A lot gets said and written about the fall of Constantinople, but, strangely, not much of that actually seems to be about … well, about the fall of Constantinople. It’s about the influx of Byzantine works into Central and Western Europe as a cause of the Renaissance, it’s about the effect of the loss of the tie with Greek Constantinople on Venice, or it’s about the Ottoman takeover of the Bosphorus as a cause of the Voyages of Discovery. Or it’s about the idea of Moscow as the Third Rome.
In this book, though, C C Humphreys tells the story of the siege of 1453, and the eventual fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans, through the eyes of a number of different people, some Greek and some Turkish. And one Scottish! That’s something else that’s very rare – if people do tell the story, it’s almost always from one viewpoint or another, and that in a very wholesale way – the great disaster or the great triumph. It’s an interesting approach, and he succeeds in being fair to both sides. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Istanbul twice, and, much as I like Turkey – especially its wonderful food!! – I do find it quite hard to get my head round the idea of 1453 as a great triumph, because it gets stuck in your head as the date of a great disaster! C C Humphreys says much the same, but that his ideas shifted as he got more and more into the story. All credit to him for that, and all credit to him for a very interesting novel.