By Edward Luttwak (Belknap/Harvard, 498 pages, $35)
In A.D. 395, Roman Emperor Theodosius I split his realm between his two sons, giving the Western empire—with Rome at its heart—to Honorius, and the eastern half—Byzantium—to his brother, Arkadios. Honorius seemed to get the better deal. Byzantium was a disjointed empire made up of regions scattered across eastern Europe, Asia and northern Africa, and it was vulnerable to attack. Invaders came from all directions—Huns from the steppes, Avars from the Caucasus, the mighty armies of the Sasanian Persians, followed by the Arabs and the Turks and, most disastrous of all, Crusaders from the West.
And yet the Roman Empire, and Rome itself, fell in the fifth century A.D., while Byzantium endured for almost a millennium longer. How was this possible? That question drives Edward N. Luttwak’s “The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire.” Mr. Luttwak, an inveterate provocateur and the author of several earlier studies of strategy, including the audacious “Coup d’Etat: A Practical Handbook” (1979), has been pondering this Byzantine puzzle for two decades.
Read more of this book review from the Wall Street journal here.
Watch Edward Luttvak interviewed by Harry Kreisler in the Berkeley University series Conversations with History.