From its ancient past to the present, we meet the city through its ordinary citizens--the Jews, Muslims, Italians, Greeks, and Russians who used the famous baths and walked the bazaars--and the rulers who built it up and then destroyed it, including Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the man who christened the city "Istanbul" in 1930. Thomas F. Madden's entertaining narrative brings to life the city we see today, including the rich splendor of the churches and monasteries that spread throughout the city.
Istanbul draws on a lifetime of study and the latest scholarship, transporting readers to a city of unparalleled importance and majesty that holds the key to understanding modern civilization. In the words of Napoleon Bonaparte, "If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-10-31
- Reviewer: Staff
In this fast-paced account of Europes largest city, Madden (Venice: A New History), director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at St. Louis University, recounts how Istanbul gained its status as a meeting place and a battlefield for cultures. Founded by Greeks as Byzantium in 667 B.C.E., it served as a kind of urban bridge between Asia and Europe. As Constantinople, it became the eastern center of Christianity until it was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453. Thereafter, it was, until the modern period, a strikingly cosmopolitan place, about 40% non-Muslim in 1700, with significant populations of Greek Orthodox, Jews, and Armenian Christians. Madden adroitly describes the succession of the often bloodthirsty rulers of premodern Constantinople, including Murad III (who ordered the strangulation of his five brothers in 1574), as well as health crises, such as the bubonic plague epidemic of 542 that claimed an average of 5,000 lives per day. Unfortunately, Madden races through the citys modern period, from the Young Turks 1909 uprising to the 21st century, including a mere paragraph on the anti-Greek riot of September 1955 that caused most of Istanbuls remaining Greeks to flee the city. This flaw aside, Madden succinctly captures the citys often key role in global political and religious history. (Dec.)