Tag Archives: Constantinople

… your brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont… They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I beseech you as Christ’s heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends… Urban II

The Grand Turk : Sultan Mehmet II – conqueror of Constantinople, master of an empire  John Freely Hardcover.  xvii, 265 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., maps, ports. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Sultan Mehmet II, known to his countrymen as “the Conqueror” and to much of Europe as “the Terror of the World,” was once Europe’s most feared and powerful ruler. Freely brings to life this eastern hero of one of the least known histories in the west.

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Mehmet was barely twenty-one when he conquered Byzantine Constantinople, which he decimated into Istanbul and the capital of his mighty empire. Mehmet reigned for thirty years, during which time his armies extended the borders of his empire halfway across Asia Minor and as far into Europe as Hungary and Italy. Three popes called for crusades against him as Christian Europe came face to face with a ruthless new Muslim empire.

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Revered by the Turks and seen as a brutal tyrant by the West, Mehmet was an accomplished military leader as well as a renaissance prince. His court housed Persian and Turkish poets, Arab and Greek astronomers, and Italian scholars and artists – many, if not most, enslaved as the spoils of war. In the first biography of Mehmet in thirty years, Freely finds nothing but praise as he whitewashes this tyrant attempting to illuminate a man – and not a monster – behind the myths.

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Comments Off on … your brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont… They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I beseech you as Christ’s heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends… Urban II

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take every precaution and abandon all fear… Mary Hall

How to climb Mt. Blanc in a skirt : a handbook for the lady adventurer  Mick Conefrey  New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2011  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. x, 244 p. : ill. ; 22 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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  • Which explorer found the lost site of Jesus’ first miracle?
  • Who was first to the top of the highest mountain in Peru?
  • Who was the first Westerner to visit the Ottoman harem in Constantinople?
  • Who held the world record as the only person to fly from Britain to Australia for 44 years?

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You’ll find the answers to these questions and more in Mick Conefrey’s book (a hint: none of them had beards).

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In 1870, New York mountaineer Meta Brevoort climbed Mt. Blanc in a hoop skirt. Pausing at the summit only long enough to drink a glass of champagne and dance the quadrille with her alpine guides, she marched back down the mountain and into history as one of the first female mountain explorers.

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Here, Mick Conefrey weaves together tips, how-tos, anecdotes, and eccentric lists to tell the amazing stories of history’s great female explorers — women who were just as fascinating and inspiring as all the Shackletons, Mallorys, and Livingstones. Most were brave, some were reckless, and all were fascinating.

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From Fanny Bullock Workman, who was photographed on top of a mountain pass in the Karakoram, holding up a banner calling for “Votes for Women” to Mary Hall, the Victorian world traveler, whose motto was, “take every precaution and abandon all fear,” How to Climb Mt. Blanc in a Skirt is uproariously funny and occasionally downright strange.

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Warriors who hear my voice, you who will go to war, rejoice … Arm yourselves with the sword of the Maccabees and go to defend the house of Israel who is the daughter of the Lord of Armies… Urban II

Recently we listed a book that maintained that the purpose of Columbus’ voyage was in search of new fishing grounds to satisfy the needs of the practises of fasting and abstinence that were part of Europe’s culture at the time. Now comes a book that maintains that his goal was to help finance a new crusade to reclaim the Holy Land.  Both books offer convincing arguments based on sound research and there is nothing in either book that precludes the thesis of the other. What we are left with is two studies of different facets of a historical era both of which confirm the dominance of a Christian Europe that had not yet – in spite of numerous and serious reversals – surrendered its responsibilities to and for the Faith.

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Two of the practises that may have had the most influence on Columbus – that are almost entirely missing from the modern tradition – are first, the pilgrimage and second, the crusade. The following is one of the canons enacted under King Edgar (959-75) It is a deep penitence that a layman lay aside his weapons and travel far barefoot and nowhere pass a second night and fast and watch much and pray fervently, by day and by night and willingly undergo fatigue and be so squalid that iron come not on hair or on nail. The pilgrimage to Santiago Matamoras [literaly, St. James kill the moors!] became the greatest Spanish pilgrimage of the age.

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The second great force – crusade – announced as Deus le Volt! [God wills it!] was on the decline in Columbus’ Europe since they were on the defensive against muslim invasions and would be for most of the next two hundred years. However if the practical reality was a non-starter the idea of redeeming the Holy Lands was still a desired reality. Since the Middle Ages the meaning of crusade has been extended to include all wars undertaken in pursuance of a vow, and directed against infidels, i.e. against mohammedans, pagans, heretics, or those under the ban of excommunication.

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The idea of the crusade corresponds to a political conception which was realized in Christendom that supposes a union of all peoples and sovereigns under the direction of the Church. All crusades were announced by preaching. After pronouncing a solemn vow, each warrior received a cross from the hands of the pope or his legates, and was thenceforth considered a soldier of the Church. Crusaders were also granted indulgences and temporal privileges such as exemption from civil jurisdiction, inviolability of persons and lands so that the interests of the Church and the interests of the crusader became difficult to distinguish.

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Columbus and the quest for Jerusalem  Carol Delaney  New York : Free Press, 2011  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xvi, 319 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm.  Includes bibliographical references (p. [253]-304) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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The dominant understanding of Christopher Columbus holds him responsible for almost everything that went wrong in the New World. This new book radically challenges that interpretation of the man and his mission. Delaney argues that he was inspired to find a western route to the Orient not only to obtain vast sums of gold for the Spanish Crown but primarily to help fund a new crusade to take Jerusalem from the Muslims — a goal that sustained him until the day he died. Delaney reveals Columbus as a man of deep passion, patience, and religious conviction.

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Delaney sets the stage by describing the tumultuous events that had beset Europe in the years leading up to Columbus’s birth — the failure of multiple crusades to keep Jerusalem in Christian hands; the devastation of the Black Plague; and, just two years after his birth, the sacking of Constantinople by the Ottomans barred Christians from the trade route to the East AND the pilgrimage route to Jerusalem. Columbus’s belief that he was destined to play a decisive role in the retaking of Jerusalem was the force that drove him to petition the Spanish monarchy to fund his journey, even in the face of ridicule about his idea of sailing west to reach the East.

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Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem is based on extensive archival research, trips to Spain and Italy to visit important sites in Columbus’s life story, and a close reading of writings from his day. It recounts the drama of the four voyages, bringing the trials of ocean navigation vividly to life and showing Columbus for the master navigator that he was.

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Delaney offers not an apologist’s take, but a clear-eyed, thought-provoking, and timely reappraisal of the man and his legacy. She depicts him as a thoughtful interpreter of the native cultures that he and his men encountered, and unfolds the tragic story of how his initial attempts to establish good relations with the natives turned badly sour, culminating in his being brought back to Spain as a prisoner in chains.

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Putting Columbus back into the context of his times, rather than viewing him through the prism of present-day perspectives on colonial conquests, Delaney shows him to have been neither a greedy imperialist nor a quixotic adventurer, as he has lately been depicted, but a man driven by an abiding religious passion.

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Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee, And was the safeguard of the West… William Wordsworth

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The horses of St Mark’s: a story of triumph in Byzantium, Paris and Venice New York, Overlook Press, 2010 Charles Freeman Bronze sculpture, Classical  Italy  Venice; Europe  History; Horses of San Marco  History Hardcover. 1st. American ed. and printing.  xiv, 298 p.: ill., ports.; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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The Horses of St. Mark’s in Venice are among art’s finest creations — and certainly one with a story like no other. Charles Freeman explores the mysterious origin of the statues and their turbulent movements through Europe over the centuries: in Constantinople, at both its founding and sacking in the Fourth Crusade; in Venice, at both the height of its greatness and fall in 1797; in the Paris of Napoleon, and the revolutions of 1848; and back in Venice. In this book, Freeman shows how the horses came to stand at the heart of European history time and time again.

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Comments Off on Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee, And was the safeguard of the West… William Wordsworth

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A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it… Gilbert Keith Chesterton

For a thousand years Christianity in the east protected the west from the worst ravages of the muslim world until the last knight of Christendom drove them back from the door of Vienna. From then we have been in a holding pattern keeping them at bay using the Balkans as a buffer until we decided to forfeit not only the faith but also the heritage of our fathers in search of impartiality, which is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance. The mosaics that illustrate this entry are from the first thousand years of the Hagia Sofia – those that were not removed or plastered over or replaced by mihrab, minbar, and minarets during its last seven hundred years use as a mosque. Will St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Paul’s in London and even Lakewood Church in Houston have to become mosques too?

Lost to the West : the forgotten Byzantine Empire that rescued Western civilization New York : Crown Publishers, c 2009 Lars Brownworth Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xviii, 329 p.: maps; 25 cm. Maps on lining papers. Includes bibliographical references (p. 305-307) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In a question as old as civilization is the state subject to God or is He subject to the state - the very quality of human life depends on the answer being the former rather than the latter.

In a question as old as civilization is the state subject to God or is He subject to the state – the very quality of human life depends on the answer being the former rather than the latter.

In AD 476 the Roman Empire fell – or rather, its western half did. Its eastern half, which would come to be known as the Byzantine Empire, would endure and often flourish for another eleven centuries. Though its capital would move to Constantinople, its citizens referred to themselves as Roman for the entire duration of the empire’s existence. Indeed, so did its neighbors, allies, and enemies: When the Turkish Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople in 1453, he took the title Caesar of Rome, placing himself in a direct line that led back to Augustus.

constant01For far too many people today the story of the Byzantine civilization is something of a void. Yet for more than a millennium, Byzantium reigned as the glittering seat of Christian civilization. When Europe fell into the chaos of disunion, Byzantium held fast against Muslim expansion, keeping Christianity alive. When literacy retreated behind monastery walls in the West, Byzantium made primary education available to both sexes. Students debated the merits of Plato and Aristotle and commonly committed the entirety of Homer’s Iliad to memory.

constant02Streams of wealth flowed into Constantinople, making possible unprecedented wonders of art and architecture, from fabulous jeweled mosaics and other iconography to the great church known as the Hagia Sophia that was a vision of heaven on earth. The dome of the Great Palace stood nearly two hundred feet high and stretched over four acres, and the city’s population was more than twenty times that of London’s.

constant03From Constantine, who founded his eponymous city in the year 330, to Constantine XI, who valiantly fought the empire’s final battle more than a thousand years later, the emperors who ruled Byzantium enacted a saga of political intrigue and conquest as astonishing as anything in recorded history. Lost to the West is replete with stories of assassination, mass mutilation and execution, sexual scheming, ruthless grasping for power, and clashing armies that soaked battlefields with the blood of slain warriors numbering in the tens of thousands.

constant04Still, it was Byzantium that preserved for us today the great gifts of the classical world. Of the 55,000 ancient Greek texts in existence today, some 40,000 were transmitted to us by Byzantine scribes. And it was the Byzantine Empire that shielded Western Europe from invasion until it was ready to take its own place at the center of the world stage. Filled with unforgettable stories of emperors, generals, and religious patriarchs, as well as fascinating glimpses into the life of the ordinary citizen, Lost to the West reveals how much we owe to this empire that was the equal of any in its achievements, appetites, and enduring legacy.

Comments Off on A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it… Gilbert Keith Chesterton

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