Alexandria: The City that Changed the World
Villains and heroes of Alexandria.
An original, authoritative, and lively cultural history of the first modern city, from pre-Homeric times to the present day.
Islam Issa’s father had always told him about their city's magnificence, and as he looked at the new library in Alexandria it finally hit home. This is no ordinary library. And Alexandria is no ordinary city.
Combining rigorous research with myth and folklore, Alexandria is an authoritative history of a city that has shaped our modern world. Soon after being founded by Alexander the Great, Alexandria became the crucible of cultural exchange between East and West for millennia and the undisputed global capital of knowledge. It was at the forefront of human progress, but it also witnessed brutal natural disasters, plagues, crusades and violence.
Major empires fought over Alexandria, from the Greeks and Romans to the Arabs, Ottomans, French, and British. Key figures shaped the city from its eponymous founder to Aristotle, Cleopatra, Saint Mark the Evangelist, Napoleon Bonaparte and many others, each putting their own stamp on its identity and its fortunes. And millions of people have lived in this bustling seaport on the Mediterranean. From its humble origins to its dizzy heights and its latest incarnation, Islam Issa tells us the rich and gripping story of a city that changed the world.
Praise for Alexandria: The City that Changed the World
"Issa takes the reader on a mesmerising journey. He does a fantastic job of explaining the history, taking the time to share the stories, both mythical and factual, that have made Alexandria the city it is today. His history is a tribute to Alexandria, a reservoir of knowledge on the city, and sets a marker for those wishing to tell the stories of the world’s great cities. "
— Al Jazeera
"Issa combines love for the city with nostalgia for its vanished past - for a place where for over two thousand years different communities coexisted. He describes them, their achievements and their woes with admirable balance. Issa has brilliantly illuminated the history of a great city."
— Literary Review
“A lively chronicle of one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities from its beginnings almost two and a half millennia ago to the present. Issa vividly recounts invasions by the Crusaders, Ottomans, French, and British, and shows how in the modern era Alexandria continued in its role as a cultural hub and social and religious melting pot. This impressively researched account reveals a captivating city through the ages.”
— Publishers Weekly
"In Islam Issa's monumental and vividly imagined new tale of the city, Alexandria comes to life. This book is a fitting tribute to a city that has survived, changed and grown for so many centuries."
— The Telegraph
"This lively cultural history of the place that is often described as the world’s first modern city is full of fascinating facts and amazing stories. Issa chronicles the splendours and events of its past quite wonderfully, offering us a work that is both scholarly and entertaining."
— The Gleaner
“A comprehensive history of a city that has served as a ‘representative illustration of some of history’s most consequential empires.’ An Alexandrian by birth, Issa relates his native city’s past principally through attention to its most famous figures and rulers. A well-researched, readable history of one of the world’s oldest and most consequential cities.”
— Kirkus Reviews
"Crackling with good storytelling across more than two millennia, this is a love letter that makes us long for Alexandria."
— Paul Edmondson, author of Shakespeare: Ideas in Profile
"A fascinating and much-needed book about this singular city written with vibrancy and skill. Issa’s personal knowledge and passion for Alexandria, past and present, shine through every sentence."
— Violet Moller, author of The Map of Knowledge
"Islam Issa's Alexandria: The City that Changed the World is the book on this amazing city that I've long been waiting for. It's wonderfully easy to read, solidly researched, and totally engaging"
— Philip Freeman, Professor of Humanities, Pepperdine University and author of Hannibal: Rome's Greatest Enemy
“Islam Issa’s history takes the city from Alexander’s transformation of an Egyptian fishing village around 331 BC through its multiple subsequent lives … Issa, an Alexandrian himself, is an assured narrator with an easy manner, who unearths myths and stories that give vivid life to his more sober account of Alexandria’s travails and triumphs”
— The New Statesman