Books on the Fall of Constantinople For Your Reading List

May 29 marked 563 years since the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Since then, countless books have been written about the siege and the fall of the city. Recent books have focused on the military history, as well as the cultural and religious implications. The historiography is also a feature of more recent studies, examining the history of the historical writings on the subject. Two recent books offer excellent insights into the historical, cultural, and military history of the fall of Constantinople.

The Siege and Fall of Constantinople: Historiography, Topography, and Military Studies by Marios Philippides, Chair and Senior Professor of Classics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA and Walter K. Hanak, Professor of History, Emeritus, Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, WV is a definitive study and at 816 pages, it is a hefty volume. The book is insightful and the years of research that went into it are evident in the extraordinary attention to detail. All the original sources available were consulted and critically evaluated with the authors examining texts in all the languages relevant to the event. Some of the sources used remain in manuscript form only. The authors also included folk history from popular Greek myths and folktales to medieval Russian, Italian, and Turkish folktales. Literature and secondary sources provide insight and a depth of understanding to the event that was a pivotal moment in world history.

1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley is another well-written history exploring the fall of Constantinople. The book considers the implications of history for the present day in a dramatic way. The graphic descriptions of atrocities are not for the faint of heart, but it gives a vivid picture of what the people suffered at the time and the inhumanity to man that we often associate with modern times is actually rooted in the past and proves the constancy of human nature. The author gives both sides of the conflict, and some readers may bristle at the idea of aiming for an unbiased account, but the author manages to bring out the human toll on both sides in a moving way. The book follows the siege day by day, culminating in the fall of the city and examines the results of the conquest and the ways the Constantinople managed to survive the harrowing experience and remain a multicultural and religiously tolerant city even after the fall.

The Fall of Constantinople 1453 by Steven Runciman is a classic history first published in 1965. The book is elegantly written and explores the bitter shock of the fall for Western Christendom. The implications of the fall for both sides are considered, the Ottoman Turks gaining a capital city for their empire while the Greeks confronted with the end of civilization as they knew led many to move West, the expansion of Greek studies inspiring the Renaissance in Western Europe. Available in paperback and online, the book is a must read of narrative history on the subject.


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