But the cities visited by Marco Polo were always different from those thought of by the emperor
December 7, 2004 8:48 PM   Subscribe

The Names of Ancient Cities Still Stir the Imagination. While the City of 333 Genies has almost vanished in the sands and the Mirror of the World is tarnished with age, the City of Men's Desire abides. In 1000 years, will the Big Apple be as vital as the Eternal City or as forgotten as the City of Venerated Houses?
posted by blahblahblah (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
[I like this post.]
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:13 PM on December 7, 2004

Great post blahblahblah. Samarkand still evokes magic. Baghdad used to but that name seems to have been smeared by recent events. I'd also add Cairo and Alexandria, Constantinople (I know, you linked Istanbul.)
posted by vacapinta at 9:19 PM on December 7, 2004

Thanks, blahblahblah. Very cool post.
posted by Tullius at 9:28 PM on December 7, 2004

Calvino is one of my favorites. I used Le Città Invisibili in my senior project in art school. Close your eyes after reading one of the stories - I'll bet there will be a detailed, beautiful picture in your mind.
posted by letitrain at 10:15 PM on December 7, 2004

Lovely post. Thank you.
The past week I've been seeing the name of Orhan Pamuk everywhere it seems. I'm going to have to read one of his novels I think.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:22 PM on December 7, 2004

I dont know how true this is but apparently no city has existed longer than Jericho.
posted by dhruva at 10:36 PM on December 7, 2004

We later civilizations . . . we too know that we are mortal.

We had long heard tell of whole worlds that had vanished, of empires sunk without a trace, gone down with all their men and all their machines into the unexplorable depths of the centuries, with their gods and their laws, their academies and their sciences pure and applied, their grammars and their dictionaries, their Classics, their Romantics, and their Symbolists, their critics and the critics of their critics. . . . We were aware that the visible earth is made of ashes, and that ashes signify something. Through the obscure depths of history we could make out the phantoms of great ships laden with riches and intellect; we could not count them. But the disasters that had sent them down were, after all, none of our affair.

Elam, Ninevah, Babylon were but beautiful vague names, and the total ruin of those worlds had as little significance for us as their very existence. But France, England, Russia...these too would be beautiful names.

- Paul Valery, 1919

posted by chymes at 9:31 AM on December 8, 2004

Thanks, blahblahblah, this is a good post.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:17 AM on December 8, 2004

I'm lovin' it.

But seriously, I love these kinds of subjects. I am currently reading Skeletons of the Zahara and the main character is currently passing through the relatively recent ruins of several small cities that were all caught up in a ruinous feud. Then there are other cities which were simply reclaimed by the Sahara within a decade. Amazing to think that something on the scale of a city could simply disappear in a short time, but I think that the failure to realize this possibility is an ongoing shortcoming of "modern" societies.
posted by crazy finger at 10:37 AM on December 8, 2004

Also of interest in this vein: Karakota/Heicheng/Edzina - The Black City of the Gobi



posted by bradhill at 12:40 PM on December 8, 2004

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