chapter  1
24 Pages

The fall of Constantinople as a turning point

The fall of Constantinople is a story that has often been told. It is Sir Steven Runciman who tells the story best in his Fall of Constantinople 1453 , which is a consummate example of history as narrative, but even he was beginning to wonder whether the topic merited another book. 1 He did not think that over the details of the siege he had much to add to the account given by Sir Edwin Pears in his Destruction of the Greek Empire , which originally appeared in 1903, the year of Runciman’s birth. 2 Runciman’s hesitations have not prevented others from undertaking the retelling of the story of the fall of Constantinople. The most recent attempt by M. Philippides and W.K. Hanak is on a massive scale and provides a convincing and detailed reconstruction of the event. 3 It is not my intention to provide yet another narrative or to attempt another reconstruction. The focus of my interest will be on the historical signifi cance of the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. Was it one of history’s turning points? Such an approach will necessarily highlight its prehistory and its consequences, at the expense of the event itself. But it makes little sense to write about the fall of Constantinople without fi rst providing a brief sketch of those desperate days in April and May 1453.