Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities

Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities

It’s known by some as the ‘Centre of the World’. Simon Sebag Montefiore charts the rise of Istanbul from pagan trading post to capital of three empires and two religions. This one metropolis has been held by the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Each left its mark in its architecture, traditions and in the communities who still populate this vast modern conurbation of 14 million people.

Watch Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities and more acclaimed documentaries on BBC Select today. Restrictions apply*.

Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities on BBC Select

Episode 1: Byzantium
Simon Sebag Montefiore uncovers Istanbul’s ancient Greek roots and ecclesiastical clashes.

Istanbul is known as the ‘city of the world’s desire’. A place that has been the focus for believers of three different faiths: Paganism, Christianity and Islam. Simon Sebag Montefiore uncovers the city’s ancient Greek roots, maps its transformation into the capital of a Christian empire by Constantine the Great and reveals how ecclesiastical clashes forced Eastern and Western churches apart.

Episode 2: Constantinople
Simon Sebag Montefiore seeks out traces of Christian Byzantium in modern Istanbul.

Simon Sebag Montefiore explores modern Istanbul in search of traces of Christian Byzantium. During this era, the once glorious city was buffeted by east and west and yet still produced a golden artistic renaissance. He learns of the Christian crusaders who destroyed the city, and the Ottoman Muslims who restored it to life as an imperial capital after the epic siege of 1453.

Episode 3: Istanbul
Simon Sebag Montefiore discovers how Istanbul became Islam’s most powerful city.

Istanbul rose to become Islam’s most powerful city. Simon Sebag Montefiore discovers surprises in the great mosques and palaces built by the Ottoman emperors and unearths stories of royal concubines, murderous bodyguards and mighty sultans. He shows how the Christians, Muslims and Jews of the city once co-existed before the waves of nationalist rebellions brought the Ottoman empire to its knees.

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