29. May 1453 -- the Imperial city of Constantinople fell to the ottoman Turks under the leadership of Sultan Mehmet the conqueror. It was the end of an old story, the 1100-year-old Byzantine civilization, and the beginning of the Moslem Turks' hegemony over Eastern Europe. But Constantinople fell hard and its conquest makes a story in itself. To his credit, this British historian has simply told the ""story,"" with not a disturbing footnote on the way, (but with ample notes, documentation and bibliography at the end to establish its scholarship). The rise of the Ottoman Turks and the decline of the last Christian Emperors of Byzantium are chronicled with the inevitable jumble of obscure names and places that usually puts the general reader off. But the story of the two-month siege itself is straight, exciting narrative. Outnumbered by some 80,000 to 7,000 men, the Christians fought with incredible valor. Against Turkish cannon and siege-engines, Constantine and his assorted Greek, Venetian and Genoese soldiers kept the walls of the city standing and the harbor of the Golden Horn protected. But Sultan Mehemet was obsessed, moving his whole fleet on wheels across land to take the Golden Horn. The city was taken -- and then, according to Islamic war laws, pillaged and looted for three days. At the end, Constantinople was dead, and a new and different world began. The author's straightforward historical narration, supposedly no longer fashionable, serves the book well and the siege itself is a stirring spectacular.