Martin Kramer on Palmyra and Bernard Lewis on his 99th birthday

Photo: Caravan on the Great Colonnade in Palmyra, 1900, by Gertrude Bell

ISIS in Palmyra (Tadmor) reminded me of an evocative passage from Rose Macaulay’s still-marvelous ‘Pleasure of Ruins” (1953):

The incursive Arabs, now in possession, have not had the energy or the means to build their own world upon the ruins of the old; they accept the dead cities as nothing strange, the dead cities of Greece, Seleucia, Rome and Byzantium, brooding like ghosts over desert and mountain and fertile valley, from Antioch and Aleppo in the north to Wadi Araba in the far south, while among them the great crusaders’ castles ride the desert like moored battleships.”

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Today, Bernard Lewis marks his 99th birthday.

In May 1916, Sykes and Picot concluded their agreement to partition the Ottoman Empire, and Bernard Lewis came into the world.

Bernard has proved to be more enduring.

Daniel Pipes and I visited him at his home outside Philadelphia in February, and Daniel took this photo: right to left, Buntzie Churchill (Lewis’s companion who assisted him with his memoirs), Bernard, and myself. Bis hundert und tzvantzig—until 120!


  • dance…dancetotheradio

    I don’t do facething.

  • Morticiaa

    Great he is still going strong, happy to have a few of his books and thoughts, but who is in line to fill the huge space he will soon create Like a vacume recently created by another great thinker and historian Martin Gilbert who died a few months ago.?
    Seriously, name a few and I’ll check them out

    • Someone will take his job; no one will take his place. Political correctness will stamp out any future thinking along his lines.

  • Waffle

    Nice to know that one of the great minds of our time is still alive and contributing.

    I first started to read his essays back in the 80s when he was published in the Atlantic Monthly. More recently, I took a few history courses at U of T and his unforgettable books were on the reading lists.

    Happy,happy birthday Professor Lewis and thank you so much.