In 428 AD [sic], Giusto Traina has written a brief and engaging overview of the Mediterranean and Near East in the early fifth century.
Traina, an ancient historian with a strong interest in classical Armenia, chose to survey the events of that year owing to its pivotal importance for the political and cultural history of Armenia, which was absorbed by Sasanian Persia and thereafter ceased to exist as an independent polity for four centuries. The year 428 is not a well-known date in traditional chronologies, so it does not carry the baggage attached to canonical dates of periodization. At a time when many historians have become much more interested in long-term trends and processes, Traina reminds the reader of the centrality of events to the study of any historical period.
One of Traina’s objectives in this study is to demonstrate that the ancient Mediterranean world remained substantially united economically and culturally, despite the beginnings of political fragmentation in the Roman Empire. On the whole, he has succeeded, thanks to his synchronic approach and expansive coverage stretching from Mauretania to eastern Iran. By covering so much ground, Traina’s chapters are necessarily vignettes, but they are generally well-drawn and insightful ones.
The book centers on the story of Nestorius, the headstrong and combative patriarch of Constantinople who traveled...