1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam by Roger Crowley

By Roger Crowley

A gripping exploration of the autumn of Constantinople and its connection to the area we are living in today.

The fall of Constantinople in 1453 signaled a shift in historical past and the top of the Byzantium Empire. Roger Crowley's readable and finished account of the conflict among Mehmet II, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and Constantine XI, the 57th emperor of Byzantium, illuminates the interval in background that was once a precursor to the present clash among the West and the center East.

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Thus Mehmet now had a half-brother, younger than his own sons, who would be a possible rival for the throne. Meanwhile, Murat had been extending his domains in western Greece, where in 1449 he captured Arta. Then, accompanied by Mehmet, he led a successful expedition against the Albanian leader Skanderbeg, who was forced to give up most of his dominions to the sultan. Skanderbeg managed to hold on to the fortified mountain town of Kruje, which Murat, again accompanied by Mehmet, attacked in mid-May 1450.

During the winter of 1446-7 Murat regained the territory that Constantine had taken. Then the following year he launched a campaign against Skanderbeg, the Albanian leader, who was forced to abandon the Ottoman lands he had retaken and flee into the mountains, where for the next two decades he continued to fight against the Turks. Pope Nicholas V was elected to the papacy on 6 March 1447, succeeding Eugenius IV, and on 8 March of the following year, spurred on by John Hunyadi, he called for another crusade against the Turks.

At the same time, Murat’s forces expanded the Ottoman domains eastward and southward into Anatolia, conquering the Germiyan, Hamidid and Teke beyliks, the latter conquest including the Mediterranean port of Antalya. Murat’s army occupied Thessalonica in 1387 after a four-year siege, by which time the Ottomans controlled all of southern Macedonia. His capture of Niš in 1385 brought him into conflict with Prince Lazar of Serbia, who organised a Serbian-Kosovan-Bosnian alliance against the Turks.

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