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An enthralling popular history of how the threatened Christian kingdoms of Europe converted, conquered, and slaughtered their way to dominance at the turn of the last millennium. of photos.


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An enthralling popular history of how the threatened Christian kingdoms of Europe converted, conquered, and slaughtered their way to dominance at the turn of the last millennium. of photos.

30 review for The Last Apocalypse

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steven Harbin

    I thought this was an excellent well written book about an extremely interesting period of history, the the decades up to and immediately after the year 1000 C.E. or A.D. Reston, Jr. is a good writer who covers a variety of subjects, the Viking raids and conquests, the conflict between the Moors and Christians in Spain, and the Byzantine influence on eastern Europe, among other things. If you enjoy this book I would recommend also checking out The Long Ships, a historical novel by Frans Gunnar B I thought this was an excellent well written book about an extremely interesting period of history, the the decades up to and immediately after the year 1000 C.E. or A.D. Reston, Jr. is a good writer who covers a variety of subjects, the Viking raids and conquests, the conflict between the Moors and Christians in Spain, and the Byzantine influence on eastern Europe, among other things. If you enjoy this book I would recommend also checking out The Long Ships, a historical novel by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson set during the period as well as The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium by Robert Lacey and A.D. 1000: A World on the Brink of Apocalypse by Richard Erdoes. Notes:Started reading on 02-02-2011, had to return to library on 03-15-2011. I've actually read portions of this book before, and even owned a copy at one time before I sold it / traded it in at a used bookstore. Not sure why I did that as it is a favortie book about a favortie subject - the year 1000 C.E. or A.D. - Plan on going back and re-reading/finishing it in the future.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joel Robb

    A time of turbulence and upheaval -- tracing the 40 years of pressure on Europe that came from a powerful, raiding Viking north; an entrenched, enlightened Moorish Islamic caliphate on the Iberian peninsula; a strong and swift mounted warrior peoples (Magyars) who threatened the center; an ancient Byzantine kingdom to the east -- and how events, intertwined throughout, inspired personalities, treachery, war, and politics led to a common thread of the Christian religion to allow kingdoms to inter A time of turbulence and upheaval -- tracing the 40 years of pressure on Europe that came from a powerful, raiding Viking north; an entrenched, enlightened Moorish Islamic caliphate on the Iberian peninsula; a strong and swift mounted warrior peoples (Magyars) who threatened the center; an ancient Byzantine kingdom to the east -- and how events, intertwined throughout, inspired personalities, treachery, war, and politics led to a common thread of the Christian religion to allow kingdoms to interact and set up the basis of many of the modern states of Europe in the 2000's. If you enjoy historical books, this one is written in understandable language; I used other history books, maps (the ones included in the front of the book are useful), and the internet (for vocabulary, latin translations, and additional information and images of the players) to accompany my journey through this time -- difficult Viking and Arabic names needed some tracking -- pay attention to the most important (Svien Forkbeard, Olaf Trygvesson, Sigrid the Strong-minded, Ethelred the Unready, Canute the Mighty, Al Mansoor, Otto I-II-III, Theophano, Gerbert (Pope Sylvester II), Boleslav, Vladimir, Vjak) -- Most of them have chapters dedicated to them, but with all the other characters, it can get overwhelming.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    James Reston illustrates how, at the end of the first millennium, Europe became more decidedly Christian than it had been before. Each region Christianized in a different way, some retained their previous customs along side of the new monotheism. Given the paucity of the record, there is little to work with. Reston does a good job of knitting it into a readable work. He is clear in stating that source material is often poetry and myth so historians and readers need to beware. Whether or not specif James Reston illustrates how, at the end of the first millennium, Europe became more decidedly Christian than it had been before. Each region Christianized in a different way, some retained their previous customs along side of the new monotheism. Given the paucity of the record, there is little to work with. Reston does a good job of knitting it into a readable work. He is clear in stating that source material is often poetry and myth so historians and readers need to beware. Whether or not specifics are true, there were three things that seemed conclusive. One is that in this period Christianity often spread by conquest. A second is that a few well born women were able to lead "countries" (areas?) and did not always have to marry to do it. The third, the advanced civilization of the Moors in Spain, has a supportive fact: Spain had 17 universities compared to two in the rest of Europe. This book is definitely intended for a popular audience. The writing is clear and the characters are brought alive through their human characteristics.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    If motion picture technology had been available between 950 and 1000 AD, then this would a documentary about one of the greatest turning points in European history. The old order is crumbling: Charlemagne's once vast empire is in pieces, the papacy in Rome is fighting the rising influence Byzantium, England and France are facing the invading Vikings; Germany and Italy are up against the Hungarian Magyars, the Christians and the Moors are facing off in Iberia. These conflicts were so great that m If motion picture technology had been available between 950 and 1000 AD, then this would a documentary about one of the greatest turning points in European history. The old order is crumbling: Charlemagne's once vast empire is in pieces, the papacy in Rome is fighting the rising influence Byzantium, England and France are facing the invading Vikings; Germany and Italy are up against the Hungarian Magyars, the Christians and the Moors are facing off in Iberia. These conflicts were so great that many people believed that the end of the world was near. In 950 AD almost all of Europe, with the exception of Charlemagne's empire, was pagan. By 1000 AD, Christianity replaced almost all of these pagan religions. By delving into the lives of the most important players of the day and their rivals, Reston examines the great conflict between Christianity and the pagan religions and the changes that it wrought on civilization.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    The short version: I have a number of issues with this book, but I recommend it nonetheless. Reston's overarching theme is quite muddled. There was an apocalypse? But there wasn't? Oh the pagan armies of monstrous foes were baring down on Christianity? Oh, it was the clash of personalities over a period of decades? Huh? Ah, OK, the Christians beat out the pagans, so it was like an apocalypse for the pagans or an apocalypse in the 12th century sense of the triumph of 'good' over evil. I guess...Th The short version: I have a number of issues with this book, but I recommend it nonetheless. Reston's overarching theme is quite muddled. There was an apocalypse? But there wasn't? Oh the pagan armies of monstrous foes were baring down on Christianity? Oh, it was the clash of personalities over a period of decades? Huh? Ah, OK, the Christians beat out the pagans, so it was like an apocalypse for the pagans or an apocalypse in the 12th century sense of the triumph of 'good' over evil. I guess...The entire thing is an unclear stretch. There was no united pagan host seeking to wipe out Christianity or battle for religious supremacy, as is hinted at on the book's inside cover, and really, in this respect Reston is just expanding on the "jihads" of Mansor in Spain and the Viking raids (which were actually seen as apocalyptic hundreds of years before 1000 AD). The Christian front was far more organized, it being one religion versus dozens, and really the decades around 1000 AD were much worse for pagans than Christians, but, of course, even the Christian kingdoms spent most of their time fighting and trying to one-up each other and there was no United Nations of Christianity at the time. Honestly, calendar dates aside, the coming of the Mongols in the 13th century and The Black Death in the 14th were far more apocalyptic than Viking raiders, cultured Arabs and 2nd rate barbarian horsemen. Reston's contemporary world asides are lame; he builds the Magyars up to be something on par with the Mongols, then slowly and unintentionally reveals they were kind of boring losers by comparison (no offence Hungarians); he often just directly copies or paraphrases primary sources with limited interesting opinion or innovative thought; he includes no citations which means his sources and opinions should be taken with an extra grain of salt -- especially since some of his claims are disputed by historians (eg Jomsvikings even existing); and he rambles on about Christianity and inserts his own thoughts into the minds of historical figures, such as Gerbert and Otto preparing for the apocalypse (maybe -- again, he's not very clear when it comes to his theme). I am very critical of historical works, given I studied history extensively in college. So here's why you should still pick this up and read it if you love history, particularly Medieval, Viking, Moorish, Holy Roman or Byzantine history: The biographies, mini-histories, tales and primary sources presented are all wonderful, and Reston has, overall, assembled a fascinating grouping of them which keep the reader thoroughly entertained, and which paint a brilliant portrait of the European world in the centuries around 1000 AD. Ignore the half-baked theme and structure and digest the wonderful, beautiful history instead. True Rating: 3.7 Stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    John Lindemuth

    An enlightening book depicting the confluence of events that transpired during the end of the first millennia. Largely it showed the overwhelmingly positive influence Christianity had upon European culture and the advancement of civilization. Effectively the taming of a continent.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Leonard Pierce

    Very disappointing overview of life at the turn of the first millennium, permanently crippled by its pro-Christian bias and short shrift towards cultural mixing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Austen

    I loved the story about King Olaf - I was so inspired I read the Heimskringla after this. I don`t remember too much else so I guess it`s time to reread. I loved the story about King Olaf - I was so inspired I read the Heimskringla after this. I don`t remember too much else so I guess it`s time to reread.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This was not a light read. I thought it would be helpful to learn more about early European history (around the year 1000 A.D.). The information provided was overwhelming. It was helpful to see the interplay between the Scandinavians, Romans, The Holy Roman Empire. I got lost in the relationships, intrigue, murder, wars and general corruptness of the players. This book is not for the average reader, wanting more general understanding of the period, but more for the reader that has very specific This was not a light read. I thought it would be helpful to learn more about early European history (around the year 1000 A.D.). The information provided was overwhelming. It was helpful to see the interplay between the Scandinavians, Romans, The Holy Roman Empire. I got lost in the relationships, intrigue, murder, wars and general corruptness of the players. This book is not for the average reader, wanting more general understanding of the period, but more for the reader that has very specific needs and interests.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Cleveland

    A well written book. Each chapter presents an interesting and informative look at individuals who had a significant impact upon European history just prior to the year 1000 ad. However, the author has a tendency to bounce back and forth in time which can be somewhat confusing at times. All in all, worth the time and effort.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Robinson

    An interesting book covering Europe at around the 1000 AD mark with emphasis on the Viking leaders, the Moorish leaders and the Frankish leaders, political, military and religious. Forced conversions, forced expulsions and forced marriages led to a brutal time to be alive.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dan Nelson

    Lots of detail that let's you get a pan-European view of what was going on politically around 1000 AD. Lots of detail that let's you get a pan-European view of what was going on politically around 1000 AD.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    Very interesting history of Europe at 1000 AD.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David Blake

    Very scatological...not exactly something meant to get you thru the day after a Big One softy twisty -- but educational and entertaining.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pat Perkins

    Mini biographies of the major European leaders of the 10th century. Interesting.

  16. 5 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

    James Reston's account of Europe during the years leading up to and at 1000 AD makes very interesting reading and is quite enjoyable. The first few chapters covered the Vikings and sometimes you felt as if the author was pulling your leg with some of the names of the people & leaders involved, eg; 'Forkbeard', 'Blueteeth' 'Bloodaxe', 'Lapking' and many others. But as you read further into the story you realised that these people were real and that they were some of the players on the stage durin James Reston's account of Europe during the years leading up to and at 1000 AD makes very interesting reading and is quite enjoyable. The first few chapters covered the Vikings and sometimes you felt as if the author was pulling your leg with some of the names of the people & leaders involved, eg; 'Forkbeard', 'Blueteeth' 'Bloodaxe', 'Lapking' and many others. But as you read further into the story you realised that these people were real and that they were some of the players on the stage during this period of great turbelance along with 'Eirik the Red', 'Leif Eriksson' and 'Alfred the Great'. By the middle of the book I started to find some of the names of people and places I have read about before in Spain, Europe and the Byzantine Empire. Overall this was a very enjoyable account of some of the people and places that were involved in changing the face of Europe leading up to the first millennium.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah - All The Book Blog Names Are Taken

    Not quite what I was expecting, but decently written nonetheless. Truthfully I'm not sure what I was expecting, though certainly the idea of the spread of Christianity was one of those things. I guess I was expecting a little more having to do with England's battle with the Vikings, but perhaps that was just my own bias and interest. I did NOT enjoy the recreated conversations. Unless you know for a fact that exact conversation took place and those exact words came from someone's mouth, do not bo Not quite what I was expecting, but decently written nonetheless. Truthfully I'm not sure what I was expecting, though certainly the idea of the spread of Christianity was one of those things. I guess I was expecting a little more having to do with England's battle with the Vikings, but perhaps that was just my own bias and interest. I did NOT enjoy the recreated conversations. Unless you know for a fact that exact conversation took place and those exact words came from someone's mouth, do not bother. There's a reason I don't read historical fiction and some of those parts read as such. I did find it interesting how the author was able to overlap so many if his subjects. It tied everything together nicely and gave the book cohesion - where otherwise it could easily have been a hodgepodge of people who had no connections.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Seth D Michaels

    A mostly enjoyable history of turn-of-the-last millennium Europe - looking at the frontiers of Christianity in the Viking lands, Hungary and Moorish Spain, as well as the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. It very interestingly combines the harder sort of historical study with contemporary accounts - which is to say, songs and legends, taking them somewhat at face value as reflective of the way people experienced those times. I just wish it had been a little better-written. The structure results i A mostly enjoyable history of turn-of-the-last millennium Europe - looking at the frontiers of Christianity in the Viking lands, Hungary and Moorish Spain, as well as the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. It very interestingly combines the harder sort of historical study with contemporary accounts - which is to say, songs and legends, taking them somewhat at face value as reflective of the way people experienced those times. I just wish it had been a little better-written. The structure results in a lot of things happening out of chronological order, which makes it confusing, and the author is a little too delighted with himself at times. A book I really wanted to like was mostly just-ok and didn't drive me to pick it up that often.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Justin Covey

    Not so much the history of the centuries surrounding 1000 AD as what was believed to be the history. This is the authors acknowledged position outlined in the introduction when he states he'll be repeating much of the oral history and epic tales about the time period. As long as this is kept in mind the story presented here is an enthralling one. On the negative side I wish the author more frequently told where he was getting his information and the book suffers terribly from a poor presentation Not so much the history of the centuries surrounding 1000 AD as what was believed to be the history. This is the authors acknowledged position outlined in the introduction when he states he'll be repeating much of the oral history and epic tales about the time period. As long as this is kept in mind the story presented here is an enthralling one. On the negative side I wish the author more frequently told where he was getting his information and the book suffers terribly from a poor presentation of events with chapters frequently referencing things not explained till much later. Still, a quite fascinating book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen McRae

    This was an entertaining read and I am sure the author did his research. That being said he gave his list of characters a more human aspect by focusing on their part in this historical tale. I was aware that history has generally written by the victors even in that time and especially in that time because it was a warrior world with much political assignations dictating events. Political as in religious interference and marriages that cemented dynasties.I did note that women were very much absen This was an entertaining read and I am sure the author did his research. That being said he gave his list of characters a more human aspect by focusing on their part in this historical tale. I was aware that history has generally written by the victors even in that time and especially in that time because it was a warrior world with much political assignations dictating events. Political as in religious interference and marriages that cemented dynasties.I did note that women were very much absent from this history and included as the spoils of war or as women of higher birth who could with their marital alliance further the ambitions of the men in their life

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I was completely off-base with what I thought this book was and what it actually is (the back cover lied to me). I thought that it was about Christianity and the fears of the Apocalypse around the previous millennium. However, instead it's about the spread of Christianity and the conflicts when it ran into Paganism and Islam. It's about as historical as anything relating to the 10th century can be based when all you have is poems, stories and "history." The history is super interesting with a lo I was completely off-base with what I thought this book was and what it actually is (the back cover lied to me). I thought that it was about Christianity and the fears of the Apocalypse around the previous millennium. However, instead it's about the spread of Christianity and the conflicts when it ran into Paganism and Islam. It's about as historical as anything relating to the 10th century can be based when all you have is poems, stories and "history." The history is super interesting with a lot of fascinating people living in a decisive historic time.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christa

    An interesting take on early Medieval history relying mostly on oral histories. The author's goal was to look at what the people of the time believed to be their history and then sort out what seemed too impossible. I don't know that he was always successful here, especially as I have read several other histories of this period which contradict some of what he allows as fact, but the book is still informative and offers a different perspective than others that rely on archaeology, later historie An interesting take on early Medieval history relying mostly on oral histories. The author's goal was to look at what the people of the time believed to be their history and then sort out what seemed too impossible. I don't know that he was always successful here, especially as I have read several other histories of this period which contradict some of what he allows as fact, but the book is still informative and offers a different perspective than others that rely on archaeology, later histories, and other sources. This book is a relatively easy read - conversational and informal.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    The book isn't a straight history tome but more of a narrative of the shakers and movers of the tenth century in Europe. It is an excellent introduction to th beginnings of the Holy Roman Empire and the forces that formed the beginnings of Europe as we know it. Reston looks minutely at the Vikings, the Moors, the Magyars, The Spanish and finally the Ottonian Dynasty in what would eventually become Germany. The book is infused with humour and is extremely readable even if you know nothing of the The book isn't a straight history tome but more of a narrative of the shakers and movers of the tenth century in Europe. It is an excellent introduction to th beginnings of the Holy Roman Empire and the forces that formed the beginnings of Europe as we know it. Reston looks minutely at the Vikings, the Moors, the Magyars, The Spanish and finally the Ottonian Dynasty in what would eventually become Germany. The book is infused with humour and is extremely readable even if you know nothing of the time period.

  24. 4 out of 5

    John

    Interesting way of looking at a short span of time around 1000 A.D. Centered mainly in Europe (with some early history of Iceland), it is mainly concerned with the Christianization of those parts of the continent's hold-out areas by that time. The main players are the English, various groups of Vikings, Magyrs of Hungary, Byzantines, Italy, Saxons, Poles, and the Moors of Spain. It was a revelation to view this history a a slice of time, so much happening all at once. A lot of interesting new de Interesting way of looking at a short span of time around 1000 A.D. Centered mainly in Europe (with some early history of Iceland), it is mainly concerned with the Christianization of those parts of the continent's hold-out areas by that time. The main players are the English, various groups of Vikings, Magyrs of Hungary, Byzantines, Italy, Saxons, Poles, and the Moors of Spain. It was a revelation to view this history a a slice of time, so much happening all at once. A lot of interesting new details. The last bit, on Otto the Dreamer, drags a bit, though.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Xina Uhl

    A lively, well-written account of a period in time that is often overshadowed by later, better documented eras. The details are entertaining and engrossing, and the characters really come to life. Some of the happenings seemed rather too close to the myths/stories they were probably taken from (for instance the wife who refused to allow her husband strands of her hair to string his bow with) but for the most part these anecdotes serve to strengthen the narrative rather than to detract from it. I A lively, well-written account of a period in time that is often overshadowed by later, better documented eras. The details are entertaining and engrossing, and the characters really come to life. Some of the happenings seemed rather too close to the myths/stories they were probably taken from (for instance the wife who refused to allow her husband strands of her hair to string his bow with) but for the most part these anecdotes serve to strengthen the narrative rather than to detract from it. Illuminating and enjoyable.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This is an enjoyable quick read. Any of these chapters could warrant their own books, really. I like the reliance on oral history in addition to what can be concretely backed up--makes the figures really come alive. The "portrait" chapters give the book a certain lack of focus (it's very hard to follow what Reston is trying to do), and unfortunately the lack of focus becomes more pronounced the further along you go. This is an enjoyable quick read. Any of these chapters could warrant their own books, really. I like the reliance on oral history in addition to what can be concretely backed up--makes the figures really come alive. The "portrait" chapters give the book a certain lack of focus (it's very hard to follow what Reston is trying to do), and unfortunately the lack of focus becomes more pronounced the further along you go.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alvin

    A vivid account of the leading political personalities in Europe at 1000 AD. As one might expect, they were pretty much a bunch of bloodthirsty scoundrels mired in superstition and ignorance. For the most part, Reston keeps the action moving, but I would still have preferred a bit more summary. I'd also have prefereed A little social history, how the ordinary peasant spent the day, just to round out the picture. Overall, though, a fine read. A vivid account of the leading political personalities in Europe at 1000 AD. As one might expect, they were pretty much a bunch of bloodthirsty scoundrels mired in superstition and ignorance. For the most part, Reston keeps the action moving, but I would still have preferred a bit more summary. I'd also have prefereed A little social history, how the ordinary peasant spent the day, just to round out the picture. Overall, though, a fine read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Steve Horton

    Great survey of three of the apocalyptic forces (at least, to their contemporaries) that shaped Europe for the Modern Ages- the Vikings, Moors and Magyars. A great, accessible book that will appeal to anyone with interest in this time period, or of the overlapping influences that helped make Europe what it is today. From Pete Rose to Jonestown to the High Middle Ages, there is nothing Reston can not write about and make it fascinating. Highly recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Neil Robb

    The years 950 - 1000 C.E. were tremendously important in the composition of Europe for the next 1,000 years. The Viking scourge was coming to an end. The Moors were trying to hold on in Iberia, the British Isles were still in play by the Danes. Central Europe was experiencing almost continuous warfare. This author brings all of these elements together in a coherent and exciting fashion. Reads like a novel.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    Covers a fascinating period of time, around 1000AD when Christianity was more of a political movement. Describe how many of the European countries of today were formed around the various shifting squabbling kingdoms and their ruthless leaders, in relation to the Catholic Church establishment of their own power. Stuff they never taught us in school. Well researched. Got me interested in this dark, world-changing, tumultuous period of time.

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