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Constantinople Siege and Fall

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 28 December 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the siege of Constantinople in 1453. When Sultan Mehmet the Second rode into the city of Constantinople on a white horse in 1453, it marked the end of a thousand years of the Byzantine Empire. After holding out for 53 days, the city had fallen. And as one contemporary witness described it: “The blood flowed in the city like rainwater in the gutters after a sudden storm”. It was the end of the classical world and the crowning of an Ottoman Empire that would last until 1922.

Constantinople was a city worth fighting for – its position as a bridge between Europe and Asia and its triangular shape with a deep water port made it ideal both for trade and defence. It was also rumoured to harbour great wealth. Whoever conquered it would reap rewards both material and political.

Earlier attempts to capture the city had largely failed – so why did the Ottomans succeed this time? What difference did the advances in weaponry such as cannons make in the outcome of the battle? And what effect did the fall of Constantinople have on the rest of the Christian world?

With Roger Crowley, author and historian; Judith Herrin, Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King's College London; Colin Imber, formerly Reader in Turkish at Manchester University.

  • Further Reading

    Philip Mansel, Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, 1453-1924 (Penguin, 1997)

    Roger Crowley, Constantinople: The Last Great Siege, 1453 (Faber and Faber, 2006)

    Judith Herrin, The Fall of Constantinople – article in History Today magazine (Vol.53, June 2003)

    J. R. Melville Jones, The Fall of Constantinople 1453: Seven Contemporary Accounts (Amsterdam 1972)

    J. R. Jones, Nicolo Barbaro: A Diary of the Siege of Constantinople 1453 (New York 1969)

    Nestor-Iskander, The Tale of Constantinople (of Its Origin and Capture by the Turks in the Year 1453), translated and annotated by Walter K. Hanak and Marios Philippides (New Rochelle NY and Athens 1998)

    M. Philippides, The Fall of the Byzantine Empire: A Chronicle by George Sphrantzes 1401-7477 (Arnherst, 1980)

    Steven Runciman, The Fall of Constantinople 1453 (Cambridge 1965);

    Mark Bartusis, The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society, 1204-1453 (Philadelphia, 1992)

    John Freely , Istanbul: The Imperial City (Penguin)

    John Julius Norwich, A Shorter History of Byzantium (Penguin)

    Colin Imber, The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650 (Palgrave Macmillan)

    Jason Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire (Vintage)

Credits

Presenter
Melvyn BRAGG
Producer
Elaine LESTER

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