Jerusalem: The Biography

Jerusalem: The Biography

by Simon Sebag Montefiore
4.2 37

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Jerusalem 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a blood filled page turner! It tells the the history of the holy city in all it's graphic, gory, reality.Prepare to read about historical figures without heavenly gloss about them. It is not a book for the faint of heart, but it is hard to put down, highly recomended!
Ron007 More than 1 year ago
The book is so dense that I have to write the review in stages. Its scope is majestic; the detail almost incredulous, the contents bloody, carnal and with unbelievable horrors, (perhaps with some unwitting) bias and interesting psychological insights. To illustrate: on page 66 he writes ‘Young Jews... somehow... managed to reverse their circumcision... surely a triumph of fashion over comfort’ (bias?). On page 114, ‘(The) Resurrection... is the defining moment of Christian faith... Archaeologists tend to believe that the body (of Christ) was simply removed and buried by friends...’ (bias?). ‘No one knows why (Constantine) embraced Christianity... though, like many brutally confident men, he adored his mother, Helena...’ (psychological)(p.152). Two pages later, ‘Crispus would not have been the first young man to have an affair with his stepmother nor the last to want one.’ (psychological). ‘Theodora died of cancer’ (around 540) (Was cancer understood then?) ‘Zangi... divorced one of his wives and then had her gang-raped by his grooms in the stables...’ (p.233). What has all this to do with Jerusalem? Everything! It is the crucible of all these antics, driven by power-struggle upon power-struggle; conquest upon conquest; construction then destruction; more construction and destruction. As he moves to more modern times (post French Revolution), he slips into errors that irk parts of Britain. ‘France was at war with England’ (p.324). No it wasn’t. England (and indeed, Wales) ceded sovereignty to Great Britain with the Union of the Scottish and English parliaments in 1707. Their Crowns were united in 1603 when Elizabeth I died without an heir; James VI of Scotland then becoming James I (p.313) of England as well. France was at war with Great Britain (and significantly, also Prussia). It seems churlish to highlight such things (given his sweep of history) but for small countries (Scotland in this case) it remains a correction that is much needed. In turn, I wonder how the Armenians must feel, having been significant players in the shaping of the community of Jerusalem; Armenia now a shadow of its former self (the confiscation of territory, including Mount Ararat by Lenin, as a gift to Turkey for example – but I digress). As more contemporary times enter the story, British names emerge as key players; Winston Churchill, T.E. Lawrence and Balfour, with his famous (some argue, infamous) Declaration for example. It is almost poignant, as a Briton, to read about the British Mandate and the country’s obvious exhaustion to maintain it, which, along with the Suez debacle (with Israeli support), marked the end of Great Britain as a world power. The story ends with Israel’s incredible victory in the 6 Day War. For me, the maps and city plans at the end of the book are fascinating. Yet it’s the density of detail that proves, ultimately, to be so rivetting.
B-2 More than 1 year ago
Absolutely exceptional book. It is just what the name describes: meticulously researched , detailed, compassionate and well thought-through history of Jerusalem on all levels , from the streets to entire planet( somehow the City is affected by anything anywhere in the world and via versa). It is written in clear easy beautiful language ( no history PhD required to enjoy) and in my opinion equal to Gibbon's "Decline and Fall" in its majesty. It is of course impossible to write anything about Jerusalem without ruffing someones political or religious feathers, but the author strives for a balanced, objective story and achived this goal as far as any human can. I grade the books as Buy and Keep (BK), Read Library book and Return ( RLR) and Once I Put it Down I Couldn't Pick it Up ( OIPD-ICPU). This one is absolutely BK.
dwellNC More than 1 year ago
An engaging history of a troubled city that is the center of the three Abrahamic religions. After reading this it seems that the city belongs to no-one and everyone. Filled with murder and violence conquest and hope, its hard to imaging peace ever coming to the city. Reading Jerusalem will definitely reward you with a good history of the city while at the same time leave you wondering why, for so long, people have been killing each other in the name of their God.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The worst of humanity told in tje context the major city from which it all started, all based on superstition and myth produced by crazy people and leaders. If they had psychiatry and asylums back then history might have been a lot better. The book left me with little hope for mankind if so much sorrow could be produced over a big pile of rocks tjat should be leveled once and for all and forgotten. Religion poisons everything and this great bio of the holy city provides more proof.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
pb123 More than 1 year ago
It's got a lot of interesting information, but it's pretty dense and boring at times. So and so was king, and then he died, and then so and so became king. He fought X, and died, then Y became king....A lot of that, which made me skip some of it. But I did enjoy a lot of it, and it made me want to visit the city, so on the whole it was worth it, just not a page turner.
OldDeadGuys More than 1 year ago
Montefiore does a great job telling the story of this amazing city. Covering such a breadth of time and intrigue in a straightforward and entertaining way. At points it reads as a mystery more than a history. He also does a great job remaining 'above the ray' when it comes to taking sides in the many challenging debates in this entirely complex city that has its very own life.
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The history is fascinating, as a Catholic I find some of it questionable and this has prompted me to look into other history of the time. I would highly recommend this book to any serious reader interested in the history of this remarkable city.
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