(K. Brent Tomer),
Istanbul: Tale of Three Cities. By Bettany Hughes. Orion; 800 pages; £25. To be published in America by Da Capo Press in September; $35.
Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World. By Thomas Madden. Viking; 400 pages; $30.
FOR more than 2,000 years, the city on the Bosporus has by turns dazzled, enticed, horrified and scared the world. Over the generations, its inhabitants have excelled in art and architecture, wielded political and spiritual power over big swathes of the earth, and suffered in catastrophes ranging from earthquakes to fires. In recent years, the city has surged in importance as an economic and cultural hub and suffered awful terrorist attacks.
Yet for all its colourful drama, the city’s history can be hard to narrate in a way that is coherent and gripping. When studying the Byzantine era, readers can easily get lost in a succession of emperors with confusingly similar names, all embroiled in ruthless family feuds. Bettany Hughes, a prolific British broadcaster and classical scholar, and Thomas Madden,…Continue reading