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The Fall of Constantinople 1453
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The Fall of Constantinople 1453

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  553 ratings  ·  53 reviews
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.
Paperback, 270 pages
Published September 13th 1990 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1965)
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Eclipses anything else I've read on the subject. Beautifully written account of fall of (what was left of) Byzantium, despite gallant defense by Greeks, Italians (and a lone Scot). Heartbreaking. Excellent preface, appendices, notes, bibliography, index, with some interesting plates and drawings.
Gustav Klimt
A beautiful book, and extremely valuable as long as you are aware of its limitations. Runciman believed in the art of turning history into readable narrative--something he does with remarkable skill--and the result is a book that is powerful and engrossing, but which, by necessity, must elide, simplify, and generally stick to a single narrative perspective.

If you are a serious scholar, you already know that Runciman is more of a starting point than the final word, and recent work can tell you a
Perhaps this book has been given too much praise for too long. It is still a very good book, but all the same, it is somewhat overrated.

The good parts include its readability, solid narrative account and source criticism. The bad parts include its age and a large focus on Byzantium and the west. A number of academic discoveries have taken place since the publishing of this book, and they are not included, probably due to Sir Runciman's passing. However, it is by now quite dated, and had at least
Andrew Schirmer
An extraordinarily cogent narrative, a page-turner that doesn't wear its erudition on its sleeve. One star deducted for the obvious and necessary concessions to length and narrative. Two hundred pages of intricate diplomacy, battle, and fallout only to conclude that 1453 wasn't really important in the grand scheme. They don't make 'em like they used to.
I picked this book up as a result of being mentioned in Volume 2 of "Your Face Tomorrow". It's a pretty good book, but probably a little difficult for anyone not already reasonably versed in the Byzantine Empire. The cast of characters is enormous, esp for a book of only 191 pages. Also, the geography isn't foremost in my mind, as I am a product of the US public school system. If you're like me, be prepared for a little wikipedia research.

The writing is pretty solid, but one annoying tick is Run
The Fall of Constinonple is in my top 5 saddest historical events. Runciman does an excellent job covering the later history of the Byzantine Empire and the rise of the Islamic forces in the Middle East. He presents all the various ways that the East tried to save themselves--even going so far as to reunify with the Roman Catholic Church. However, Western leaders and peoples were all focused in their own backyards with their own problems as the last of the Roman Empire fell to the Turks.

A timely
Kihiroshi Hsieh
This short book about the final moment of the Eastern Roman empire is pretty touching. My only objection has been the subject is a little too narrow, it'd have been more interesting if it was about the entire history of the Byzantine, nonetheless, I give it 3.5/5 stars for clarity and pathos. The Turks come out of this book pretty barbaric, it should be born in mind that this was an era where witches and heretics were burning on the stake, so while we admire the roman heroism, try not to let cul ...more
1) ''One night, about the second watch, [the Sultan] suddenly ordered Halil to be brought before him. The old vizier came trembling, fearing to hear of his dismissal. To appease his master he brought with him a dish hastily filled with gold coins. 'What is this, my teacher?' asked the Sultan. Halil murmured that it was customary for ministers summoned suddenly to the Presence to bring gifts with them. Mehmet brushed the dish aside. He had no use for such gifts. 'Only one thing I want,' he cried. ...more
A moving and brilliant account, exceedingly well-written, of the fall of the great city of Greek Rome, perhaps the greatest disaster for Christianity since the Crucifixion. Alas, this episode has not yet been redeemed by a resurrection -- not yet.

Western Christians do not know this history as they should: this slim volume is a good place to start.
yep, great!
This is the best of four 'classic' tales that I have read of the last days of Constantinople. Historical, rigorous, lifelike in its vividness of people and situations 555 years ago.
Mel Foster
I first read this book about 25 years ago, and looked it up again. It was as good as I remembered! Runciman does a good job explaining the historical events as well as the legends and superstitions--the hagiographic interpretation--that they have been given. He includes an appendix critiquing all the important primary source documents. I was very intrigued by his discussion of the role of the akritai, the frontier militia fighters, in the decline of Byzantium and the rise of the Ottomans (ch 2). ...more
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
(in Spanish) Verdadero raudal de información y aventuras, de naciones y religiones enfrentadas, de civilizaciones en ascenso -la otomana- a través del imperialismo y la guerra, y de otras en descenso -la cristiana- a través de la división ortodoxa y católica y de rivalidades nacionales mil. Sobre todas las facetas colectivas de pueblos y religiones emerge glorioso el papel individual de algunos hombres, los líderes. Conoceremos a los voluntarios desplazados a Constantinopla a defender a la ciuda ...more
Bill Ward
Mar 09, 2010 Bill Ward marked it as to-read
Shelves: wishlist
Thanks to a great post by Sheldon Campbell on the Al Stewart Friends mailing list, I am now compelled to read this book. Quoth he:

But the one piece of history I've made a big deal about almost entirely because of Al is The Fall of Constantinople (TFoC) in 1453, inspired by the song, of course. It wasn't really my period. Though back in the day I read military history from Mesopotamia to Midway, the middle ages seemed like a real backwater in strategic and tactical terms, and I just wasn't that i
Matthew Hall

This reminds me of the peculiar links between portions of my reading habits. I am still pondering finishing Tim Powers' Drawing of the Dark, which puts a mystical twist on the fall of Constantinople-- probably what turned me on to this, besides my trivia host-- but in it, I find names from other books I'm reading (Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania, which namedrops the Brankovich family and Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve, which deals with the 15th century rediscovery of Lucreti
Post-modernist historians will tell you that there are no such things as historical turning points or watersheds, but (as in so many other things) they are mistaken, and one of history's great watersheds is the the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks. This was the final chapter of classical European civilization and the beginning of the greatness of the Ottoman Empire. Certainly those who witnessed or were contemporaries thought this event an earth-shattering occurrence, for good or ...more
Victor Sabau
Very good narrative style, thoroughly readable even for non-scholars. Although apparently recent historical research has proven that some of Runciman's data is incorrect, that is just minor aspects, that don't take away anything from this outstanding work.
Belal Khan
The good: Flows well and gives a good picture of the political and economic situation of the Romans, Russians, Byz, and Turks.

The bad: Title can infer it's about the fall of Constantinople. But, it starts well before the conquest and goes into the 1500s with the rise of Spanish and Russian rule. Not objective at all. Always referring to Muslims as "infidels," which was common for old history told from a Christian POV. I don't know where author get some of his info from. Several instances of aut
Fine prose and, if the names come heavy at times, a narrative the moves relentlessly toward the Fall. Good background and overview of the siege and its aftermath.
Runciman's work is a masterpiece; One of the finest books on the subject I have read. His narrative hangs together in a fluid and detailed manner than many other books on the subject lack. His command of the historical setting and full mastery of detailed nuance places him far and above many more modern books on the subject. At no time is the reader lost or confused, his chronology is tightly constructed and easy to follow. The wealth of detail is aided by sagely chosen maps and illustrations th ...more
Steven Runciman is an excellent authority on the Levant during the first half of the second millenium. This is a well written, enjoyable history of the fall of the Byzantine Empire. What I like about Runciman is that he reports fairly, showing flaws and strengths of both sides of the fight. He is also good at bringing out the character of the parties involved, where the record is there for him to draw on. Also highly recommended is his three volume history of the Crusades.
This history on the Fall of Constantinople had a very slow start, mainly because I was not familiar with all the names and places leading up to the main story line. Once the pre-fall history was established and the actual details of the fall of the city were underway, the book was riveting. It always amazes me what life, ware, and politics were like centuries before us. Were it not for the slow start, I would have given it 4 stars.
istanbul'un fethine dair nesnel bir değerlendirme. Okul kitaplarında öğretilen klişelerden (meleklerin cinsiyetini tartışan Bizanslılar, kardinal şapkası yerine Türk kavuğunu yeğleyen yöneticiler vs.) arındırılmış bir şekilde olay iki tarafın gözünden değerlendiren, herkesin hakkını teslim eden bir eser. Bizans ve haçlı seferleri uzmanı yazarın anlatımı oldukça akıcı.Tarih sevenlerin ilgisini çekecektir.
I have to say, for an older book, this is a complete joy to read. The history is related in an informative and, more importantly, entertaining way. The sing-song tale-telling of Runciman is a great way to convey the events leading up to, and even the fallout following, the fall of Constantinople. If you are at all interested in history of this era, I highly recommend this book.
Fascinating narrative. (I visited Istanbul four months ago, though, so being able to picture the places referenced probably added to the experience.)

Also, old-time history is awfully amusing. I like that Runciman gets sniffy about rumors that Byzantine intellectuals abandoned the city on the approach of the Turks. "No way! We totally kicked ass!"
Historical account and enticing narration wrapped into one delicious package. If you know nothing about the subject matter, you'll learn a lot from an expert historian, and if you know the subject matter well, you'll experience the events of the time as though you were there in person watching it all unfold.
I had to read this for an undergraduate history class in college and loved it. The section that describes what happened to the occupants of the city after the fall is very hard to get through, especially if you're a parent, but this is top quality history.
What is it about hopeless causes that can be so engrossing? Even tho the outcome was obvious, I found myself following the story to its bitter end, and admiring the participants on both sides of the conflict, and also despairing of them.
Nick Wallace
Colossal! Did you think that all those scenes of Helm's Deep and the Pelennor Fields were original? This is the story of the most intersting and consequential battles in history. Read and be blown away!
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A King's Scholar at Eton College, he was an exact contemporary and close friend of George Orwell. While there, they both studied French under Aldous Huxley. In 1921 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge as a history scholar and studied under J.B. Bury, becoming, as Runciman later commented, "his first, and only, student." At first the reclusive Bury tried to brush him off; then, when Runciman ment ...more
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