Σάββατο, 28 Μαΐου 2016

The legendary siege and fall of byzantine Constantinople 1453 AD

The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire by an invading army of the Ottoman Empire on 29 May 1453. The Ottomans were commanded by 21-year-old Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, who defeated an army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos. The conquest of Constantinople followed a 53-day siege that had begun on 6 April 1453. The capture of Constantinople (and two other Byzantine splinter territories soon thereafter) marked the end of the Roman Empire, an imperial state that had lasted for nearly 1,500 years. The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople also dealt a massive blow to Christendom, as the Ottoman armies thereafter were left unchecked to advance into Europe without an adversary to their rear. After the conquest, Sultan Mehmed II transferred the capital of the Ottoman Empire from Edirne to Constantinople. Several Greek and other intellectuals fled the city before and after the siege, with the majority of them migrating particularly to Italy, which helped fuel the Renaissance. The conquest of the city of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine Empire was a key event in the Late Middle Ages, which also marks, for historians, the end of the Middle Ages. The city had about 20 km of walls, one of the strongest sets of fortified walls in existence at the time. The walls had recently been repaired (under John VIII) and were in fairly good shape, giving the defenders sufficient reason to believe that they could hold out until help from the West arrived. In addition, the defenders were relatively well-equipped with a fleet of 26 ships: 5 from Genoa, 5 from Venice, 3 from Venetian Crete, 1 from Ancona, 1 from Aragon, 1 from France, and about 10 Byzantine. On 5 April, as the Sultan himself arrived with his last troops, and the defenders took up their positions. As their numbers were insufficient to occupy the walls in their entirety, it had been decided that only the outer walls would be manned. Constantine and his Greek troops guarded the Mesoteichion, the middle section of the land walls, where they were crossed by the river Lycus. This section was considered the weakest spot in the walls and an attack was feared here most. Giustiniani was stationed to the north of the emperor, at the Charisian Gate (Myriandrion); later during the siege, he was shifted to the Mesoteichion to join Constantine, leaving the Myriandrion to the charge of the Bocchiardi brothers. Minotto and his Venetians were stationed in the Blachernae palace, together with Teodoro Caristo, the Langasco brothers, and Archbishop Leonardo of Chios. To the left of the emperor, further south, were the commanders Cataneo, with Genoese troops, and Theophilus Palaeologus, who guarded the Pegae Gate with Byzantine Greek soldiers. The section of the land walls from the Pegae Gate to the Golden Gate (itself guarded by a certain Genoese called Manuel) was defended by the Venetian Filippo Contarini, while Demetrius Cantacuzenus had taken position on the southernmost part of the Theodosian wall. The sea walls were manned more sparsely, with Jacobo Contarini at Stoudion, a makeshift defense force of Greek monks to his left hand, and prince Orhan at the Harbour of Eleutherius. Pere Julià was stationed at the Great Palace with Genoese and Catalan troops; Cardinal Isidore of Kiev guarded the tip of the peninsula near the boom. The sea walls at the southern shore of the Golden Horn were defended by Venetian and Genoese sailors under Gabriele Trevisano. Two tactical reserves were kept behind in the city, one in the Petra district just behind the land walls and one near the Church of the Holy Apostles, under the command of Loukas Notaras and Nicephorus Palaeologus, respectively. The Venetian Alviso Diedo commanded the ships in the harbor. Although the Byzantines also had cannon, they were much smaller than those of the Ottomans and the recoil tended to damage their own walls. Preparations for the final assault were started in the evening of 26 May and continued to the next day. For 36 hours after the war council decision to attack, the Ottomans extensively mobilized their manpower in order to prepare for the general offensive. Prayer and resting would be then granted to the soldiers on the 28th, and then the final assault would be launched. On the Byzantine side, a small Venetian fleet of 12 ships, after having searched the Aegean, reached the Capital on May 27 and reported to the Emperor that no large Venetian relief fleet was on its way. On May 28, as the Ottoman army prepared for the final assault, large-scale religious processions were held in the city. In the evening a last solemn ceremony was held in the Hagia Sophia, in which the Emperor and representatives of both the Roman Catholic Latin and Greek Orthodox church partook, together with nobility from both sides. Shortly after midnight on May 29 the all-out offensive began. The Christian troops of the Ottoman Empire attacked first, followed by the successive waves of the irregular azaps, who were poorly trained and equipped, and Anatolians who focused on a section of the Blachernae walls in the northwest part of the city, which had been damaged by the cannon. This section of the walls had been built earlier, in the eleventh century, and was much weaker. The Anatolians managed to breach this section of walls and entered the city but were just as quickly pushed back by the defenders. Finally, as the battle was continuing, the last wave, consisting of elite Janissaries, attacked the city walls. The Genoese general in charge of the land troops, Giovanni Giustiniani, was grievously wounded during the attack, and his evacuation from the ramparts caused a panic in the ranks of the defenders. Giustiniani was carried to Chios island, where he succumbed to his wounds a few days later. With Giustiniani's Genoese troops retreating into the city and towards the harbor, Constantine and his men, now left to their own devices, kept fighting and managed to successfully hold off the Janissaries for a while, but eventually they could not stop them from entering the city. The defenders were also being overwhelmed at several points in Constantine's section. When Turkish flags were seen flying above a small postern gate, the Kerkoporta, which was left open, panic ensued, and the defense collapsed, as Janissary soldiers, led by Ulubatlı Hasan pressed forward. Many Byzantine Greek soldiers ran back home to protect their families, the Venetians ran over to their ships, and a few of the Genoese got over to Galata. The rest committed suicide by jumping off the city walls or surrendered. The Greek houses nearest to the walls were the first to suffer from the Ottomans. It is said that Constantine, throwing aside his purple regalia, led the final charge against the incoming Ottomans, perishing in the ensuing battle in the streets just like his soldiers. Although his ultimate fate remains unknown. A legend tells that when the Ottomans entered the city, an angel rescued the Byzantine Emperor, turned him into marble and placed him in a cave under the earth near the Golden Gate, where he waits to be brought to life again to conquer the city back for Christian Greeks. After the initial assault, the Ottoman Army fanned out along the main thoroughfare of the city, the Mese, past the great forums, and past the Church of the Holy Apostles, which Mehmed II wanted to provide a seat for his newly appointed patriarch which would help him better control his Christian subjects. Mehmed II had sent an advance guard to protect key buildings such as the Church of the Holy Apostles. A small few lucky civilians managed to escape. When the Venetians retreated over to their ships, the Ottomans had already taken the walls of the Golden Horn, luckily for them, the Ottomans were not interested in killing them but more in the loot they could get from raiding the city's houses, so they decided to attack the city and not them. The Venetian captain ordered his men to break open the gate of the Golden Horn, after they did, they left with ships filled with Venetian soldiers and refugees. Shortly after they left a few Genoese ships and even the Emperor's ships followed them out of the Golden Horn. This was done in perfect timing because shortly after they had left, the Ottoman navy had control over the Golden Horn by midday. The Army converged upon the Augusteum, the vast square that fronted the great church of Hagia Sophia whose bronze gates were barred by a huge throng of civilians inside the building, hoping for divine protection. After the doors were breached, the troops separated the congregation according to what price they might bring in the slave markets. Ottoman casualties are unknown but they are believed by most historians to be very heavy due to several unsuccessful Ottoman attacks made during the siege and final assault. Barbaro described blood flowing in the city "like rainwater in the gutters after a sudden storm", and bodies of the Turks and Christians floating in the sea "like melons along a canal".
Πηγή: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Constantinople
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_XI_Palaiologos

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