Istanbul Through the Ages: A Six Part Course with Author Thomas Madden

Istanbul Through the Ages: A Six Part Course with Author Thomas Madden


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“Though all other cities have their periods of government and are subject to the decays of time, Constantinople alone seems to claim a kind of immortality and will continue to be a city as long as humanity shall live either to inhabit it or rebuild it.” - Pierre Gilles, The Antiquities of Constantinople (1548)

Today we call it Istanbul. Yet it has had many names: Constantinople, New Rome, Byzantion, Stamboul, Islambul, Queen of Cities, City of the Sultans, and, perhaps most eloquently of all, “The City.”

For more than two millennia Istanbul was at the center of events that shaped the history of the West.  It was a seat of wealth and power, a den of intrigue and betrayal, a place of vibrant commerce and enduring faith.  Its streets were packed with multitudes of people from all over the world, some enjoying the rarest luxuries, others mired in the deepest poverty.  Today Istanbul is often thought of as a “middle eastern” city, yet it is in every way a daughter of the West – born a Greek, raised a Roman and converting to Islam in its middle age.  For centuries it was the largest and most powerful city in the Christian world, before transforming itself in the sixteenth century into the capital of the Muslim East.  It remains a city in both worlds, perched at the very tip of Europe, gazing across at the shores of Asia.

In this course, Thomas F. Madden, a leading scholar in medieval Mediterranean history and the author of Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World (Viking, 2016), will guide us through the places and people of this city from its foundation as Constantinople to its grandeur under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Each lecture will introduce the historical city alongside the sights of modern Istanbul while bringing to life the stories of those who lived there across the ages.

If you would like to explore Istanbul in person with Dr. Madden, we invite you to explore our luxury multi-day itinerary launching in 2022, Istanbul Through the Ages with Dr. Thomas Madden. In this exclusive series of academic lectures and private tours, Thomas F. Madden, a leading scholar in medieval Mediterranean history, will guide us back in time as we contextualize landmarks and hidden gems of this city’s legendary past – from its foundation as Constantinople to its grandeur under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

Lecture 1: From Byzantion to Constantinople: The Genius of Constantine the Great

The ancient Greek city of commerce found itself at the center of the Roman world. Destroyed and rebuilt, it was refounded by Emperor Constantine I as New Rome – new capital for an aging empire.

Lecture 2: Justinian and Theodora: The Imperial Age

Laid waste by riots and civil unrest, the city was again remade on an even grander scale. Among Emperor Justinian’s building projects was Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya), an architectural achievement that still inspires awe today.

Lecture 3: At the Games: Blues, Greens, and the Chariots of the Hippodrome

Still discernible (if one knows where to look), the monumental Hippodrome of the city could seat 100,000 spectators around chariot races and other attractions. Its history of splendor and ruin closely mirrors that of the city that it entertained.

Lecture 4: The Coming of the Crusaders: Enrico Dandolo and the Fourth Crusade

In one of the most bizarre incidents of the Middle Ages, Crusaders bound for the Holy Land to fight Muslims instead detoured to Christian Constantinople, which they conquered. The deep wound that the Crusaders inflicted on the city would not easily heal.

Lecture 5: Changing Empires: Constantine XI, Mehmet II, and the 1453 Conquest of Constantinople

In 1453 one world was ending and another was born. As the Middle Ages came to a close, Sultan Mehmed II extinguished that last ember of the Roman Empire and transformed the great city into a new capital of an Islamic state.

Lecture 6: The Ottoman Golden Age: Suleiman the Magnificent and Hurrem/Roxelana

Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent ruled the vast Ottoman Empire from his palace in Constantinople. Yet not alone. Defying convention, he married Hurrem, one of the women of his harem. Both enriched Istanbul in ways still prominent today.

How does it work?
This is a six-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?
No. Participants do not have to have any significant prior knowledge of Istanbul to attend this course.

How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How long is the course?
The course is 6 weeks long, with one lecture each week.

What is the cost?
$210 per person for the full course.

Is a recording available?
In general, our courses are not recorded. However, if you need to miss a lecture please let us know in advance and we can arrange for a recording for that session on an individual basis.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 73 reviews
93%
(68)
5%
(4)
1%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
C
C.F. (Santa Monica, US)
This was an amazing series.

Dr. Madden is so knowledgeable and subject matter so interesting, these six sessions just flew by. Dr. Madden presents such an interesting mixture of current photos, historical data and information, reconstructions, and anecdotes, it feels like you were visiting in many of the centuries this course covered. An absolute must if interested in history and this part of the world now.

C
C.F. (Laguna Niguel, US)
You Are There

I cannot keep count of the number of courses by Prof Madden that I've attended. Here is an unassuming guy who takes you by the hand and Takes You There, on the spot, in the seats of the Hippodrome. Forget the Room Where It Happens. How about the city, the fortified walls of Istanbul, the triple-headed snake column? Constantine to Suleiman the Magnificent parade before your eyes, crowns to towering turbans. Madden places you there, not only in locale but in time and in character. A master storyteller. If you're thinking about taking his series on Istanbul, do. And then take it again. Wow. And I thought the history of Venice was good. Istanbul is wicked fine.

R
R.M. (South Burlington, US)
Highly Informative Discourse on the Evolution of Istanbul to the 16th Century

Professor Madden offers a compelling narrative in a personally engaging manner that sheds a great deal of light on one of the world's most fascinating cities. Despite the vast scope of the subject matter, he skillfully weaves together key elements of the history, personalities, landscape, artifacts and architecture of Istanbul with his own personal experiences and anecdotes that bring the city to life. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in traveling to Istanbul or in its history,

K
K.E. (Ehningen, DE)
The Sultanate Settles in Constantinople

The last segment of the Istanbul Through the Ages course provided a look at the "re-creation" of Constantinople after the Ottoman Turk takeover in 1453. Thomas Madden included titillating tales of the Sultan's harem with a look at an unexpected romance.

E
E.M. (St Louis, US)
Fantastic class!

This class was great from beginning to end. Every lecture was information packed and well illustrated. Instructor is extremely knowledgable and well organized. He explains complicated history clearly.

Customer Reviews

Based on 73 reviews
93%
(68)
5%
(4)
1%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
C
C.F. (Santa Monica, US)
This was an amazing series.

Dr. Madden is so knowledgeable and subject matter so interesting, these six sessions just flew by. Dr. Madden presents such an interesting mixture of current photos, historical data and information, reconstructions, and anecdotes, it feels like you were visiting in many of the centuries this course covered. An absolute must if interested in history and this part of the world now.

C
C.F. (Laguna Niguel, US)
You Are There

I cannot keep count of the number of courses by Prof Madden that I've attended. Here is an unassuming guy who takes you by the hand and Takes You There, on the spot, in the seats of the Hippodrome. Forget the Room Where It Happens. How about the city, the fortified walls of Istanbul, the triple-headed snake column? Constantine to Suleiman the Magnificent parade before your eyes, crowns to towering turbans. Madden places you there, not only in locale but in time and in character. A master storyteller. If you're thinking about taking his series on Istanbul, do. And then take it again. Wow. And I thought the history of Venice was good. Istanbul is wicked fine.

R
R.M. (South Burlington, US)
Highly Informative Discourse on the Evolution of Istanbul to the 16th Century

Professor Madden offers a compelling narrative in a personally engaging manner that sheds a great deal of light on one of the world's most fascinating cities. Despite the vast scope of the subject matter, he skillfully weaves together key elements of the history, personalities, landscape, artifacts and architecture of Istanbul with his own personal experiences and anecdotes that bring the city to life. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in traveling to Istanbul or in its history,

K
K.E. (Ehningen, DE)
The Sultanate Settles in Constantinople

The last segment of the Istanbul Through the Ages course provided a look at the "re-creation" of Constantinople after the Ottoman Turk takeover in 1453. Thomas Madden included titillating tales of the Sultan's harem with a look at an unexpected romance.

E
E.M. (St Louis, US)
Fantastic class!

This class was great from beginning to end. Every lecture was information packed and well illustrated. Instructor is extremely knowledgable and well organized. He explains complicated history clearly.