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The Fall of Constantinople/ The End of Rome

6.4.1453 / 29.5.1453

AGEMedieval Age
STATES Byzantium (Eastern Rome)
Ottoman Empire
PREVIOUS MILESTONEHarita, 0-0-1300
NEXT MILESTONEPieta / Klasik Güzellik & Doğallık, 0/0/1498
MEANWHILE
CIVILIZATIONS
Hellen
Turkic
RELIGIONS
Christianity
Islam

It had been always seen impossible to conquer Constantinople the capital of Eastern Rome. There was one of the biggest, richest and the most beautiful city of antiquity behind its high and powerful walls. However, during the last 400 years Eastern Rome was not as powerful and rich as before 1000. Arabs, Turks, Crusaders and Mongols gave lots of injuries to Eastern Rome; especially it was looted and destroyed during the fourth crusade in 1204. Eastern Rome was lonely empire; there were Turks, Mongols and Arabs at its eastern border while the Catholic powers lay at the western border. There would had been always powers ready to help from Western Europe if it was sieged by infidels. Though many times it was tried to union both Catholic and Orthodox churches, it had never accomplished and especially there was rising hate between both of them after 1204. Many citizens of Constantinople favoured infidel conquer instead of union with Catholics while on the other hand similar argument was favourable at Rome too. Mehmet II aware about this situation and he knew that nobody would came to help of Rome if he sieged it.

Commanders

Mehmet the Second: He was one of the most important and intellectual emperor of Renaissance and Medieval Era. He was well educated Sultan despite his age. He knew Arabic, Persian, Latin and Greek languages, and he read old Roman war and siege techniques. He had reigned over Ottomans while he was 12 with a support of Sipahis. However, his father Murat II had reigned again with a support of janissaries under the influence of Çandarlı Halil only 2 years later. Reign of Murat II lasted for just 5 years and again Mehmet II was a Sultan in 1451. He was a Sultan of Ottomans in his 12 and he died as a Sultan of Ottoman Empire in his 49.     

Constantine: The last emperor of Byzantine and Marble Emperor. Fall of Constantinople was not fault of him and he never gave up although he had chances to rescue himself in return of surrender. He rejected the last surrender offer 2 days before his death. His dead body could not be found at the end of the siege. 2 janissaries claimed that they found his body and showed his shoes to Sultan in return of price, Byzantines had always believed that their king returned into a Marble and he would return into the world and rescue them one day.      

Characters:

Çandarlı Halil: He was the grand vizier of Murat II. He expected to be killed as a result of reign of Mehmet. However Mehmet did not give any order to kill him and accepted him as his grand vizier too. He had good relations with Byzantine, according to rumours he was a spy of Byzantine or he had a enourmous treasuary collected by Byzantine payments. He was always on the opposite side of Mehmet and did not want the siege. He never gave up even at the last war council at 26 May 1453. He was executed in 1 June 1453. 

Giovanni Giustiniani: He was a young Genoese captain, a member of one of the greatest families of the Republic, a kinsman to the powerful house of Doria in Genoa. He had an experiences on siege defences and he was the hope and the source of morale for Byzantine during the Siege.

Aksemseddin: Genius religious man. He was one of the consultants of Mehmet II. He returned the faith of siege by uprising the morale of Ottoman army with a mysterious discovery. He claimed that he found the tomb of Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari who was the companion and host of Prophet Mohammed  

Zaganos Pasha: He was the second vizier of Mehmet during the siege and the most powerful supporter of the siege.

Ulubatlı Hasan: Turkish mythical hero who climbed the wall of Constantinople and raised the Turkish Flag.

Weapons

Rumelihisarı: It was built before the siege to cut off the probable aid which could come from black sea. With its three towers (Zagonos – Sarica – Candarli Halil) it was the messenger of the siege.

Janissaries: Janissaries are Ottoman infantry and they had been the major part of Ottoman army especially from Mehmet II to Mahmut II who disbanded the quarters of them. Unlike the other Turkish empires and states infantry was more important and major part in the Ottoman military than cavalry. Like Abbasid had done to Turks and Persians, Ottoman had taken Christian slave boys and converted them to Islam.

Bashi-bozuks: They were irregular (leaderless) soldiers of Ottoman army who attended wars for looting.   

Cannons: Cannons were basic and most common siege weapons in medieval. They were blind weapons to beat walls with thrown stones constantly. Mehmet’s cannons were biggest cannons which had never been built before. In spite of that, they were not successful for destroying walls of Constantinople. However, it was recorded that their loud voice and the size of thrown Stones frighten Byzantine. If we consider the moral status in the siege, cannons played a major role.  

Greek Fire: Greek Fire was incendiary weapon which was first used in naval battles by Byzantine in 672. The ingredients and the process of manufacture and deployment was military secret in Byzantine and its ingredients are still mystery. Liquid with fire like lava was poured from siphon which was used by special siphonist. It was also used in the siege and was very effective in the defence of walls. Thousands of men death by its fire.  

Walls: Legendary Walls of Constantinople who saw 28 sieges and had been seen as impassable. With numerous additions and modifications during their history, they were the last great fortification system of antiquity, and one of the most complex and elaborate systems ever built. There were two main parts one of them is Constantine Walls which were built in 330s by Constantine and the other was at the outer district of the city which were built by Theodosios in 450s. The Theodosian Walls consist of the main inner wall, separated from the lower outer wall  by a terrace, the peribolos . Between the outer wall and the moat  there stretched an outer terrace, the parateichion, while a low breastwork crowned the moat's eastern escarpment. Access to both terraces was possible through posterns on the sides of the walls' towers.

The inner wall is a solid structure, 4.5–6 m thick and 12 m high. It is faced with carefully cut limestone blocks, while its core is filled with mortar made of lime and crushed bricks. Between seven and eleven bands of brick, approximately 40 cm thick, traverse the structure, not only as a form of decoration, but also strengthening the cohesion of the structure by bonding the stone façade with the mortar core, and increasing endurance to earthquakes. The wall was strengthened with 96 towers.

The outer wall was 2 m thick at its base, and featured arched chambers on the level of the peribolos, crowned with a battlemented walkway, reaching a height of 8.5–9 m. And the moat was situated at a distance of about 20 m from the outer wall.

They did not let the invaders in again. However one forgotten open gate decided the faith of the siege.

Bombard Tower (Wooden): One of the most effective weapons during the siege. Ottoman army built during the siege and used to pass walls and fire to the walls from the same height. However, it was fired by greek fire.  

Diggers: Common siege method to pass and destroy the walls. Ottomans dig tunnels through the walls and planned to explode walls however, Byzantine spies had noticed of these tunnels and they dig opposite ones. Thousands of Janissaries death in the tunnels during the battles.

Chain: Constantinople’s weakest walls are at the sea side and Emperor afraid of naval attacks so he ordered the close the harbour with a great chain. This chain floated on wooden logs, was strong enough to prevent any Turkish ship from entering the harbour. Turkish ships could not come close to it since there were Byzantine galleons were waiting behind the chain. So Turks could not break the chain but they transported the ships from land and they entered the harbour. Mehmet might learned this from Romans who used this method before.  Though it was one of the nightmares of Constantine to see Turkish ships in Golden Horn harbour before the siege, this did not affect the siege much, it only cause to divide Byzantine army.

Chronology:

15 April 1452 – Beginning of the construction of Rumeli hisari

12 December 1452 – Constantine wrote to Pope that he accepted the Union.

6 April 1453 – Beginning of the Siege. Sultan pitched his imperial tent by the door of St.Romanus in Topkapi.

6 – 7 April 1453 – First cannons was fired.

18 April 1453 – Mehmet gave the first assault order

20 April 1453 – Four Christian ships (Genoese Transports) defeated the Ottoman Navy

22 April 1453 – Ottoman ships were transported to the Golden Horn harbour from land.

7 May 1453 – Three hours attack was launched on the stream of Bayrampasa with a 30.000 soldier. (10.000 was the total sum of Byzantine army)

12 May 1453 – A thunderous attack made towards the point between Tekfursaray and Edirnekapi was defeated by the Byzantine defence.

16 May 1453 – Underground tunnels of Ottomans were discovered and Byzantine army defeated Ottoman diggers.

18 May 1453 – Wooden Bombard Tower was used by Ottomans. Ottomans were too close to pass walls that they had never been.

23 May 1453 – The last surrender offer was related to Constantine by Hamza Bey the governor of Sinop and that offer was rejected by Constantine words “It is not neither my authority to surrender nor anybody could do this. We all prepared ourselves to die and we would not disappoint.  “

26 May 1453 – Rumours about Europeans and Hungarians were on the way had been raised, Mehmet gathered his war council. In spite of Candarli Halil and his party, Mehmet, Zaganos Pasha and Aksemseddin decided to continue siege. 

29 May 1453 – Mehmet gave an order to assault.

29 May 1453 – Giustiniani was wounded.

29 May 1453 – Small troop of Ottoman army discovered open gate and seized the tower Blachernae.

29 May 1453 – Constantinople was Fell.

Consequences:

Eastern Roman Empire is ended.

Ottoman Empire became one of the most powerful empires.

Orthodox Church was not abolished; they continued to serve under the authority of Mehmet II.

The city of Constantinople had a profound hold on the Islamic imagination for centuries. Army after army had failed to take it, and in the Islamic minds the city became the focal point of resistance to their religion and their God. On that Tuesday morning when the city finally fell, a crescent moon hung in the sky. Today, Islamic nations around the world commemorate the military victory of 1453 with crescent moons on their flags.

Turks was not a threat for Europe before the fall of Constantinople, as a result of the conquer anti-propaganda of Turks was started.

Mehmet II encouraged the Turkish Elite to move to Constantinople and fund mosques, and buildings for trade.

 

Pope wrote a letter to Mehmet II (did not send it, we don’t know why) to convert him to Christianity by few drops of water.