Clinging to a rugged hillside in the lush valley of Sparta lies Mistra, one of the most dramatically beautiful Byzantine cities in Greece, a place steeped in history, myth and romance. Following the Frankish conquest of the Peloponnese in the 13th century, William II of Villehardouin built a great castle on a hill near Sparta that later came to be known as Mistra. Ten years later, in a battle in northern Greece, Villehardouin was defeated and captured by the Byzantine Emperor. The terms for his release included giving Mistra to the Byzantine Greeks. Under their rule, the city flourished, harbouring the people of Sparta during the wars between the Franks and the Greeks, and eventually became the capital of the Peloponnese. It developed into a centre of learning and the arts and was a focal point for the cultural development of Europe. Mistra fell to the, Ottomans when the Byzantine empire collapsed, was later half-destroyed by the Albanians in the 18th century and finally devastated by Ibrahim Pasha during the Greek War of Independence. Sir Steven Runciman, one of the most distinguished historians of the Byzantine period, travelled to Mistra on numerous occasions and became enchanted with the place. Now published in paperback for the first time, Lost City of Byzantium tells the story of this once-great city - its rise and fall and its place in the history of the Peloponnese and the Byzantine empire.
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