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!

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