Synopses & Reviews
Salonica, City of Ghosts
is an evocation of the life of a vanished city and an exploration of how it passed away. Under the rule of the Ottoman sultans, one of the most extraordinary and diverse societies in Europe lived for five centuries amid its minarets and cypresses on the shore of the Aegean, alongside its Roman ruins and Byzantine monasteries. Egyptian merchants and Ukrainian slaves, Spanish-speaking rabbis–refugees from the Iberian Inquisition–and Turkish pashas rubbed shoulders with Orthodox shopkeepers, Sufi dervishes and Albanian brigands. Creeds clashed and mingled in an atmosphere of shared piety and messianic mysticism. How this bustling, cosmopolitan and tolerant world emerged and then disappeared under the pressure of modern nationalism is the subject of this remarkable book.
The historian Mark Mazower, author of the greatly praised Dark Continent, follows the city’s inhabitants through the terrors of plague, invasion and famine, and takes us into their taverns, palaces, gardens and brothels. Drawing on an astonishing array of primary sources, Mazower’s vivid narrative illuminates the multicultural fabric of this great city and describes how its fortunes changed as the empire fell apart and the age of national enmities arrived. In the twentieth century, the Greek army marched in, and fire and world war wrought their grim transformation. Thousands of refugees arrived from Anatolia, the Muslims were forced out, and the Nazis deported and killed the Jews. This richly textured homage to the world that went with them uncovers the memory of what lies buried beneath Salonica’s prosperous streets and recounts the haunting story of how the three great faiths that shared the city were driven apart.
From the Hardcover edition.
"I could scarcely put down this magnificent book, with its galloping narrative, its worldly analysis, sparkling anecdotes and its unforgettable cast of the decadent, the cosmopolitan, and the cruel." -- Simon Sebag Montefiore, Financial Times
-- Priscilla Wald
“Levant is an eminently readable and authoritative work that speaks directly to present-day anxieties, both about the nature of todays western multicultural cities, and about current tensions between nations and religions.”-- Roderick Beaton, Kings College London -- Simon Sebag Montefiore
"An extraordinary achievement. Passionate but impartial, animated, sensual and scholarly. "--Barnaby Rogerson, auhor of The Last Crusaders
-- Roderick Beaton
Salonica, located in northern Greece, was long a fascinating crossroads metropolis of different religions and ethnicities, where Egyptian merchants, Spanish Jews, Orthodox Greeks, Sufi dervishes, and Albanian brigands all rubbed shoulders. Tensions sometimes flared, but tolerance largely prevailed until the twentieth century when the Greek army marched in, Muslims were forced out, and the Nazis deported and killed the Jews. As the acclaimed historian Mark Mazower follows the citys inhabitants through plague, invasion, famine, and the disastrous twentieth century, he resurrects a fascinating and vanished world.
is a book of cities. It describes three former centers of great wealth, pleasure, and freedomSmyrna, Alexandria, and Beirutcities of the Levant region along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. In these key ports at the crossroads of East and West, against all expectations, cosmopolitanism and nationalism flourished simultaneously. People freely switched identities and languages, released from the prisons of religion and nationality. Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived and worshipped as neighbors.
Distinguished historian Philip Mansel is the first to recount the colorful, contradictory histories of Smyrna, Alexandria, and Beirut in the modern age. He begins in the early days of the French alliance with the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century and continues through the cities' mid-twentieth-century fates: Smyrna burned; Alexandria Egyptianized; Beirut lacerated by civil war.
Mansel looks back to discern what these remarkable Levantine cities were like, how they differed from other cities, why they shone forth as cultural beacons. He also embarks on a quest: to discover whether, as often claimed, these cities were truly cosmopolitan, possessing the elixir of coexistence between Muslims, Christians, and Jews for which the world yearns. Or, below the glittering surface, were they volcanoes waiting to erupt, as the catastrophes of the twentieth century suggest? In the pages of the past, Mansel finds important messages for the fractured world of today.
About the Author
Mark Mazower is professor of history at Columbia University and Birkbeck College, London. His books include Inside Hitlers Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44, winner of the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History and the Longman/History Today Award for Book of the Year. He lives in New York City.