Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore - review by Adam LeBor

Adam LeBor

Aftershocks of the Risorgimento

Jerusalem: The Biography


Weidenfeld and Nicholson 638pp £25 order from our bookshop

Jerusalem is much more than a narrative account of the many incarnations of our holiest and most contested city. It is a dazzling historical encyclopaedia that brings alive the world of the three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – that have ruled the city almost from its birth millennia ago to the present day. Its splendid historical cast includes scheming kings and manipulative queens, bloodthirsty warlords and genocidal emperors, wild-eyed prophets and alluring harlots.

All human life is here, and much death also. Jerusalem has been conquered, levelled and rebuilt so many times – often accompanied by the wholesale slaughter of its inhabitants – that the biggest miracle (in a city famed for them) is that nowadays there is anything left standing

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