Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Fall of Constantinople-1-May 29 1453

When the tragic hour struck, the emperor had only about 7000 men, including all foreign succour. Since March, 1453, the Turks, to the number of 200,000, had invested the city; the preceding year they had built on the Bosporus the redoubtable fortress of Rumeli-Hissar.

Their fleet also held the entrance to the Dardanelles, but was prevented from entering the Golden Horn by a strong iron chain that barred its mouth. But Mohammed II caused seventy of his ships to slide on greased planks behind Galata; in this way they entered the Golden Horn (22 April). He then cast across it a bridge of boats broad enough to allow the passage of five soldiers abreast, while his troops, constantly renewed, kept up without ceasing their attacks by land.

Eventually the defenders were exhausted by the toils of a continuous and hopeless conflict, while their ranks grew steadily thinner through death or wounds. The population gave no help and was content to taunt the Latins, while waiting for the miracle of Heaven that was to save them. Finally, 29 May, 1453, about 4 o'clock in the morning, a furious assault of the Turks broke down the walls and gates of the city, and the besiegers burst in from every side.

Emperor Constantine fell like a hero at the gate of St. Romanus. St. Sophia was immediately transformed into a mosque, and during three days the unhappy city was abandoned to unspeakable excesses of cruelty and debauchery.

The next year, at the demand of the sultan himself, Gennadius Scholarius, Rome's haughty adversary, was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople, and soon the Greek Church was reestablished, almost in its former position.

Thus was granted the sacrilegious prayer of so many Greeks, blinded by unreasoning hate, that henceforth, not the tiara, but the turban should rule in the city of Constantine. Even the name of the city was changed. The Turks call it officially (in Arabic) Der-es-Saadet, Door of Happiness, or (chiefly on coins) Konstantinieh. Their usual name for it is Stamboul, or rather Istamboul, a corruption of the Greek expression eis ten polin (pronounced stimboli), perhaps under the influence of a form, Islamboul, which could pass for "the city of Islam".

Most of the churches, like St. Sophia, were gradually converted into mosques. This was the fate of SS. Sergius and Bacchus -- a beautiful monument built by Justinian, commonly called "the little St. Sophia"; of the church of the monastery of Khora, whose splendid mosaics and pictures, mostly of the fourteenth century, are among the principal curiosities of the city; of the churches of the celebrated Pantocrator and Studium monasteries, etc.

Other churches were demolished and replaced by various buildings; thus the church of the Holy Apostles gave way to the great mosque built by the conquering Sultan Mohammed II. The imperial tombs in this church were violated; some of their gigantic red porphyry sarcophagi were taken to the church of St. Irene. The latter is the only church taken from the Greeks that has not been changed into a mosque or demolished; it became, and is yet an arsenal, or rather a museum of ancient weapons.



Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.

8:09 AM  

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