, 2000). The greatest traveler of the medieval world mostly confined himself to Muslim lands, but he did make a side trip to Constantinople, where he met the emperor Andronicus III.
Jeffries, Elizabeth (translator). Digenes Akritas: The Grottaferrata and Escorial Versions (Cambridge University Press, 1998). A translation of two versions of the Byzantine epic poem.
Maurice (George T. Dennis, translator). Maurice's Strategikon: Handbook of Byzantine Military Strategy (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001). This handbook of military operations and strategy describes in detail Byzantine arms, armaments, capabilities, and day-to-day operations in the seventh century.
Procopius (H.B. Dewing, translator). History of the Wars: The Persian War (Dodo Press, 2007); History of the Wars: The Vandalic War (Dodo Press, 2007); History of the Wars: The Gothic War (Dodo Press, 2008); and The Secret History (Anthony Kaledellis, translator, Hackett, 2010). These works, in addition to being fundamental sources on the age of Justinian, illustrate the extremes of historiography in the works of a single author. The History of the Wars, published during Procopius' lifetime, is as sober and responsibly factual as one could hope for, including descriptions of a number of events Procopius himself witnessed. The Secret History, not published until long after his death, is full of shocking and mostly fabricated accusations about Justinian and Theodora – he was a shape-changing demon, she was an underage erotic performer, and so forth.
Theophanes (Cyril Mango, Roger Scott, and Geoffrey Greatrex, translators). The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History, AD 284-813. (Oxford University Press, 1997). Despite being probably the most important single source in Byzantine history for the period from Heraclius to Irene, this is the first full translation into English.
Crawford, J. Stephens. The Byzantine Shops at Sardis (Harvard University Press, 1991). Although not in Constantinople itself, the bath house and retail complex of this central-west Anatolian city was probably typical of early Byzantine public spaces.
Evans, Helen and Wixom, William. The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843-1261 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000). This lavishly illustrated catalog from an exhibition of Byzantine artifacts is an excellent resource for low-tech treasures.
Haldon, John. Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World, 565-1204 (Routledge, 1999). An overview of Byzantine military matters, ranging from equipment to operations and strategy to attitudes toward warfare.
Harris, Jonathan. Constantinople, Capital of Byzantium (Continuum, 2009). A survey of Constantinople, focusing on the year 1200.
Hendy, Michael. Studies in the Byzantine Monetary Economy, c. 300-1450 (Cambridge University Press, 1985). Very technical, but a fundamentally important work for Byzantine coinage and fiscal history.
Kazhdan, Alexander p. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (Oxford University Press, 1991). A three-volume encyclopedia of Byzantine topics. It's excellent as a quick reference for just about any subject the reader might have a question about. Expensive and hard to find for sale, look for it at a good university library.
Laiou, Angeliki E. and Morrisson, Cécile. The Byzantine Economy (Cambridge University Press, 2007). A general work, this book is perhaps more valuable for the footnotes than for the text itself.
Norwich, John Julius. Byzantium: The Early Centuries (Knopf, 1989); Byzantium: The Apogee (Knopf, 1992); and Byzantium: The Decline and Fall (Knopf, 1995). Norwich writes in an engaging, accessible style, though he considers himself a popular historian rather than a dedicated scholar.
Ostrogorsky, George. History of the Byzantine State (Rutgers University Press, 1969). Fairly dated, but for a long time the standard English-language textbook for Byzantine history (and therefore often available at a reasonable price from used book sellers). It's still a good all-in-one-volume for factual information, if not for interpretation.
Rautman, Marcus. Daily Life in the Byzantine Empire (Greenwood Press, 2006). If the interested non-specialist were to read one book about Byzantine society, this should be it. In addition to treatment of a vast range of topics from the Byzantine worldview to agricultural practice to burial customs, the annotated bibliography contains pointers to a wealth of other useful works, including electronic resources.
Treadgold, Warren. A History of the Byzantine State and Society (Stanford University Press, 1997). This is a more recent attempt to provide a comprehensive single-volume treatment of the empire as a whole. How well he succeeded is a matter of some debate, but it's still a good resource for the casual reader.
Treadgold, Warren. The Byzantine Revival, 780-842 (Stanford University Press, 1988). A very interesting overview of a critical period of Byzantine history, investigating how a country on the verge of collapse managed to turn itself around and return to prominence.
Eco, Umberto. Baudolino (Mariner Books, 2003). This novel by the world's most famous semiotician involves a journey into a legendary Far East, with a framing story set in Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.
Fleming, Ian. From Russia With Love. James Bond hits a few important Byzantine sites. In addition to a rendezvous at the Hagia Sophia, the film (Terrence Young, 1963) includes a boat-ride through the Basilica cistern.
Graves, Robert. Count Belisarius (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1982). In the style of his novelized treatment of the Roman emperor Claudius, Graves produced a fictionalized biography of Justinian's general Belisarius, purportedly written by a servant who followed him through a series of foreign wars.
Mitchison, Naomi. Anna Comnena (Kennedy and Boyd, 2009). A fictionalized account of Anna Comnena and her world, written by a prolific novelist, important feminist politician, peer, and friend of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Turtledove, Harry. The Misplaced Legion (Del Rey, 1987) and other books in the Videssos series. Turtledove, an historian and author, has written a great many alternate-history and fantasy-flavored works touching on Byzantine topics. The Videssos stories are his most extensive, a dozen fantasy novels set in a very lightly disguised Byzantine empire. The Tale of Krispos novels, for example, are essentially a retelling of the story of Basil I.
In addition to the works cited here, Orthodox liturgical music is available on the internet. A search for "Byzantine chant" on any major video web site will turn up many good examples.
Capella Romana. Byzantium: 330-1453 (Capella Romana, 2008). This is a survey of Byzantine music compiled in conjunction with an exhibition of Byzantine art at the Royal Academy of Arts. The selection leans toward later and religious works (not surprising, given the available selection), but it does have a few tracks from as early as the sixth century.
Halaris, Christodulous. Anthology of Byzantine Secular Music, Volume I and II (Cultural Action – Emse, 2008). Halaris has been criticized for making extensive reconstructions from what is sometimes extremely sketchy evidence, and some of it sounds suspiciously modern. However, he's one of the few people to seriously attempt to reconstruct the sort of Byzantine music that might have been heard on the streets and in the taverns.
Huelgas Ensemble. Cypriot Advent Antiphons (DHM, 1991). In the course of the Middle Ages, Cyprus was subject to many different influences. At various times, it was under Byzantine, Muslim, and Crusader rule. At one point, it was even jointly administered by Byzantine and Arab governors. Many of those influences are present in this music, though it's in Latin rather than Greek.
McKennitt, Loreena. An Ancient Muse (Verve, 2006). Though entirely modern, McKennitt's work has long combined traditional Celtic music with Middle Eastern elements. This album in particular features inspiration from Greece and Anatolia, combining Eastern and Western sounds to create what might be regarded as a Byzantine mood in ways that may be more accessible to the modern listener than more challenging if more authentic music. The track "Kecharitomene" ("Full of Grace") is named for the convent in which Anna Comnena ended her days.
VocaMe. Kassia: Byzantine Hymns of the First Female Composer (Christophorus, 2009). Though the title overstates the case, Kassia is among the earliest female composers whose works are sufficiently well-documented that they can be performed with any confidence. This album demonstrates religious music with female voices, more common in Orthodox practice than the West.