BAR 38:05, Sep/Oct 2012
Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition
Edited by Helen C. Evans with Brandie Ratliff
(New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012), xx + 332 pp., $35 (paperback)
The Byzantine Empire—the vestiges of the Roman world in the East—brought antiquity to a close with both the triumph of Christianity and the internal religious conflicts that would come to characterize the medieval period. The arrival of Islam, the third Abrahamic tradition from the fringes of the Byzantine world, ushered in a new religion and way of life in the seventh–ninth centuries.
In Byzantium and Islam and its accompanying catalog of the same name, the editors and exhibit organizers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art illustrate and complicate this narrative. The exhibit brings together an impressive array of Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Samaritan pieces from over 50 collections in more than a dozen countries. The book is divided into three sections: “Byzantium,” “Commerce” and “Islam,” each laden with contextual essays by 40-some scholars from around the world. The catalog includes a variety of objects—from floor mosaics, ceramics and sculpture to manuscripts, textiles and bone inlay.