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Books on the Fall of Constantinople for Your List

The National Herald

The Fall of Constantinople 1453 by Steven Runciman. (Photo via Amazon)

Since the fall of Constantinople on May 29, 1453, 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. The following books offer fascinating 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 clearly 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 as well as medieval Russian, Italian, and Turkish folktales to add further insight into the subject. Literature and secondary sources offer another level and depth of understanding to the event that was such 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 how the inhumanity that we often associate with modern times is actually rooted in the past, proving 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 all those involved 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 for years 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 many Greeks, confronted with the end of civilization as they knew it, moved to the West, and 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.