Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities (Paperback)Bettany Hughes (author)
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Istanbul has always been a place where stories and histories collide and crackle, where the idea is as potent as the historical fact.
From the Qu'ran to Shakespeare, this city with three names - Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul - resonates as an idea and a place, and overspills its boundaries - real and imagined. Standing as the gateway between the East and West, it has served as the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman Empires.
For much of its history it was known simply as The City, but, as Bettany Hughes reveals, Istanbul is not just a city, but a story. In this epic new biography, Hughes takes us on a dazzling historical journey through the many incarnations of one of the world's greatest cities. As the longest-lived political entity in Europe, over the last 6,000 years Istanbul has absorbed a mosaic of micro-cities and cultures all gathering around the core. At the latest count archaeologists have measured forty-two human habitation layers. Phoenicians, Genoese, Venetians, Jews, Vikings, Azeris all called a patch of this earth their home.
Based on meticulous research and new archaeological evidence, this captivating portrait of the momentous life of Istanbul is visceral, immediate and scholarly narrative history at its finest.
An award-winning historian and a specialist in ancient and medieval history and culture, Dr. Bettany Hughes is the author of Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore and The Hemlock Cup, Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life.
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Number of pages: 832
Weight: 660 g
Dimensions: 197 x 133 x 47 mm
‘The tale she tells of the metropolis at the crossroads of the Earth is textured, readable and often compelling’ – The Sunday Times
‘A wistful and impassioned cosmopolitan who has produced a challenging story for 2017’ – The Financial Times
"This is historical narrative brimming with brio and incident. Hughes's portraits are written with a zesty flourish ... Istanbul is a visceral, pulsating city. In Bettany Hughes's life-filled and life-affirming history, steeped in romance and written with verve, it has found a sympathetic and engaging champion" - Justin Marozzi, Guardian
"Sweeping across eight millennia in its 800 pages, this glinting mosaic of a book is divided into short, vivid, episodic chapters...With 2017 marking the 500th anniversary of the Ottoman caliphate in Istanbul, this sumptuously produced history book is as timely as it is enthralling." - Caroline Sanderson, Sunday Express
A scholarly narrative, but Hughes isn't averse to heating it up with the salacious stories that dot the city's past -- Sameer Rahim * SUNDAY TELEGRAPH *
For all its colourful drama, the city's history can be hard to narrate in a way that is coherent and gripping...Bettany Hughes [takes] up that challenge and...the result is impressive. In 'Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities' Ms Hughes plays intriguing, sophisticated games with time and space...by making unlikely connections between well-described locations and events separated by aeons, she gives voice to those witchy, diachronic feelings in a spectacular fashion. * ECONOMIST *
One of the pleasures of wandering the city today - whatever you call it - is in recognising that its layers of history are so enfolded with one another that they are impossible to separate. This is also the pleasure of Bettany Hughes' highly readable jaunt through its past 2,500 years..Istanbul is still living history. Perhaps the most moving moment in the book comes when Hughes goes looking for the song of hte Janissaries...Hughes tracked down one of their descendants...Could he remember one of the Janissaries' famous old songs? "Yes he could - and out came a fluid, mellifluous prayer, a song from the religion of the road, a song of hope and revolution, of piety and of cosmopolitan human heartedness. It could be the city's anthem. -- Sameer Rahim * DAILY TELEGRAPH *
Bettany Hughes' history of Istanbul through the ages is richly entertaining and impeccably researched. Hughes' ebullient book is an ode to three incarnations of the city...[she] guides us round a city that is magestic, magical and mystical, leaving few stones unturned. It is a loving biography of a city that never stands still, never mind never sleeps...Hughes has written an important book that brings the past of this glorious city to life. It is filled with charming vignettes...snappily written...plenty here to entertain those who know something about the ciy and to enthrall those who don't. -- Peter Frankopan * THE OBSERVER *
Istanbul's newly revived status as perhaps the major centre of Sunni Islam in the non-Arab world, and a pivot to the current Middle East imbroglio, is underlined by Bettany Hughes in the introduction to her sumptuous urban biography. -- Robert Fox * EVENING STANDARD *
Hughes...wishes to show how the city's topography shaped the civilisations that grew from it - and how the many peoples that have passed through its walls went on to shape the lands and seas and trade routes of their known world...The thrill the author takes in her discoveries is infectious...Keen as she is to identify a past that is still omnipresent, she does not just like the city to a "historic millefeuille": time and again she proves it...this heroic work...is the perfect read if - having noticed that Istanbul is increasingly in the news these days - you wish to know its place in the scheme of things, and what light it may case on the uncertain future we shall most certainly share. -- Maureen Freely * NEW STATESMAN *
Undoubtedly timely, because, as Hughes argues, Istanbul is once again central to the European narrative, as a postreligious secularism confront a resurgent religious movement. -- Michael McLouglin * IRISH TIMES *
The complexity of the city's story is revealed in mesmerising detail in Bettany Hughes's new book. At times her writing feels like a love letter, or a eulogy to what has been lost. Her compassion for the city and its millions of inhabitants, past and present, comes across from the very first pages. It is quite rare to read a historical book that weaves research and insight with understanding and love: here is a book written as much with the heart as the mind...Here is an important book that must be translated into many languages - and especially into Turkish. -- Elif Shafak * THE SPECTATOR *
Ground-breaking...There has been no recent large-scale history of the city with many names (Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul), which makes this colossal undertaking a notable achievement, coming at yet another turbulent moment in its long existence. -- Roger Crowley * LITERARY REVIEW *
Istanbul has endured an awful run of terrorist attacks and political disorder over the past few years so Bettany Hughes' ebullient homage to the city is a welcome reminder of its long and fascinating history. * i NEWSPAPER *
Majestic and immensely enriching...It's a journey through conquest and greatness from Roman to Ottoman times and it reminded me of why I love the city. -- Roula Khalaf * FINANCIAL TIMES *
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