Second generation Greek Australian Billy Cotsis, has written a number of books including the acclaimed Many Faces of Hellenic Culture, Once upon a time in Crystal Palace and From Pyrrhus to Cyprus. Recently, he has added one more to his publishing list- 1453: Constantinople & the Immortal Rulers or there are no dogs here.
1453 is told as a story by the emperor’s secretary, George Sphrantzes, which includes a number of ‘first person’ accounts and flashbacks to other eras that impacted the Byzantine Empire. While this is based mostly on facts and stories that took place in 1453, it also includes drama, with the occasional sense of humour and romance added in.
Constantinople/Byzantium, one of the greatest cities in Greek history, became a shadow of its former self, due to civil wars and the betrayal of the Crusaders of 1204. Against the backdrop of a controversial ‘union’ of churches with the Vatican, the emperor must find a way to save his city, with just 8,000 soldiers, meagre resources and a sultan who could bring 120,000 fighters and his musical trumpets to the gates of Constantinople. Those gates and walls were bombarded and attacked over a period of six weeks, with twists and turns in the fortunes of both leaders throughout.
The brilliance of Emperor Constantine Paleologos, against the genius of Sultan Mehmet, two leaders who would define the fortunes of two significant empires; the millennium old Byzantine Empire and the growing Ottoman entity.
Add to the mix, the betrayal by some of the emperor’s allies, a life of successes and disasters including heartbreak in the arena of love, Constantine was steeled enough to handle a siege. Could the young sultan hold his resolve too? Was he ready to take on the experience of the emperor and the walls of Constantinople?
This is more than a tale of a siege. 1453, allows the reader to delve into some of the problems confronting the defenders, their bravery and their personalities. The charismatic Giustiniani and his soldiers from Chios and Genoa, the Venetians who stayed in the city, Orhan the Turkish prince and his followers who fought for the city, Grant the Scot who stood out with his unique appearance and humour, and a mysterious band of Cretans who simply had no idea how to lose.
This is far more than a Greeks vs Turks siege. It is about two empires representing multi-ethnicities, contrasting leaders who knew how to inspire their followers and a sub text of politics that was played out in Venice and the Vatican. A siege set on land and sea, it also highlights how some Christians fought with the sultan and how 700 Muslims also fought for the emperor.
For all those inside and outside the walls, their theatre was, the eternal city of Constantinople. H Stin Poli, which today is called Istanbul.
For copies of 1453: Constantinople and the Immortal Rulers, contact the Greek Bilingual Bookshop and amazon for those in the UK and the rest of the world.
You can follow Cotsis and his myriad projects at herculean