Its name means 'centre of the world', and since the dawn of history the Mediterranean Sea has formed the shared horizon of innumerable cultures. Here, history has blurred with legend. The glittering surface of the sea conceals the remnants of lost civilisations, wrecked treasure ships and the bones of long-drowned sailors, traders and modern refugees.
Of the many cities that dot this ancient coastline, Tyre, Carthage, Syracuse, Ravenna and Antioch are among the oldest and most intriguing. All are beautifully situated, and for layers of history and cultural riches they are rivalled only by their sister cities of Rome, Istanbul and Jerusalem. Yet their fates have been remarkably different. Once major power centres, all five have declined into relative obscurity. Nevertheless, their entwined history takes in Alexander the Great, Nebuchadnezzar, Archimedes and the Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Norman conquests, and their greatness still lingers for those who seek it out.
To bring these mysterious lost capitals to life, historian Katherine Pangonis sets out on a voyage from the dawn of civilisation on the Lebanese coast to a modern-day Turkey wracked by the devastation of the 2023 earthquake. Combining on the ground research with spellbinding storytelling skills, here is a revelatory new story of the Mediterranean, and a powerful reflection on the sometimes fleeting glory of empires.