On Saturday 9th September, 1922, the victorious Turkish cavalry rode into Smyrna, the richest and most cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire. What happened over the next two weeks must rank as one of the most compelling human dramas of the twentieth century. Almost two million people were caught up in a disaster of truly epic proportions.
PARADISE LOST is told with the narrative verve that has made Giles Milton a bestselling historian. It unfolds through the memories of the survivors, many of them interviewed for the first time, and the eyewitness accounts of those who found themselves caught up in one of the greatest catastrophes of the modern age.
Smyrna was a prosperous, cosmopolitan port on Turkey's Aegean coast where Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Jews and other nationalities lived in harmony. In his searingly vivid account of Smyrna's destruction by the Turks in 1922, acclaimed popular historian Milton (Nathaniel's Nutmeg) begins with a fairy tale like description of the city focused lopsidedly on the wealthy European dynasties known as Levantines. But Milton renders an astute account of the clash of Greek and Turkish nationalisms and the unhelpful meddling of Western powers, particularly Britain, which supported a Greek incursion into Turkey. When the defending Turkish troops under Mustafa Kemal (aka Ataturk) took Smyrna in September 1922, a horrific killing spree of Greeks and Armenians began, and hundreds of thousands of refugees were trapped on the quayside between the sea and a city willfully torched by the Turks as a score of foreign vessels looked on. Milton draws on eyewitness accounts to render these events in all their horror, and ends with an almost incredible rescue led by an unlikely hero. Milton powerfully renders this tragic tale of an army that came to "liberate" Smyrna and instead massacred its citizens and burned their prize to the ground in a vengeful frenzy.