Istanbul The Imperial City
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Istanbul The Imperial City

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  183 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Istanbul: The Imperial City tells the story of the city from its foundation until the present with the emphasis throughout on its colourful and tempestuous daily life. A comprehensive gazetteer describes all the monuments mentioned in the text, so that this is a guide to the city as well as an evocation of its illustrious past as Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul, whi...more
Hardcover, 440 pages
Published May 1st 1996 by Viking UK (first published 1996)
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Yowzer. I thought it was hard to memorize the Presidents of the United States. It would be quite an accomplishment to memorize all of the rulers of Istanbul. I finally abandoned the book about halfway through. I am sure that it is an accurate listing of who ruled when, what architectural feats they accomplished, what major battles they fought in, whose eyes they gouged out, but it to me was a mind-numbing whirl of facts and figures, none of which were terribly interesting. More interesting to me...more
Michael Scott
I bought this book on the road back from Istanbul, a city I enjoyed very much during a week-long visit. Istanbul: The Imperial City by John Freely is exactly what I should have been reading before visiting: it is a history of the city sprinkled with descriptions of the buildings and landmarks still visible at the middle of the 1990s. We are also given excerpts from some of the most important writings on the topic of Istanbul, especially from the old writs.

In active, somewhat repetitive prose, Fr...more
It's already a part of tradition that I always find and buy a book about the places I visit - fortunately Istanbul have not one but two excellent english bookshops in the central area (same owner) that cater for tourists, visitors and diplomats - there is a nice selection of books about Turkey and Islam in english so I selected "Istanbul - the imperial city" by John Freely as my first introduction to this beautiful and exciting city, since I don't know much about its history except basic informa...more
Mark Rossiter
This book about Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul, by the American teacher John Freely, is a curious read. It purports to be a chronological history of the city, yet is in fact mostly a string of anecdotes about the doings of its sometime rulers interspersed with the odd undigested gobbet of political history. It has none of the contextual depth or atmospherics required to really understand the place, in the way, for example, that you can almost walk the streets of Victorian London in Desmond an...more
Hans de Zwart
This book attempts to be a complete history of Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul. By focusing on the "complete" it is unfortunately in many ways a very formulaic book. After a while it is not interesting to read that this brother of the Sultan stayed 42 years in the cage, whereas the other stayed 38 years.

If you have a deep interest in history and have been or will go to the Istanbul, then I would still recommend it as some of the anecdotes are pretty amazing and so is the city itself of course...more
Robert Morris
This is great man history and I love it. The book does deviate a bit from the old school "maps and chaps" approach, but it does so in a very old school way. Freely tells all the entire known history of the city, emperor by emperor, and then Sultan by Sultan. The added flair is a description of the noteworthy monuments that have survived from each of those eras. Gibbon would be pleased.

I don't mean to sound cheeky, the book is quite an acheivement. It packs 2500 years of political history into a...more
I thought that I was going to hate this book, the first ten pages or so in. I swear to you, fellow readers, it gets better! It starts off dry but picks up the pace...although combining Byzantium and Constantinople and modern Istanbul into one history, in 315, is a bit overwhelming. Don't ask me to remember any details, especially when the Ottoman Turks came to power...everyone was a Mehmet or a Pasha...geez people, vary those names a bit!
I bought this book because I am going to Istanbul this wee...more

You have to have at least a slight interest in history to enjoy this book. It tells the story of rulers and important figures of Byzantium -Constantinople - Istanbul, blending facts with legends and myths. I bought the book while I was visiting the city, but I got to read selected chapters while I was there and finished the book after I got back home. As soon as I finished I wanted to go back :)

The book helped me imagine the monuments of Istanbul in different times through history, particular at...more
Paul Haspel
Istanbul, where Europe and Asia meet, is a dazzling and magical city; and in Istanbul: The Imperial City, John Freely does a strong and skillful job of setting forth the city's unique history. Freely, an American-born educator who has lived and worked in Istanbul for over 40 years, possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of, and an abiding love for, his city -- all of which comes through clearly throughout this well-written historical synthesis. The book's subtitle, The Imperial City, is more than s...more
I bought this book to prepare for a trip to Turkey. I was slightly familiar with history in the periods of Justinian and the Ottoman Empire, but wanted a comprehensive look at one of human civilization's historical epicenters.

This book is heavy on dry facts and royal intrigue: who killed who's kid to take power at what date, who repelled what outside group from which set of city walls?

In this sort of history, authors tend to compress the highs and flows, failing to properly relate the awesome ac...more
Cristian Planas
The extravagance, cruelty, glory and occasionally foolishness of the Byzantine emperors and the Ottomans sultans are infinites sources of delight for any reader. This is the main topic of John Freely's book, and the appealing subject is correctly transmited, even if in the last chapters the succession of sultans can get too mechanical and boring. This last flaw is in part saved by the many quotes that the author introduces in the book, which are surprisingly interesting, specially the ones by th...more
Theodosius the Reluctant: "Before his accession Theodosius had been a tax-collector in Adramyttion. He was working in his office one day in the summer of 715 when the rebel soldiers who were about to overthrow Anastasius II passed through Adramyttion on their way to Constantinople. One of the rebel commanders asked what his name was, and when he replied 'Theodosius' he was told that this was good enough to qualify him as emperor. Theodosius protested vigorously, but the rebels took him away and...more
This is not a book for casual tourists, or for those who are not really, deeply interested in the history and architecture of Istanbul. With that aside, it is rich and well written, full of insights.

A nice overview of the city and its long history. It's thin in parts due to the length of time it covers but it's a terrific read.
Objectively, this book is kind of boring. I picked this book up because I find Istanbul enchanting and I enjoyed the portions of this book that focus on the growth and development of the city and its landmarks enough to like the book as a whole. But, that really isn't the book's focus. Instead, Freely focuses on the long and violent parade of emperors and empresses that ruled the empires centered there. While these rulers' records brutality and duplicity makes the Song of Fire and Ice series loo...more
This might be subtitled, "The curious traveler's guide to the history of Istanbul" or something of the sort. While giving a detailed account of the city, Freely doesn't neglect what's there today to see. (Short answer: PLENTY) The book is arranged in short chapters, each dealing with a historical period, which lends itself to reading up quickly, if not extensively, on any particular era of the city's long history. It doesn't read as a synthesized narrative with development of themes as much as i...more
This book was a great history of Byzantium-Constantinople-Istanbul from prehistoric times until the present. It was great because it focused primarily on the peninsula that is old Constantinople. It was an amazing read just to see how many times this city has changed hands. After staying in the old city, it was really fun to check out where on the map certain things happened. Layers and layers of history. As far as Christian history, Constantinople ranks up there with Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rom...more
Maybe this book deserves more stars....but it is an endless chronicle of the history of Byzantium....Constantinople...Istanbul....the same city over thousands of years. Endless building and battles...brothers killing brothers.... The author, John Freely, does a remarkable job of keeping the story moving without becoming tedious; this is no mean feat. If you're going to Istanbul, you might want an overview. Which I am and I do.
Too many facts to really digest by reading it through, but lots of information for someone visiting Istanbul that provides a significant depth of knowledge.

I would have rated it lower if I had to read it all in one sitting--probably too overwhelming for that--but if you spread it out, you can see patterns and understand the flow of the city.
Dalam buku ini dipaparkan sejarah Istanbul dari kacamata kota itu sendiri, bukan dari pemikiran barat ataupun Muslim. Menarik untuk dibaca karena kita bisa mengetahui sejarah perkembangan kota itu dari zaman romawi sampai berakhirnya kekhalifahan Turki Ustmani dan awal pemerintahan negara republik yang sekuler.
i had to read parts of this book for a class, but i chose to read it all because i find the history of Constantinople interesting. i have never been there, but hope to visit it one day. this book would be a good one to read before travelling there to get a sense of the city. it's not a guide book, but could be one!
Winnie Tang
Interesting, descriptive account about the ups and downfall of Ottoman Empire.
Lots and lots of information in this book so has taken me ages to read, every page seems to cover about 50 years of history. A fascinating and worthwhile read. It will be useful to dip back into and has a good reference system at the back.
Given the age of the city of Istanbul I expected more commentary on the larger themes and patterns in the city's history. Instead this book read like a laundry list of emperors and sultans. That aside, it was very informative.
Byzantium, Konstantinopel, Istanbul, nama yang sama, diciptakan sesuai penguasanya. Telah berdiri tegak sejak 658 Masehi. Membaca buku ini membuat keinginan untuk suatu saat mendatangi kota ini kian berbuncah.
Very readable history of the city of Istanbul! My husband and I both read this before going to Turkey this summer, and it fueled our trip and gave us a knowledge base to work from as we traveled through the country.
A wonderfully detailed history/biography of a city. The book has a fantastic gazetteer section at the end which allows it to double as a guide book. The perfect companion for a city break in Istanbul.
Andrei Zamfirescu
excellent documented, a must read is you are planning to visit Istanbul
Blair Kauffman
Good travel history to have along while touring Istanbul.
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John Freely was born in 1926 in Brooklyn, New York to Irish immigrant parents, and spent half of his early childhood in Ireland. He dropped out of high school when he was 17 to join the U. S. Navy, serving for two years, including combat duty with a commando unit in the Pacific, India, Burma and China during the last year of World War II. After the war, he went to college on the G. I. Bill and eve...more
More about John Freely...
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