1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West
By Roger Crowley
Published in 2005
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
This book is a chilling hour by hour account of the siege of Constantinople. Although the author has made up no details, it reads like historical fiction. He does a great job at explaining the key personalities involved in the siege such as the last emperor Constantine 11, Sultan Mehmed II, and survivors such as Cardinal Isodore of Kiev.
The fall of Constantinople, in 1453, is an incredibly important event. The last remnants of the Eastern Roman empire were wiped out, once and for all. Although Crowley does not bring this up, to me it marks the end of the middle ages and the beginning of the early modern period.
The siege of Constantinople witnessed remarkable acts of heroism on behalf of the defenders. A tiny force of a few thousand Greeks, Italians, and Slavs managed to hold off 130,000 Turkish troops for nearly three months. In the process, they managed to inflict massive casualties on the attackers.
The siege ended tragically. The sack of Constantinople in 1453 stands out as one of the most brutal sacks of the Middle Ages The civilian population was slaughtered, enslaved, raped, and decimated. Crowley gives many horrific and stunningly clear accounts of the wholesale destruction of the city.
I found the writing style to be incredibly engaging. It was a page turner, keeping me hooked the whole time. It also is very accessible to people who know little or nothing about history. This is the kind of book that anyone, at any level of historical learning, can appreciate. However, I do caution that many of the descriptions of the massacres can be very graphic.
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