Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Last Empire

Five hundred and fifty-seven years ago today the city of Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire, and the Byzantine Empire came to an end. The sack of Constantinople inaugurated centuries of brutal Islamic rule in southeastern Europe. Greece was finally liberated from the Ottomans in the 19th century, but to this day a small portion of Europe remains in Turkish hands, and the city of Istanbul — formerly Constantinople — remains a Turkish city.

Below is a guest-post about the fall of Constantinople by an author who writes under the pen name of Anestos Canelides. He has this to say about his essay:

I am half-Greek, and I wrote this as a memorial to those who fought in the epic battle against Islamic expansionism. I wrote it also as a memorial to the other Christians in the Balkans who lost so much to Islam. I have spent time in Istanbul, and I bear no hatred towards the modern Turks.

The Last Empire
1453: The Siege of Constantinople

by Anestos Canelides

On June 9th, 1453, three ships sailed into the harbor of Candia in Crete with a crew of mostly Cretan sailors. The sailors had arrived from Constantinople shortly after its fall to the Ottoman Turkish armies of Sultan Mehmet Bey. The Cretans had brought with them the tragic news about the fall of Constantinople to the armies of Islam, despite a heroic stand by the Greeks and their allies. The sudden news induced great anguish amongst the people of Crete and later the Christian west. The Ottoman conquest of the queen of cities had brought a tragic end to the Roman Empire, often referred to as the Byzantine Empire today. It was the final nail in the coffin of the center of the Byzantine world, but in turn it would bring about the rise of the Ottoman Empire, an Islamic state.

Constantinople was attacked from land and sea, but the land walls, known as the walls of Theodosius, had never been breached in their thousand-year history. In the same way that three hundred Spartans had defied the advancing armies of the Persian Empire, the citizens of Constantinople also stood heroically and defended their city against tyranny. It was both the Byzantine Greeks’ desire for freedom from enslavement, and the belief that God would miraculously save them from defeat, that led them to resist the Turks fiercely for almost two months.

Constantinople 1453

The Turks had sought to enter the city with a fanatic spirit because the Prophet, in the Qur’an, offered them a special place in paradise. Sultan Mehmet only mimicked the Prophet Muhammad when he said, “…even if some of us should die, as is natural in war, and meet our destined end, you know well from the Qur’an what the Prophet says, ‘that he who dies in battle shall dine whole in body with Mahomet, and drink with him in paradise and he shall take his rest in a green spot and fragrant with flowers, enjoying the company of women and lovely boys and virgins and he will bathe in gorgeous baths. All these things he will enjoy in that place by God’s favor.’” Despite facing such great odds, the Byzantines would defend their ancient Christian capital with great tenacity against the armies of Mehmet.1

Prophecy of the fall

The Romans believed that the fall of the city would occur under an Emperor with the name Constantine whose mother would be named Helen. Byzantine legend foretold that it would be during the reign of a Constantine, the son of a Helen, that the great city of Constantinople would be conquered. The name of the mother of Constantine the Great — who founded Constantinople as the new Rome — was Helen. Even though there had been numerous Emperors with the name Constantine between the rule of Constantine the Great, in the 4th century AD, and Constantine Palaeologus XI in the 15th century, only these two Emperors had mothers named Helen. It is also interesting to note the last official Byzantine Patriarch was named Metrophanes, and this was also the name of the Patriarch during the reign of Constantine the Great.2

According to another legend the siege would take place during the waning of the moon, and this sign was fulfilled on the eve of the final siege of the city. The signs became more prophetic to the defenders when a strange green mist covered the sacred Cathedral Agia Sophia, also called Church of the Holy Wisdom. This mysterious green mist enshrouded the base of the church and then slowly climbed up the sanctuary. Suddenly, the mist mysteriously shot up towards the heavens and vanished. This particular sign led the Byzantines to believe that the spirit of God had abandoned the city because of their sins. Regardless, of what the citizens believed, the Emperor would not abandon the city or its people to the armies of Hagar. Like all brave Hellenes, throughout their history, he would stand and fight till the Angel of the Lord claimed his soul. Other signs that further contributed to the fears of the defenders were two slight earthquakes, and torrential rains. These events were interpreted as evil omens, and they reminded the citizens of all the prophecies that foretold of the end of the Empire and the coming of the Anti-Christ; which they assumed was the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet.3

What further compounded their superstition was a widely held belief, amongst the Greeks, that the Byzantine Empire was the last empire on earth. “People remembered the ancient prophetic books from the time of the earlier Arab siege, their gnomic, oracular verses were widely recited; ‘misfortune to you, city of the seven hills, when the twentieth letter is proclaimed on your ramparts. Then the fall will be near and the destruction of your sovereigns.’ The Turks were seen as an apocalyptic people signifying the last judgment, a scourge sent by God as a punishment for Christian sins.”4

Conflict begins

Byzantium 1The conflict which would lead to the city’s fall began when Mehmet built a castle called Rumeli Hisari located — to this day — on a sea channel called the Bosporus. The site of the new castle was directly across the channel from a castle called Anadolu Hisar on the Asia Minor side, built by Mehmet’s late grandfather, the Sultan Bayezit. Mehmet had built this fortress to gain control of the channel and regulate the shipping between the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea. At this spot the Bosporus was at its narrowest point, so locating it directly across from Anadolu Hisar gave Rumeli Hisari strategic control of the waterway. The new castle would be the perfect base of operations for the siege of Constantinople, but the only problem was that it was on Byzantine land.5

In the previous winter of 1451-52 the Sultan had collected the workforce needed to build his new fort, but in the process he demolished churches and monasteries to provide additional building material for the castle. Some Greeks dared to object, so they were rounded up and massacred. Later, some Greeks protested that the Turks had allowed their horses to forage amongst their crops, and these were also slaughtered, bringing on a state of war between the Byzantines and the Ottomans.6

This assault by the Turks upon Roman citizens brought out a negative response from the Emperor, and in vain Constantine sent an embassy to remind the Sultan that he was breaking a solemn treaty they had agreed upon for peaceful relations between their nations. He also reminded the Sultan that when his grandfather built Anadolu Hisar, on Byzantine lands, he gained permission from Emperor Manuel II.7 The Ambassadors the Emperor had dispatched to the Sultan entreated him to withdraw his army and welcome peace. In return the Emperor would pay as much annual tribute as the Sultan desired, even more than the Empire could really afford. The Sultan replied that it was not possible for him to withdraw: “Either I take the city or the city takes me alive! But, if you wish to withdraw from the city in peace I will give you the Peloponnese, and to your brothers I will grant other provinces and we shall be friends. If I am forced to take the city by siege then I will slay you and your nobles and allow my troops to pillage the surviving population. It is sufficient even if the city is empty of its people.”8

The Emperor did not trust Mehmet, and sent back his reply, “For it is not possible to take the city from the Romans and turn it over to the Turks. Were we to do this, along what road or in what place or Christian city could they settle where the inhabitants would not spit upon the Romans and revile them and mortify them? And not only Christians but also Turks and Jews would treat them with contempt.”9 The first Ambassadors were sent back unharmed. For a second time Constantine sent his ambassadors, laden with gifts, to request that Mehmet would leave the villages surrounding Rumeli Hisar unmolested. The ambassadors were sent away without audience. A week or two later when a third group of delegates was sent to get Mehmet’s word that building this castle would not herald an attack on the city, the Sultan had these ambassadors executed.10 This action was only the start of the violence to come.

Preparations: The Greeks
- - - - - - - - -
Long before the attack the Byzantines had made preparations for the attack. Throughout the previous winter the Emperor had organized the citizens to prepare the city defenses by repairing and reinforcing the walls, clearing out the moats, and setting aside stores of food. They also increased their stocks of weapons such as arrows, tools, heavy rocks, Greek fire, and everything else they would need to deter the enemy.11

According to the Greek historian and eyewitness Doukas, “The city defenders were deployed in the following manner: the Emperor and Giovanni Giustiniani Longo were stationed by the land walls, with about 3,000 Latins and Romans.” Giovanni was the commander of the Genoese and a member of a leading Genoese family; he was an expert in siege warfare.12 Doukas also states that the Grand Duke Loukas Notaras was posted at the Imperial Gate with 500 troops. At the sea walls along the battlements, from Xyloporta Gate to the Horaia Gate, more than 500 crossbowmen and archers were arrayed.13

The men who constituted the majority of the city’s defense were inexperienced Greek civilians. Historian Ian Heath says, “these are described by Leonard of Chios as welding their arms ‘according to the light nature rather than with any skill’, and we know the town- dwelling Byzantine civilians were largely ignorant of warfare and invariably reluctant to fight; the fact that several thousand rallied to Constantinople’s defense in 1453 is actually exceptional.”14 The Byzantines were mostly armed with swords, spears, shields and smaller numbers were armed with bows, crossbows and slings.15

The majority of the western mercenaries were volunteers, mostly Venetian and Genoese, who assisted in the city’s defense. They were equipped with the following: handguns, crossbows, spears, and javelins. Most of them were seamen, so they were lightly armored; about 400 of the mercenaries were under the command of Giustiniani.16 Historians estimate that there were somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 defenders, including the allies. This number has been put as high as 7,000 by some Byzantine scholars, but it is still debated.

The Turks

The desire to subjugate this ancient Christian capital was not new amongst Muslims, and the Sultan went to great lengths to fulfill this age-old desire by the Islamic world. “Every Muslim believed that the Prophet himself would accord a special place in paradise to the first soldier who should force an entry into the ancient Christian capital, they shall conquer Qostantiniya. This tradition gave glory to the Prince who conquers the city.”17

According to Turkish sources, the estimated number of Turkish troops was about eighty thousand, which included twenty thousand irregular troops or Bashi bazouks. Included amongst the Ottoman’s regular troops there were twelve thousand of the Sultan’s elite force, known as the janissaries. The latter were forcibly taken from their Christian families, compelled to convert to Islam, and trained as the Sultan’s elite military troops. They were slaves and had no personal rights, but they were paid a salary and they were anything but submissive.18a

The Sultan planned to add a recent technological innovation to his arsenal that would alter the course of history and seal the city’s fate. Even though the walls of Constantinople stood unchallenged for centuries, siege warfare was to change with the use of the cannon. In 1452 a Hungarian weapons mercenary named Urban II offered to build an enormous cannon for Mehmet, “…Urban presented himself before the Sultan and offered to construct for him a cannon to blast the walls of Babylon itself.”18b Within a few months the largest cannon in the history of man was being created in the Sultan’s foundries. Urban’s cannon could hurl a 1,340-pound stone ball approximately one mile, and in addition he designed a second cannon which could hurl an 800-pound ball the same distance. This technology had changed the art of siege warfare for over a hundred years prior to this event, and the Sultan’s new cannons would smash the very walls of Constantinople, thus allowing the Turks to be the first to enter through the land walls. Urban II had first approached the Emperor in the summer of 1452 about building this cannon for him, but he was turned down because the Empire lacked the funds for such a project.

The Turks arrive

It was on March 23rd that Mehmet’s army began its march from Edirne, through the hilly plains of Thrace, to the walls of Constantinople. Steven Runciman reveals the fear Mehmet’s advancing army brought upon the Greeks, “With all his army, cavalry and infantry, traveling across the landscape, devastating and disturbing everything, creating fear and agony and the utmost horror wherever he went.”19

On April 2nd the Emperor closed the gates of the city and he ordered the large boom (chain) hauled across the Bosporus to keep the Ottoman fleet from entering the Gold Horn, a small sea channel. The iron chain stretched from a point near the Acropolis of the city to the tower of Galata.20 The Emperor knew that the Golden Horn was protected as long as the boom held. The current of the Bosporus was too strong to allow a successful attack on the walls, so most of the Troops were put on the land walls.21 “As an additional deterrent, the ships which happened to be in the harbor were positioned behind the boom, denying entrance by the enemy fleet.”21B

It was at the beginning of April that the Ottoman armies arrived at the walls of the Byzantine capital. The arrival of the Turks coincided with the most holy day amongst the Greek Orthodox, Easter. With a mixture of piety and fear the citizens gathered in the churches to celebrate the Easter celebration. In the following weeks the Greeks would offer up their prayers, and they beseeched God, asking Him that the city not be attacked during the Holy Week; they also sought spiritual strength from their icons.22

The main force of the Ottoman army had come within five miles of the city on April 2nd. Shortly after they arrived within sight of the city, their officers organized them into units and each regiment was assigned to a position.23 “The Turks set up a total of 69 guns forming 15 batteries which faced the city walls or were positioned to fire across the Golden Horn. One of these batteries was placed near the Sultan’s tent and faced opposite of the St. Romanus Gate. This battery included three large guns engineered by Urban.24

On April 6th Mehmet himself arrived to take up his position in the center of his troops and across from the most vulnerable section of the wall. Shortly after his arrival Mehmet ordered the orchards cleared from the land and had a large ditch be dug the length of the wall, about 250 yards. The ditch was created as a rampart to protect the cannons, and latticework was set around the cannons to give them further protection. Mehmet set up his army’s camp within a quarter mile of the city.25

According to author Roger Crowley, “Before the gaze of the defenders a tented city sprang up from the plains below. His army seemed as numberless as grains of sand, spreading across the land from shore to shore.”26 The Ottoman camp was well-organized, and at night their torches poured their light over the land and sea, seeming brighter than the sun as they illuminated the entire city, Galata, all the islands, ships and boats as far as Skutari. The entire surface of the water flashed so brightly that it appeared like fire. The defenders thought the fire ran to the breach of the walls, and they also witnessed the Turks dancing in an act of frenzy around their campfires. Upon seeing so many Turks the Greeks fell to their knees crying out to the Lord, “Spare us O Lord from Thy just wrath and deliver us from the hands of the enemy.”27


Prior to the initial attack Mehmet sent envoys to avoid war. According Doukas, “…Mehmet sent an envoy to the emperor with the following message: The preparations for the siege have been concluded. …do you wish to leave the city and go wherever you like with your officials and their possessions, leaving the populace behind unharmed? Or do you resist and risk losing your life and losing your possessions? Do you risk having the Turks take your citizens captive and scattered throughout the Earth?”27b

The Emperor Constantine replied, “If you wish to live, as your fathers did, peacefully, by the grace of God, you can live peacefully with us.” The Emperor refused to go down in history as the final Emperor who surrendered to the heathen. Just prior to the first assault the Emperor mounted his horse and made a circuit of the walls to rouse the sentries to be diligent and stay awake. Having checked that was all was well and the gates were securly locked, at first cockcrow they climbed the tower at the Caligaria gate with its good view to witness the enemy’s preperations.28

The start of war

The siege began on April 2nd, but it was on April 6th the artillery bombardment began with the cannons firing 100-120 times a day until the siege was over.29 The strategic places Mehmet set the cannons were: near the palace of the Emperor, the Pigi Gate, and the Cressu gate; and then he also set four more cannons by the gate of San Romano, the weakest point of the whole city.

It was not until April 18th that the first major assault took place on city. The Turkish fleet advanced towards the boom and came within a bowshot of the allied fleet. The Turks released a volley of cannon fire (small stones) and arrows with metal bolts, along with flaming arrows. After the initial salvo they approached the allied ships and attempted a standard boarding with grappling hooks and ladders. While the hooks were thrown up to scale the sides of the Venetian ships, attempts were made to slash the merchantmen’s anchor cable, but this attempt was thwarted by a hail of javelins, pikes, and spears hurled by ship’s defenders. Like sailors trying to storm a wall from below they faced a hail of missiles from the bow and stern platform above them, also from the crow’s nest. Volleys of gad — iron javelins with stabilizing fins — arrows and stones rained down on the enemy scrabbling at the sides of the ships, thus wounding and killing a great many of them and forcing the Turks into retreat.30 The failure of the first Ottoman assault brought great humiliation and anger to the Sultan, increasing his rage against its defenders.

The Sultan needed to get his fleet inside the Golden Horn, but both the Venetian ships and the chain across the channel prevented this. On the April 22nd the Sultan created an ingenious plan to haul his ships over land and into the Golden Horn using rollers greased with animal fat, to pull them into the bay of Pera. “But no one would even had thought it possible that dogs such as these should drag these ships over the hills, bringing across as many as seventy into the harbor of Constantinople.”30b Nicolo Barbaro blames the Genoese for assisting the Turks in this venture. All the defenders feared that the Turks were now able to attack their fleet at night; since the enemy was now on both sides of the boom. The defenders made a failed attempt to burn the Turkish fleet before they could attack their ships. “On the twenty-fourth of April, Jacomo Coco the master of the galley of Trebizond took two ships and attempted to set fire to the Turkish fleet but this attempt failed because the Turks were prepared for this night attack.” So he (Jacomo) began to row at full speed, and headed for the fleet and when he was near the Turks opened fire” Caught by surprise his ship was sunk straight to the bottom with few survivors. “So the Turks won this victory, and we Christians were weeping bitterly and sorrowing greatly for the unfortunates who had drowned.”30c The Venetians bitterly accused their ancient trading rivals, the Genoese, of informing the Sultan about their planned attack on the Turkish fleet.

Byzantium 3Following a heavy bombardment of the gates of St. Romanus and Egri, an infantry assault on these sections of the walls began, but the defenders quickly threw the Turks back. The Ottomans focused their cannon assault on the St. Romanus gate and its flanking wall. By April 21st the walls had largely crumbled, creating wide breaches.31 The continuous bombardment of the walls throughout the day pulverized large sections of masonry and brought down a tower. This inspired a general fear amongst the defenders, because it was believed that Turkish turbans would soon be seen inside the city. Much of the wall was lost and this brought about great discouragement and a fear and amongst the populace that if the Turks had made the attack with only 10,000 men, at that point, the city would have been lost.32 Against great odds the Greeks were able to refortify the walls and averted the city’s takeover for another day. The Byzantines believed wholeheartedly that it was through the compassion of the Lord Jesus that the capture of the city was once again delayed.

The bombardment continued throughout the month of April and on into May, and each attack was driven back by the defenders. The breaches in the walls made by cannon fire were refortified. On May 14th-15th the cannons, which had been firing over the Genoese colony of Galata, were moved to face the Imperial Palace, by the land walls. The bombardment continued with increasing intensity against the walls of St. Romano’s until the city was taken on May 29th. Between May 28th-29th one of the larger guns was advanced to a position closer to the stockade of rubble and wood, built across collapsed sections, to destroy these refortifications.33

On Monday the 28th of May, after the sound of trumpets was heard throughout the camp, the Sultan gave instructions under pain of death that all of his officers should be ready to man their posts for a final assault. After he gave this order his troops quickly manned their posts and did nothing but bring large ladders closer to the walls of the city. The evening sun began to sink towards the west and it shone into the faces of the defenders and blinded them. It was at this time the Turkish camp came alive and the Turks filled in the moat while others brought up the war machines and cannons. Shortly after sunset there was a heavy shower, but the determined Turks continued their work unheeding.34

When they were finished, with their preparations, the Ottomans began blowing trumpets throughout their camp, along with sounding the castanets and tambourines, to announce that the Sultan would make a proclamation to his soldiers. Mehmet said to his men, “Children of Mahomet, be of good cheer. Tomorrow we shall have so much wealth that we shall be all of gold, and from the beards of Greeks we shall make leashes to tie up our dogs, and their wives and their sons shall be our slaves; so be of good cheer children of Mahomet, and be ready to die with a stout heart for the love of our Mahomet.”35 That night so many fires were lit in the Turkish camp that it appeared to the defenders as if the very walls were on fire, thus causing more panic in the city.

The Sultan had already laid out his plans for the battle, which counted on the defenders becoming exhausted from the constant bombardment and skirmishes. Mehmet’s plans were to send three waves of soldiers, one after another, to exhaust the defenders, who had had little food or sleep.

According to historian Steven Runciman,

“The troops would attack in relays. When one division was exhausted, a second one would replace it. They would simply hurl wave after wave of fresh troops at the walls until the weary defenders cracked. It would take as long as it took and there would be no let up: They would attack the city from all points simultaneously in a coordinated onslaught, so that it was impossible for the defenders to move troops to relieve particular pressure points.”36

Exhausted and hungry, the defenders and their allies awaited the final assault, believing that God would save the city in the end. They had hopes that after the Turks broke through the walls an Angel of the Lord would appear by the column of Constantine and destroy the Turkish army, allowing the Greeks to chase them back to the borders of Persia.

The attack began with the first wave of troops, the Christian contingent, who had the task of carrying the ladders to the wall, and these men were killed immediately. The defenders threw big stones at them and few escaped; anyone who approached the wall was killed. When the Turkish guards who stood behind them saw them retreating, they cut them to pieces with their scimitars and forced them to turn back to the walls, only to be killed by the defenders. The first wave ended quickly, but second group immediately began its vigorous attack. Mehmet’s first wave had worked by tiring the defenders further, and, since the Sultan had no regard for the lives of Christians, he easily sacrificed them without conscience.

The second group was made up of Anatolian Turks, and they attacked the walls of San Romano’s like untrained animals. The second attack frightened the entire city, and every man cried out to the eternal God to show mercy on them against the Turks, so when the alarm was given it motivated the defenders to man their posts quickly against the onslaught. The Turks in the second group greatly wearied the defense. They also made the attempt to raise the ladders, as had the first group, but in the attempt many of them died at the hands of the defenders’ crossbows, arrows, and guns, which killed them en masse. After the second group failed to enter the city, the third wave began. This group was made up of janissaries, who were paid professional troops, and their officers and commanders were all brave men. They attacked the city not like Turks but like fierce lions with loud shouts, and the sound of their castanets was heard as far as Anatolia across the Bosporus, two miles from their camp.37

Each wave of attack brought the defenders closer to total exhaustion, but in turn the waves were beaten back by the Byzantines. The Turks rushed to the walls, carrying a great number of ladders which had been constructed in advance. Behind the lines stood the tyrant Mehmet brandishing an iron mace, forcing his archers to the walls by using both flattery and threats. The defenders fought back bravely with all the strength they could muster, and Giovanni and his men, supported by the Emperor together with all his troops, resisted courageously.38 According to Steven Runciman, “wave after of stoutly armored warriors rushed up the stockade to tear down the makeshift barricades the defenders had set up and after removing the barricades they quickly set up ladders. The Greeks were exhausted and had fought for hours without time for rest and soon the Turks would find entrance through a small little used gate.39

A mistake made by an ally would soon open up the city to entry by the Turks. Sorties or raids were launched through a small gate called the circus gate, a postern hidden in an angle of the walls. The day’s events would fulfill an ancient prophecy that entry would be made into the city through this gate. Italian soldiers returning from a raid failed to lock the postern securely behind them, and the Turks spotted the unsecured door and burst inside. Fifty Turks managed to get inside to access a flight of stairs up to a tower, and surprised the defenders on top. The intruders were isolated and surrounded before too much damage could be done, but the enemy managed to tear down the flag of St. Mark and the Emperor’s standard, replacing them with the Ottoman standard.40

A crucial turn in the battle took place when Giovanni Giustiniani was wounded at close range from a culverin (early gun), which pierced his breastplate. Giustiniani, exhausted from hours of fighting, lost courage and was carried from the city. The Emperor Constantine begged him not to leave, but he refused and was carried down to the harbor. The Venetian and Genoese allies began to abandon the battle and flee to their ships, leaving the Emperor and Greeks to fight alone.41

The Sultan noticed the panic and he started crying out, “the city is ours”, and he ordered his janissaries to charge again, led by a giant named Hasan. Hasan forced his way into the stockade with about thirty janissaries following him. The giant was brought to his knees, and was quickly dispatched by the Greeks along with seventeen of his comrades, but only after he had planted the Ottoman flag in full view. Many more Turks poured in, and even though the Greeks fiercely resisted, the weight of the enemy forced them back inside the inner wall.42

Like a vast flood, thousands of men poured into the enclosure and pushed back the defenders by the sheer weight of their numbers. In a short time the defenders were hemmed in toward the inner wall, where they were unable to get out and were slaughtered.43 Someone saw the Turkish flag flying from the tower of Kerkoporta and the cry went out that the city was taken. Because the defenders panicked while escaping, many were caught in the gate that Giustiniani and his men fled through, and most were slaughtered or captured. Constantine knew all was lost, so, according to legend, he threw himself into battle and died. “He flung off his imperial insignia and, with Don Francisco, Theophilus and John Dalmata by his side, he threw himself into battle. He was never seen again.”44 Throughout the streets of Constantinople the cry quickly went out that the city was lost. From the Golden Horn to the very shores of Constantinople both Christians and Turks could see the Turkish flag flying on the high towers of Blachernae. Where the imperial flag and the Lion of Saint Mark once flew, the banner of the Muslim conquerors stood.45

As soon as the Turks broke into the city they began to seize and enslave anyone who came their way. Anyone who resisted was slaughtered by the edge of the sword, and heaps of bodies covered the ground. “There were unprecedented events: all sorts of lamentations, countless rows of slaves consisting of noble ladies, virgins and nuns, who were being dragged by the Turks.46 In his zeal for Allah, Mehmet had ordered that the city, since it had resisted, be looted for the traditional three days according to Islamic law. But before the first day was up the Sultan brought in his police and put an end to the looting. The loss of the city for the Greeks meant not only an end of empire, but it also marked the start of almost four hundred years of captivity. For Mehmet it was the beginning of Ottoman rule, which would last until the 19th century. Under the rule of future Sultans the Ottoman Empire would continue conquering Christian lands, right up to the gates of Vienna in Austria.

Sadly, the fall of Constantinople not only brought an end to the Palaeologi dynasty, which had reigned for 194 years, but also to the Eastern Roman Empire. George Sphrantzes, the Emperor’s advisor, laments, “Our Empire was founded by Flavius Constantine and ended with Constantine Palaeologus. With our unfortunate city as its capital, the empire of the Romans (Greeks) lasted for 1,143 years, ten months and four days”.47

The Sultan, at the end of the conflict, while touring the Agia Sophia, was reported to have said the following. “The spider weaves the curtains in the palace of the Caesars; the owl calls the watches in the towers of Afrasiab.”48 From that point on the great city of Constantinople would be called Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic Caliphate.

Hagia Sophia

Anestos Canelides has a master’s degree in history from Eastern Washington University, and lives in Arizona.


1. Sphrantzes, George. The Fall of the Byzantine Empire; a Chronicle by George Sphrantzes, University of Mass. Press, 1980, pg 36
2. Runciman, Steven.The Fall of Constantinople 1453. Cambridge University Press 1975, pg 1
3. Runciman, Steven.The Fall of Constantinople 1453. Cambridge University Press 1975, pg 79
4. Runciman, Steven.The Fall of Constantinople 1453. Cambridge University Press 1975, 173
5. Norwich Julius John. Byzantium; The Decline and Fall, Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1996, 415
6. Norwich Julius John. Byzantium; The Decline and Fall, Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1996 415
7. Norwich Julius John. Byzantium; The Decline and Fall, Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1996, 415
8. Dourkas, Decline and fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks - translated by Harry J. Magoulias – Wayne State University Press 1975 Detroit, 218
9. Dourkas, Decline and fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks - translated by Harry J. Magoulias – Wayne State University Press 1975 Detroit, 218
10. Norwich Julius John. Byzantium; The Decline and Fall, Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1996, 415
11. Norwich Julius John. Byzantium; The Decline and Fall, Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1996, 420
12. Norwich Julius John. Byzantium; The Decline and Fall, Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1996, 421
13. Dourkas, Decline and Fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks - translated by Harry J. Magoulias – Wayne State University Press 1975 Detroit, 223
14. Ian Heath. Byzantine Armies; AD 1118-1461, Osprey Publishing LTD,, Oxford:1995, pg 46-47
15. Ian Heath. Byzantine Armies; AD 1118-1461, Osprey Publishing LTD,, Oxford:1995, 47
16. Ian Heath. Byzantine Armies; AD 1118-1461, Osprey Publishing LTD, Oxford:1995, 47
17. Runciman, Steven.The Fall of Constantinople 1453. Cambridge University Press 1975, pg 79
18. a-b Norwich Julius John. Byzantium; The Decline and Fall, Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1996, 418
19. Crowley, Roger. 1453; The Holy War for Constantinople and The Clash of Islam, West Hyperion NY 2005, 98
20. Crowley, Roger. 1453; The Holy War for Constantinople and The Clash of Islam, West Hyperion NY 2005, 103
21. Crowley, Roger. 1453; The Holy War for Constantinople and The Clash of Islam, West Hyperion NY 2005, 103
21b. Sphrantzes, George. The Fall of the Byzantine Empire,The University of Mass Amherst 1980, 102
22. Crowley, Roger. 1453; The Holy War for Constantinople and The Clash of Islam, West Hyperion NY 2005, 98
23. Crowley, Roger. 1453; The Holy War for Constantinople and The Clash of Islam, West Hyperion NY 2005, pg 98-99
24. Nicolle, David. Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1300-1774, Osprey Publishing LTD, Oxford: 2003, 29
25. Nicolle, David. Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1300-1774, Osprey Publishing LTD, Oxford: 2003, 99
26. Roger Crowley 1453; The Holy War for Constantinople and The Clash of Islam, West Hyperion NY 2005, 99
27. Dourkas, Decline and fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks - translated by Harry J. Magoulias – Wayne State University Press 1975 Detroit, pg. 212
28. Dourkas, Decline and fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks - translated by Harry J. Magoulias – Wayne State University Press 1975 Detroit, 201
29. Nicolle, David. Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1300-1774, Osprey Publishing LTD, Oxford: 2003, 37
30. Roger Crowley 1453; The Holy War for Constantinople and The Clash of Islam, West Hyperion NY 2005, 129
31. Barbaro Nicolo. Diary of the siege of Constantinople. Exposition Press, NY 1969, 41-42
32. Nicolle, David. Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1300-1774, Osprey Publishing LTD, Oxford: 2003,37
33. Nicolle, David. Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1300-1774, Osprey Publishing LTD, Oxford: 2003, 30
34. Runciman, Steven.The Fall of Constantinople 1453. Cambridge University Press 1975, 133
35. Nicolo Barbaros —
36. Runciman, Steven.The Fall of Constantinople 1453. Cambridge University Press 1975,189
37. Roger Crowley 1453; The Holy War for Constantinople and The Clash of Islam, West Hyperion NY 2005, 63
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48. Norwich Julius John. Byzantium; The Decline and Fall, Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1996, 437


Arius said...

Yes, it is correct that there were Venetians and Genoese and others from the West that provided information and assistance to the Ottoman attack on Constantinople.

Consider that, and look at our situation today. There are many in NGOs, the media, and the US Government that provide information and assistance to the jihad against the West.

Note that most VIPs in the West are already on the Muslim payroll in one form or another. They are bastards that should be hung by their feet and have their skin peeled off.

Luddite said...

Awesome post and very interesting, particularly to my family. My husband's cousin is a direct descendant of Constantinius Chlorus and his son Constantine the Great, founder of Constantinople.

Paardestaart said...

Wonderful article - thank you, Anestos
Incidently, in The Camp of the Saints the writer places descendants of the defenders of Constantinople in the frontline of the last pathetic battle for the West, when the voyage of the damned from the third world invades, without authorities lifting a finger, just like today - very eerie..