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Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  356 ratings  ·  62 reviews
The first single-volume history of Istanbul in decades: a biography of the city at the center of civilizations past and present.

For more than two millennia Istanbul has stood at the crossroads of the world, perched at the very tip of Europe, gazing across the shores of Asia. The history of this city--known as Byzantium, then Constantinople, now Istanbul--is at once
Hardcover, 381 pages
Published November 22nd 2016 by Viking
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Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: turkey
”Though all other cities have their periods of government and are subject to the decays of time, Constantinople alone seems to claim a kind of immortality and will continue to be a city as long as humanity shall live either to inhabit it or rebuild it.”

Pierre Gilles, The Antiquities of Constantinople (1548)

 photo Istanbul_zpspwtizuhh.jpg
Old section of Istanbul.

Whether you call the city Byzantium, Constantinople, Stamboul, or Istanbul, each name evokes the same sense of mystery, decadence, and intrigue. ”Writers such as Ian
read most a month or so ago but finished it on Jan 1st as I had a very busy December, so will count for 2017!

definitely good and absorbing - I both read tons of books (fiction and non-fiction) about the Byzantine Empire, Ottoman Empire, the siege of 1453, the modern era and WW1, as well as visited the city in 2014, walked on the historic walls etc - and this book still manged to make me turn pages, imparted a few more nuggets and made me look back at my 5 day stay there with pleasure and
Yelda Basar Moers
This is a FABULOUS book about Istanbul covering the entire history of the city in a sparkling and dazzling narrative. Historian Thomas F. Madden has done an incredible job compiling the history of the city into a mere 358 pages. It is beautifully written and hard to put down. He spent more than twenty years working on the book and his patience and efforts show. He has truly written a noteworthy book from the heart, and it is obvious that he has lived and breathed the city.

Madden divides the book
James Empson
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Easy to read but difficult to encapsulate all the history of empires that have had Istanbul as their capital within the confines of the geography of the city itself. Obviously a must read for those intending to visit and wanting a handle on why Istanbul looms so large in our cultural heritage
Chris Jaffe
This is an OK book on the history of one of the world’s most important cities. It gives a decent overview, but at times gets bogged down in the imperial mush of high level politics of some emperors. Also, it spends waaaaay too much time around the 4th Crusade. (The two longest chapters in the book are the one leading up to 1204 and the Latin Empire after 1204. Please realize that the Latin era was more a blip than anything else in Rome).

It was founded across the bay from an older city. This
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Goodreads.

In Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World, Thomas F. Madden provides sweeping history of the city now known as Istanbul. There is much material to cover here, as the earliest version of the city was founded in the seventh century B.C., and this book is a dense 350 pages, but Madden manages to cover it effectively. He provides sufficient background information regarding the broader historical context without to
Mikhail Tillman
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A well written and concise history of a city that bore witness to some of the world's greatest empires. I was particularly interested in the book because of the cities role in two of my favorite subjects: the history of the Roman and Ottoman empires. My only complaint is the relative brevity of the Ottoman section.
Pierke Bosschieter
Never a dull moment. Reads like a novel. It has given me a very good overview of the history of the region and even clarified a few issues I've hitherto never understood. The audio version is very well read by Eduardo Ballerini.
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-east
I’ve been interested in the history of Istanbul, but my knowledge of it has always been a bit fuzzy, particularly of the Byzantine era. So I was excited to come across this book. And since Istanbul has played such a significant role in the Mediterranean region, this isn’t just a history of the city but a broad brush overview of the region’s history as well.

There are really too many historical details covered in the book to convey in detail here. But to very generally summarize, the book starts
Steven Kaminski
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fantastic book that gets into the place in many languages that just means 'The City'...from Constantinople to finally Istanbul this book tracks the rise, fall and rebirth of the city into what it is today. A city that has just as many relics of Christianity, Islam and ancient Greece and Rome...

- Istanbul was founded in about 675 for profit by Greek traders who wanted to take advantage of its great waterways and strategic location in the seas.

- Byzantium was named after a real
Vicky Hunt
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Madden writes with perception from a thorough background of the full span of Istanbul's history, clearly picturing The City's place in the world. But, rather than reading like a work of research, it plays out like a novel, or even a saga in scope. Of course, the Roman Empire is covered extensively, with a parade of emperors each acting their part in history. The walls expand like curtains being drawn on a grand stage. Then, life on the Bosphorus emerges from the middle ages, rising as the ...more
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. I'm still reading it, as it's not a fast read, but I'm really enjoying it. It's a very detailed history of Istanbul, and is filling in many gaps in my knowledge of the area. I found myself wanting to looks at maps as I was reading, and I realized that the book I received was pre-release and had blank pages where the maps will go. That will be very helpful. I found maps online that were a big help. Very interesting book, and if you're interested in ...more
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
After a second reading, this book still amazes me with its eloquence, information and research. Love that Professor Madden could create one book that gives the history of Istanbul from the beginning - right through to current day. That is no mean feat when you consider the leadership, governmental, religious and empire shifts that have occurred during the last 1700 years or so... well done. Fascinating stuff. Might just read it again in a couple of months - its that good.
Apratim Mukherjee
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its very hard to rate a history book,especially when it is written on a city(my favourite genre).I can only review the writing style.To start off, the author's presentation is good but not great.Some chapters were lengthy but (one of the most important part of Turkish history) 'Ataturk' period/modern Turkey was completed within twenty odd pages i.e. almost the similar number of pages dedicated to harems.Istanbul is also known for various other 'things' like medical tourism,tourist frauds,Turkish ...more
Julieann Wielga
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Debbie Morrison
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A pretty marvelous book on the history of Istanbul. The breadth of the book is impressive; it spans 2500 years starting in 667 BC when the city was known as Byzantion, progresses through until it became known as Constantinople (330 AD), and finally to current day Istanbul (so named in 1923). It reads well; the book packs a lot into 360 pages. I didn’t know much about Constantinople, or Istanbul until now. But as one Goodreads reviewer mentioned, one needs to know about Istanbul to gain a deeper ...more
Annika Hipple
An outstanding book that traces the history of one of the world's most fascinating cities from its origins nearly 2,700 years ago up to the present day. From ancient Greeks and Roman emperors to Crusaders and Turkish sultans, Byzantion/Constantinople/Istanbul has seen many changes in rule, some of which brought positive developments and benign leadership, others violence and destruction. Thomas F. Madden has done an impressive job of condensing this great city's history into a clear, ...more
Kathy Heare Watts
An in-depth and intriguing narration of Istanbul from its ancient past 667 BC to present day. The culture, inhabitants and how it shaped our world.

I won an uncorrected proof advanced reading copy of this book during a Goodreads giveaway. I am under no obligation to leave a review or rating and do so voluntarily. So that others may also enjoy this book, I am paying it forward by donating it to a senior assisted living facility.
Inqiad Ali
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It a a unique book. It is not like the normal history books full of text and notes. But still it gives us a complete image of Istanbul spanning for about more than 2000 years in just 360 pages. A blockbuster read.
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book covering the history of an amazing city. Loved the focus on the very early years and the sheer amount of change the city has seen. I wish there had been more on the post Empire years but you can't have everything.
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Madden is a scholar who tells a great story.
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Pretty good general history until the last two chapters that leave out a lot.
Lance Johnson
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This books packs 2,500 years of history into a little over 350 pages, and it is quite a ride. The book stays rooted in a single city (or more accurately, a single location where several cities have existed over the millennia), which is a nice break from the more typical broad-reaching history books. Staying focused on one area lets the reader get accustomed to that region and more easily recognize the recurrence of locations and the significance of events. Being able to watch how the significant ...more
Johnny Malloy
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thomas F. Madden's comprehensive history of The City on the Bosporus - a city of many names - is a thorough examination of one of the most intriguing cities in the world. At times, Constantinople was the largest city in the world by far. And at other times it was a tiny shell of itself. The city experienced many ebbs and flows of population, ethnicities, cultures, importance, and relevance, and outlasted multiple empires across 2500 years.

Due to its key location as both the gateway to the Black

Istanbul may just be the most fascinating city in the whole world, with rich and complex layers of history stretching back to the 7th century BC.
Madden does a great job of summarizing these 2,700 years and compressing all main events in a readable, easy to follow account, perfect for beginners (like me) with little knowledge of world history. I thought it was a great introduction but, ultimately, no more than that.

There was an undeniable rushed feel to the book, the stronger the book
Yakov Pyatnitskov
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book is a marvellous read, the kind of history book you don't want to put down. Not only will it tell you the story of the great city but also guide you through 2 millennia of history in a captivating way.
Read it if you are coming to Istanbul or if you are just interested in history. It will give you both.

I was reading it when traveling in Turkey before coming to Istanbul mainly as an introduction to the history of the city itself. But author managed to entwine it into the history of Greek
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a great, concise history of the city of Istanbul, tracing it from its founding as Byzantium, through years it was known as Constantinople, and right up until modern day, ending in the year 2016. It's broken up into four sections, essentially, one for each major era of the city (Greek Byzantium, Roman Constantinople, Turkish Constantinople, and modern Istanbul). The first three sections get the most coverage, and while modern Istanbul gets the shortest section, the author tries to give it ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This book was good and I thought it was fascinating, although I'm not sure how much appeal it will have to casual history readers (and probably very little to average readers).
Madden's prose is pretty good, and he includes lots of interesting tidbits (such as how Suleyman offered asylum to Martin Luther). I, as someone planning to go to Istanbul next year, appreciated information about monuments/buildings that are still extant, including some less famous ones like Marcian's Column.
It is not
Chetan Tyagi
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it

The true impact of the city is apparent from the fact that studying the City is as good as studying the history of the larger Mediterranean, Asia Minor and European regions.

Madden has brought out the story of this mystical place through a rich, fast paced and comprehensive narrative. Arguably, the most elaborate piece in the book is from the times of Byzantium/Byzantion and christian Constantinople. The muslim Constantinople section seems quick and Istanbul is almost rushed.

All in a
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
For a city with the history, size, and importance of Istanbul, it's not hard to find interesting stories and intrigues from every era to invigorate the text with life and vivacity. This book has done a wonderful job of giving a little window into a lot of the disputes and wars and happenstance events that shaped "The City" we know today, all the while telling us readers about the evidence for these things in the layout of the city itself. By the end of the book you'll be wondering how they get ...more
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Thomas F. Madden (born 1960) is an American historian, the Chair of the History Department at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, and Director of Saint Louis University's Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

He is considered one of the foremost historians of the Crusades in the United States. He has frequently appeared in the media, as a consultant for various programs on the
“Across the ancient Roman Empire there were only four chariot teams, each designated by a color. By the fifth century, those had been reduced to two, the Blues and the Greens. At least once a week the gates of the Hippodrome would open, allowing thousands of Constantinople’s citizens to file in. To the left were the seats reserved for aristocrats and governmental officials. The closer that one could sit to the imperial loge, of course, the better. To the right were the sections for the regular citizens. Here, too, there were sharp divisions, first by team supporters and then by social status. And the divisions went deeper than that. The Blues and the Greens were not simply teams, but highly competitive clubs of sports fans, whose activities extended well beyond the games. They were, as historians refer to them, circus factions, and they had a clear organization. The faction leaders sat directly opposite the emperor; they were present for the award ceremonies and, in later centuries, took part in virtually all civic ceremonies inside and outside the Hippodrome. Emperors usually expressed a preference for one faction or the other (usually the Blues), and in later years the favored faction could occasionally provide an emperor with armed support against urban insurrections. It is not true, as one sometimes reads, that the factions were political parties. Instead, they were extremely enthusiastic fan clubs whose members, when unhappy, could become very, very dangerous.” 0 likes
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