Tag Archives: Byzantium

Byzantium: The Decline and Fall

The last in the series is an ever-more dizzying whirligig of passing characters and incidents, few of them with enough purchase for this to be more than a shallow parade. Maybe that is the nature of the subject matter, given … Continue reading

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Byzantium: The Apogee

Second volume: more of the same, equally entertaining and well-written, with the same caveats. Most monstrous character: Basil the Macedonian, who maneuvered himself from stable boy to imperial confidant to Michael III, murdered the emperor’s uncle (who had effectively been … Continue reading

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Byzantium: The Early Centuries

John Julius Norwich, author of this history of the Eastern Roman Empire from the founding of Constantinople in 330 until the coronation in 800 in Rome by the Pope of Charlemagne as rival Emperor of the West, is a jolly … Continue reading

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Istanbul: The Imperial City

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 … Continue reading

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churches into mosques

Aya Sofia is the most obvious example, but there are a few less famous ones around Istanbul: the Turks came, took the churches and converted them into mosques. One that still is a mosque is the small ex-church that was … Continue reading

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the Justinian underground

as above so below: right across the street from Aya Sofia, Justinian’s people built something else – an underground cistern to store the drinking water that was brought into Constantinople from nearby forest springs, by means of aqueducts and pipes. … Continue reading

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surpassing Solomon

“Solomon, I have surpassed you”; that is what the 6th century Byzantine emperor Justinian is supposed to have said when he first entered the church he had commissioned, Aya Sofia, the shrine of the Holy Wisdom. In this mosaic he, … Continue reading

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back to Byzantium

Once again in Istanbul: Asia to the left, Europe to the right, with the Sea of Marmara in the background and the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia on the hill: By the Marmara shore, this is all that remains of … Continue reading

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the man who invented Europe

On Sunday afternoon, Aachen is a quietly typical German bourgeois town, with a brass band playing in the Cathedral square and teenagers wearing t-shirts emblazoned with legends like NEW YORK FUCKING CITY. It has hot springs, which, along with its … Continue reading

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east

On Saturday night, Lublin is rocking – more even than Krakow. The old town – a few cobbled streets and a medieval square – is jammed with people partying out loud in sweltering heat. A punk band blasts cacophony from … Continue reading

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