Ghost Empire: A Journey to the Legendary Constantinople

Journalist Richard Fidler creates a memorable father-son travelogue while recounting some of Western civilization's most intense battles in his hefty, spirited history Ghost Empire: A Journey to the Legendary Constantinople.

Fidler hails from Australia, where he hosts Conversations with Richard Fidler on ABC Radio. The program is one of the most popular podcasts in Australia, and Fidler rolls his interview skills and storytelling talents into Ghost Empire, about a trip he and his teenage son Joe took to Istanbul in 2014. Throughout the present-tense narrative of their journey, Fidler reconstructs the famed and bloody history of the city, particularly the rise and fall of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire.

Fidler follows its establishment in 330 through its fall to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Furthermore, he probes Roman history in general and the empire's lurid power struggles, and is able to relate historical intrigue to modern-day Turkey and its increasingly autocratic government. Fidler's writing is clean and crisp and describes the city with a certain bemusement and sense of wonder. Exploring crumbly monuments, partaking in the cuisine and culture, both he and his son discover the historical in the modern: "There is a railway line a few blocks away, with houses and apartments pushed up together on both sides of the tracks. A thousand years ago, this was the emperor's polo field."

There is a moment in Ghost Empire when Fidler loses track of his son and panics. Everything turns out okay, but this real-life father-son dynamic complements the historical material nicely, creating a pleasurable read that is less academic and more experiential. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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