Byzantium

A startling new book on the distribution of wealth in early Christianity

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History as Fantasy

Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and NationsBy Norman Davies (Viking, 830 pp., $40)  There is a well-worn story that is told in one form or another in all European history textbooks. In 824, ten years after the death of Charlemagne, Agobard, Archbishop of Lyon, hailed a new Christian imperial ambition to unite all the peoples and lands of the Western Holy Roman Empire by reformulating Galatians 3:28: “There is now neither Gentile nor Jew, Scythian nor Aquitanian, nor Lombard, nor Burgundian, nor Alaman, nor bond, nor free.

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The Lost Lesbian

Sappho: A Garland The Poems and Fragments of Sappho Translated by Jim Powell (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 65 pp., $15) The Laughter of Aphrodite: A Novel about Sappho of Lesbos By Peter Green (University of California Press, 274 pp., $22) The "garland" of Jim Powell's felicitous translation of Sappho is a tattered remnant. It might well have been subtitled The Poem and Fragments of Sappho, for there is only one poem in the book that we can be reasonably sure is complete, the playful summons to Aphrodite that stands at its head. There is one other poem—the famous description of the physical

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