Anthony KaldellisAug 23, 2017
Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood
The Rise and Fall of Byzantium, 955 A.D. to the First Crusade
Oxford University Press 2017
In the 10th century, a succession of Byzantine rulers reversed centuries of strategic policy by embarking on a series of campaigns that dramatically reshaped their empire. This effort and its consequences for the history of the region is the focus of Anthony Kaldellis's Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood: The Rise and Fall of Byzantium, 955 A.D. to the First Crusade (Oxford University Press, 2017), which provides the first survey of this important era of Byzantine history written in over a century. Kaldellis sees the campaigns that began in the 950s as a consequence of the collapse of the Carolingian empire and the decline of the Abbasid caliphate, which provided the Byzantines with an opportunity to stabilize their southeastern frontiers and to extend and consolidate their holdings in the Balkans and in Italy. Effected through a combination of military conquest and traditional Byzantine "soft power," the result was a greatly expanded domain, one centered now in Europe rather than in Asia. As Kaldellis explains, what brought this period to an end was not any factor internal to the empire but the simultaneous threats posed in the late 11th century by the Normans, the Pechenegs, and the Seljuk Turks, which in the end proved too much for the Byzantine state to manage successfully even with the help of the warriors of the First Crusade.