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1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West

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1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West [Hardcover]

Roger Crowley
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)

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Constantinople: The Last Great Siege 1453 Constantinople: The Last Great Siege 1453 4.5 out of 5 stars (188)
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Book Description

August 10, 2005
A gripping exploration of the fall of Constantinople and its connection to the world we live in today.

The fall of Constantinople in 1453 signaled a shift in history and the end of the Byzantium Empire. Roger Crowley's readable and comprehensive account of the battle between Mehmet II, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and Constantine XI, the 57th emperor of Byzantium, illuminates the period in history that was a precursor to the current conflict between the West and the Middle East.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On May 29, 1453, Ottoman forces, under the leadership of Mehmet II, concluded their long and bloody siege of Constantinople by storming the city and overtaking it. According to Crowley, who works in publishing in England;the Ottoman conquest of the city brought to an end centuries of conflict between the Byzantine Empire and Islam. In overwhelming detail and colorless prose, Crowley chronicles the story of an ancient city and its attraction to members of two major religions. Before Mehmet's conquest, Constantinople had faced various unsuccessful sieges, and Crowley faithfully records them. The most destructive events came between 1341 and 1371, when earthquakes and the Black Death devastated the city, turning it into a forlorn series of villages. Although the Byzantine capital recovered enough of its former glory to entice Mehmet to its walls, even he felt tremendous disappointment, finding the city didn't live up to its reputation. Crowley drones through the day-by-day events of Mehmet's siege and the results of the conquest. Perhaps the author's most instructive point, made by others as well, is that Mehmet turned the city into one where religious toleration and multiculturalism flourished. (Aug. 10)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Crowley's fascinating account...reads more likely lively fiction...The characters, led by Mohammed II, the young leader of the Ottoman Turks, and Constantine XI, the wearying 57th emperor of a weakening Byzantium, are drawn in great detail from historical source material to bring them to life on the page." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; First Edition first Printing edition (August 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401301916
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401301910
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #351,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews
151 of 164 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pivotal Moment in the History of a Great City October 28, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Byzantium. Constantinople. Istanbul. Intellectually, it is easy enough to remember that these three cities are in fact the same, sitting on the Bosphorus, straddling the border between Europe and the East. However, it is difficult to get a visceral feel for the fact that the current city of mosques and minarets was for over a millennia one of the centers of the Christian world. Fortunately, there is a book like 1453 to take us back and let us experience how such a transformation takes place.

In his book, Mr. Crowley takes us back to the year of the title, when Sultan Mehmet II, a man barely out of his teens but who has survived the intrigues that barred his way to the throne, lays siege to Constantinople. Despite the fact that the city has resisted sieges many times before thanks to its natural water defenses and ancient western wall, Mehmet is willing to take the risk. Constantine XI, the aging emperor who guards the city, is weak and his city and empire is only a shadow of its former glory. So, Mehmet gathers his armies and vassals and heads to the walls.

Overall, Mr. Crowley's descriptions of the siege are absorbing. He points out the very important advantages that Mehmet had over previous would-be conquerors: he brings cannon and a navy. The walls of Constantinople were impregnable to a classic mediaeval attack but the arrival of gunpowder to the West and the development of cannon made the walls vulnerable. Plus, no attacker had ever brought a navy to bear on the city before and its very existence cut off the possibility of resupplying the city, making a successful siege a possibility.

But Mehmet's victory was by no means assured and, in fact, he could have easily failed.
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152 of 172 people found the following review helpful
When I was a young Infantry officer, I recall a tactical instructor telling us that,"The best defence is only as good as the willingness of an enemy to make the necessary sacrifices to overcome it." I can think of few better examples of this principle than the Ottoman siege of Constantinople. I have read many books about this event and in my opinion "1453" by Roger Crowley is far-and-away the best. The book is chock-full of interesting facts about the siege and where the facts are unclear, Crowley (like Herodotus) gives us the opposing stories and lets us decide. In addition "1453" is a very readable, fast-paced history. It's one of the few history books I've read where I can honestly say I wished it was much longer. It's like an excellent novel but it's all true and a heartbreaking story to boot. I just wish I'd been able to read it before my visit to Istanbul earlier this year. I'd have kept it at my side.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Perspectives of one, earth-shattering event April 23, 2007
The historian brings people to life by telling the story of their historical times - illuminating them and their deeds, judiciously treating that which he is not certain of. The novelist brings history to life by telling the stories of the people who lived it - real and imagined, creatively (and judiciously, one hopes) filling in history's voids.

Further, as Napoleon said, "history is the agreed version of events by the victors." Before photographs and sound/picture recording, much of what is taken as historical fact can be disputed. With all that in mind, Roger Crowley has done a commendable job. What gives me the right to say so? Well, I have encountered the very same task!

I am a novelist and my first book, "The Lion of St. Mark (St. Martin's Press, 2005), was written before I read Roger Crowley's 1453. I only wish I had had it by my side when I was toiling over disputing sources as I wrote my fictional (but historically accurate, I trust) account of the great siege of Constantinople and what happened afterwards.

I appreciate his decision to go with his gut when versions of what happened irreconcilably collide and avoid the use "perhaps", "possibly", and "might have", which can drag historical story-telling to a crawl.

Crowley's style is highly readable and skillfully blends history with many illustrative anecdotes to bring the siege to life. Who could not feel the courage and fears of the Christians and the Ottomans as they fought and bled in the fosse and on the walls in their supreme struggle?

Like the old Mad Magazine's Spy vs. Spy, their contest presaged the modern-day technological battle in the Battle of the North Atlantic that saw the Allies and Germans constantly one-up each other as each strove to gain supremacy.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping story, well-told November 3, 2005
Although military history is one of my favorite subjects, books on military history often fall into one of two traps: either they lay out their subject in mind-numbingly dry detail, or they present an entertaining narrative at the expense of the facts. If you agree, then I can happily report that "1453" is a delightful surprise, for rarely do history books of any sort combine scholarship, good writing and a compelling story as well as this one. Roger Crowley weaves together a number of story lines - the Ottoman fixation with Constantinople, the various obstacles to cooperation between Byzantium and the West, and developments in military technology, to name a few - into a seamless narrative that moves forward as propulsively and inexorably as the Turkish advance on the great city itself. The writing is so good that even though I knew how the "story" would end, I found myself in suspense, as Crowley managed to convey a sense of immediacy and uncertainty about the final outcome until almost the very end. Despite the wealth of information provided (which is documented with endnotes), I also never found myself overwhelmed by data or bogged down in minutiae. Crowley unfolds the big picture clearly, yet without sacrificing detail about the various armies and personalities involved. Contrary to what a previous reviewer said, I also did not pick up any sense of pro-Islam or anti-Western bias. Crowley makes no attempt to gloss over Mehmet II's ruthlessness or the savage nature of the fighting on both sides. Constantine XI also comes across as one of the most sympathetic, if tragic, figures in the book. If you're at all interested in the fall of Constantinople, military history, or Islamic-Christian relations, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It's an epic story filled with memorable figures, and is unlikely to be better told than it is here.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 13 days ago by richard fuller
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware: Same book under different names
Beware! This book is exactly the same as "Constantinople: The Last Great Siege, 1453" by Roger Crowley. I bought both thinking that they were different. Read more
Published 13 days ago by YIPLIU
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting and enjoyable; I learned so much here
I really enjoyed this riveting account and could barely wait to pick it up once again after the mundane chores of my day were done. Looking forward to his other books.
Published 16 days ago by Rosso
4.0 out of 5 stars Read If You're Going to Istanbul
My son and I read the book on our way to Istanbul, and it was a terrific introduction. Definitely made a trip to walk the walls a necessity--a trek that is not that easy to do and... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bmore
5.0 out of 5 stars This book fills in many gaps in how history is ...
This book fills in many gaps in how history is taught in the west at school. It was very enlightening about Ottoman and Western Christian History. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kenneth John Conway
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very good book
Published 1 month ago by john montgomery
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful background and history regarding one of the great cities ...
Wonderful background and history regarding one of the great cities of the world and the competing campaigns to control it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by John Downs
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent review of the siege
I found this to be a fascinating review of the taking of Istanbul. What an amazing time period: the zenith of the Ottoman Empire, the schism between Catholics and Orthodoxy, the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jack V. Conway Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Volume in great conditions!
Don't miss this so interesting book about the fall of Constantinopla. Volume in great conditions!!
Published 2 months ago by Emilio J. López
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Well worth your time and effort if you are not intimately knowledgeable on the time and historical events. A very good read.
Published 2 months ago by Maggie G
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