Heat-stressed map of the Chesapeake Bay / Washington, DC region, as seen at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Looks like mudcracks, eh?
Similar stresses; similar strains.
So, I think I dropped a hint here that I was planning to travel to Turkey this summer. Lily and I will be there from the end of June until the middle of July. (And I’ll be going back in October for the Tectonic Crossroads conference.) In preparation for a trip like this, I enjoy doing some research and reading some books. There are a lot of books about Turkey, and I’ve got at least two more I want to get through before I go, but I wanted to tell you about one that I just finished.
It’s called 1453, and the author is Roger Crowley. The book is a nonfiction account of the battle for Constantinople in the titular year, just one among many attempts by Muslims to conquer this Christian enclave in their part of the world. Situated on a triangle of land between the Bosporus and the inlet called the “Golden Horn,” Constantinople has fended off many attacks over the years. In a position to control commerce between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the city was a fabled jewel: it inspired some men’s covetousness and other men’s wholehearted defense.
The geography of Constantinople protected it from assault on two sides due to sea (Sea of Marmara side + Golden Horn side), and the third side (facing west) was protected by several layers of defense: a moat, an outer wall, and a taller inner wall. For a thousand years, they had defended their city from outside aggressors. In the year 1453, the Byzantine empire (a.k.a. the “Greeks”) was defending Constantinople from the imperial advance of the Ottoman Empire (a.k.a. the “Turks”). Constantine XI was leader of the Byzantines; Mehmet II was sultan of the Ottomans. After a two-month siege, the Ottomans triumphed, and the city was sacked; its inhabitants enslaved or slaughtered. The city itself was transformed: The Cathedral of St. Sophia was remade as a Muslim mosque, the Hagia Sophia. The name “Constantinople” was replaced with “Islambol,” which became “Istanbul” with time.
It was a battle between two “great” world religions, with “great” in this case meaning “big.” Both prayed to their respective ideas of God, beseeching the deity that their cause triumph over their enemies’. Every time something positive happened to advance their cause, they sang the praises of their chosen deity. Of course, when things didn’t go their way, they did not infer that their deity had forsaken them (or that no deities were involved), but that they only needed to pray harder.
Powered by their deep religious faiths, they cut one another’s heads off, chopped one another into pieces, impaled one another on pikes. In addition, the raiding Muslims speared babies in Constantinople and raped women. (If it were Christians were to have attacked a Muslim stronghold instead, it seems clear that the “morals” would have led to similar depravity and atrocity in the other direction. That didn’t happen in 1453, since the Muslim army was all men, and the residents of Constantinople were mixed men, women, and children. For example, the Fourth Crusade, a group of warrior Christians, sacked Constantinople in 1204: this Christian attack on other Christians was the only previous occasion when the city had fallen to invaders. )
I came away from this book:
If you are at all into history, or at all into Turkey, read 1453. As a rule, I’m not into history, but I am very grateful that fellow Turkey traveler Greg Willis recommended this book to me. In return, I loaned him Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul: Memories and the City. I look forward to offering my review of that tome in the weeks to come.
If you like maps, you should go check out these images by photographer Eric Fischer. (via here) The different colors represent different modes of transportation: Black is walking (less than 7mph), red is bicycling or equivalent speed (less than 19mph), blue is motor vehicles on normal roads (less than 43mph); green is freeways or rapid transit.