During the fall of 2016, the sixth grade at The Speyer Legacy School studied the Byzantine Empire. During one class, the students were reading Isaac Asimov’s Words from History and one student exclaimed, “The class should write our own book and call it Words from an Empire and have it be all about Byzantium!” The idea for this project was born.
Each student was assigned one word to research and then was required to write a developed yet succinct entry. The classroom soon became a workshop of research and writing. It was gratifying to watch the students dive into a rich variety of book sources, taking down notes, and calling out to one another with comments like, “I just found some information on your topic. I’ll mark the page for you.” These sixth graders are a generous group and it is fitting that the idea for this book came from one of them. “Why take a test when you can write a book?” could be their motto.
In the following pages you will be introduced to world of Byzantium. Emperors and empresses, scholars and monks, churches, monasteries, and barbarians at the gate: the Byzantine Empire truly was a world unto itself. Initially, I was hesitant to tackle such a topic with students of this age. However, I was told that with this particular group of the more esoteric the topic, the better. They did not disappoint. The students studied this history with gusto and then spent weeks refining their entries. We hope you enjoy Words from An Empire even half as much as we enjoyed putting it together.
- Matt Thoren
Speyer Legacy School