Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fall of Constantinople, 1453AD

File:Siege constantinople bnf fr2691.jpg
The Siege of Constantinople.

On this day in 1453AD, the forces of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II "the Conqueror" defeated the garrison of Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI and seized the great city of Constantinople.

As the centuries past, the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine Empire, had been greatly reduced in size.  By the 15th century, it faced crisis and final demise.  In 1448, Constantine XI (1448-1453) Palaeologus succeeded his brother John VIII (1425-1448), who had reached a union with Rome in 1439, as Emperor. For his part, Mehmed II (1451-1481) succeeded his father Murad as Ottoman Sultan a few years later in 1451.  His leadership would spell the end of the Byzantine Empire.  The union between Constantinople and Rome was announced in 1452 – just in time for the arrival of the Turkish grand army at Constantinople.  The city of Constantinople was a fortress at that time – two walls, the outer 25 feet high and 10 feet thick, the inner 40 feet tall and 20 feet thick with 60 ft. watchtowers at intervals.  The Turks, with a traitor Hungarian’s help, built a massive cannon – 27 feet long and slinging a 1,200 pound ball a mile, and requiring 60 oxen and 700 men to move it!  By March 1453, 80,000 Turks approached the Imperial city with this gun.  Emperor Constantine XI had a mere 4,983 able bodied men, and 2,000 foreigners, including allied troops, to defend the city.

File:Siege of Constantinople 1453 map-fr.svgA map of the siege of Constantinople, 6 April to 29 May 1453.

On 6 April, Mehmed II demanded surrender.  It was refused.  On 11 April, bombardment began [seven shots a day].  On 21 April, a tower fell, but the breach was repaired.  On 18 May, the Turks moved up a tower to protect men filling in the moat, but the Byzantines blew it up.  On 27 May, the cannon was finally moved to close range.  At 1:30AM on 29 May 1453, the Turks launched a massive assault.  Emperor Constantine XI, dressed in purple, led from the front.  He would disappear in the fighting.  The disaster was complete: A three day sack, 4,000 Christians killed, and 50,000 were seized and forced to pay ransom.  Constantinople, great capital of the Eastern Roman Empire was gone.  Europe was in shock.

This video presents a poignant lament of the fall of this great city, and its permanent loss to the Christian world:

Live well!

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