Publisher: HarperCollins, (2004); Knopf (April 26, 2005)
ISBN: 0375412980

Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950


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 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.


“Remarkable. . . . Mazower reconstructs a society of dazzling ethnic complexity and exoticism . . . .a thriving port and a crossroads between Europe and Asia.” —The New York Times

“A masterpiece. . . . A masterly synthesis of cultural, political, economic, intellectual, and social history. . . . A book to bring one to tears.” —The Boston Globe Go to full text

“A history of a fascinating, turbulent city by one of the most distinguished historians of his generation. Mazower has provided a brilliant guide to Salonica’s rich past.” —The New York Review of Books Go to full text

“Timely, magnificent and sometimes unbearably poignant . . . Brings alive a lost world, one with much to teach contemporary Europe about the nature of identity and nationality.” —The Nation Go to full text

“An exhaustive, affectionate biography of the city, a deeply researched account that becomes a portrait of the singular, vanished cosmopolitanism of the Ottoman Empire.” —The Baltimore Sun

“[A] tremendous book about a city unique not just in Europe, but in the entire history of humanity. . .What [Mazower] does to perfection is to express the historical meaning of Salonica down the generations, authenticating his story with a multitude of contemporary quotations, from the 15th to the 20th century, and scrupulously explaining it all out of his profound scholarly knowledge. ” —Jan Morris, The Guardian Go to full text

"Mark Mazower's new book is a necessary masterpiece; necessary because it fills a gap, and a masterpiece because it fills that gap so well. It is written in bite-sized pieces that make the book a pleasure to read, and, since one cannot resist reading the next section, curiously moreish. It sustained me recently during a long trip to the US, continually delivering small pleasures whenever I had a moment in hand." —Louis de Bernieres, Times of London Go to full text

"Enthralling new history . . . In a brilliant chapter on popular culture in the interwar years, Mazower shows how the development of a modern urban culture -- in dance, music, art, literature and, most importantly, sex -- began to turn a city of exiles and refugees into a place that could be called home. . . Tragic, hopeful and beautifully written, Salonica, City of Ghosts shows how cities, as much as people, can be seduced by the prospect of escaping their own past and remaking themselves in ways unrecognizable to old friends." —Charles King, Times Literary Supplement Go to full text

"[Mazower] sensitively analyses the internal debates and divisions which could be found within all the major communities." —Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph

"Masterly . . . draws on many new sources: the diary of a Ukraninian refugee in the 1720s; consuls' despatches; the files of the Jewish Museum of Greece. This is a brilliant and timely reminder that cities have played as important a role as states in the lives of their inhabitants." —Philip Mansel, The Spectator Go to full text

"A brilliant reconstruction of one of Europe's great meeting places between the three monotheistic faiths." —The Economist

"Mazower is a formidable historian. Two of his earlier books, Inside Hitler's Greece and The Balkans: A Short History, rank as definitive works. He has produced a majestic work: the biography of a city, complete with soul and ichor." —Moris Farhi, The Independent

"Salonica, City of Ghosts, is a wonderful evocation of the complex, glorious and tragic history of a city, with lessons both positive and negative for our present age. The author, as always, writes with compelling clarity and penetrating eye for detail. If the past is another country, the author allows us to travel there." —Anthony Daniels, "Books of the Year," Sunday Telegraph

"This exploration into the soul of a Balkan ciy is both evocative and profound, a masterful addition to Mazower's work." —Jad Adams, BBC History

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