The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans: Context and Consequences

The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans: Context and Consequences

The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans: Context and Consequences

The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans: Context and Consequences

Synopsis

The fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 marked the end of a thousand years of the Christian Roman Empire. Thereafter, world civilisation began a process of radical change. The West came to identify itself as Europe; the Russians were set on the path of autocracy; the Ottomans were transformed into a world power while the Greeks were left exiles in their own land. The loss of Constantinople created a void. How that void was to be filled is the subject of this book.

Michael Angold examines the context of late Byzantine civilisation and the cultural negotiation which allowed the city of Constantinople to survive for so long in the face of Ottoman power. He shows how the devastating impact of its fall lay at the centre of a series of interlocking historical patterns which marked this time of decisive change for the late medieval world.

This concise and original study will be essential reading for students and scholars of Byzantine and late medieval history, as well as anyone with an interest in this significant turning point in world history.

Excerpt

The fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 presents similar problems to those I encountered when writing about its previous fall in 1204 to the Venetians and the soldiers of the fourth crusade. Once again, I have avoided a conventional narrative; this time on the grounds that Sir Steven Runciman has made such an approach unnecessary. I have again preferred to concentrate on the historical significance of the event. Both 1204 and 1453 have come to be seen as turning points in history. If they were, then it was in very different ways. 1204 was one of those few events which changed the course of history. If anything illustrates the role of the contingent in history it is the story of the fourth crusade. When it set sail from Venice, its outcome was only ever the remotest of remote possibilities, but far more momentous were its consequences. It allowed the conquerors to dismantle the system of political control exercised from Constantinople and in doing so to destroy it as an imperial metropolis. In its place there emerged a commercial network dominated by Venice and Genoa, which ensured political fragmentation and condemned a restored Byzantine Empire to impotence. By way of contrast, the fall of the city in 1453 was long overdue and only gave clearer definition to the established fact of Ottoman supremacy. It meant among other things a final reversal of the consequences of 1204, for it put an end to Italian commercial domination and restored Constantinople to its role as an imperial metropolis, but now under Ottoman auspices. In the process, Byzantium ceased to be, which may explain why contemporary opinion found 1453 so shocking. It made far more of an impact than did the earlier fall of Constantinople. The destruction of Byzantium in 1453 marked the passing of an era in a way that the previous fall of the city had not. The crusaders may have crippled Byzantium and made its full recovery impossible, but they failed to destroy it. In a sense, they gave it a new lease on life, as Byzantine scholars and ecclesiastics sought in exile to preserve the essentials of Byzantine civilisation, which were threatened by the Latin occupation of Constantinople. It fuelled a Byzantine resurgence, which drove the Latins from . . .

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