Facsimile edition of the ms. of Critoboulos’ History of the Fall of Constantinople to be published

I have written before about the history of Kritoboulos of Imbros, which describes the sack of Constantinople in 1453.  The author was a Greek renegade who entered Turkish service.  The text was published in a critical edition in 1983. An English translation from an earlier edition exists by Charles Riggs.  From the latter I learn that:

The original manuscript of this valuable work is one of the treasures of the Seraglio Point Museum Library in Istanbul today, and it is carefully guarded as such. It was discovered in the Library in 1865, and five years later was transcribed by Herr Karl Mueller and printed in Paris in Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, Vol. V. The dedicatory Epistle to Mehmed was published separately by Tischendorf in 1870.

It seems that the Greek consul in Istanbul, Vasilis Bornovas, is an enterprising man who is interested in promoting the study of Greek in Istanbul.  According to this report, he started a school in Istanbul to teach Greek in 2009:

The General Consul of Greece in Istanbul Vasilis Bornovas, realized the Greek language and cultural interest by the Turks.  He opened a Greek language school in Sismanogleio Megaro, in Istanbul. According to the Greek Consul: “The first year of opening we had 50-60 students, but last year their number reached 200. This year we expect to have 500-600 students. As I am informed, Greeks express great interest about learning Turkish and in Greece there are 150 schools, while many people come to Istanbul in order to have lessons in TOMER (Turkish Language Learning Center)”.

From the website of the Canellopoulos Foundation here, I learn that he has now arranged for the publication of a photographic copy of the Istanbul manuscript, with Turkish facing translation, doubtless in the same cause of promoting mutual understanding.  The funding is mainly coming from this foundation, who are to be commended for such an interesting project.

The Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Foundation is contributing to the costs of publishing the Histories of Critoboulos of Imbros, in response to a proposal by Vasilis Bornovas, Embassy Attaché First Class and former Greek Consul General to Constantinople.

The book contains a Turkish translation of the historical writings of Critoboulos, and is expected to deepen understanding of the historical period of transition from the Byzantine to the Ottoman era.

I learned of all this today when I encountered a rather confused article here, which makes an announcement about this work.

An important manuscript was discovered in Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. … The manuscript found is of significant meaning, because it consists of information regarding the years before the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, but it also describes the early years after Constantinople was turned into Istanbul and became capital of Turkey.

The document belongs to Michael Critovoulos, a Greek politician, scholar and historian, who lived between 1410 and 1470. His birth-name was Kritopoulos, but he changed it to sound more ancient Greek-like.

He experienced the Siege and Fall of Constantinople and wrote about Mehmed II the Conqueror. … The chronicle of destruction and looting of the city by the Ottomans, in order to make it their capital, is also mentioned.

His book, according to the Turkish website Hubermonitor.com, was printed with the contribution of the Pavlos and Alexandra Kanellopoulos Foundation. This will be a bilingual issue, having the original manuscript and the Turkish translation by Aris Tsokonas on the one page and the colourful photocopy of the text on the other.

The consul is to be commended.  Fostering understanding is doubtless part of his job; but what an imaginative way to do this!  Long after all diplomatic endeavours have proven vain, and perhaps in centuries to come, when the names of Greece and Turkey have become merely a historical curiosity to some Chinese overlord of the world, the book that he made possible may transmit the work of Critoboulos to a remote future.

1 Response to “Facsimile edition of the ms. of Critoboulos’ History of the Fall of Constantinople to be published”


  1. sftommy

    Kudos to the consul. A few more schools like that and when the great Greek library is unearthed in Turkey they’ll be ready to share it!