The Sack of Constantinople or Siege of Constantinople occurred in 1204 and marked the culmination of the Fourth Crusade. Mutinous Crusader armies captured, looted, and destroyed parts of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. After the capture, the Latin Empire was created and Baldwin of Flanders was crowned Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople in the Hagia Sophia. After the city's sacking, most of the Byzantine Empire's territories were divided up and controlled by the Crusaders. Byzantine aristocrats also established a number of small independent splinter states, one of them being the Empire of Nicaea, which recaptured Constantinople in 1261 and proclaimed the reinstatement of the Empire. However, the restored Empire would never return to its former territorial or economic status, and eventually fell to the rising Ottoman Sultanate in the 1453 Siege of Constantinople. The sack of Constantinople is a major turning point in medieval history and Christianity more generally. The Crusaders' decision to attack a major Christian capital was unprecedented and immediately controversial, even among the Crusaders themselves. Relations between the western and eastern Christian worlds were severely wounded and would not fully recover for hundreds of years afterwards, and the Byzantine Empire became poorer, smaller, and less able to defend itself against the Turkish conquests that followed. The Fourth Crusade therefore left Christendom more divided and weakened than before. The Massacre of the Latins a large-scale massacre of the Roman Catholic or "Latin" inhabitants of Constantinople by the Eastern Orthodox population of the city in May 1182, had a dramatic effect on the schism between the Western and Eastern Christian churches. The massacre also further worsened the image of the Byzantines in the eyes of the Western powers, and, although regular trade agreements were soon resumed between Byzantium and Latin states, the underlying hostility would remain, leaving many westerners seeking some form of revenge. Following the siege of Constantinople in 1203, on 1 August 1203, the pro-Crusader Alexios Angelos was crowned Emperor Alexios IV of the Byzantine Empire, who then tried to pacify the city. But riots between anti-Crusader Greeks and pro-Crusader Latins broke out later that month and lasted until November, during which most of the populace began to turn against Emperor Alexios IV. On 25 January 1204, the death of co-Emperor Isaac II set off rioting in Constantinople in which the people deposed Alexios IV, who turned to the Crusaders for help but was imprisoned by the imperial chamberlain, Alexios Doukas, who declared himself Emperor on 5 February. Emperor Alexios V then attempted to negotiate with the Crusaders for a withdrawal from Byzantine territory, but they refused to abandon their old treaty with Alexios IV. When Alexios V ordered Alexios IV's execution on 8 February, the Crusaders declared war on Alexios V. In March 1204, the Crusader and Venetian leadership decided on the outright conquest of Constantinople, and drew up a formal agreement to divide the Byzantine Empire between them. By the end of March, the combined Crusader armies were besieging Constantinople as Emperor Alexios V began to strengthen the city's defences while conducting more active operations outside the city. By the first week of April, the Crusaders had begun their siege from their encampment in the town of Galata across the Golden Horn from Constantinople. On 9 April 1204, the Crusader and Venetian forces began an assault on the Golden Horn fortifications by crossing the waterway to the northwest wall of the city, but, because of bad weather, the assault forces were driven back when the troops that landed came under heavy archery fire in open ground between Constantinople's fortifications and the shore. On 12 April 1204 weather conditions finally favoured the Crusaders as the weather cleared and a second assault on the city was ordered. A strong north wind aided the Venetian ships near the Golden Horn to come close to the city wall, which enabled the attackers to seize some of the towers along the wall. After a short battle approximately 70 Crusaders managed to enter the city. Some Crusaders were eventually able to knock holes in the walls large enough for a few knights at a time to crawl through; the Venetians were also successful at scaling the walls from the sea, although there was extremely bloody fighting with the Varangians. The Crusaders captured the Blachernae section of the city in the northwest and used it as a base to attack the rest of the city, but while attempting to defend themselves with a wall of fire they ended up burning down even more of the city. Emperor Alexios V fled from the city that night through the Polyandriou (Rhegium) Gate and escaped into the countryside to the west.
The Crusaders looted, terrorized, and vandalized Constantinople for three days, during which many ancient and medieval Roman and Greek works were either stolen or destroyed. The famous bronze horses from the Hippodrome were sent back to adorn the façade of St Mark's Basilica in Venice, where they remain. As well as being stolen, works of immeasurable artistic value were destroyed merely for their material value. One of the most precious works to suffer such a fate was a large bronze statue of Hercules, created by the legendary Lysippos, court sculptor of Alexander the Great. Like so many other priceless artworks made of bronze, the statue was melted down for its content by the Crusaders. The great Library of Constantinople was destroyed as well. Despite their oaths and the threat of excommunication, the Crusaders systematically violated the city's holy sanctuaries, destroying or stealing all they could lay hands on; nothing was spared, not even the tombs of the emperors inside the St Apostles church. The civilian population of Constantinople were subject to the Crusaders' ruthless lust for spoils and glory; thousands of them were killed in cold blood. Women, even nuns, were raped by the Crusader army, which also sacked churches, monasteries and convents. The very altars of these churches were smashed and torn to pieces for their gold and marble by the warriors. Although the Venetians engaged in looting too, their actions were far more restrained. Doge Dandolo still appeared to have far more control over his men. Rather than wantonly destroying all around like their comrades, the Venetians stole religious relics and works of art, which they would later take to Venice to adorn their own churches. It was said that the total amount looted from Constantinople was about 900,000 silver marks, or 600,000 troy pounds. The Venetians received 150,000 silver marks that was their due and the Crusaders received 50,000 silver marks. A further 100,000 silver marks were divided evenly between the Crusaders and Venetians. The remaining 500,000 silver marks were secretly kept back by many Crusader knights. Meanwhile, Latin residents of Constantinople exacted their own retribution for the Massacre of the Latins of 1182. According to a prearranged treaty the empire was apportioned between Venice and the crusade's leaders, and the Latin Empire of Constantinople was established. Boniface was not elected as the new emperor, although the citizens seemed to consider him as such; the Venetians thought he had too many connections with the former empire because of his brother, Renier of Montferrat, who had been married to Maria Comnena, empress in the 1170s and 80s. Instead they placed Baldwin of Flanders on the throne. He was crowned Emperor in the Hagia Sophia as Baldwin I of Constantinople. Boniface went on to found the Kingdom of Thessalonica, a vassal state of the new Latin Empire. The Venetians also founded the Duchy of the Archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Most of the Byzantine aristocracy fled the city. Amongst the ordinary people of the former empire there was no sympathy for the Byzantine elite, who were seen as having ruled the empire with increasing incompetence. Byzantine aristocratic refugees founded their own successor states, the most notable of these being the Empire of Nicaea under Theodore Lascaris (a relative of Alexius III), the Empire of Trebizond and the Despotate of Epirus. The sack weakened the Byzantine Empire, which allowed neighbouring groups such as the Sultanate of Rum, and later the Ottoman Turks, to gain influence. Eight hundred years after the Fourth Crusade, Pope John Paul II twice expressed sorrow for the events of the Fourth Crusade. In 2001 he wrote to Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens, saying, "It is tragic that the assailants, who set out to secure free access for Christians to the Holy Land, turned against their brothers in the faith. The fact that they were Latin Christians fills Catholics with deep regret." In 2004, while Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople, was visiting the Vatican, John Paul II asked, "How can we not share, at a distance of eight centuries, the pain and disgust?" This has been regarded as an apology to the Greek Orthodox Church for the slaughter perpetrated by the warriors of the Fourth Crusade. In April 2004, in a speech on the 800th anniversary of the capture of the city, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I formally accepted the apology. "The spirit of reconciliation is stronger than hatred," he said during a liturgy attended by Roman Catholic Archbishop Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France. "We receive with gratitude and respect your cordial gesture for the tragic events of the Fourth Crusade. It is a fact that a crime was committed here in the city 800 years ago." Bartholomew said his acceptance came in the spirit of Pascha. "The spirit of reconciliation of the resurrection... incites us toward reconciliation of our churches."
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire by an invading army of the Ottoman Empire on 29 May 1453. The Ottomans were commanded by the then 21-year-old Mehmed the Conqueror, the seventh sultan of the Ottoman Empire, 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 territories Peloponnese and Pontus) marked the end of the Roman Empire, an imperial state that had lasted for 1,100 years. The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople also dealt a massive blow to Christendom, as the Muslim 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 (Adrianople) to Constantinople. 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 some historians, the end of the Middle Ages. On 21 May, Mehmed sent an ambassador to Constantinople and offered to lift the siege if they gave him the city. He promised he would allow the Emperor and any other inhabitant to leave with their possessions. Moreover, he would recognize the Emperor as governor of the Peloponese. Lastly, he guaranteed the safety of the population that would remain in the city. Constantine XI agreed to pay higher tributes to the sultan and recognized the status of all the conquered castles and lands in the hands of the Turks as Ottoman possession. However, regarding Constantinople, he stated: " Giving you though the city depends neither on me nor on anyone else among its inhabitants; as we have all decided to die with our own free will and we shall not consider our lives." Around this time, Mehmed had a final council with his senior officers. Here he encountered some resistance; one of his Viziers, the pro-byzantine veteran Halil Pasha, who had always disapproved of Mehmed's plans to conquer the city, now admonished him to abandon the siege in the face of recent adversity. Zagan Pasha argued against Halil Pasha, and insisted on an immediate attack. Mehmed planned to overpower the walls by sheer force, expecting that the weakened Byzantine defense by the prolonged siege would now be worn out before he ran out of troops and started preparations for a final all-out offensive. 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 Latin and Greek 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, former Byzantines, 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 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. On the other hand, Nicolò Barbaro, a Venetian eyewitness to the siege, wrote in his diary His ultimate fate remains unknown. 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". Mehmed II had promised to his soldiers three days to plunder the city, to which they were entitled. Soldiers fought over the possession of some of the spoils of war. According to the Venetian surgeon Nicolò Barbaro "all through the day the Turks made a great slaughter of Christians through the city". According to Philip Mansel, thousands of civilians were killed and 30,000 civilians were enslaved or deported. The looting was extremely thorough in certain parts of the city. Weeks later on 2 June, the Sultan would find the city largely deserted and half in ruins; churches had been desecrated and stripped, houses were no longer habitable and stores and shops were emptied. He is famously reported to have been moved to tears by this, speaking "What a city we have given over to plunder and destruction." On the third day of the conquest, Mehmed II ordered all looting to stop and sent his troops back outside the city walls. Byzantine historian George Sphrantzes, an eyewitness to the fall of Constantinople, described the Sultan's actions: " On the third day after the fall of our city, the Sultan celebrated his victory with a great, joyful triumph. He issued a proclamation: the citizens of all ages who had managed to escape detection were to leave their hiding places throughout the city and come out into the open, as they were to remain free and no question would be asked. He further declared the restoration of houses and property to those who had abandoned our city before the siege, if they returned home, they would be treated according to their rank and religion, as if nothing had changed." The Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque, but under Ottoman millet system, the Greek Orthodox Church remained intact and Gennadius Scholarius appointed Patriarch of Constantinople. With the capture of Constantinople, Mehmed II had acquired the "natural" capital of its kingdom, albeit one in decline due to years of war. The conquest of the Byzantine Empire removed a foe to the rear of the Ottoman advance into Europe. The loss of the city was a crippling blow to Christendom, and it exposed the Christian west to a vigorous and aggressive foe in the east. Pope Nicholas V called for an immediate counter-attack in the form of a crusade. When no European monarch was willing to lead the crusade, the Pope himself decided to go, but his early death stopped this plan. There are many legends in Greece surrounding the Fall of Constantinople. It was said that the partial lunar eclipse that occurred on 22 May 1453 represented a fulfillment of a prophecy of the city's demise. Four days later, the whole city was blotted out by a thick fog, a condition unknown in that part of the world in May. When the fog lifted that evening, a strange light was seen playing about the dome of the Hagia Sophia, which some interpreted as the Holy Spirit departing from the city. "This evidently indicated the departure of the Divine Presence, and its leaving the City in total abandonment and desertion, for the Divinity conceals itself in cloud and appears and again disappears." For others, there was still a distant hope that the lights were the campfires of the troops of John Hunyadi who had come to relieve the city. Another legend holds that two priests saying divine liturgy over the crowd disappeared into the cathedral's walls as the first Turkish soldiers entered. According to the legend, the priests will appear again on the day that Constantinople returns to Christian hands. Another legend refers to the Marble King (Constantine XI), holding that an angel rescued the emperor when the Ottomans entered the city, turning him into marble and placing him in a cave under the earth near the Golden Gate, where he waits to be brought to life again (a variant of the sleeping hero legend). Initially, the fall of the city seemed to cause a stir of crusading zeal in the West, where, apart from religious sentiments, Renaissance humanism had for about a century been fueling an interest in the cultural and intellectual heritage of classical antiquity, and the role that Byzantium had played in preserving that heritage. The great humanist Aeneas Silvius lamented that with the fall of Constantinople " Homer and Plato have died a second death". This utterance was not true for learning in the fallen city. In addition to this, refugees from Constantinople to Italy brought with them ancient texts that further inspired humanist investigation of ancient philosophy and esotericism, especially Platonic and Neo-Platonic thought.