Fidler provides a palpable sense of this glittering city built as “a mirror of heaven.”




A history/travel guide about the fabled eastern capital of the Romans.

Between Constantinople’s founding in 330 to its final siege by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, there were nearly 100 Roman emperors (and several empresses) and a flourishing Roman, Greek, and Christian culture that defied the so-called Dark Ages of Western Europe. In this entertaining survey, Fidler, the host of a popular radio program in Australia, recounts this history through the lens of a recent trip with his 14-year-old son to Istanbul. Alternating between scholarship and travelogue, taking the form of a gentle lecture for the curious, sometimes-skeptical son, the narrative presents a palatable, nondidactic history lesson, providing a sense of how the Turkish culture reigns in the present. While scholars refer to this early era of the city as Byzantium, its inhabitants considered themselves proudly Roman, inheritors of the great, sprawling civilization of Augustus, with Latin as their language until Greek became the lingua franca after the rule of Justinian. While Rome was being sacked by the Visigoths, the eastern capital of Constantinople—two-thirds of which is surrounded by water, thus enjoying an incomparable strategic advantage—was constructing the great Theodosian Walls around its one land direction, just before Attila the Hun could attack in 447. Indeed, the Muslims trained their conquering eyes on the city numerous times until the eventual conquest by Mehmed II. The author navigates fluidly from the city’s founding by Constantine, the first Christian ruler, moving on to the significant rule of Justinian—who commissioned his famous Codex from Roman law, still pertinent in European civil law today—and his strong-willed wife, Theodora, and the construction of the Hagia Sophia. He also covers the schisms, plagues, Crusades, sieges, and the creation of the “deep state” that resonates today under Turkey’s current authoritarian prime minister.

Fidler provides a palpable sense of this glittering city built as “a mirror of heaven.”

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-511-1

Page Count: 520

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet