The Fall of Constantinople, 1453 / Edition 1by Steven Runciman
Pub. Date: 09/28/1990
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
This classic account shows how the fall of Constantinople in May 1453, after a siege of several weeks, came as a bitter shock to Western Christendom. The city's plight had been neglected, and negligible help was sent in this crisis. To the Turks, victory not only brought a new imperial capital, but guaranteed that their empire would last. To the Greeks, the conquest meant the end of the civilisation of Byzantium, and led to the exodus of scholars stimulating the tremendous expansion of Greek studies in the European Renaissance.
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The Fall of Constantinople 1453 by Steven Runciman is one of the better perspectives that I have read in Byzantine studies for the following reasons: His accounts of the Fall of Constantinople is an incredible journey through the history that leads to the final fall of the Roman Empire. He proves his accounting of the events by his, well researched, recreation of the events and the individuals involved that lead to the city¡¦s conquest by the Ottoman Turks. He seems to prove his point over and over again by reaching back into history and connecting with the actual eyewitnesses of the account. In this, complex, tale of the fall of Constantinople Runciman takes you step by step not only through the history of the late Byzantine Empire, Turkish tribes and the western powers involved, but he introduces the reader to all the personalities involved and reveals both their strengths and weakness. Systematically he vividly directs the reader into the various calamities and religious strife between the east and west. As well as the political intrigues that not only tore apart the Byzantine Empire, but also weakened the invading Turks and even postponed the fall of Constantinople for many years, and helps reveal his views on the underlying causes of Constantinople¡¦s fall. The whole account is well written and researched. He makes a very good attempt to remain objective and keep personal opinions to himself. Runciman provides excellent documentation of his sources and which source is more accurate than others. The account of the siege reads more like a novel, but without losing any of its historical accuracy. The author paints a very colorful picture, in words, of the final siege of the city and the heroism of the Greeks, their fears and how their allies such as the Venetians and Genoese stayed unified during the battle. Runciman reveals the bravery of Emperor Constantine XI, the last Roman Emperor, by telling of his refusal to flee and his determination to fight till he died as well as showing the spirit of the Greeks and their refusal to abandon their emperor, Christ¡¦s representative on Earth. The way Runciman revealed the weaknesses of the besieging Ottoman Turks adds more realism to his account. His concluding paragraph about Constantine XI as he stood at the bastion of the cities wall and fought till the swords of the Turks brought him down, reflects strongly the Greek spirit for freedom that is still evident today. The fact the Runciman, not only, clearly reveals his sources, but in the index he points out which of the sources of more reliable than others and as to whether they were eye witnesses, or just heard of the account from survivors. He also reveals whether the source was a contemporary of the event or not and which ones can be trusted. Runciman provides a well-documented bibliography and endnote about all of his sources, which include a number of the manuscripts that are written in Latin and Greek as well as Slavic and Turkish. Each of his end notes provide a brief abstract about who the source is and the text that comes from it and what language it is written in. The abstract provides the title of the source and the page number and then a brief account such as: Col. 934, ¡§accuses the Greeks of hoarding their money.¡¨ Each of these abstracts gives an account of who and where the information is coming from. The Fall of Constantinople is so clearly written that I would recommend any of Steve Runciman¡¦s books for pleasure reading or as a good resource for historical research.