Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe by Judith Herrin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Published: 27th August 2020 (Allen Lane)
O lone Ravenna! many a tale is told
Of thy great glories in the days of old’ (Oscar Wilde)
Wilde’s 1878 poem ‘Ravenna’, for which he won the prestigious Newdigate prize, is a celebration of the city’s rich history, and a lamentation of its decline, ‘in ruined loveliness thou liest dead’. In the poem, his 19th century experience of Ravenna is strikingly contrasted with its classical past, but the sense of loss he evokes well reflects every period of Ravenna’s history. A deathly commemoration may be one poetic step too far, but Ravenna is a city which doesn’t loom large in historical memory, despite its long term significance. Even for this history buff, Ravenna’s role at the heart of empires, especially between 402 and the end of the 7th century, was almost entirely unknown. Here, Judith Herrin seeks to fill in those gaps, charting Ravenna from its time as capital of the Western Roman Empire to the late 8th century, when it acts as inspiration for Charlemagne’s imperial and religious building projects in Aachen.
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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Non-fiction, Philosophy, History, Science
Pages: 464 pages (US paperback edition)
Published: 8th September 2016 by Harvill Secker (UK) & 21st February 2017 by Harper (US)
Not as good as Homo Sapiens but Homo Deus did provide me with additional informative knowledge and intriguing speculations told in an engaging and thought-provoking style.
“People are usually afraid of change because they fear the unknown. But the single greatest constant of history is that everything changes.”
I will first say that Harari is a good writer, he really knows how to make interesting topics more compelling and he also kept me focused on information that would’ve been boring to read usually. Frankly speaking, there were indeed some sections in Part II—liberalism—that in my opinion was super dull and dry to read, but Part 1 and Part 3 of the book was superb; I found the majority of my attention grabbed by the way Harari discussed topics that evidently relevant in our society. Unlike Homo Sapiens which mostly dealt with facts and how humanity progressed—or stay the same—from the past up to the present, in Homo Deus Harari tells and speculates what comes after; what kind of futures humanity might be facing or going for based on the data and theories gathered from our history and present timeframe. There are so many topics that I could talk about here, but I feel like talking too much would diminish the benefit of reading this book itself; I’ll refrain from doing that and gives a bit of my opinion regarding one of the topics discussed: the power and curses of social media. …
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