Listen free for 30 days

  • Ravenna

  • Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe
  • By: Judith Herrin
  • Narrated by: Phyllida Nash
  • Length: 19 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (40 ratings)

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Ravenna cover art

Ravenna

By: Judith Herrin
Narrated by: Phyllida Nash
Try for £0.00

£7.99 per month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Buy Now for £31.99

Buy Now for £31.99

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.  

In 402 AD, after invading tribes broke through the Alpine frontiers of Italy and threatened the imperial government in Milan, the young Emperor Honorius made the momentous decision to move his capital to a small, easily defendable city in the Po estuary - Ravenna. From then until 751 AD, Ravenna was first the capital of the Western Roman Empire, then that of the immense kingdom of Theoderic the Goth and finally the centre of Byzantine power in Italy.  

In this engrossing account, Judith Herrin explains how scholars, lawyers, doctors, craftsmen, cosmologists and religious luminaries were drawn to Ravenna where they created a cultural and political capital that dominated Northern Italy and the Adriatic. As she traces the lives of Ravenna's rulers, chroniclers and inhabitants, Herrin shows how the city became the meeting place of Greek, Latin, Christian and barbarian cultures and the pivot between East and West. The book offers a fresh account of the waning of Rome, the Gothic and Lombard invasions, the rise of Islam and the devastating divisions within Christianity. It argues that the fifth to eighth centuries should not be perceived as a time of decline from antiquity but rather, thanks to Byzantium, as one of great creativity - the period of 'Early Christendom'. These were the formative centuries of Europe.  

While Ravenna's palaces have crumbled, its churches have survived. In them, Catholic Romans and Arian Goths competed to produce an unrivalled concentration of spectacular mosaics, many of which still astonish visitors today. Drawing on the latest archaeological and documentary discoveries, Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe brings the early Middle Ages to life through the history of this dazzling city.

©2020 Judith Herrin (P)2020 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic reviews

"Magisterial - an outstanding book that shines a bright light ON one of the most important, interesting and under-studied cities in European history. A masterpiece." (Peter Frankopan)

"A wonderful new history of the Mediterranean from the fifth to eighth centuries through a lens focussed on Ravenna, gracefully and clearly written, which reconceptualizes what was 'East' and what was 'West'." (Caroline Goodson)

"A masterwork by one of our greatest historians of Byzantium and early Christianity. Judith Herrin tells a story that is at once gripping and authoritative and full of wonderful detail about every element in the life of Ravenna...." (David Freedberg)

More from the same

What listeners say about Ravenna

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    24
  • 4 Stars
    10
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    2
Performance
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    17
  • 4 Stars
    10
  • 3 Stars
    3
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    21
  • 4 Stars
    5
  • 3 Stars
    6
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

An important gap in history very well filled.

An absolutely wonderful account of an important place and time: the descriptions of the architecture and mosaics are detailed and helpful. It’s time Audible put Herrin’s account of Byzantium into sub
Speech format!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Superb overview of Ravenna as the cradle of early Christianity in the West

The book is very interesting, but the reader’s delivery is often misleading, suggesting that a sentence has come to an end when it hasn’t, or not grouping phrases together as the author intended. Frustratingly difficult to listen to.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Much more than Ravenna

The city is sometimes used as a typical example of the period, sometimes as an exception; by showing Ravenna as a bridge between east and west, Roman and barbarian, ancient and medieval, but also describing the wider context of those spheres, the result is a potted history of the late Roman empire and early medieval Europe from roughly 400-800AD.

I found the ecclesiastic focus, particularly in the middle of the book, a little dull at times, but this is more than compensated it's coverage of plenty of topics that I've found are generally glossed over in similar histories (for example the Exarchate, the Lombard duchies and in particular its fascinating biography of Galla Placidia).

Unfortunately, the narration isn't great - there are many instances of misinterpreting commas, so that part of a list is read as if it is a sub-clause (and vice versa) leading the narrator seeming surprised by the end of a sentence. It would generally really put me off, but the content more than makes up for it.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating and illuminating

Fascinating book about a crucially important but little known period of history. highly recommend to anyone interested in Western history.