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Ghost Empire

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  1,251 ratings  ·  182 reviews
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 extrao
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Hardcover, 492 pages
Published July 25th 2016 by ABC Books - AU
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4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,251 ratings  ·  182 reviews


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'Aussie Rick'
Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I have just finished “Ghost Empire” by Richard Fidler and what a delightful read it was! Basically it’s a popular, easy to read, history of Constantinople. The narrative is mixed in with a personal account of the modern version of this city that the author and his son, Joe, experienced and observed during the trip from Rome to Istanbul in 2014.

I have read both John Julius Norwich’s masterly and detailed trilogy on Byzantium and the various volumes of the “History of the Wars” by the Byzantine hi
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Andrew McMillen
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
With this extraordinarily ambitious book, Richard Fidler throws himself into telling one of the world’s great stories: the rise and fall of Constantinople, the magnificent eastern Roman city that endured for 1000 years and saw every aspect of human nature unfold within and outside its imposing walls.

Fidler is wonderfully fond of storytelling. As host since 2005 of the hour-long ABC radio program 'Conversations', he has listened as hundreds of people from all walks of Australian life have told hi
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Louise
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This digest of 1000 years has resolved some questions for which answers were only vague in my mind: Was Constantinople still (part of) the Roman Empire when it fell to the Ottomans? Why does the Catholic Church have a separate “Orthodox” church? What (anything!) about the Crusades attack on Christian Constantinople?

Richard Fidler does a big job in cutting through the labyrinth (byzantine may be the more descriptive term, but I’ve learned it is a pejorative) to present the story about which the
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Kathy
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Richard Fidler is careful to point out that he’s not a historian, but a history lover. He is a marvellous story-teller, though. He takes us on a roller-coaster of a ride, telling the history of The Byzantine Empire. And what a story - from the glory days, with Constantinople flourishing as the centre of the empire, through the rise and fall of civilisations, through the new ideas, the violence and the decay. And, embedded in this, descriptions of the city of Constantinople, as it was, and Istanb ...more
Ruth Bonetti
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a challenge! To condense the massive history of Byzantium from 657 BC-1453AD in readable, accessible prose that shares a deep love of history.
Richard Fidler begins with the disclosure "I learnt nothing about Byzantium in school." While I loved both Ancient and Modern History in school I retained only sketchy knowledge of the story of Constantinople. I revelled in awe-inspiring recognitions on first visiting the Colosseum, Pantheon, and numerous cathedrals during seven years in Europe, but
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Ron Brown
Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am writing this review as the news is coming through that Donald Trump has just been elected POTUS. Intriguing times! I guess comparisons could be made between the Byzantium empire and the American Empire and its respective leaders. However, I doubt that the American empire will last 1123 years!
I found Ghost Empire a fabulous read. The narrative held my attention for the 500 pages.
The book has three woven stories, a history of Constantinople, a travelogue and a love note to his son. Fidler is
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Mary
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book in sections while driving to and from work. I found it enormously hard to get out of the car on quite a few occasions. This is a 500 page book so there is a lot of listening and it was worth it. I knew quite a bit of the history of Constantinople before this book but loved Richard Fidler's approach.

He chooses to describe parts of his 2014 trip to Istanbul with his son, Joe, and intertwine what he sees with a 1000 period of history of the city. He starts with the Roman Em
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Liam
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this - as someone who knows frightfully little about Roman history (East Roman history, at least, I've got a passing knowledge of the Republic and early Imperial), it was quite a good biography of a fascinating and important city.

Fidler goes through the entire history of Byzantium come Constantinople come Istanbul through its entire history as a capital of the world from 300AD - 1453AD, an incredible eleven century journey laden with tragedy and destruction, interspersed with an
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Kerry Hennigan
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Richard Fidler's Ghost Empire is simply one of the best popular histories I have read in a long, long time.

Of course it helped that it was about one of my favourite topics of study - the Byzantine Empire.

The snippets of travelogue of the author's trip to Istanbul with his then 14-years old son made it resonate even more with me. I've loved Istanbul since my visit in 2002, and loved the idea of it (as Constantinople - capital of the Byzantine Empire, that is, Rome in the East) long before that.

Th
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Calzean
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fidler is well known for his radio interviews and podcasts. While reading his book I could hear his voice, the way he excitedly tells of a new fact or event or throws in a cheeky but intelligent aside.
His book of Constantinople, inspired after he and his 14 year old son visited Istanbul, is a very readable, entertaining and informative tale of the city from it's formation to the arrival of the Ottoman Empire. Fidler has a way of words, a way of highlighting the not so known people and events. T
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Mick
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent telling of the history of the Byzantine empire & a modern tale of exploring the history of Constantinople in modern Istanbul. Well written & the audiobook version is read by the author. Worth your time.
Thom Gibney
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
‘The spider weaves the curtains in the palace of the Caesars; the owl calls the watches in the towers of Afrasiab ‘

With the somber recital of Persian verse one thousand years of Byzantine domination had come to a bitter end, the indomitable Theodosian walls shattered and fallen to the weight of modern advances. But the legacy of Richard Fidler’s ‘Ghost Empire’ endures.

Constantinople was both a literal and spiritual bridge between east and west, north and south a thoroughfare by which all the wo
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Amanda
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
A thoroughly enjoyable - and readable - history of my favourite city in the world, Istanbul.

I liked the way Fidler threads his journey with his son through the narrative, breaking up what are quite large swathes of time. Unsurprising, considering the book looks at 1,000 years of history.

There are a lot of names to remember and a little repetition as various rulers, or foes, take or defend the same cities and regions over and again down through the centuries. It doesn't help that often the empero
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Rob Weedon
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a gem! Prior to reading this I had thought of the Byzantine Empire as a sort of footnote to the history of the Roman Empire, a small oriental vestige of the glory that was Rome. How wrong can you be! Rome might have fallen but the empire continued for another thousand years.
In 500 easy to read pages Richard Fidler manages to bring Constantinople vividly back to life as he and his teenage son explore it in its modern form, Istanbul.
Reading this book gave me the strength to go back and finish
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Claire
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is a valuable reminder of how short human memory is, and why it's such a shame that the more things change the more they stay the same. And in the end I can't help but wonder what the Middle East and Europe would look like if the unholy crusader mob hadn't been so greedy and inhuman when they sacked Constantinople.
Janet
May 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is an amazing piece of work. The research and history put together is incredible and so much from primary sources going back to very early years. The stories are all really interesting and mostly gruesome! The Richard Fidler personal recounts were the best and I craved more of those.
I feel very knowledgable now and I have an interest in visiting Istanbul now, but sometimes the history was long winded and at times I really struggled to stay interested.
Well worth the read though.
Pat Rolston
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Absolutely a wonderful history done in an engaging style that is fabulously entertaining. The research is impeccable while mr Fidler brings the history to life. He does an exceptional job with his explanation of Eastern Orthodox religious elements often overlooked or miscast by other writers. Mr Fidler struggles with his own agnostic leanings and the strong pull of Eastern Orthodox mysticism, breath taking beauty of the physical elements church, and emotional impact of the liturgy. This head ver ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘The story of how Constantinople flourished into greatness and expired in terrible violence is one of the strangest and most moving stories I know. I wanted my son to have that story too .’

In ‘Ghost Empire’, Richard Fidler and his son Joe take a trip through Constantinople’s history and touches on Istanbul’s present. Constantinople’s history is long: the western Roman empire came to an end in about 476 CE but the eastern Roman empire lasted until 1453 CE, when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman
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Catherine Davison
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
A really well put together book. However reading about all those ego driven, power-crazed Roman Emperors waging war on their neighbour states, hating other people for their religious beliefs, razing cities such as Aleppo, curtailing the rights of the average citizen and ordering executions left right and centre to avenge petty hurt feelings made me so glad I live in these enlightened modern times. Oh wait...that’s right....argh!!
Louise
Richard Fidler’s book Ghost Empire is proof positive that the recording and elucidation of historical events is not the exclusive domain of scholarly historians. As a ‘history enthusiast’ Fidler has delved into the extensive research and writings of these learned women and men to fashion a highly-readable, comprehensive, vivid and engaging history of the Byzantine Empire.

What distinguishes Fidler’s Ghost Empire from other interpretations of the time period is the obvious passion for and ad
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Ian Perkins
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
A very readable account of a fascinating part of history. Written in a conversational style with lots of facts and excellent descriptions of the people, places and events over a very long time span.
Karla Ellicock
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It was an interesting insight to a part of history we hear little about. The author re-told compelling stories of the times in a way the average person can relate to.
David
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great read ... immersed in the history of the city and interspersed with anecdotes from the author’s ‘traveller’s diary.’ It was doubly fascinating as I was also listening to Paul Vincent’s podcast, ‘The Myths and History of Greece and Rome’ which had many episodes dealing with Byzantium.
Tim Keenan
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very accessible way to learn some later Roman history.
Matt Esterman
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Richard Fidler welcomes us into a personal journey through the streets of Constantinople as a fellow traveller, along with his teenage son Joe. He opens windows and doors, shines torches into alleyways and throws a net over the landscape to capture the history of a city that spans over 1500 years. Once the jewel of the night Roman Empire, this city has sat at the fulcrum of many historical changes whilst its people - their leaders in particular - attempted to retain the glory of the place it hel ...more
Nathan McMahon
May 05, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hans Kerrinckx
Sep 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Australian journalist Richard Fidler and his son Joe made a journey to Istanbul in 2014. When I started this book, I thought "This is going to be some sentimental thing about father-son relationship." Well, it is not: this book gives a good overview of the basics of history the Eastern Roman Empire and focusses at the same time on the 21st century Constantinople and the politics of the Erdogan and his AKP. The 3 emperors that get the most attention are Constantine I "the Great", Justinian I ...more
Timothy Goldsmith
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ghost Empire is an enjoyable mix of travel diary and history book, looking at the history and stories surrounding Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). Fidler is a great story teller, managing to hold the tension between the historic details that paint the picture of this great city, and the people(and dramatic additions that make their stories come to life) that inhabited it.
One of the little bugbears that creeps into the book is Fidler's low view of Christianity. Similarly to his interviewing
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Mark Napalm
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As someone loves and devours Roman history, everything I read and listened to finished in the west with Romulus Augustus and the sacking of Rome in the late 400s AD. Sometimes the author alluded to the empire in the east.

This book is a fantastic gateway to the Roman Empire after the end of the Roman Empire. Written in a conversational but informative style, much like his interviews, it is a refreshing read for those looking to for more after Claudius, Domition and Vespasian and the like are dea
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Sharon Huether
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, history
A father and son adventure. Exploring Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul; a long history of these areas. Telling of wars, revenge, murders and the rise of Christianity.
I won this Free book from Goodreads First-Reads.
The author did a great job, making the reader feel close to the action and travel experience.

I recommend this informative book to all lovers of history.
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Richard Fidler is one of ABC's (Australian Broadcasting Commission) most popular presenters, best known for his hour-long interview program, Conversations with Richard Fidler. The program is ABC Radio's most popular podcast, downloaded more than 1.5 million times per month. It features local and international guests from all walks of life, engaging in in-depth interviews.

He first came to prominenc
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“Professional historians approach such stories with great caution, knowing there will certainly be many fake baubles in the pile. Some accounts will be almost entirely untrue. All will be somewhat distorted according to the prejudices of the author and the political requirements of the moment. Different accounts must be weighed against each other, as well as the documentary evidence and the archaeological record. Sometimes the surviving records are scant and confusing.” 0 likes
“...without a grasp of the flow of events that have carried us to the present da, we are all a bit untethered from our place in time and space, condemned to live in an eternal present.” 0 likes
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