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Ghost empire di Richard Fidler
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Ghost empire (originale 2016; edizione 2016)

di Richard Fidler

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1746119,837 (4.02)Nessuno
GHOST EMPIRE is a rare treasure - an utterly captivating blend of the historical and the contemporary, realised by a master storyteller. In 2014, Richard Fidler and his son Joe made a journey to Istanbul. Fired by Richard's passion for the rich history of the dazzling Byzantine Empire - centred around the legendary Constantinople - we are swept into some of the most extraordinary tales in history. The clash of civilizations, the fall of empires, the rise of Christianity, revenge, lust, murder. Turbulent stories from the past are brought vividly to life at the same time as a father navigates the unfolding changes in his relationship with his son. GHOST EMPIRE is a revelation: a beautifully written ode to a lost civilization, and a warmly observed father-son adventure far from home.… (altro)
Utente:samtimjones
Titolo:Ghost empire
Autori:Richard Fidler
Info:Sydney South, N.S.W. : HarperCollinsPublishers Australia, 2016.
Collezioni:Non-Fiction
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Etichette:Nessuno

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Ghost empire di Richard Fidler (2016)

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What a lovely book. I was absolutely enchanted by Richard Fidler's story about Constantinople. And the way he interweaves his "father-son" trip to the ancient centre of the Roman World was a delight. What a great thing to do with your fourteen year old. I regret that I didn't do something like that myself. Must say that I loved the little vignette where they were both in a restaurant and the female owner approached their table and spoke to Richard in French. He drew on the recesses of his mind and dragged out a few phrases in French from school. His son, Joe, was blown away. "How come we've been here four days and you've never let on that you speak perfect Turkish?"
Somehow Richard manages to keep the story moving forward and not quite fall into the trap of getting the reader lost in the inevitable cycle of emperor, death, empress, marries warlord, struggle for succession, war, new emperor, and so on for a thousand years. Yes there is quite a lot of that but Richard manages to spice it up with intriguing stories and snippets where he and Joe find a link with the past.
There does seem to be an inherent design fault in a lot of the mediaeval walls where they had drains or water supplies or postern gates because in at least four instances in the story we read about attackers gaining access via one of those small doors or crawling through a drain and suddenly appearing inside the fortification. Certainly this was the end for the christian era of Constantinople.
Basically, a lovely, eminently-readable book. It was let down by the publisher, I feel. The pictures were too small and blurry. The maps were tiny and black and white that I found jumped in and out of focus like one of those optical illusions where you either see a vase or an old lady. So with the maps ...one struggles to figure out whether the dark part is the sea or the land. And I think it would have been helped by a couple of larger maps which showed some of the other places referred to. Also a time line somewhere. I felt the this was a real gap. And these would all appear to lie pretty much in the publisher's realm of responsibility.
Richard does bring out quite well the dastardly behaviour of the Venetians in all of this. They do not emerge from the story covered in glory; greedy, duplicitous, dishonest. untrustworthy....all of these things . It would be interesting to entertain the idea of a hypothetical where the crusaders did not sack another Christian city and Constantinople was left untouched by them. Maybe history might have looked quite different because it was clear that the crusader sacking and looting of the city did irreparable damage and weakened it massively. Still Constantinople was going to be an island in a muslim world and unlikely to survive forever in this situation.
I have some sympathy for historians who wrote off the Byzantines as degenerate and faction ridden ....and certainly they never seemed to have solved the issue of peaceful succession and just rule. And the ruling class generally seemed to be in it to maintain their style of living.
One horror that has remained with me is the casual reference to the "customary three days of looting" when a city is sacked. And that doesn't mean that just the gold chalices in the church are stolen.....it means raping the women and girls and taking the best looking off as slaves or concubines. It means murdering the men and sending the boys and anyone who might still be saleable off to the slave markets in Cairo. I found myself wondering about the break up of families in this process ..and wondering how people survived. If one was liable to suffer from depression ......wow... what could be more depression inducing that this. And yet, still people seemed to survive.
Then there were the Janissaries who were taken from their christian families a(as a kind of tax) ....when between 6-14 years old, converted to islam, circumcised and then sent to military training school, then eventually becoming part of the Sultant's personal guard. (In the process of course, losing all their connections to families etc. I found myself wondering about how the boys themselves survived this and how their families left behind dealt with it. (I did learn that some of the Janissaries became very powerful figures and some were even sent back as governors to their countries of origin. But, all in all, it lends some strength to Thomas Hobbe's comment that Life of man would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". I don't think that I would like to swap my life for a life in Constantinople any time in that thousand year period.
Throughout it all , Richard manages to weave in charming stories of Joe and him making their own discoveries in modern Turkey, linking it with the past and the sheer pleasure of getting to know each other as a father and a son.
Really, a delightful book. Happy to give it 5 stars despite a few issues with the publishing side of things. ( )
  booktsunami | May 17, 2020 |
An illuminating overview, that left me hungry for more and ruminating on history and current parallels. ( )
  garryjr | May 27, 2019 |
This is a great book and easy to follow history. It is a fascinating look into the history of Constantinople and the vissicitudes (?sp) of the Roman Empire. I found many parallels with current world affairs, though, so I can't say that it was a cheery read! ( )
  ClareRhoden | Nov 4, 2017 |
This book explores the rich history of the Byzantine Empire, which is not well known in the west. Centred around Constantinople, modern day Istanbul, the Byzantine Empire, or the Eastern Roman Empire, lasted another thousand years after the fall of Rome.

The Fourth Crusade weakened Constantinople and its empire irretrievably. The end was still over 200 years away, but the loss of their riches, several years of occupation, infighting within the last ruling dynasty, and another round of the plague combined into a slow decline that made the city ripe for its eventual demise at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Even then, heavily outnumbered, the city stood firm for nearly 2 months before being overrun, sacked and its people killed or carted off into slavery.

In my opinion, the writing style is captivating and kept me reading as the fantastic stories of emperors, military engagements, palace intrigues and disaster flowed from the page. The use of comical anecdotes, the downright mythical and the author's own journey of discovery with his son help tie the history together in a form that I felt was more palatable than the usual dry histories. I give this book 4 stars. ( )
  Bruce_McNair | Dec 28, 2016 |
When I learnt about the Roman empire at school, I was told that the empire fell with the final barbarian sacking of Rome and the abdication of the western emperor. I don’t believe I was alone in this western-centric view of the Romans. Richard Fidler’s book has been something of a revelation to my understanding of the legacy of imperial Rome.

Ghost Empire reads as part history, part memoir, part travelogue. Fidler’s writing style is conversational, utilising story-telling skills he has obviously perfected on his radio show. He infuses the tales of Constantinople with immediacy, highlighting the humanity of the people of the city. The sections describing his travels with his son feel like a history buff’s guide to things to do in Istanbul and made me wish I was there.

The final chapters give a detailed description of the true fall of the Roman empire, with the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks. This is so richly detailed and well-written that even though I knew how it would end, as we all do, I found myself crying at the bravery and tragedy of the people of this story. I cannot do justice to the strange and incredible tale of the rise and fall of Constantinople, other than to highly recommend this wonderful and compelling book. ( )
  LordKinbote | Dec 27, 2016 |
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GHOST EMPIRE is a rare treasure - an utterly captivating blend of the historical and the contemporary, realised by a master storyteller. In 2014, Richard Fidler and his son Joe made a journey to Istanbul. Fired by Richard's passion for the rich history of the dazzling Byzantine Empire - centred around the legendary Constantinople - we are swept into some of the most extraordinary tales in history. The clash of civilizations, the fall of empires, the rise of Christianity, revenge, lust, murder. Turbulent stories from the past are brought vividly to life at the same time as a father navigates the unfolding changes in his relationship with his son. GHOST EMPIRE is a revelation: a beautifully written ode to a lost civilization, and a warmly observed father-son adventure far from home.

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