Book Review: Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities is a life-affirming history of the city that straddles the Bosphorus – and history


For those who enjoy historical parallels, there was something particularly irresistible about the news in 2013 that the world’s deepest underwater railway tunnel linking Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus had opened beneath Istanbul.

The record-breaking continental connection recalled Herodotus’ description, two-and-a-half millennia earlier, of the Persian emperor Darius I ordering the construction of a mile-long pontoon bridge across the water sometime about 513BC, an act of imperial hubris that would, inevitably, result in the nemesis of the Persian wars and defeat at the hands of the Greeks.

It is difficult to imagine the Turkish prime minister being gripped by such parallels. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former mayor of Istanbul, instead made disparaging comments about the long delays to the tunnel caused by “clay pots” and “other stuff”, such stuff including the largest remains of a Byzantine fleet ever discovered, among other important archaeological findings. The modern Islamist is not generally known for his interest in non-Islamic history. Read more

Source: South China Morning Post