Ghost Empire: A Journey to the Legendary Constantinople

Richard Fidler. Pegasus, $29.95 (512p) ISBN 978-1-68177-511-1
Australian radio personality Fidler recounts a trip to Turkey with his son in this surprisingly diverting tome that elucidates the rise and fall of Nova Roma. Specialists will find nothing groundbreaking, and scholarly meticulousness is not Fidler’s style, but he’s witty and has a knack for delivering unexpected anecdotes. In Fidler’s telling, the lives of the saints that so captivated the Eastern Church become action-packed tales of “gifted men and women who could fly through the sky, read minds, and hurl fireballs at demons.” Diplomatic history here is more modest but no less entertaining. For instance, the Byzantine princess Theophanu, on wedding Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Younger in 972, introduced new customs to Western nobles; many “saw the fork as a symbol of effete eastern decadence,” while for others Theophanu’s daily bath proved “controversial, a practice that made her appear pristine and ethereal, compared to the pungent westerners in Otto’s court.” The book follows the city from its founding as “a mirror of heaven” to its 1453 bombardment by “an artillery device so immensely huge and heavy that a team of sixty oxen and two hundred men were required to haul it.” Fidler colors the contours of ancient history while sharing personal reminiscences of his travels with his son. Maps & illus. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/03/2017
Release date: 09/01/2017
MP3 CD - 978-1-4893-9057-8
Open Ebook - 520 pages - 978-1-68177-577-7
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