Whom would one choose as a companion to Byzantium? Many might ask for Michael Psellos, the 11th-century polymath who appears in nine of this volume's 27 chapters. A measure of the distance Byzantine studies has travelled in recent decades, but also of how far it has still to go, is the publication of editions and translations of Psellos' many surviving works.
The main aim of this book is to answer the following question: how does one account for the speed with which the Arab empire was built? The period covered extends from the rise of Islam down to the middle of the eighth century.