Ghost Empire

Currently I'm reading Richard Fidler's book Ghost Empire and enjoying how he expertly demonstrates in this history of Constantinople how developments over a millennia ago remain within Western culture.

Justinian the Great, for example, oversaw the creation of the Codex that established Roman laws that continue to inform those practiced today.

Another interesting section discussed Nicholas the bishop of Myra, better known as Saint Nicholas and the inspiration for Santa Claus. While not explicitly stated, I couldn't help but wonder if the story of Nicholas resurrecting children butchered during a famine established the tradition of Christmas ham:
One tells how during a terrible famine, a malicious butcher lured three little children into his house, where he killed them, placing their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them off as ham. Nicholas, visiting the region to care for the hungry, not only saw through the butcher's horrific crime but also resurrected the three boys from the barrel by his prayers.

This is one serendipity I've encountered while reading the book during the festive season. Another was when I read aloud the section on how Justinian developed a Roman silk industry after six centuries of importing the fabric from China via the Silk Road:

Two unidentified monks (most likely members of the Nestorian Church who had been preaching Christianity in India (Church of the East in India), made their way to China by 551 AD. While they were in China, they observed the intricate methods for raising silk worms and producing silk. This was a key development, as the Byzantines had previously thought silk was made in India. In 552 AD, the two monks sought out Justinian I. In return for his generous but unknown promises, the monks agreed to acquire silk worms from China.

Fidler notes many historians now regard this story as a fable and that it would have been a 6500-kilometre journey taking around two years for the monks.

The serendipity for my family was that after learning the story, we arrived at our destination to find my out-laws (so called as my partner and I aren't married) had a collection of silkworm cocoons with a couple of silk moths.

I've thought before how ghosts are a beaut metaphor for the resonances within history and illustrate relevance to contemporary audiences. I'm thoroughly enjoying the book as it's like a tour of foreign lands where the pace is quick but the snapshots are wondrous.