Book Review
Constantinople AD 717-18
Constantinople AD 717-18 – The Crucible of History
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]

This is a review by Randy L Harvey [HARV] of Constantinople AD 717-18 – The Crucible of History by author Si Sheppard and illustrator Graham Turner and series editor Marcus Cowper.

    The siege of Constantinople in 717-18 was the supreme crisis of Western civilization. Debilitated by decades of internal political turmoil, the Byzantine Empire was left reeling from the onslaught of Arabic expansion that was unleashed after the death of the prophet Muhammad. Jihadist armies had detached Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Carthage from imperial control and were in the process of imposing their ascendancy at sea. In 717, a massive Muslim invasion force led by the brother of the caliph himself arrived under Constantinople’s formidable Theodosian Walls, while the Arab fleet cruising offshore ensured the city remained cut off from the outside world. However, the fierce resistance inspired by Emperor Leo III, coupled with defections, hunger, disease, the harsh winter, deadly Greek Fire and Bulgar intervention would culminate in the siege being decisively broken. The Muslim advance was halted, the Byzantine Empire survived and Europe was granted a reprieve from which would ultimately evolve the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. This detailed and informative study reveals the events and implications of the siege, which proved to be of fundamental historical significance. **

Osprey Publications has released Constantinople AD 717-18 – The Crucible of History as Number 347 in their Campaign series. It is a soft cover book with 96 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs and color photographs, full color illustrations with accompanying black and white illustrations, detailed maps, 3-dimensional ‘birds-eye-views’, detailed captions and more. It has a 2020 copyright with a publication date of March 19, 2020 and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-3692-2. Detailing the command, strategies, tactics and battle experiences of the opposing forces throughout the crucial stages of each campaign between the Arab and Byzantine militaries facing each other during the fighting for Constantinople in 717 -718 AD.

    Origins of the Campaign
    - The High Tide of Jihad
    Opposing Commanders
    - Leo III
    - Maslama b. ‘Abd. al-Malik
    Opposing Forces and Plans
    - Arab
    - Byzantine
    The Siege of Constantinople, 717-18
    - The Ongoing Struggle
    - Conclusion


Author Si Sheppard covers the conflicts that took place in the battle for control of Constantinople in 717-18 AD. Si Sheppard gives a well detailed narration of each of the battles which, with the accompanying maps, helps place the reader at the battles and makes it easy for the reader to understand what took place and why. As well as providing information on the conflicts, Si Sheppard details leadership and organization of the armies, weapons and equipment used by both sides as well as the fighting techniques of the combatants and their successes and failures. Also provided are details of battlefield conditions and weather, conditions during the fighting and how it affected the soldiers and the outcome of the fighting, and other such details which provides a feeling of what the men were putting up with during the fighting to help the reader understand what took place from the overall picture down to the most minute details. The battles are all discussed from prior to the fighting, to the actions taken during the fighting and the actions and end results after the fighting had ceased. The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. As I read through the text, I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be a professional with their writing.

Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the conflicts that took place in the battle for control of Constantinople in 717-18 AD to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.


A total of 7 black and white photographs and 62 color photographs are included in this volume. The photographs range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs. Several of the photographs that were chosen for this book are from the author’s personal collection and are therefore are not photographs that are featured other titles that deal with the same subject matter which makes them unique. The photographs are clear and easily viewable which gives the reader a clear view of the historical buildings and locations and other such subjects. Some of the photographs are of period engravings and paintings and provide the reader with details of various weapons, gear and period uniforms and clothing. They also provide a good reference for coloring which can be used as a painting guide for modelers if so chosen. The images are obviously not always in scale and 100% accurate but I personally feel that they still do their job of providing information as there was obviously no photography equipment of any type back in that time period. So obviously, artists were free to use artistic interpretation when they created their paintings and illustrations. Author Si Sheppard stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to anyone interested in the conflicts that took place in the battle for control of Constantinople in 717-18 AD due to the details they contain.


There are 3 color illustrations and with 3 accompanying black and white illustrations by illustrator Graham Turner. Each of the color illustrations are accompanied by a black and white copy of the same illustration that describes the scene and points out and describes key areas of interest. The illustrations are very well done, nicely detailed and depict:

Plate A

Ambush of an Arab patrol
    A two-page action scene showing an Arab patrol under the command of Maslama b. ‘Abd. al-Malik crossing the Anatolian plateau in the spring of 716 and being watched by Byzantine troops waiting to ambush the enemy patrol.
Plate B

Greek Fire
    A two-page action scene showing Byzantine dromons, attacking ships of the Umayyad fleet in the Bosporus on September 3, 717. The dromon in the foreground is setting a Umayyad vessel on fire using “Greek Fire”. A portion of this illustration is also seen on the front cover of this book.

Plate C

The Bitter Winter, 717/718
    A two-page action scene showing a Bulgar raiding party attacking bedraggled Arabs who are in the snow-covered forest foraging and scavenging for food.


The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown. The captions go into very specific detail as to the specific individuals shown, types weapons, locations, dates and other such pertinent information. I was very impressed by Si Sheppard’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions that I have seen that are very brief and lacking in detail and fail to explain the accompanying illustration properly.


There are 6 color maps included in this volume and they are of:
    - The ascent of Islam, 622-750/51
    - Anatolia, 640-715
    - Anatolia, 715-18
    - Constantinople’s century of sieges, 626-718
    - The ongoing struggle, 717-1025
    - What if Constantinople had fallen? The year 900


There are two 3-dimensional ‘bird’s-eye-view’ maps included in this volume and they are of:

Constantinople, 717
- The events around Constantinople, summer-winter, 717

Constantinople, 718
- The events around Constantinople, spring-late summer, 718


There are 2 individual profiles included in this volume and they provide information on:
    - Leo III
    - Maslama b. ‘Abd. al-Malik


There are 2 notes included in this volume and they are:

- Artist’s Note
- Dedication


There are 2 informational charts included in this volume and they are of:

- Key to military symbols
- Key to unit identification


London-born Simon “Si” Sheppard completed his Bachelors and Masters degrees and graduated with an MA Distinction from the University of Wellington in New Zealand before receiving his doctorate from John Hopkins University in Political Science and was winner of the Sir Desmond Todd Award for best thesis in a political subject. Simon Sheppard is a published author and has written several titles for Osprey focusing on the interrelationship between geography, technology, and strategy. He has also contributed a number of articles to leading journals, magazines and newspapers and is currently an associate professor of political science and international relations at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York.


Graham Turner is a leading historical artist, specializing in the medieval period. He has illustrated numerous titles for Osprey, covering a wide variety of subjects from the dress of the 10th-century armies of the Caliphates, through the action of bloody medieval battles, to the daily life of the British Redcoat of the late 18th century. The son of the illustrator Michael Turner, Graham lives and works in Buckinghamshire, UK.

As with the other Osprey Publishing products this is a very nice reference book that contains a well written informative text, many subject specific photographs and illustrations, well detailed captions and more, all detailing the conflicts that took place in the battle for control of Constantinople in 717-18 AD. As with the other Osprey Publishing titles, I would have no hesitation to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal reference library.

Osprey Publishing also offers Constantinople AD 717–18 - The Crucible of History as:

eBook (ePub) ISBN: 978-1-4728-3693-9


eBook (PDF) ISBN: 978-1-4728-3690-8

Osprey Publishing’s Constantinople AD 717–18 - The Crucible of History is also available as a Kindle version through Amazon.


UK £15.99 / US $24.00 / CAN $32.50

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here on the KitMaker Network when you make your purchase. Thank you.

** Quoted from the back cover of the book.
Highs: Well written text and captions. Subject specific photographs and illustrations.
Lows: Nothing to mention.
Verdict: An excellent volume by Osprey Publishing. Definitely beneficial to the Byzantine and Arab militaries enthusiast and historian.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: Campaign 347
  PUBLISHED: Nov 09, 2020
  NATIONALITY: Turkey / Türkçe

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.


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