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Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,045 ratings  ·  100 reviews
Salonica, located in northern Greece, was long a fascinating crossroads metropolis of different religions and ethnicities, where Egyptian merchants, Spanish Jews, Orthodox Greeks, Sufi dervishes, and Albanian brigands all rubbed shoulders. Tensions sometimes flared, but tolerance largely prevailed until the twentieth century when the Greek army marched in, Muslims were for ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published May 9th 2006 by Vintage (first published 2004)
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Aug 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The history of this city contains so many of the Big Human Themes. Exile, nostalgia. The course of empire. The maintenance of collective memory. The ways in which religions in close contact melt into each other. Nationalism vs. the Cosmopolis. The limits of tolerance, and the fated vulnerability of coastal, syncretic cities (I’m thinking of St. Petersburg and New Orleans, too). And most infuriatingly, the ludicrous imposture of the scoundrels who believe in tribal purity and uncomplicated cultur ...more
Lyn Elliott
I've been wanting to write a proper review of Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950 since I finished it some weeks ago, but have been so sidetracked by other reading that I'm not going to achieve that goal.

Here are some notes:
Salonika’s central paradox – its 2000 years of continuous urban life has been marked by sharp discontinuities and breaks. The Ottoman city has effectively vanished from sight. So has the Jewish presence in the city, whose life, Mazower says, they
Cat {Wild Night In}
Mazower writes in the introduction that this book is the product of nigh on 20 years of research and writing after a trip to Salonica with the army. His passion for and knowledge of seemingly every aspect of the city’s history was breath-taking. The city’s changing architecture was explored in the same loving detail as the changes in the city’s religious communities.

This wealth of knowledge and detail is even more fascinating when taking into account the fact that parts of the city and their res
Jul 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
And here I thought that Los Angeles was a city that flew in the face of history! In its thousand plus year history, Salonica was a Roman city, a Byzantine city, a Muslim city, a Jewish city, and finally a Greek Orthodox city. At several points over the last hundred years or so, a deliberate attempt was made to pave over the past and pretend it did not exist:
The history of the nationalists is all about false continuities and convenient silences, the fictions necessary to tell the story of a rende
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: balkans
In his introduction Mark Mazower writes that he wants to do more than tell the story of Salonica as a remarkable place of cultural and religious co-existence, but to see the experiences of Christians, Jews and Muslims who competed and cooperated with each other over the centuries "within the terms of a single encompassing historical narrative” essentially narrating from no particular point of view except that of the empathetic observer. His history of Salonica evokes the voices of political and ...more
Dimitris Hall
A history of Salonica that might be forever lost in the bloody mists of nationalism in the Balkans. A unique and very pleasurable combination of historical writing and prose, it makes imagining life in Salonica of yesteryear, a feeling almost unimaginable if looking at the city today, this much more enticing. It is an ode to a historical period that every country involved seems all too willing to forget.

Salonica City of Ghosts invites us to remember.

Dec 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Powerful narration of a true story, that the greek governments really tried to hide. Living in the city of Thessaloniki, i discovered that few people know its history and its great importance. As Mark Mazower pointed that up nicely, only ghosts are left behind to restore these memories..
Athan Tolis
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, history
The author claims that this book was 20 years in the making, and you have to believe him. It is a powerful masterpiece. For a week of my life it has transported me to the Salonica of 1430 to 1949. I can close my eyes and pretend I was there.

As a Greek of Orthodox Christian Vlach provenance I can also attest to the fact that the author's account of my very narrow ethnic group is fair, accurate and sympathetic. My great grandfather moved from the mountains of Pindos and maintained a restaurant in
Michael Kotsarinis
Aug 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
It is a great book, in fact it is how I consider history books should be written especially when dealing with areas of the world plagued by nationalist hate. Personally, combining it with my knowledge of history and other books I 've read, I think that this book is as close to the truth as one can get. And as it is always the case with the truth it's not always pleasant for everyone and it tends to dispel various self-assuring myths. The book is about Salonica and its history but the ideas, acts ...more
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A moving narration of the history of my hometown. It describes how three major communities (Ottomans, Greek Christians and the exiled Iberian Jewish) ended up living together and created one of the major cities in East Europe. The rise of nationalism in the Balkans, two World Wars, two Balkan Wars, the muslim-christian population exchange and the Holocaust put a huge burden on all three communities and brought the city to its knees.

This was both an exciting and a difficult read for me. Born and
Czarny Pies
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who like to mourn over the good old days.
Recommended to Czarny by: Duff Cooper Prize Committee
Shelves: european-history
Salonica, City of Ghosts, which won the 2004 Duff Cooper Prize, is a wonderful history book especially for readers who are not history buffs but who are interested in European culture in a broad sense.

Salonica (currently Thessaloniki) has legendary status in many cultures. It is the birth-place of Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. It is the city whose Christian community received two extremely important epistles from St. Paul Thessalon was also the home of the Ladino language and had the la
Dave O'Neal
Apr 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The city now called Thessaloniki already had me completely fascinated before I read this book. I'd visited once in 1994 and still dream of going back. When I do make it there again, it will be a hundred times more interesting to me for having read this book. The subtitle "City of Ghosts" will feel especially apt if you ever go there to experience the modern, thoroughly Greek, city, and consider that until the 20th century it was hardly Greek at all. A cosmopolitan mix of religion and nationality ...more
Jul 15, 2009 marked it as to-read
Yes yes yes yes, this sounds right up my alley, I must read this!
Nov 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Mazower's research here across languages and centuries and sources is a wonder and this book is a dense and elaborate delight. In Salonica, he follows the city from its Muslim conquest from the Byzantines in 1430 through the end of WWII. The Byzantine city was remade as Ottoman, but heavily flavored by Sefardic Jews around 1500, so that they were the largest group in the city in the 17th century. Mazower reconstructs this city of competing and cooperating religious and ethnic groups revealing de ...more
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
I red the conclusion to this book today on a friend’s balcony in Athens, in Paleo Faliro, a suburb populated by Greeks from Constantinople-‘urbanised people’ as described to me. The night before I had a long conversation with a relative regarding Greece’s fate and the continuing battle between the ‘Western’ Greek, European in thought and measuring success based on individual achievement-what she identified as a minority in the country- and the pervasiveness of the ‘Anatolian’ or Ottoman culture ...more
Jul 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: started
It's incredibly admirable that the author states he was first inspired to learn about the city after a visit with the military years ago. It's incredibly strange that I've spent so much time in today's version of the city based on this book. The city does seem to have a history thick with possibility, being a border city with many new immigrants over the years. Still the focus of the chapters leads me to believe that it is the city's apparently unique status as a Jewish centre of power in the Ba ...more
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, with a few minor misgivings. This is an incredibly dense book which is to be expected given the breadth and width of the history being covered. Mazower does a lovely job of including first-hand accounts from the journals, letters, and other surviving documents of this famous city's various inhabitants, breathing life and soul into the historical account. Like many recent history books dealing with Muslim rule, Mazower tends toward a rosier view of Ottoman rul ...more
Zayn Gregory
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
"They all claimed the city for themselves in God's name. But is it not said: Where God is, there is everything?"

Nearly five hundred years of history for a city I had never heard of in a land I knew next to nothing about could have been overwhelming, but the book is so well-written and the story so colorful. Three things that struck me:
1. The residents of Salonica lived a remarkably ungoverned life. The Ottoman state simply did not interfere all that much in the lives of its citizens. The benign
This is an absolutely excellent book - engaging and clearly written. Fascinating study of the relationship between the three religions Christianity, Islam and Judaism and the people in Thessaloniki, Greece. It covers history of the area from about the 1300s. It IS detailed, very detailed, but not dry.

But I need something lighter right now, so I am putting this aside. I will finish the remaining 2/3 when I am more up to it.

I am giving it 4 stars for the portion I have read. When I pick it up agai
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it
I give up. I really want to learn about the history of Salonica. I really enjoyed reading parts of this book. I'm sure there is a very interesting book that could be written about Salonica, but Mazower just got too bogged down in minutiae. I appreciated the richness of the discussion of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and interaction among different Jewish communities that settled in Salonica and their relationship with the Ottoman Empire. I usually have a high tolerance for historical deta ...more
Jul 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Well-written history of a city whose history has always fascinated me. Salonika has been at the crossroads of geographic, politics and culture straddling a divide that waxed and waned in the last five hundred years. A must read for anyone interested in Greece, the Ottoman Empire/Turkey, the Balkans and Jewish history.
Sep 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: europe, non-fiction
This was really a book written by a historian. Way too much detail. For a broad audience, it should have been edited down to about 1/3 its size. Still, it was interesting to hear about the history of the area.
Apr 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Almost a five star here. Great research, clear and evocative style, many perspectives on the same issues, but the Jewish perspective is slightly predominant.
Marina Leonidhopoulos
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It made me understand what this city is all about...
Mustafa Aktar
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book for those who want to know more about the cosmopolitain life in Ottoman history.
John A.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great biography of a city, and a perfect window into the Greek / Macedonian name conflict.
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
A book review I wrote for a History class:
In a country where most young adults don’t read for pleasure anymore, to read a book about a foreign city’s history isn’t common. For a majority of high school or college students, reading a book like Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims, and Jews 1430-1950 by Mark Mazower is unheard of unless doing so is required for a class. I love books, but stick rigorously to fiction. To read Salonica sounded like a bore to me; however, once I began readin
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very good read on this city, though I often wished for more context. In other words, a mostly accessible book written by a real regional specialist.

In Mazower's conclusion he discusses how nationalist whitewashing obscured the many histories of the city over the 20th century. So many historical shifts and contingencies brought about a massive transformation of the face of the city. Key is that what may persist as a ghost in the city is subject to the effects of shifting political winds. The Je
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]It is very good - an excellent story of the city through waves of depopulation and resettlement: the Greeks leave when the Ottomans take over in 1460, the Jews come in from Spain and Portugal in the 1490s, the city becomes one of the centres of the Ottoman empire and (I guess) the largest Jewish city in the world, and then is captured by the Greek kingdom in 1912, the Turks are kicked out in 1923, the Jews deported and almost all killed in 19 ...more
Jul 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading history, particularly anyone interested in East European history. This book gives a fascinating account of the complex city of Salonica over five centuries. In the fifteenth century, the Byzantine city of Salonica was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Not long after that, wave after wave of Jews from western Europe began arriving in Salonica to escape persecution, and the Jewish inhabitants were soon the largest population segment in the city. M ...more
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Mark Mazower is a historian and writer, specializing in modern Greece, twentieth-century Europe, and international history. His books include Salonica City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430–1950, winner of the Duff Cooper Prize; Hitler’s Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe, winner of the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History; and Governing the World: The History of an Idea. He ...more

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