CROSS-POSTED REVIEW: Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2016.11.18 Prostko-Prostyński on Sarantis, Justinian's Balkan Wars

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Alexander Sarantis, Justinian's Balkan Wars: Campaigning, Diplomacy and Development in Illyricum, Thrace and the Nothern World A.D. 527-65. ARCA: Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs, 53.   Prenton:  Francis Cairns, 2016.  Pp. xv, 500.  ISBN 9780905205588.  $170.00.   

Reviewed by Jan Prostko-Prostyński, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (

This book is based on the author’s doctoral dissertation from the University of Oxford (2006), but it has been completely re-written and nearly doubled in length. Certain conclusions and opinions from the original dissertation have been modified.

The main premise of Justinian’s Balkan Wars is an observation that secondary works on the emperor Justinian follow Procopius (Secret History 11.5) in neglecting the emperor’s Balkan policies and viewing them as of secondary importance (p. 4). Alexander Sarantis also emphasises that the majority of these works focus either on particular groups of barbarians or on particular regions of the Balkans. In his opinion, this is due to the widely-held view of the low strategic importance of the Balkans in Justinian’s plans. The author therefore intends not only to fill this gap, but also to prove that Justinian was far from treating the Balkans as a less politically or strategically important area of the empire.

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