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Gibbon Chapter XL: Justinian, Part I

Despite its flaws, which I discuss in the full post, this chapter is basically a really good introduction to the reign and times of Justinian.In 61 pages, it covers i) the Empress Theodora, ii) the factions at the Circus, iii) the economy of Justinian's empire, especially relating to silk and taxes, iii) the Hagia Sophia and other famous buildings, including the fortifications, iv) the state of learning in the empire. It is the first of four chapters covering Justinian's reign, with more about the Persians and the church, and I think that if the level of quality continues then I'll be recommending this sequence of chapters as a way in to Gibbon as well as Justinian.

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