Watching her teenage daughters disappear into a fug of tear gas in Istanbul, Bettany Hughes realised this particular family history lesson might be getting out of hand.
The author and academic, with daughters Sorel and May, had booked into a hotel on Taksim Square in May 2013, just as the city’s secular and westward-looking youths were rising in protest.‘As we went into the hotel the trouble exploded,’ Hughes recalls.
‘No, but we didn’t know they were going to be global leaders.
They were just guys riding bikes badly through the streets of Oxford.
It’s frightening when your daughter says, “I’m finding it a bit hard to breathe.” Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I wanted them to see history being made in Istanbul.’Now Sorel and May have the far safer option of reading their mother’s illuminating new book.
Istanbul: A Tale Of Three Cities is a comprehensive and ground-breaking 600-page study of the city known as Byzantium, New Rome, Constantinople and Stamboul. It’s mud from the sanctuary of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.’Hughes learned early in her TV career just how significant our physical and sexual lives are, when she found herself interviewing a circus performer on a trampoline.
That was 1996, not 1896.’In the Nineties, ancient history was deeply out of fashion.
‘One TV producer took me aside and said, “Let me tell you three things.
At 49, she still has the dark tresses that led one reviewer to call her ‘raven-haired’. ’) and today, at home in west London, she wears a black dress that reveals her trademark décolletage. The director was tying himself into knots, not because he was anxious about showing this appendage waggling around, because he was anxious to avoid showing I was pregnant.The documentary about the warrior Ancient Greeks opened with the revelation that, ‘in the military messes, homosexuality was compulsory between grown boys and older men.It’s all pretty hot stuff.’Since then, Hughes has become pretty hot stuff herself.‘I was talking to the immigrants and saying, “Where are your passports?” and they were all saying, “The smugglers have got them”, and then the smugglers saw me.