It is the final work by U., on which she has worked in the last years of her life. The Soviet historiography of Byzantium was based on a clearly articulated demarcation from pre-revolutionary Russian Byzantine studies. That one emphasized the continuity of the Orthodoxy and Christian aspects of the Byzantine culture, this one distinguished the secular and non-religious phenomena. The book by U. clearly illustrated the second approach. By its content, it is a deep and well-written review of the Byzantine historiography of the fourth – seventh centuries, from Ammianus Marcellinus to Theophylact Simocatta. The author analyzes information on the origin, life path and works of each of those two historians, considers their political sympathies, philosophical and ethical views, assessments by their contemporaries.
In this review, there is a noticeable preponderance towards the foreign policy of Byzantium and everything related to military affairs; U. clearly chooses the authors whose works give a chance to forget as much as possible about the tense and eventful internal ecclesiastic history of Byzantium. In the author's field of vision, either pagan historians, like Ammianus, or the authors of the most secular worldview, but even for Christian historians U. stresses everything that could present them as agnostics, and rationalists, Christians only in external name, opponents to Christian piety, supporters of ancient Hellenic culture, etc. Obvious examples of their interest to the Church and Christianity (for example, in the work by Procopius) are shaded, Theophylact's theological views turn out to be something that barely rises above the concession to his epoch; and the author recalls dogmatic disputes only to indicate that a person in question was indifferent to them. Noteworthy, that in the book on the ideological struggle in Byzantium, which covers the period of the first five Ecumenical Councils, the Trinity and the Mother of God are mentioned only ad hoc, when the author describes the views of Theophylact; Monophysitism is recalled in the biography of Priscus only, and then as a cover for a popular uprising; and there is no mentions of Christ at all. Thus, U. creates a picture of the Early Byzantine culture where all secular, non-Christian ideas and spheres of life, the continuity with the Classic culture, a look outside at the surrounding territories and everything connected with the war turn out to be important, attractive, and lively, and everything ecclesiastic and religious are presented as something secondary, and insignificant. In 1970s and 1980s, readers who were looking for ‘spirituality’ in the texts on the history of Byzantium and Old Rus, as well as for those Soviet academic authors who went to meet such reading strategies, such book on the history of Byzantium might seem a clumsy attempt to forcibly secularize a civilization that is clearly and indisputably recognized itself as a Christian one. For us, half a century later, the book by U/ looks like a passionate polemic diatribe, written from the position of a defender of ancient Hellenic culture, post factum resisting the victory of the new religion; and in such light it evokes unconditional sympathy.