2006-04-05

Byzantine Times...

Delicate, Dedicated and Dignified " Deconstruction "

by Dr Dan Waniek, MD
Copyright © 2006 danwaniek.org
Constantine Porphyrogenitus and His World by Arnold Joseph Toynbee, 1973.
Arnold Joseph Toynbee's clear genius focused on a project of his younger years. It all started with Toynbee's insight into an enlightened contemporary reference to Gibbon's own account of De Administrando Imperio and to its author. Toynbee's mother also had a role in this " project " which is, afterall the work of a professor of byzantinology. The author's pertinence, honesty, erudition and writing style are, as usual, unsurpassed. If it were only by this book, and Toynbee would enter the famous historiographic gallery guarded by pillars such as Edward Gibbon and Lord Acton. However, my cultural hero, whose own interests ranged from International Affairs to Archives of the British Admirality and from anthropology and histories of religion to those of cities and sociology, did it greater than ever. Civilizations, wrote Toynbee, don't die. They only commit suicide.
The intricacies of Byzantine life in the time of Porphyrogenitus show all that. It is not surprizing that in a sort of testament of the imperial idea, the Great Lavra of Mount Athos was inaugurated shortly after Constantine's death, as if the realm of spiritual conquest retired towards the inner and true life. In a seminal work, Virgil Gheorghiu epitomizes the Western Civilization almost in the words of Mahatma Gandhi ( What do I think about Western Civilization ? I think this would be a very good idea... ). To me, at least, it is no wonder that Virgil Gheorghiu's prophetical work, The 25th Hour, stronger than Kafka and much stronger than Orwell, started with a quote from Toynbee. But that is for the following review, above...

ISBN : 019215253X, BOBE-5260-REFS-0001, RANK : #2,041,132, 788 pages, unique edition.

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