Ghost Empire, a Journey to the Legendary Constantinople, Richard Fidler, 2017
It seems strange that most people are not more aware of one of the most significant and impactful leaders in the history of the west. Constantine founded the city of Constantinople, now Istanbul and transformed Christianity, a minority eastern cult, into the majority religion of the Roman empire. This act transformed the future direction of the “western world morally, spiritually and politically”. “Constantine is why the provinces of Europe, Russia and eventually the Americas would form themselves into the self-described Christian nation states that endure today”. But what of the city he founded, a city that while the rest of Europe endured the dark ages, poverty and illiteracy was “home to universities, law schools, hospitals with woman doctors, precious Greek and Latin manuscripts on philosophy, mathematics and literature”. The cities preservation of this knowledge, known as the Corpus Hermeticom, was critical in the birth of the European renaissance and is why we today have access to philosophy of Plato and the plays of Aeschylus. “The golden and copper domes of the city welcomed merchants from Venice, China, India, Africa and Russia”. It was global trading city a thousand years before our own age of globalization, yet the thousand-year history of this gorgeous city on the Bosporus is also mostly unknown today by most people.
Richard Fidler is a broadcast journalist from Australia. He has written an unusual history book in that it is a combination of travelogue and history. He takes his 13-year-old son on a trip to Istanbul and we accompany them as they visit Hagia Sophia while learning the history of this magnificent structure that has withstood earthquakes and invasion for over 1500 years. We walk the three and a half miles of the Walls of Theodosius and come to the very gate where the Janissaries finally broke through the cities defenses in 1453. We are swept along into amazing tales of history, tales of the rise of Christianity, Fall of empires, revenge, ambition, murder all the while walking the streets, experiencing a trip to this great city. JACK