Constantinople : City of the World's Desire, 1453-1924

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The only city situated on two continents, Constantinople was both meeting place and battlefield. In this remarkable study, Philip Mansel richly describes the city as the capital of the Ottoman sultans, dominating an empire that at its height stretched from Morocco to Russia and from the Danube to the Persian Gulf. Beginning his story in 1453 with the triumphant entry of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, Mansel charts the dramtic influence of several wealthy dynasties through to the final fall of Constantinople to the Turkish Republic in 1924. "Constantinople" brings to life a world now lost forever and records the history of what was indeed "the city of the world's desire" -- irrestible, insidious, capable of driving its inhabitants to extremes of grandeur, piety, or more

Product details

  • Paperback | 544 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 38mm | 424g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • 16pp b&w illustrations
  • 0140262466
  • 9780140262469

Review Text

The cultural history of a fascinating city. Constantinople has long occupied a special place in the imagination of the West, viewed as a city of immense wealth, power, mystery, and decadence. Mansel (Sultans in Splendor: The Last Years of the Ottoman World, not reviewed) offers an intimate and exhaustive account intimately tied to the rise of the Ottoman dynasty, picking up the city's history after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. He convincingly argues that the ancient city cannot be understood without reference to the Ottomans and that the interaction of the two produced "the only capital to function at every level: Political, military, naval, religious (both Muslim and Christian), economic, cultural, and gastronomic." Now known as Istanbul, it has been called the New Rome as well as the New Jerusalem; the "City of Saints"; the "House of State"; the "Gate of Happiness"; the "Eye of the World"; and "Refuge of the Universe." Situated in a spot making it a natural bridge between East and West, it has attracted merchants, mercenaries, and missionaries, with all the attendant consequences. Mansel sees the city - because of its unique site and its long history as the capital of two great empires - as "a natural object of desire," a place capable of generating extreme, even fantastic, actions in its inhabitants. In his treatment, Constantinople emerges as a worthy challenger to Venice and Paris, the cities most often seen as offering unique mixtures of style and substance. And like those cities, Constantinople is a feast for the senses, especially the eyes. Lavish illustrations and Mansel's colorful descriptions attempt to bring some of the voluptuousness of life in the city to the reader. Thoroughly documented, this is a splendid introduction to one of the first truly cosmopolitan cities. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

263 ratings
3.87 out of 5 stars
5 26% (69)
4 44% (115)
3 23% (61)
2 5% (12)
1 2% (6)
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