Constantinople under the banner of the Crusaders and of the Ottoman Empire by Minodora Perovici offers an incredibly erudite and well-informed history of this magnificent city that marks the transformations of entire civilizations during the medieval period. This book is also, clearly, a labor of love. Ms. Perovici relies upon primary texts–chansons de geste and chronicles by contemporaries (Ducas, Giorgio Sphrantzes, Laonic Chalcocondil, Geoffroy de Villehardouin and Pseudo-Phrantzes) to describe not only how the capital city of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and eventually Ottoman empires changed hands, but also the social and economic systems that made this city the heart of medieval Europe. The author also describes in detail the motivations of the Crusaders, and the complex system of vassalage, relying upon the words of chroniclers who followed the Crusades themselves. Ms. Perovici then traces the rise of this city during the 12th century, when it became the biggest and wealthiest in Europe. She also describes its conquest in 1261 by the Crusaders, under the leadership of Michael VIII Palaiologos and its ultimate fall to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. With the death of one civilization came the rise of another, as Constantinople, henceforth known as Istambul, became the capital of the Ottoman Empire. If I call Ms. Perovici’s historiography “a labor of love” it’s because her book combines an incredible breadth of knowledge, covering the fate of Constantinople throughout several centuries, with a great attention to detail. The book’s depth and breadth of knowledge stems from the author’s deep appreciation of the cultures which conquered and revived this great medieval city, and of the texts of the chroniclers who lived through its upheavals and transformations.
Claudia Moscovici, Literature Salon
Backcover description: “Constantinople under the banner of the Crusaders and of the Ottoman Empire” is a work that goes beyond the usual historical study because it is based on direct observation of historical facts described by the contemporary chroniclers themselves. They record the events that marked the course of history which they were familiar with directly and lived through. The French historian Geoffroy de Villehardouin participated directly in the fourth Crusade. He lived, side by side with the Crusaders, their longings, emotions, doubts, joys and difficulties, considering the conquest of Constatinople a big victory and completely forgetting the real goal of the Crusaders: the fight against the “infidels”. His chronicles, found at the Academy Library in French, was translated by the author (Minodora Perovici). So was a part of the French epic poetry (les chansons de geste) included in the text to explain the nature of feudal relations between Lords and their vassals, on which the formation of the Crusader armies were based and which shaped the foundation of the Latin states in the Orient. Those who lived through the tragedy of the Constantinople conquered by the Ottoman empire, the drama of the king and the devastation of the empire can be considered to be the real authors of this text. This book is based on a dialogue with the Byzantine chroniclers Ducas, Giorgio Sphrantzes, Laonic Chalcocondil and Pseudo-Phrantzes. Their narratives are truthful: although sometimes they’re dramatic, even picturesque, in the manner and style of the times. Conquered in 1204 by the Catholic Crusaders, Constantinople will be reconqured in 1261 by the Orthodox Byzantines, only to yield to the Ottoman Empire in 1453.”