Book Reviews


Istanbul begins with the foundation of the city in 667 BCE, and proceeds across centuries telling the internecine fighting, commerce,

political, and evolution during the Byzantine epoch, and since 1453, Ottoman rule.

During the prosperous Byzantine times, emperors sought to embellish the city with public places, palaces, and works of art, municipal institutions, and churches.

Emperor Constantin stands out in all development activities and the reason why the city was called Constantinople in Byzantium.

Most emperors emphasised urban planning, but once Turks conquered the city, urban planning stopped. They had no concept of urban planning.

Professor Madden loves Istanbul, and spent significant amounts of time studying records to piece together how Constantinople evolved, and how the Byzantine Empire was ruled and fell victim to its profligate ways by disintegrating into ungovernable regions.

A considerable part of the book covering approximately 20 centuries is devoted to the Byzantine Empire and how rulers dealt with Popes, Genoese, Venetian, Padovan traders, the Crusades, and conducting campaigns in the east and west.

The chapter on harems reveals how Ottoman rulers acquired beautiful European and Caucasian women, regardless of their religion. Many of the rulers after 1453 were mixtures of non-Islamic and Islamic religions. Turkish history books ignore such facts.

It is also important to point out that the author states how Ottoman rulers sought Greeks and Armenians in their youth, confiscated them from their homes, raised them to become janissaries and functioned as policy developers, architects and generals in government institutions.

This oeuvre illuminates the turbulent history of the Byzantine Empire, and Ottoman rule, with tidbits you won’t find in any other book.

Anyone planning to visit Istanbul should read this informative book to appreciate the sights of the city which now boasts a population of more than 14 million, and spreads over two continents like no other in the world.

The beauty of Istanbul cannot be appreciated fully without knowing its history.

Highly recommended.


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