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By Jonathan Harris

Publication date: July, 2023

Pages: 320

ISBN 978-615-6405-77-7                        Paperback, €19.96

eISBN 978-615-6405-78-4                    eBook, €19.96

For any unavailable copies on our website, please refer to our distributors: ISD LLC for North and South America and EUROSPAN for Europe and the rest of the world.


Main Characters


CHAPTER 1. The Caretaker and the Ambassador (1024)

CHAPTER 2. Kainourgion (958-63)

CHAPTER 3. Boukoleon (963-9)

CHAPTER 4. Philopation (969)

CHAPTER 5. The Caretaker and the Spy (1020)

CHAPTER 6. Paideia (970-4)

CHAPTER 7. Hebdomon (975)

CHAPTER 8. The Caretaker and Nobody (1024

CHAPTER 9. Lausiakos (975-6)

CHAPTER 10. Apostoleion (976-83)

CHAPTER 11. Petrion (983-4)

CHAPTER 12. Dekanneakoubita (984-5)

CHAPTER 13. The Ambassador and the Emperor (1024)

CHAPTER 14. Abydos (985-9)

CHAPTER 15. Chrysis Cheiros (989-1024)

CHAPTER 16. The Ambassador and the Spy (1024)

Historical Note

Data sheet

Jonathan Harris
Trivent Medieval
Book series
Book series editor(s)
Nada Zečević, Suzana Simon
ISBN (paperback)
Publication date
July, 2023
Page numbers

Specific References

The renowned historian Jonathan Harris crosses the genre boundary to explore his period through fiction, in a novel about an Emperor's personal worldview... 

Constantinople 1024: few people can remember a time before Basil II. The emperor has ruled for nearly fifty years, has never married and has no children. He scorns the opulent vestments that go with his rank and delegates his ceremonial duties to his indolent brother. He is more feared than loved and is merciless and vindictive to his enemies. No one dares to challenge his power, for he leads his armies to war in person, rather than leaving it to his generals. He has no counsellors, takes no advice and knows everything that goes on in his empire. That at least is what they say in the streets. But this is a world where nothing is ever quite as it seems.

JONATHAN HARRIS teaches history at Royal Holloway, University of London. His previous books include The Lost World of Byzantium (2015), Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium (2nd ed. 2017) and Introduction to Byzantium (602-1453) (2020). This is his first novel.  

Theosis offers a captivating trajectory of the life of Byzantine Emperor Basil II (976–1025), taking the reader into the intricate history of the Byzantine Empire at the peak of the Macedonian dynasty. Using authentic narratives and documentation as evidence to vividly depict life and politics at the Byzantine court, Harris in parallel traces a unique story of Basil’s personal transformations from coming of age and emerging sexuality to his consolidation of power. Exploring Basil’s homoerotic desires, Harris draws us in to consider familiar, seemingly modern, possibilities of queer identity without losing sight of the profound distance between Byzantine sexual cultures and our own. For the Byzantine view of rulership, another transformation represented the purpose of emperor’s life. According to this ideology, theosis/deification was attainable only through a synergy of human activity and God’s energies – but, how did this ideology frame Basil’s views of rulership, other people and himself? Set against the backdrop of complex political events that affected the imperial dynasty, family intrigue and his early childhood losses, Harris explores the layers of Basil’s conflicted selfhood, sexual subjectivity, and ultimately his desire for vengeance. This becomes the tragedy of Basil's story– despite his vast potential for goodness and self-awareness, his experiences leave him compromised, delighting in the extermination of those who have wronged him. It is this vengeance, and the transformation in him that allows it, that is now Basil’s devastating theosis.

Dr. Justin Bengry, Lecturer in Queer History and Director of the Centre for Queer History, Goldsmiths University of London

Historical fiction is always a risky business. Jonathan Harris's debut novel, however, successfully overcomes the obstacles and meticulously builds a complex story set in a period that was perhaps the least covered subject of literature, especially fiction. Following Emperor Basil II on his path to deification, one can feel the atmosphere of ''Secretum'' or ''Imprimatur'' by the author duo Monaldi & Sorti, or even Madeline Miller's ''The Song of Achilles'', while exploring the vast palette of love, death, friendship, treason, and political turmoil from a thousand years ago. Harris grasps some controversy but never falls into sentimentality, which can often be a trap, especially for writers. Theosis is just a perfect text to be turned into a film or even a mini-series.  

Ozren K. Glaser, mag. litt. comp., author, composer, filmmaker, cultural ambassador

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