In his book Ghost Empire Richard Fidler tells of gruesome murders, espionage, torture, skulduggery, fierce battles and betrayal, intermingling with them are accounts of loyalty, courage, vision and love. He tells of the birth of a city, and an empire, and its eventual fall.
Richard confesses to having learnt nothing about Byzantium when at school. We touched on it only briefly at my school – I knew that somehow the Crusades figured somewhere in its story. I knew that its name was changed to Constantinople and a few centuries later to Istanbul, but frankly little else.
A history of a city
Ghost Empire makes for fascinating reading. And along with the history of a city there is a delightful human element to the book, for with Richard is his 14-year-old son Joe and we follow the development of their relationship as together they explore the streets and alleyways of modern Istanbul in search of the old.
Richard Fidler admits to being more of a history enthusiast than an historian. Consequently, and with respect to all historians, his writing style has the human rather than the academic touch making the book eminently readable.
Byzantine names are difficult to follow
However, it is almost 500 pages long and I frequently had to stop reading and back track to make sure I had the characters sorted out. Obviously, Richard had a similar problem as at one point he wishes that the Byzantine names were easier to follow. I was so grateful to him for admitting that, as I too had struggled to differentiate between the likes of ‘Constantine Monomachus, Constantine Porphyrogenitus and Constantine Paleologus’.
Nevertheless, I for one am very grateful to Richard Fidler for inspiring me to learn more about the legendary, astonishing, colourful, fascinating 1000 years of the Byzantine Empire. Ghost Empire is highly recommended.
Ghost Empire. Richard Fidler. ISBN: 978-0-7333-3855-7.
Paperback: £12.99. ABC Books. abcbooks.com.au