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Constantinople: The Last Great Siege, 1453 Paperback – 2 Nov 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (2 Nov. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571221866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571221868
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 329,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Roger Crowley read English at Cambridge before going to live in Istanbul. His particular interests are the Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman empires, seafaring, and eyewitness history. He is the author of three books on the empires of the Mediterranean and its surroundings: Constantinople: the last great siege(2005), Empires of the Sea (2008) and City of Fortune: How Venice won and lost a naval empire(2011). His website address is www.rogercrowley.co.uk, where he blogs about history.

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Review

"'A powerful telling of an extraordinary story, presented with a clarity and a confidence that most academic historians would envy.' Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph 'Narrative history at its most enthralling.' Christopher Silvester, Daily Express 'Engagingly fresh and vivid.' Malise Ruthven, Sunday Times"

Book Description

Constantinople: The Last Great Siege, 1453 by Roger Crowley is narrative history at its very best: an intense, extraordinary tale of courage and cruelty, technological ingenuity, endurance and luck.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 23 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
Loads of high-profile historical books are praised to the rafters these days, and yet when you read them you often find that the writer has not fully got to grips with the subject matter, and you end up absorbing little real knowledge or deriving much entertainment.

This book is an exception. Lucid, exciting and thoroughly entertaining, this is one of the best I've ever read.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By HLT on 7 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As mentioned elsewhere, this reads almost like fiction ... except it's real, painstakingly sifted and pieced together from a multitude of sources on both sides. The picture that emerges is more complex than I expected; it's about far more than Sultan Mehmet turning up with his huge army and battering the walls down with his great siege guns. Just as important to the outcome was the machinations going on behind those walls and in Christendom as a whole; this is a story of divine portents and tragic schism; of Christians taken and converted (or not) to fight their erstwhile brethren; of commercial greed and rivalry that sometimes took precedence over shared faith, culture, and strategic interests.

Most poignantly, it's the story of a doomed emperor standing with his allies and subjects against overwhelming odds, determined not to be the one to surrender a heritage of 1000+ years and the last living link to antiquity.

The author brings out several turning points where things could have gone differently, that make you wonder "what if?" ... but even as you do so, you realise -- because of the broader picture that he paints -- that even if Constantinople had survived this particular siege (as it had so many before) its ultimate fall was inevitable.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John K. Tancock on 4 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
I read this book as preparation for a trip to Istanbul. We arrived at a small hotel a hundred yards (if that) from Hagia Sophia. Whilst there I read the book again. What gripped me was the ploy and counter ploy of the Ottomans and Byzantines. The desperation and bravery of the beseiged and how so very close they came to resisting for a little longer the Ottoman conquest. I was thrilled, moved to tears and totally captivated by a story whose ending I already knew (I had read J J Norwich's trilogy). To be 'on the spot' added a depth of poignancy and some sadness to the visit. I would recommend this book as a fantastic read.......and then visit Istanbul and go to the land walls ...I defy you not to be moved!!!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By I. Curry VINE VOICE on 11 Jan. 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The fall of Constantinople (or the taking of Istanbul depending on your own perspective), was one of the defining moments for both Christendom and the Islamic caliphate. In 1453 the last bastion of the eastern Roman Empire fell to the onslaught of an organised and effective Ottoman campaign. It is a subject around which there is much debate, and obviously incredibly topical given the global conflict between the nominally Christian west and the more devoutly Islamic world. Turkish aspirations for EU membership also place the city’s fall in a more contemporary political context. Finally the Balkan tinderbox which had produced countless internal conflicts, national wars and even one World War, became so fragmented and mixed due to initial Ottoman successes in the region.
But all of these things are centuries away from the concerns of this book. Roger Crowley has focused this narrative history entirely on the campaign for the city undertaken by Mehmet against the now shrunken remnants of the Byzantine Empire, the successor to the glories of Rome. The text explains in clear, lucid terms the background, but is a perfect introduction to the subject by not over-elaborating on the intricate details of past Byzantine-Ottoman conflicts and diplomacy. Instead a broader picture is painted, taking in the treachery of the Italian city states, the precarious position of truncated Byzantium, the desperate attempts to reach a compromise over the Orthodox/Catholic differences in doctrine and the increasing power of the Ottoman state.
By the year 1453 it is clear that the city of Constantinople, the inheritor of Rome and the centre of the Eastern orthodox world is a shadow of its former glorious past.
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful By J. Brennan on 11 Dec. 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have had the pleasure of reading John Julius Norwich's outstanding trilogy on the Byzantine empire then you will know that it comes to an end in May 1453. This book focuses on that fateful day telling the story in an entertaining and absorbing manner. If you are a student of history or just and interested amateur like myself you will find this book excellent, I would recommend reading it along with Runciman's the Fall of Constantinople for a comprehensive overview of this climactic event in world history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Ball TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback
1453 and the fall of Constantinople is one of those pivotal moments in history, now sadly too neglected and forgotten, to which we owe much of the modern conflict between East and West, between Islam and Christianity. This conflict is often ascribed to the legacy of the Crusades and the attempt by the Western Christian nations of Europe to reclaim Jerusalem from the 'Saracens'. But in reality the fall of Constantinople had far more lasting repercussions, heralding as it did the spread of the Ottoman Empire into Europe, a steady overwhelming conquest that was not halted until the failed siege of Vienna in 1526 and did not end until the collapse of the Empire in 1923.

To Sultan Mehmed I Constantinople heralded more than just the last outpost of Eastern Christianity, the last remnant of the Roman Empire. It was a symbol of Ottoman supremacy, the city that was destined to form the centre of the Empire, a city prophesied to fall to Islamic might by no less than Muhammed himself, besieged and fought over for 650 years. In the siege and conquest of Constantinople more was at stake than just the fate of one city.

Considering the relative brevity of this book, Roger Crowley admirably establishes the history and context of both Constantinople and the fledging Ottoman Empire. He paints a picture of a city lost in fading grandeur, long since fallen from the height of its power and glory, a city and an empire than never really recovered from its sacking by Christian crusaders during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. It was a city riven by the schism between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and that hastily papered-over rift was largely to blame for the paltry forces available to the Emperor Constantine XI and why so little aid was forthcoming from the Pope and the West.
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