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THE LAST OF THE ROMANS
The Last of the Romans
Inspired by the true story of a war that led to
the capture of the holy city
This is the real, factual, historical story about on April 1453, the Ottoman Empire and 80,000 Muslims led by Sultan Mehmet II led an all out assault on the city of Constantinople, the crowning city of the Byzantine Empire. All hopes rested on 8,000 Christian Greek troops led by Constantine XI. The city fell and was in the possession of the Ottoman Empire and afterward the world changed, marking the end of Byzantium and the medieval world.
The events leading up to and the people involved in the battle are the subjects of the story. It is a tale of human courage and cruelty, of technical ingenuity, luck, cowardice, prejudice, jealousy, sibling rivalry, betrayal, and mystery. All told in a world on the cusp of change with the development of guns, the art of siege warfare, naval tactics, religious beliefs, myths, and superstitions of medieval people.
Constantinople, the city once referred to as "the city of the world's desire" because of its glorious history as the first Christian nation that was the last heir to the Roman Empire being considered God's vice-regent on earth. A prosperous city that offered trade, defense, and food are the reasons it was the desired pursuit that existed in prophecy during Islamic expansion that soon resulted in a battle that was 800 years in the making between Islam and Christianity for the true faith in what would become one of the bloodiest battles in medieval history.
Constantinople was the capital city of the Roman and Byzantium Empire, was founded as a Greek colony by Constantine the Great after whom it was named in 330 AD. By the 12th century the city was the largest and wealthiest European city. Under Christian Eastern Orthodoxy the capital city was conceived as a replica of heaven, a manifestation of the triumph of Christ with its raised domes of the churches, monasteries, the endless parade of relics and icons around streets and walls, and the entire empire lived by Christian belief. Anchored in the center of the city, its crowning achievement was the great church of St. Sophia, instructed by Justinian in only six years and dedicated in 537.
For several centuries the image of the city was seen with such greatness that it attracted the desire and envy of the nomadic semi-barbarous peoples beyond its gates. The city lied right in the middle of Europe and Asia, and down south with the cities of the Middle East. Because of its ideal location the site was uniquely positioned at the crossroads of trade routes. Constantinople rose on a series of steep hills that thwarted natural vantage points over the surrounding seas, Marmara, Bosphorous, and the Golden Horn that made its profits and riches off commerce. Some countries wanted to do business with the Empire while others wanted the country as their own.
From the Balkans and the planes of Hungary, the Huns and the Goths, the Slavs and the Gepids, the Tartar Avars, the Turkic Bulgars, and the Pechenegs, and of course the Ottoman Empire wanted to take a shot at capturing the city. Byzantium was an Empire forever at war and for several centuries because of its position at the crossroads was repeatedly pressured from both Europe and Asia, but no matter how many times different nations tried to take down the city, the maintenance of its huge city walls, the city's infrastructure, the strength of the Empire's institutions, and the leaders’ handlings in the moments of crisis made it manageable to defend themselves, but their luck would not last forever.
The Byzantine Empire was a constant victim of attack from the crusades. After constant battling with the Turks for quite some time by the 1200s it had lost its resources of food and manpower and would gain another enemy from the Christian West. Military, political, and commercial pressure from the West had been building on the Byzantine Empire for a long time. In 1204 what would be remembered as the Fourth Crusade, Venetian ships were bound for Egypt and diverted to attack the city. Constantinople was comprehensively sacked by the Christian crusaders. The city was laid in ruin. That single event would lead to bitter hostility between Italy and Constantinople of what would become the Great Schism.
The Great Schism was a process of separation between two forms of worship that have been gathering force for hundreds of years. It was based off of cultural, political, and economic differences, most importantly, religious. In the East, and Constantinople, the Orthodox worship in Greek; in the West, the Roman Catholics worship in Latin. That bitter dispute was caused by different forms of worship, different approaches to church organization, and differing views on the role of the Pope. For that the Byzantines regarded their Western neighbors as barbarians. Their disagreement was based off two key issues; the Roman Catholics believe that the Pope had a special place among the patriarchs and rules with the authority over every church and universal jurisdiction; the Eastern church of omitting one word from the creed, "filioque’’
meaning the Holy Spirit in the replacement of "and from the son." This issue began in the tenth century all the away to 1453 and its very last ruler of Constantinople.
The Byzantine Empire for its entire history was ruled by 13 family dynasties and four non-dynastic groups of rulers. The very last was the Palaeologian dynasty from 1259-1453.
Former Emperor Manuel II, his oldest son, John VIII, was barely Crowned before Sultan Murad II decided to besiege the city of Thessalonica. Believing that Constantinople was next he tried to gain as much support from Europe as he could. Byzantium could receive no aid until the Orthodox Church submitted to Rome. He gathered a group of Eastern bishops, with the accompaniment of the second youngest son and brother, Demetrios, and signed the decree of union at Council at Florence from 1437-1439. When John returned to his capital his position on the throne seriously undermined and those that signed the hated decree publicly retracted their signatures in regret. To revolt against Murad was a crusade led by the Hungarian king Ladislas, and Transylvanian general John Hunyadi. Murad, who went against his own offering of a ten year truce with the crusaders, Ladislas was killed first and then Hunyadi as the regent, kept battling with the Sultan for a few years, but by 1448 the Army was defeated. In humiliation the Emperor was forced to personally congratulate Murad on his victory. Then 11 days later he died mysteriously, with no son as an heir to the throne. Who was next? That's where the story begins.
BACKSTORY: THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor, was divided into independent, mostly Turkish states from the late 1200s-1300s. It was founded by Osman I from which the name Ottoman is derived. He extended the frontiers of Turkish settlement toward the edge of the Byzantine Empire because legend has it his desire for Constantinople came to him in a dream. History doesn't know the true history or origin of these people but what is for certain is that they are descended from Gazis. In 629, Heraclius, the 28th Emperor of Byzantium, was making the pilgrimage on foot to Jerusalem and then received a letter reportedly from Muhammad, known as an Islamic prophet, proposing that he accept the belief of Allah (Islamic for God), and if he doesn't he
The Palaiologos family emblem.
would be misguiding his people. That single event would establish the relationship between the Islamic culture and the Byzantine Empire.
The Ottomans had their superstitions and the object of their offense was known as the Red Apple, a symbol of world power in their eyes. The place of this object was right outside the church of St. Sophia on a column 100 feet high of a huge equestrian statue of the emperor Justinian in bronze, and in his hand is a globe where the Red Apple exists that contains world power. The Turks would soon control all former Byzantine lands surrounding the city. Several battles would come about for almost 200 years to capture Constantinople.
They believed in the laws of Islam. They would soon rule over the Balkan Peninsula in South Eastern Europe. The capital city was located in Edirne. With the crumbling and disintegration of the Byzantine Empire, the Turks strongly felt that they were the better country to prosper in Constantinople. A multitude of battles would take place leading up to the 15th century. Tension created by the Ottomans had become a reoccurring feature of life. No matter how much pressure that was forced on them, somehow, Constantinople always found a way to defend itself. Soon Sultan Murad II was a gleam of hope for the Ottomans, as he besieged the city in 1422, but Manuel, an old man by then, traveled west to search for "pretenders" to the Ottoman throne as a claimant in order to threaten civil war. The battle was done but barely managed to survive.
By that time all of Europe was divided, poverty-stricken, imploding by its own internal disputes, and the region was still suffering from the results of the Black Death that consumed an estimated 75 to 200 million people from 1348-1350. It was only a matter of time until the Ottomans would pursue the city with a much stronger force. The man that was destined to lead the Muslims to victory was born as the son of Murad in 1432. That's where the story begins.
George Sphrantzes, and attendant, ambassador, historian, Imperial courtier, a confidant, and a close friend of the Palaiologos family, was an eyewitness of the fall of Constantinople. He was made into a slave by the victorious Turks along with his wife and children. After being separated from his family he obtained protection at the court of Thomas Palaiologos, Despot of Morea, and retired to the monastery of Tarchaneiotes in Corfu and lived as a monk. It was there where he remained for the rest of his days and would write what would be known as The
The Koran, the Holy Bible of Islamic culture.
Fall of the Byzantine Empire: A Chronicle, an historical account of the events leading up to and what did take place at the sack of Constantinople.
The basis of our story will be centered around and inspired by the events he experienced and wrote, and he'll serve as our narrator of the series. So the entire show will be told in flashbacks from George's perspective.
The show is an hour-long or miniseries length, historical, war drama, and will be told in chronological order as best as possible. In this series the stories concerning the characters and events of the Byzantine Empire will be presented in odd episodes like one, three, five, seven, etc., and then the episodes with Ottoman characters and events as the subject will be shown in even order like two, four, six, eight, etc., so we can tell both sides of the story and see it from both perspectives.
Very much in the same relations as TITANIC, it's already known that Constantinople with fall and be possessed by the Turks, but what's so intriguing is that this specific battle has never been depicted on television or the big screen. What's never been in depth and elaborated on that audiences will be able to experience are the lives of the people that were involved. So it'll be mesmerizing to see the events unfold, and in seeing the ways that it could have been prevented.
With our contemporary understanding as of today, it's really hard to specifically know what took place approximately almost 5 to 6 centuries and several hundred years ago since the Greeks and the Turks have each of their own side of the story. It's a little complicated to comprehend what really went down since a lot of what took place has gone down into myth, legend, and folklore. The dates, events, and names have been lost in history. The lives and certain specifics of the timeline have been misconstrued. It doesn't help that our knowledge about that moment in history is based on very little resources that illustrate it. Just about every historical textbook, Internet website, or documentary about it, mostly tell the exact same story, and very seldom do they give out new bits of information, and if there is, depending on which side you're on and of what you know, it can be debatable. Whether or not what we know is right or wrong, true or false, what's for certain is the outcome of the war. The benefit in that is that certain liberties can be accepted for the chance to add certain elements in order to tie up any loose ends to further enhance the story.
It'll possess the same type of historical accuracy as GLADIATOR, the grittiness and brutality of war like SPARTACUS, a relatively similar resemblance of costume dress and soap opera drama like THE BORGIAS and ROME.
In season one what will be depicted is the events leading up to the war in 1453.
CONSTANTINOPLE: The time span will be from Constantine's ascension to the throne in 1449, and will follow him during his struggles as the new Emperor with issues such as a lack of a crowning ceremony, being a target of insults from his own people concerning the union with the West, his quarrels with his brother Demetrios, his cries for help to Venice, etc., leading up to 1452.
OTTOMAN EMPIRE: portrayed will be the birth of Mehmet II in 1432, his father's exploits of battle, Murad II, the fact that he wasn't his father's favorite son, showcasing his youth, upbringing, and his teachings, the unexplainable and serious deaths of his older brothers who were heirs to the throne, the altercations and disagreements he had with his father, and dealing with his father’s death, and his early interactions with Constantine up to 1452.
SEASON TWO: the war itself, from late 1452 to May 1453. In this season there'll be no going back and forth since it's all about them clashing with each other for the ownership of the Empire.
THE STORY: CONSTANTINOPLE, SEASON ONE
The series starts when John VIII dies and an heir to the throne is searched for. Since John died childless, the only prospects were his brothers. There was Constantine XI, a war veteran, and former Despot of Morea and regent of Constantinople; Theodore II, Despot of Morea: Demetrios, former governor of Lemnos and Mesembria; Thomas, Despot of Morea. Constantine was the chosen one but this did not sit well with Demetrios. Sibling rivalry would soon erupt as to who the better successor since he felt that he deserved the position. To right the wrongs of his family for them unifying with Italy and strongly disapproving it. For the longest time he was the black sheep and complainer of the family. It got so heated that they had to call upon their mother, Helena, to get involved and to cast her vote. She too chose Constantine. John himself appointed the throne to him with his own very words before he died. Demetrios refused to accept it, to where he planned an unsuccessful coup and as soon as it was discovered, Helena in desperation called upon their enemy, Sultan Murad II, to be the arbitrator of the hearing. Each brother gave their reasons to who was the suitable candidate, and he, too, motioned for Constantine. Demetrios was in a fit of rage to where Constantine gave him half of the Morea in order to remove him and never step foot back into the city again.
He was crowned in a very small ceremony in a cathedral in Mistra. His arrival to Constantinople was bittersweet. In 1449 upon his return home he inherited bankruptcy, with a family that had taste for Civil War, the city divided by religious passions, and impoverished and volatile proletariat. He wasn't even crowned in the city he was obligated to govern. The ceremony should have taken place in St. Sophia, but there was a strong feeling that the coronation of a unionist Emperor by a unionist patriarch and Gregory Mammas, would risk grave public disorder.
The most resistance that Constantine would constantly run into with from George Scholarios, Gennadios, and started to orchestrate resistance in the form of the synod of anti-Unionist clergy.
Around that time Constantine assigned to his brother, Demetrios, to have shared duties along with their youngest brother, Thomas, to both serve as Despots of Morea and after long deliberations it was decided that the province should the partitioned between them. Thomas would control the Achaia and towns of Patras and Clarentza; Demetrios was to government the rest from Mistra. They took an oath before Helena and Constantine that they would respect each other's boundaries. Within a few months between 1449 and 1450, they began to clash, Thomas seeking cooperation with the Latins from the West and Demetrios towards accommodation with the Ottomans. Thomas initiated hostilities against Demetrios by capturing Skorta, which was one of the districts under a ladder's control. He responded by sending his envoy and brother-in-law, Matthew Asanes, to seek help from Murad II and Turahan Bey, the Ottoman governor of Thessaly, and came to Demetrios’ help with an army and forced Thomas to compensate for seizure of the region Skorta by ceding the city of Kalamata to Demetrios. Constantine intervened to patch up their differences and end their feud.
After the union the individual that took the most heat was the patriarch Gregory. The issue split the city into: Constantine, his nobles, officers, and civil servants supported the union; only a fraction of the clergy and people did. But the anti-Unionist clergy refused to pray for their Emperor in their churches. Constantine was more of a soldier than theologian and was in his mid-40s so his back was up against the wall when he became Emperor. Things got so heated between Gregory and the citizens about the opinions concerning the union that he was ran out of the country in 1451 and departed for Rome. Over there he kept Pope Nicholas fully informed of the activities of the anti-unionists. No suitable candidate could be found to replace them. Constantinople henceforth had neither a fully legitimate Emperor nor patriarch.
Constantine was a widowed man, who lost two of his wives. Realizing that he had no heir to the throne, he sent out his most trusted ambassadors, the most important being George Sphrantzes, to travel with the task of finding him a suitable wife. He sailed the seas from visiting the courts of Georgia and Trebizond. The king of Georgia, George VIII, put himself out of the running because he proposed that the hand of his daughter should be worth a large sum of money. The Emperor John IV of Trebizond had conventional ideas about arranging a dowry which might go with and one of his daughters. The search was still on, then the other prospect
was Mara Brankovic, the widow of the now deceased Murad II, and she had been allowed to go to her father in Serbia and was also niece of Emperor John IV. See was a Byzantine princess and then an Ottoman Sultana, and was the stepmother of Mehmet II, she seemed like a logical choice to be a great influence for peace. Her father, Durad Brankovic, favored the potential courtship, but being released from the marriage to the infidel Sultan, she made about to herself that she would live out the rest of her days in chastity and devotion to charitable works. With that possibility failing, George tried a second time to convince George VIII to hand his daughter over to John for marriage. Finally he agreed. They started official negotiations for the named Georgian Princess to be Constantine's bride. It was agreed that next spring, Sphrantzes what Silver Jordan to bring the bride to Constantinople, but it would happen because of the tragic events of 1453.
As a plot point possibility, Constantine's mother, Helena, there is no recollection of how the woman died. Since he is in desperate need to find a suitable woman to bear him a child. As a last resort, since the conflicts with the Turks was escalating and the battle was approaching, with them having a close relationship, Helena offers herself to Constantine, they do it secretly, and she carries his child, and just like his second marriage, his mother dies during childbirth. With all hopes of having a child to be his successor to the throne was destroyed.
In 1451 once Murad II died and his son Mehmet II took the reins, his early duration as Sultan with relations with the Byzantine Empire were very diplomatic and untroublesome. The only known member of the ruling Ottoman house apart from them was a grandson of the late Sultan Suleiman called Prince Orhan and lived in exile at Constantinople. Mehmet granted the Byzantine and annual sum of money and tax revenues of some Greek towns in the lower Struma valley that legally belonged to Prince Orhan, the Ottoman pretender, and the money was paid to keep him detained in the city. Constantine knew, since his father Manuel had done it before, if the Sultan failed to pay, a rival claimant to the throne would be at large to foment civil war in the Empire. The Byzantines dispatched ambassadors with a formal complaint to the Sultan’s vizier, Halil Pasha, at Brusa that the annuity was not sufficient, that able to set the annual allowance, and the deal they asked for was one of two things: either double the allowance, or they will release Orhan. Halil was furious by this and called the Byzantines stupid and warned them that they made a big mistake. It was a choice that Constantine would later regret.
Sultan Mehmet reacted to this by not only revoking the treaty, but to the force that into constructing a fortress on the European shore of the Bosphorus. Workmen and masons were assembled for the task. Ottoman workmen began to pillage certain ruined monasteries and churches near the castle for building materials. The Greek villagers who lived nearby any inhabitants of the area were upset by those actions especially when some soldiers and builders started to raid their fields. Those who tried to fight were captured and executed, but as it continued, the farmers from being upset by their ruined crops purposely provoked by the Ottomans a skirmish ensued in which men were killed on both sides. The farmers that fought back were all put to the sword. When Constantine heard of the massacre he quickly reacted by
closing the city gates and arresting all the Turkish residents in the city, even some of Mehmet’s young eunuchs who were on a visit to the city. They petitioned Constantine to release them declaring that the master would be angry with them for not returning. They begged either to be freed or executed. Constantine relented and let the men go. He sent one more embassy to the Sultan with the message of resignation and defiance. Mehmet executed the envoys and sent a curt reply that they either surrender the city or get ready to do battle. The work on the castle began in April 1452 and was completed in August. The Turks called it the Throat Cutter, though in time it will become known as the European castle, Rumeli Hisari. War was bound to begin.
Constantine in absolute desperation pleaded to rulers in neighboring countries for assistance, offering land is very little ridges that they had for aid. Practical help was probably forthcoming. Constantine sent word to his brothers in the Morea, Thomas and Demetrios, asking them to come to the city. Somehow Mehmet became aware of his plea to his brothers and ordered his elderly general, Turahan Bey, to go there and he ravaged the countryside and to stopped them from helping their brother.
Sometime in 1452 there arrived a Hungarian cannon founder called Orban, seeking his fortune in the Imperial court. He was one of the many mercenaries who ply their trade across the Balkans, and he offered his services to the Byzantines with his skill testing large, single piece bronze guns. The broke Emperor was interested in him but had few resources to use his skill, and he authorized a tiny stipend to detain him in the city but even this was not paid regularly so the master craftsman became increasingly destitute and soon left the city and went to…
Constantine made several pleas to Pope Nicholas and with Gregory Mammes trying to support the Emperor's requests but Nicholas didn't really care to hear it. Honestly the Venetians lost interest in Constantinople. They were more interested in their commercial agreements, the security of their sea routes, and the calculation of interest. The merchants studied the price of what could be bought and sold – wheat, fur, slaves, wine, and gold - the supply of manpower for the galley fleets, and the pattern of Mediterranean winds. They lived by trade and sea, by discount, profit margins, and ready coin. They had made their own promising arrangements for the Turks.
Pope Nicholas gave in and decided to send a papel legate to Constantinople to make sure that the union was celebrated in St. Sophia. He chose Cardinal Isidore, formerly Bishop of Kiev and a Byzantine. He set out for Constantinople along with a body of 200 archers, funded by the Pope as a gesture of military support for his principally theological mission. He was joined by Leonard of Chios, the Genoese archbishop of Lesbos. Those who opposed the union deplored this celebration their most holy church as the ultimate affront to their faith and their traditions. Scholarios, now the monk Gennadios, was passionate in the denunciations. He harangued the people on the betrayal of their faith. There was rioting. Leonard demanded that the anti- unionists should be arrested. Constantine did not act on this advice but he called the anti- unionist synod to the palace to explain their objections. Gennadios said that help from the West would lead to the loss of their faith and that the world was coming to an end.
There was a meeting in the palace on November 15, 1452, at which that anti-unionists signed a document of protest. But the sound of Turkish, firing in the Bosporus beyond the city walls was more effective than tirades of Gennadios.
Ships that were routing between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean had to pay a custom school at the throat cutter, if they ignored it they risk the consequences. On November 26, the Venetian captain, Antonio Rizzo, came down the Bosporus from the Black Sea with the cargo of food for the city. Ignoring warning shouts from the bank to lower its sales he continued on. He was fired upon and one giant stone ball struck a lightweight hole of his galley, destroying it. He and 30 survivors headed to shore on a small boat and were quickly captured, bound in chains, and marched off to face the Sultan's displeasure in Edirne. Mehmet beheaded most of the men, and Rizzo was impaled on the stake and the bodies were left to rot outside the town walls as a warning against the disobedience. A few of the sailors returned to Constantinople to ensure the news got back to the city.
At the end of November Gennadios retired from the fray and pledged himself to desist from embarrassing is Emperor any further. Finally, on December 12, concelebration of the Catholic and Orthodox liturgy took place in St. Sophia. The Emperor and his court were present. The names of Pope Nicholas V and of the absent Patriarch Gregory III were commemorated. Gennadios and eight other monks refused to participate. He nailed a declaration on the door of his cell and the monastery of the Pantocrator, bearing witness before God that he would sooner die than forswear the Orthodoxy that was his heritage. This was the closest thing to peace that will happen before the eruption of war.
FLASHBACKS In 1446, at Morea, Sultan Murad, along with 50 – 60,000 soldiers, invaded the city to teach Constantine and Thomas a lesson, and the two brothers held their ground at the Hexamilion, but with his bombards he was able to breakthrough into the city and the two brothers barely escaped with their lives, indicating one of the early clashes that Constantine would have with the Turks. Showing the Council of Florence, the meetings, the discussions, the people from both countries that were involved and in attendance, the departure of Demetrios in the last year of the unification. In 1442, Demetrios marched on Constantinople with Ottoman troops, in which he promised the Sultan that they would take the city but the Byzantine troops far outweighed the forces that the Ottomans had and for that he was beaten at the hands of his brother John as his punishment.
THE STORY: THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE, SEASON ONE
On March 29,1432, Sultan Murad was waiting in the royal palace at Edirne for news of the birth and unable to sleep he started to read the Koran when a messenger brought word of the son that he would name Mehmet. He spent his first years in the palace harem in Edirne but was sent to the regional capital of Amasya in Anatolia at the age of two to begin the early preparation for his education. His oldest half-brother Ahmet, who was 12 years of age, became governor of the city at the same time. And in 1437 Ahmet died suddenly. Six years later, when it is other half-brother Ali was governor, a gruesome Ottoman mystery took place in the town. A leading noble, Kara Hizir Pasha, was dispatched to Amasya by unknown persons. He managed to steal into the palace at night and strangle Ali in his bed, as well as both his infant sons. Mehmet remained the only heir to the throne.
Ali was Murad’s favorite son and his death affected him deeply. At 11 years old Mehmet was the only future to the Ottoman states. He had become a disciplinary case, to the disliking of his father. Mehmet had openly defied his previous tutors, refusing to be chastised or to learn the Koran. Murad called in the celebrated mullah Ahmet Gurani with orders to thrash the young
prince into submission. Mehmet laughed at first at which the mullah delivered such a beating that Mehmet began to absorb the Koran, then a widening circle of knowledge. He became fluent in languages in Turkish, Persian, and Arabic, as well as spoken Greek, Slavic dialect, and some Latin. Learned other subjects like history, geography, science, practical engineering, and literature.
In the 1440s the Ottoman Empire was threatened in Anatolia by and uprising by one of its Turkmen vassals, the bey of Karaman, while the new Hungarian led crusade was being prepared in the West. The Hungarian army, led by King Ladislas, John Hunyadi, and Serbian Despot Durad Brankovic. Murad appeared to have to defuse the Christian threat with a 10 year truce. Mara, daughter of Durad, added additional pressure. On March 6, 1444, Mara sent an envoy to Durad; their discussion started the paece negotiations with the Ottoman Empire. On April 24, Ladislas sent a letter to Murad, stating that his ambassador, Stojka Gisdanic, was traveling to Edirne with full powers to negotiate on his behalf. He asked that once an agreement was reached Murad sent his own investors with the treaty and his sworn oath to Hungary at which point Ladislas could also swear. After the truce was signed Murad departed to Anatolia to deal with the troublesome bey, Ibrahim II.
Before he went, he made the surprising move of abdicating from the throne. He was afraid of civil war within the state wanted to make his own son be in power before he himself died, so at the age of 12, Mehmet was confirmed as Sultan at Edirne under the guidance of the trustworthy chief vizier Halil Pasha. Murad had negotiated a truce with the bey of Karaman and right afterwards that's when he retired to Anatolia.
Mehmet’s rule was not off to a good start. Pope Eugene immediately and absolve the Hungarian King Ladislas of his old truce of the crusader army rumbled forward. They headed for the Danube and Venetian fleet was dispatched to the Dardenelles to block Murad’s return. On receipt of this news, Mehmet understood that he was too young and inexperienced to successfully fight the coalition. He recalled his dad back to the throne and lead the army into battle but Murad refused. Angry at his father he wrote," If you are the Sultan, come and lead your armies. If I am Sultan I hereby order you to come lead my armies.” It was only after receiving this letter that Murad agreed to lead the Ottoman army.
And 1444 and inspirational religious fanatic of a heretical Shia sect had appeared in the city. Crowds walked to the Persian missionary who promised re-conciliation between Islam and Christianity, and Mehmet himself, attracted by his teachings, walk around the man into the palace. The religious authorities were shocked, and Halil himself was alarmed by the popular enthusiasm for the heretic. An attempt was made to arrest him. With the missionary sought sanctuary in the palace, Mehmet had to be persuaded to get the man. He was eventually hauled off to the public prayer site and burned alive; his followers were massacred. Mehmet heard news that the pretender to the Ottoman throne, Prince Orhan, was being released from the city to foment a revolt. Murad did negotiate a truce with the Bay of Karaman and when he was told by his son to come back he hurried to reclaim his throne. Finding the Dardanelles was blocked by Venetian ships, he was buried across the Bosphorus with his army by their rivals, the Genoese, at the handsome fee of a ducat a head and advance to meet the army at Varna on the Black Sea on November 10, 1444. The outcome was a crushing victory for the Ottomans. Ladislas's skull was mounted on the lance and sent to the old Ottoman city of Bursa as a triumphal token of Muslim supremacy. After that Murad again retired to Anatolia. He gave the throne back to Mehmet. Halil Pasha remained first vizier, but Mehmet was more influenced by the two men who acted as his governors: the chief eunuch Shihabettin Pasha, lord of the European provinces, and forceful Christian renegade, Zaganos Pasha. The precocious Mehmet, supported by his tutors, started to plan a new assault on Constantinople as early as 1445. He was 13 years old, Halil Pasha was thoroughly alarmed. He disapproved of the young Sultan's plan; after the debacle of 1444, he figured such a move would end in further disaster. Despite its formidable resources, the Ottoman Empire at all but collapsed within the living memory under Civil War and Halil retained the beat fear of many, that a concerted attempt of Constantinople could provoke a massive Christian response from the west. He had personal motives to: he was concerned for the erosion of his own power than that of the traditional Muslim Turkish nobility at the expense of the war mongering Christian converts. He decided to engineer Mehmet's deposition by instigating a Janissary revolt and petitioning Murad to return to Edirne to take control again. Murad was welcomed back gracefully. His son was not popular with the Janissaries or the people. Mehmet retired to Manisa with his advisers. It was a humiliating rebuff that he would never forgive or forget; one day it would cost Halil his life. Mehmet had his reasons for his animosity towards Halil. The fact that the Çandarlı family, which had become extremely wealthy from their influence in the empire for over a century, possibly more so than even the ruling Ottoman family itself, further strained tensions between Mehmet and Halil.
Mehmet was made in the shadows for the rest of Murad's life, though he continued to regard himself as Sultan. He accompanied his father and fought by his side on the battlefield to the second battle of Kosovo in 1448, where the Hungarians made one final bid to break Ottoman power. The outcome, despite huge Ottoman losses was as decisive as of Varna and further served to cement the legend of Ottoman invincibility.
Murad's final years were spent in Edirne. He lost his appetite for further military adventure, preferring the stability of peace to the uncertainties of war. In the later part of his life he abided by the treaties that he had sworn secretly with the Christians. He also tried to instill that into his son. He died in February 1451 he was mourned by friend and foe alike. News of his father's death was dispatched in a sealed letter by flying courier. Mehmet immediately had his horse settled and called to his retainers and was accompanied by his household troops and they made the crossing at Gallipoli in two days. As he rode across the plain to Edirne, he was met by a vast throng of the officials, viziers, mullahs, state government, and common people. A half mile away from town, they walked toward their new ruler in dead silence and half a mile distant, they stopped and broke into wild ululations for the dead Sultan. Mehmet joined in the communal lamentation. The chief officials bowed before the new Sultan and then they went to the palace for the coronation. He was 17 years old. Mehmet settled into the royal palace at Edirne. When Murad died he had left behind an infant son by another wife - Little Ahmet. A few days later, while the mother was paying an official visit to the throne room to express her grief at his father's death, Mehmet dispatched a minion, Ali Bey, to the women's quarters to drown Little Ahmet in the bath. The next day he executed Ali Bey for the crime, then married the distraught mother off to one of his nobles. Mehmet did his best to abide by the promise he sore he'd keep to his father. He swore that he'd devote himself to peace with the city and Emperor Constantine for his whole life. As long as they kept Prince Orhan detained in the city everything would be fine. The Venetians, who had trading interests in Edirne, renewed their peace with Mehmet. He requested George Brankovic's help in brokering a deal with the Hungarians, and with their leader and regent John Hunyadi and he was willing to agree to a three-year truce. Emissaries from the Genoese at Galata from the lords of Chios, Lesbos, and Rhodes, from Trebizond, Wallachia, and Dubrovnik were similarly able to secure guarantees of peace on reasonable terms. Christian countries assumed that the new Sultan was under the thumb of his peaceable vizier, Halil, that his youth was his disadvantage, and his short lack of experience on the throne didn't make him a threat. His quest for peace would be changed by two events. And in 1451, the bey of Karaman tried yet again to rest back territory in western Anatolia from Ottoman control. He occupied fortresses, reinstated former chieftains, and invaded the Ottoman land. Mehmet sent his generals to put down the uprising, and having concluded his peace treaties at Edirne, Mehmet appeared on the scene himself. The effect was immediate. The revolt was quickly crushed and then he turned for home.
At Bursa his own Janissary Corp. standing with their arms in two rows on either side of the road and shouted at him that for the first campaign they wanted to be rewarded with the customary bonus. On the spot he was forced to accede; 10 sacks of coins were distributed among the mutineers, but for Mehmet it was a crucial test of wills that he was determined to try to win. A few days later he summoned their general and castigated and stripped him of his office; several of the officer corps. were similarly punished. Constantine dispatched ambassadors to how Halil with a preemptory demand that the Ottoman Empire double the allowance to keep Prince Orhan, an Ottoman pretender, detained in the city, or the Byzantine Empire will release Orhan, causing a civil war in the Ottoman Empire. Halil responded by calling them stupid. Mehmet realized that it was impossible to cross to Gallipoli as he intended since the Dardanelles were blocked by Italian ships so he made his way up to the straits of the Bosphorus to the Ottoman fortress of Anadolu Hisari that was built by his grandfather Bayezit in 1395 at the time of his siege of the city. It was there that he got his inspiration. He could dominate the Bosphorous and strangle the supply of grain and help to the city from the Greek colonies on the Black Sea and cut off the customs revenues it derived from shipping. The idea came to him to construct a second fortress on the European side, on land belonging to the Byzantines, to secure control of the straits, so that the "path of the vessels of the infidels may be blocked." The governors of provinces in both Europe and Asia gathered their conscripted men set up for the site and injured hard labor to construct the fortress. The responsibility for building and funding the outer towers were given to his viziers, Halil, Zaganos, and Shihabettin. The work began in April. The workforce amounted to over 6000 workers. Discipline was overseen by a force of kadis (judges), gathered from across the empire, who had the power of capital punishment, enforcement and military protection was provided by substantial army detachment. Even the nobility sometimes found it useful to encourage their workforce by personally carrying stones in line for the perspiring masons. Work went on all day and night. Mehmet tried to provoke the Byzantine Empire by having his soldiers and builders raid the farming fields of nearby Greek villages. Constantine may have been tempted to make a sortie but was talked out of it. Instead he resolved to defuse the situation by offering to send food out to the building workers prevent them from robbing Greek crops. And Ottoman detachment was dispatched to ravage the area beyond the city walls and carry off flocks and captives, the concertina have largely removed the population from the nearby villages into the city, together
The famous janissaries, the cavalry regiment of gunners, armorers, bodyguards, and military police. They were armed at the sultan’s expense, were all Christians from the Balkans and taken as children to convert to Islam and be in total loyalty of the sultan.
with the harvested crops. He also sent bribes to Halil to pursue his quest for peace, but this seems more likely to be the propaganda of the vizier's enemies. The fortress was complete on August, called the Rumeli Hisari, but known as the Throat Cutter. It was garrisoned with 400 men under its commander Firuz Bey, who was ordered to detain all ships passing up and down the street on payment of the toll. To add force to this menace, a number of Canon had been constructed and halted the site. Small ordinance was mounted on the battlements but a battery of large guns was installed on the seashore beneath the castle wall. ...Edirne to meet with Mehmet. The Sultan welcomed the Hungarian, provided him with food and clothes, and questioned him closely. He asked if he could cast a cannon suitable to project a stone large enough to smash the city walls and gestured the size of the stone he had in mind. He also ordered him to cast the cannon and declare that he would see to its firing afterward. Orban set to work to create his first great gun sometime during the building of the Throat Cutter in the summer 1452. Within three months Orban had cast his first great gun, which was lugged to the Throat Cutter to guard the Bosphorous. It was this that shattered Rizzos’ galley in November 1452 and sent news of Ottoman artillery power roughly to the city. Mehmet now ordered Orban to produce a truly monsters cannon, double size - the archetype of the super again. The Ottoman Empire was making preparations for war. It all would take place the next year.
THE STORY: THE WAR, 1453, SEASON TWO
6 April 1453 Sultan Mehmed pitched his imperial tent by the door of St. Romanus in Topkapi neighborhood. The same day the city was besieged from the Golden Horn to the Marmara Sea from the land. 6-7 April 1453 First cannons fired. Some of the fortresses in Edirnekapi neighborhood were destroyed. 9 April 1453 Baltaoglu Suleyman Bey launched the first attack to enter the Golden Horn inlet. 9-10 April 1453 Some of the fortresses on Bosphorus were taken. Baltaoglu Süleyman Bey seized the Marmara Islands. 11 April 1453
The big walls were bombarded by cannon fires. Holes and cracks were opened here and there. Serious destruction inflicted by ceaseless bombardment. 12 April 1453 The Ottoman fleet attacked the ships protecting the Golden Horn. The victory of the Christian ships decreased the morale of the Ottoman army. At the order of Sultan Mehmet, the Byzantine ships were pounded by mortar fire, and one galley was sunk. 18 April 1453, Night The Sultan gave his first crucial order. The attack lasted four hours but it was scattered. 20 April 1453 A naval skirmish took place close to Yenikapi neighborhood between the Ottoman fleet and four Byzantine warships with three supply ships full of food and weapons sent by the Papacy. The Sultan came to the shore himself and ordered Baltaoglu Süleyman Pasha to sink those ships by any means possible. The Ottoman fleet could not stop enemy's ships. With this failure, the Ottoman army lost its morale and showed the signs of defeat. Mehmet angrily asked his admiral why he failed to take a ships when the sea was flat calm and the admiral responded that he did everything in his power to fight the best he could. Mehmet was so upset and angry that he ordered his admiral to be impaled. Appalled, the council and courtiers threw themselves before Mehmet to plead for his life, arguing that he had fought bravely to the end and that the loss of his eye was visible proof of his efforts. In front of his fleet in the watching Circle of Calvary, Baltaoglu received 100 lashes and was stripped of his rank and property, which was distributed among the janissaries. Ottoman soldiers started defecting from the army. Soon, the Byzantine Emperor wanted to take advantage of this situation and offered peace. The offer was supported by the Vizier Çandarli Halil Pasha, but was rejected by Sultan Mehmet. The siege and bombardment of the fortresses with cannons continued.
During this chaos and widespread feeling of defeat, a letter from the Sultan's spiritual teacher Aksemseddin promised good news about the conquest. Encouraged by this spiritual support, Fatih Sultan Mehmet escalated the attack and decided to add an element of surprise: the Ottoman fleet anchored in Dolmabahçe bay would be moved to the Golden Horn by land. 22 April 1453 In early hours of the morning, Byzantines were shocked and horrified when they saw Ottoman galleys moving down on the hills of the harbor. Seventy ships carried by cows and balanced by hundreds of soldiers via ropes were slid over slipways. By the afternoon, the ships were inside the well protected bay. The surprise appearance of the Ottoman fleet in the bay created panic among Byzantine residents of Constantinople. The wall on the shore of the Golden Horn became a vulnerable spot and some of the Byzantine forces were moved there. This weakened the defense of the land walls. The Emperor at once summoned a council of war with the Venetians and Giustiniani. A scheme was proposed to set fire to the Turkish ships. But its execution was fatally delayed because of disagreements between the Venetians and the Genoese, who felt that they had not been properly consulted. Mehmet ordered the construction of a road of greased logs across Galata on the north side of the Golden Horn, and rolled his ships across on 22 April. This seriously threatened the flow of supplies from Genovese ships from the — nominally neutral — colony of Pera, and demoralized the Byzantine defenders. 28 April 1453 The Venetians and the Genoese provided one padded merchant each; two Venetian galleys, commanded by Gabriel Trevisano and Zacaria Grionis, three of the rustle with the combustible material led by Giacomo Coco and a number of smaller boats with further supplies of pitch, brushwood, and gunpowder. Giacomo Coco suddenly abandoned the carefully worked-out plan. On his own initiative he pulled his vessel ahead of the convoy and again to row at full speed at the injured fleet to watch the attack. Cannon fire opened up at the unprotected vessel. Handguns shot at the galley. The Muslim sailors sent out 70 smaller ships swarmed forward to grapple with the enemy and they were fighting at close quarters. The Ottomans had won. The fusta of master Giacomo Cocho drowned. The attempt to burn the Ottoman ships in the bay was prevented by heavy cannon fire. A bridge was constructed between Ayvansaray and Sutluce neighborhoods to attack the walls located on the shore of the bay. An offer of unconditional surrender was delivered to the Emperor through the Genoese. If he
surrendered he could have gone wherever he wanted and the life and property of his people would have been spared. The Emperor rejected this offer. 29 April 1453 Mistaken for dead, Giacomo Coco and some 40 survivors had swam free of their seeking craft, and in the darkness and the confusion of battle they made for the enemy sure and were captured. Mehmet now ordered them to be impaled in full view of the city as a punishment and a warning. 30 April 1453 Since the start of the siege the city had been holding about 260 Ottoman prisoners. On the orders of Constantine, the defenders retaliated in kind. They were enraged and savagely slaughtered the Turks they were holding prisoner on the walls, full view of the Ottoman Empire. One by one they were brought up to the ramparts and hung in circles in front of the watching Ottoman army. 1 May 1453 Upset by their losses, the Venetians put the blame on the Genoese of Pera (Galata) who were rebels against the Christian faith. The Venetians claim that someone from Galata had gone to the sultan's camp for the news of the plan and the man was called Faiuzo. The Genoese replied that the Venetians have been entirely responsible for the debacle because of Coco's greedy ambitions for honor and glory. Furthermore they accused the Venetians of secretly really boarding their ships and making ready to escape from the city. The Venetians accused them of the same thing, too, and the Genoese had wives, families, and a property in Galata and had intentions to fight. The Genoese at Galata laid them open to charges of deception and treachery for every direction. Constantine had to intervene to settle their feud. The Emperor had to remind their leaders that they were engaged in a war large enough without bringing their own conflict within the walls. 3 May 1453 A major council was called, involving the commanders, civil dignitaries, and churchmen, to discuss the situation. The move was made to persuade Constantine to leave the city for the Peloponnese, where he could regroup together new forces, and start again. Giustiniani offered his galleys for the Emperor's statement. He was silent for a moment and shed some tears. He thanked them for the suggestion but he couldn't leave behind his clergy, the churches of God, the Empire and the people. He asked how the world will think of him if he did such a thing, and answered that he would rather die with them. He bowed to them and cried in grief. Everyone there started to weep in silence. Constantine suggested that the Venetians should send a ship to search the Aegean for signs of a
rescue fleet. 12 men volunteered. At midnight the crew disguised themselves as Turks stepped onto the small boat, sporting the Ottoman flag, it sailed and slipped unnoticed through the enemy patrol headed west down to the Marmara under cover of darkness. 6 May The big guns supported by a small cannon fired at the walls. A portion of it fell. The defenders waited for nightfall to repair it and they continued firing in the dark making it harder to repair the gap and led into the next day... 7 May 1453 ... And the Ottomans kept firing all day. Around 7 o'clock at night a substantial section of the wall fell down and a massive assault was launched at the breach. Thousands of men crossed the ditch and ran for the breach. Giustiniani rushed me the intruders, and a desperate hand-to- hand struggle took place in the gap. Omar Bey, the standard bearer of the European army, was meant by a substantial contingent of Greeks commanded by their officer Rhangabes. The two leaders squared up to each other in single combat in front of their men. Rhangabes killed Omar. Infuriated at the death of their commander, the Ottoman troops encircled Rhangabes and cut him down. The Ottoman's cut the mutilated body to pieces and drove the Greek soldiers back into the city. For three hours the battle raged on, but the defenders successfully held the line. After the battle inside the city there was great mourning among the Greeks over his death, because he was a great warrior, was courageous, and was beloved of the Emperor. A three hour long attack was launched on the stream of Bayrampasa with a 30,000 strong force; but it failed. 8 May 1453 The Venetian Council of the 10 met and voted to unload the arms stored on the three Venetian great galleys, to transfer the men to the walls, and then sink the galleys in the Arsenal. The crews leaped to bar the gangways with drawn swords to their captains suggesting that the Greeks will keep them in the city by plane force and make them into slaves. Fearing the destruction of their one means of safety the captains and crews sealed their ships and sat tight. The next day the council amended its plans. Gabriel Trevisano, captain of the two long galleys, agreed to disarm his shifts and take his 400 men to join the defense at the St. Romanus gate. It took him four days to get there.
12 May 1453
Mehmet concentrated his fire on the area of the St. Romanus gate but they were doing a better job at the gate near the palace. Toward midnight a huge force advanced on the breach. Terror broke out in the narrow streets around the palace. The grand council of war was taking place 3 miles away on the porch of St. Sophia. Constantine laid out some options before his commanders: they could either sally out of the city at night and try to defeat the Ottomans in a surprise attack or they could sit tight and wait the inevitable, hoping for rescue by the Hungarians or the Italians. Lucas Notaras suggested that they continue to hold out, while others were again begging Constantine to leave the city. They got word that the Turks were overpowering the townspeople. Constantine galloped toward the palace, met with citizens and soldiers, and inspired his men to fight. With the help of Giustiniani he forced the intruders back, trapped them in the maze of narrow streets, and divided their forces in two. Cornered, the Ottomans counterattacked fiercely, trying to get at the Emperor. Constantine drove some of them back as far as the breach and try to gallop after them but his men stopped him and prevailed him to ride back. The Ottoman troops who could not escape were massacred in the dark lanes. The next morning the townspeople dragged the corpses up to the walls and hurled them into the ditch for their comrades to collect. 11 and 13 May 1453 On both days all that took place was continuous bombardment of the unfortunate walls. Both soldiers and civilians were growing weary of fighting, repairing, burying corpses, and counting the enemy dead. The Ottomans, with their scrupulous concern for the hygiene of the camp, carried the casualties away and burned the bodies daily, but the ditches were still choked with rotting corpses. The slaughter risked contaminating water supplies were the blood was in the rivers and putrefied in the streams. 16 May 1453 The Slav troops conscripted for the campaign included a band of skilled miners from the city of Novo Brdo. They were placed under the command of Zaganos Pasha. The miners excavated narrow subterranean tunnels. In the dead of night, by chance soldiers on the ramparts heard the clink of pickaxes and the sound of muffled voices coming from the ground inside the wall. The mine passed under the
ramparts and was intended to provide a secret point of entry into the city. Notaras and Constantine were quickly notified. A panicky conference was called in the search was made throughout the city for men with mining experience to see what was going on. The man chosen was a skillful German soldier by the name of John Grant, who was accompanied by Giustiniani. Bursting into the enemy tunnel in the dark, they fired the pit props and collapsed the tunnel on the miners, leaving them to suffocate in the dark. Grant came up with a method of bowls and buckets of water placed at regular intervals on the ground by the wall and observe for telltale ripples on the surface that would indicate subterranean vibrations. The same day, an attempt to cut the big chain blocking the entrance of the Golden Horn failed. The following day the attack was repeated, but again ended with failure. 18 May 1453 Watchers on the wall near the Charisian Gate witnessed a gigantic wooden siege tower heading their way. They packed barrels of gunpowder that were prepared behind the walls and rolled off the ramparts towards the tower, with fuses sputtering the tower cracked and exploded. The defenders hurled barrels of burning pitch down on the wounded ground below. Advancing out the walls they massacred any further survivors and burned the bodies along with other siege equipment that had been drawn up nearby such as long battering rams and wheeled ladders, and wagons with protective turrets on them and emptied the trenches that were filled by Ottomans. Mehmet withdrew his men and other similar towers which had been the advanced at other points along the wall or also burned by the defenders. Over the following days, bombarding of the land walls was continued. 19 May 1453 Ottoman engineers finished the construction of a pontoon bridge ready to swing across the Horn just beyond the walls. 22 May 1453 Grant and has been discovered a tunnel into the city near the Calegari gate, which they intercepted. They burned the miners alive with Greek fire. A few hours later telltale vibrations in the city another mine nearby but this one was harder to detect. However, the pit props
collapsed of their own accord and killed all the miners inside. 23 May 1453 They detected another mine and confronted the enemy. Hurling Greek fire, they brought down the roof, burying the miners, they managed to capture two officers and bring them back to the surface alive. The Greeks tortured these men until they revealed the location of all the other mines. Once they confessed their heads were cut off, and their bodies were thrown from the walls on the side of the city where the Turkish camp was. The Venetian crew that was sent out to look for signs of a rescue fleet found nothing and had received no positive reports from passing vessels of that no ships were coming for aid. They went as far off the coast of Greece. A heated debate progressed about what to do next. One sailor suggestion that they go someplace else and not come back to Constantinople. The majority voted that they go back and stay loyal. They returned in their Turkish disguises. The Ottoman fleet was patrolling attentively, fearing the arrival of Venetian galleys and took the small sailing boat for their outrider and rowed forward to intercept, but the crew outstripped them and the boom opened to let it back in. They reported the news to Constantine that no fleet was coming. Constantine was devastated. The Ottoman army misinterpreted it as the outrider of that week. 24 May 1453 Word spread quickly among the tents in the Ottoman camp that a powerful fleet was approaching the Dardanelle us and that a Hungarian Crusader army under John Hunyadi had already crossed the Danube and was marching on Edirne. This created some doubt and the eyes of the army troops and the shouted against their Sultan. On the night of 24 May the dome of St. Sophia appeared to be suffused with a red glow that crept slowly up and round from its base to the great gilt cross at the top. During which approximately two-thirds of the Moon was covered by the Earth's umbral shadow. The residual illumination the Moon during an eclipse, can often be red. This may explain why it is said a "red moon" took place during the eclipse, and was taken as an omen or prophecy of the city's transfer of power, represented a fulfillment of a prophecy of the city's demise. The light lingered there for a moment and then went out. 25 May 1453
Fatih Sultan Mehmet, sent emissary, Ismail Bey as an ambassador offering the Emperor to surrender for the last time. According to this offer, the Emperor and his followers could take their wealth and go anywhere they wished. The people who decided to stay could keep their belongings and estates. This offer too was rejected. The Virgin, who had always been its protectress, seemed to be wavering in her affections. When the most hallowed of her icons, most importantly the Hodegetria, a huge crowd gathered on the morning of at the icon's shrine, the church of St. Saviour in Chora near the city walls was brought out to be paraded round the streets, it was mounted on a wooden pallet, was lifted onto the shoulders of a team of men, what the towns people following them. They were singing the hymns, the lamentations, there are clouds of incense, and additional prayers spoken to the protecting virgin, all rose in the morning air. Suddenly the icon slipped from the hands of the bearers by mysterious means and the people were terrified at the sight of it falling on the ground. They tried to pick it up but it was so heavy. Finally it got raised up but the terror still remained. And was taken as a bad omen. Out of nowhere a violent thunderstorm at once a thunderstorm broke out and the city was deluged with torrents of rain and hail. Some were in danger of being carried away and drowned by the force of the water. This disaster forced them to disperse. 26 May 1453 That morning in Constantinople they awoke to discover the city blanketed in thick fog. There was no wind, the air was still, and the fog clung to the city all day. According to rumors, European countries and especially Hungarians were planning to mobilize their troops to help the Byzantines unless the siege was ended. Upon hearing these rumors Sultan Mehmet gathered his war council. In the meeting Candarli Halil Pasha and his party defended their previous position, that is, of putting an end to the siege. Sultan Mehmet with his tutor Zaganos Pasha, his teachers Aksemseddin, Molla Gürani and Molla Hüsrev opposed the idea of quitting. They decided to continue the war and Zaganos Pasha was commissioned for preparations. 27 May 1453
The general attack was announced to the Ottoman army. He told all of his captains, generals, and soldiers to look at the wall of Constantinople and asked him to realize that the possession of wealth and treasure and all the riches of the world will come their way and the immortal honor that would follow from capturing them the most famous city on earth. 28 May 1453 The army spent the day by resting and preparing for the next day's attack. There was a complete silence among soldiers. Sultan Mehmet inspected the army and encouraged them for the great attack. On the other side, a religious ceremony was held in Hagia Sophia Church. It was attended by the great procession of priest, men, women, and children. They all praise the most holy icons of the city as they were brought in from their shrines and chapels, the procession went throughout the city and along the full length of the land walls. The priests read the ancient prayers that God would protect the walls and give victory to His faithful people. The bishops raised their crosiers and blessed the defenders, sprinkling them with holy water from bunches of dried basil. The Emperor urged people to participate in the defense. He made a speech to those fighting ,"know that today is your day of glory, which, if you shed even one drop of blood you will prepare for yourself a martyr's crown and immortal glory with God's help we may hope to gain the victory." This would be the last Byzantine ceremony. At the day's end Giustiniani and his men were repairing the damage to the outer wall. As he directed operations, a fragment of stone shot, probably a ricochet, struck the commander, piercing his steel breastplate and watching his chest he felt the ground was carried home to bed. Whether if it actually happened or not it has been disputed but legend has it that Constantine was riding through the dark streets of the city and returned late at night to the Blachernae Palace. He called his servants and household to him and begged them for forgiveness. He wanted George to come with him, they rode over and climbed the tower at the Caligaria gate watching the enemy preparations in the dark. Constantine ordered him to leave, George had his family with him in the city. They said their goodbyes and departed away from each other. George and his family sailed away from Constantinople. 29 May 1453 Platoons positioned for the assault. Sultan Mehmet gave the order to attack at midnight. Inside Constantinople, while the soldiers positioned for war, people filled the churches. Giustiniani and his men, and Constantine along with his nobles, principal knights, and his bravest men press forward to the barricades with javelins, pipes, long spears and other fighting
weapons. It was soon a hand-to-hand, face-to-face struggle for control of the ramparts. What really took place is uncertain, but the truth is Giustiniani was badly wounded. Was a more serious injury than the one before and Constantine allowed for his men to carry him back to a ship to seek medical attention, and then the gate was open and his bodyguard carried away down to his galley at the horn. The tempted by the open gate his men streamed through the gate after him. The Ottoman army launched its final assault. The first assault was performed by infantry and it was followed by Anatolian soldiers. When 300 Anatolian soldiers were killed, the Janissaries started their attack. With the presence of Sultan Mehmet, the Ottoman army was motivated and hand to hand fights started. A posse of janissaries clambered over the dead bodies and forced open the Fifth Military Gate. Making their way up the inside of the city walls some went toward the Charisian gate and opened it from the inside while others opened the gate of St. Romanus. A young soldier, Ulubatli Hasan, who first erected the Ottoman flag on Byzantine land wall, was martyred. From tower after tower Ottoman flags fluttered in the wind. The Byzantine defense collapsed. There are several versions of how Constantine died but in this story, Constantine fought with all he had. On top of the rampart, he and Sultan Mehmet confronted each other, face-to-face, young versus old, two rulers of two different nations and religious factions, will battle to the death. Constantine, for being a veteran, held his own and put in a really good fight, but his age, and the length of the war tired him out. Mehmet cut his head off with a sword and put it on the top of his lance. Cardinal Isidore, with the help of his servants managed to swap the episcopal ropes for those of a soldier lying dead in the street. The elderly Isidore was quickly captured but unrecognized, and seemed too wretched to be worth anything of dragging into slavery. For a small sum of money he bought his freedom from his captors on the spot and managed to get aboard one of the Italian ships in the harbor; Prince Orhan was dressed as a soldier and with the fluent command of Greek, he sought to make good his escape from the sea walls but was recognized and pursued. His severed head was taken to Mehmet; Lucas Notaras and his family were taken, probably in their palace; George Sphrantzes and his family were captured at sea; Gennadios was captured in his cell.
Turkish forces entered from every direction and crushed the Byzantine defense completely. Towards noon Sultan Mehmet entered the city. He went directly to Haghia Sophia Church and ordered to convert it into a mosque. He was handed the Red Apple, he stood with it possessed in his hand, he stood there in silence and in his glory, admiring it. Constantinople now belonged to the Ottoman Empire.
THE OUTCOME OF THE WAR
The sack and plunder of the city began as soon as the first Turks broke in, and as the day wore on there seemed no end to it. The plundering and destruction went on for three days, but the worst was over by the end of the first 12 hours. The dead were estimated at 4000; the number of prisoners was thought to be at least 50,000.The conquerors were impatient to collect the rewards of their victory. Every living thing that stood in their way was slaughtered and the streets ran with blood. The houses nearest the land walls suffered earliest. They were broken open and ransacked, the children were thrown out, the women raped or captured. The palace at Blachernai and the churches nearby were soon gutted and their treasures stolen or burnt. Books and icons were pitched into the flames after their bejewelled bindings and silver frames had been wrenched off. But rumor had it that the greatest treasures of all were to be found in St. Sophia, and the janissaries were eager to be the first to get there. The church was packed with terrified people. The doors had been bolted; but the soldiers quickly broke their way in and set to work tearing down the gold and silver ornaments, murdering those who got in their way, and squabbling over the possession of the more desirable captives. Whole families were butchered or separated one from the other as captive slaves. Their houses were wrecked and their fortunes ruined. The ancient icon of the Mother of God, the Hodegetria, the protectress of the city painted by St. Luke, was torn down and smashed in pieces. The cathedral and numerous other churches had been desecrated. Nuns had been rounded up and divided as spoil among their captors.
Gennadios Scholarius was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople. A search had to be made for him, since he had been dragged off to the slave market with the other monks of his monastery. He was discovered serving in the household of a Turk at Adrianople and brought to the Sultan. The Turkish pretender Orhan, however, was not so lucky. He had played his part in the defense of the city, more out of desperation than loyalty. He tried to get away dressed up as a monk. But he was betrayed by one of the Byzantine prisoners and promptly beheaded. His head was sent to the Sultan. The gallant Giustiniani, the mainspring of the defense at the land walls, got as far as Chios before he died of his wounds. The next day on June 1 for Halil Pasha, who had consistently opposed the war policy, the end was quick. He was hanged at Edirne and replaced by Zaganos Pasha, who actively supported the war. He was the first Ottoman grand vizier to be executed by the sultan. With George Sphrantzes following the capture of Constantinople both of his children had
become slaves of some elderly Turks, along with his wife Helena, who treated them well, and then were sold to the Sultan's seraglio. However, before Sphrantzes could ransom them from the seraglio, the Sultan learned of them and bought them. Sphrantzes records he learned of his son's death, at the age of 14 years and a day short of eight months, December 1453. Much later did Sphrantzes learn of his daughter Thamar's death in the Imperial Harem September 1455, aged 14 years and five months. Prominent prisoners were the Grand Duke Lucas Notaras, with his wife and two sons, and his son-in-law, a Cantacuzene, and the Grand Domestic Andronikos Palaiologos Cantacuzene. But five days after the conquest they were arrested with nine other notables and executed. The cause of their punishment is said to have been the Grand Duke's refusal to hand over one of his sons to the Sultan's pleasure. His children were therefore murdered before his eyes and he himself was then decapitated. His son-in-law and the Grand Domestic were also beheaded. Their widows were sent with the rest of the prisoners to Adrianople and the wife of Notaras died on the way there. He was a treasury official, had attempted to ingratiate himself with Mehmet II by retaining money from the Byzantine treasury as a gift for the Sultan. Mehmet II was neither impressed nor grateful, instead suggesting it should have been used for the defense of the city and viewed it as treason.
CONSTANTINE XI PALAIOLOGOS – The last reigning Byzantine Emperor, from the Palaiologos family dynasty from 1449-1453. His death marked the end of the Roman Empire. A veteran warrior, loyal, and honorable, he was chosen by his older brother (as his successor), by his mother, and even by the empire’s enemy to be the rightful one to be given the throne. Desperate, the wealth and spirit of his empire was broken. Did everything in his power to do the right thing, what was best for his country, even though some supported him, while others loathed him. Even though Constantinople fell to the hands of the Ottomans, his legacy would be that he fought bravely to the very end, his courageousness has made him a legend and a national hero in Greece.
GEORGE SPHRANTZES - a loyal friend to the Palaiologos family, has served as an Imperial courtier, historian, attendant, a member of the protovestiarites, and a close confidant of Constantine. His relationship with Constantine is a strong, emotional bond. He served his Emperor with faithfulness and even 23 years ago saved his life. Always following his orders, he had undertaken endless diplomatic missions for his master over 30 year period. This battle is based on his personal experiences that he wrote in The Chronicle.
HELENA DRAGAS - the matriarch of the Palaiologos family, the mother of Constantine, Demetrios, Theodore, and Thomas. Beautiful and wise, it was her decision to elect Constantine to the throne as Emperor to Constantinople. She became a nun at the monastery of Kyra Martha, but soon she changed her responsibilities once her son assumed the role as Emperor. She was there by his side inspiring him to reach his full potential.
DEMETRIOS PALAIOLOGOS - a complainer, greedy, selfish, spoiled, always wants it his way, he is the biggest disappointment to the Palaiologos family. Everywhere he goes controversy follows him and somehow it always affects his family. Constantly putting himself and his family in a position to get hurt. His family does their best to show him love by giving him land, cities, states, and ruling positions hoping it can suppress his self-centered attitude and mentality, but somehow that’s never enough for him. He’ll go so far as to try and kill his own people, go to war with his own family, to get what he wants, even to stage a coup against his own brother to take the throne as Emperor of Constantinople.
THOMAS PALAIOLOGOS - the youngest son and brother of the Palaiologos family. Always striving to show his worth. Takes directions and does what needs to be done for his family, willing to be given responsibilities. He and Demetrios didn’t get along well since they both shared duties as Despot of Morea leading to battles between the brothers.
GEORGE SCHOLARIOS (GENNADIOS) – an annoyance during Constantine’s reign as Emperor. He was an anti-unionist, very religious, outspoken, something was always on his mind that had to be said, constantly shouting in the streets, starting a commotion everywhere he was, his words (mostly with intent to insult Constantine) and beliefs on the union often lead to riots.
PATRIARCH GREGORY III MAMMAS - he was the last serving Ecumenical Patriarch of the Byzantine Empire. He was the one supposed to crown Constantine as the new Emperor, but since the union cost so much upheaval in the country, they thought it would be best to not put together a crowning ceremony. He was a constant victim of insults and rants from his fellow countrymen, including Gennadios (always at conflict with one another), concerning is stance and support of the union with the Catholic Church. Because of his dismayed reputation in the eyes of his people, he would live in a constant state of fear. It got so bad that he chose to move
away for his own safety and lived in Rome serving Pope Nicholas V. Leaving the country without a patriarch. He always tried to influence him to help Constantinople when they were at battle with the Ottoman Empire.
Giovanni Giustiniani – 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, and a prostrator. He led 700 professional soldiers, both Genovese and Greeks from the island of Chios to Constantinople. He personally financed, organized, and led this expedition on his own initiative and upon arriving he was assigned in command of the land defenses by Constantine. Confident, intellectual, methodical, and logical, he was key in controlling the land forces and keeping the Greek, Genoese and Venetians from arguing with each other, even though he and Lucas Notaras had a few altercations, and was focused on repairing the land walls.
Cardinal Isidore – a Greek Metropolitan of Kiev, humanist, and theologian. He was one of the chief Eastern defenders on the side of the Byzantine Empire as defenders of reunion where he attended the Council of Florence. A diplomat, a thinking man, one to resolve conflict, quick to find solutions, and always searching for a way to inspire people in believing that the union was the right thing. By orders from Pope Nicholas he was sent to as legate to Constantinople to arrange the union there and managed to unite three hundred of the Byzantine clergy in a small ceremony before the war began.
Lucas Notaras – the Grand Duke of Constantinople. He had differing views concerning the union, he fought by Constantine’s side but didn’t agree with the union at the same time which made people very uncomfortable being around him and questioned his intentions. He was an accomplice and collaborator with Gennadios. It is said that he failed to contribute his fair share of the defense of Constantinople and spite of his immense wealth. He opened a gate to let the Ottoman troops into the city. He saved some of his wealth so he could present it to the Sultan, he came into his court once the city was taken, and offered his treasure to the sultan with pearls, precious stones, and gems worthy of royalty.
Prince Orhan – the Ottoman pretender, the only remaining heir to the throne as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks had to pay an annual sum to Constantinople to keep him in the city. He was used as a playing card on a few occasions from the Byzantines because his freedom would allow for civil war among the Turks. He always complied with the agreement between the two countries. He fought in defense with the Byzantines.
Matthew Asanes – Demetrios’ right hand man, second in command, and envoy, just as conniving, sinister, dangerous, relentless as his brother-in-law and friend. Theodora, his sister and Demetrios’ wife, was equally as dark as he is. Even their father, Paul, who associated himself with Demetrios, they all shared the same hatred toward the union.
NAMES OF CHARACTERS WHO FOUGHT IN BATTLE
GIACOMO COCO – master of a galley from Trebizond.
GABRIEL TREVISANO – the Venetian vice-captain of the Gulf.
RHANGABES – a Greek officer who was respected by many in Constantinople.
JOHN GRANT – nothing much is known about this man who’s existence is shrouded with intrigue. Some accounts say he’s German while other believe he’s Scottish. He was evidently a highly skilled professional soldier, siege specialist, and engineer. Whatever he is, he did help out the Byzantines in a great way. His use of counter-tunneling prevented the Turks from hurting Constantinople even worse, and the fact is that it restored their confidence that they had a chance. Investigative, witty, energetic, and his efficiency with what he knew, he was able to find subterranean tunnels and destroy who was ever trying to sneak into the city underground, and did it in just a few days, and helped turn the tide of the war.
SULTAN MEHMET II – the sultan of the Ottoman Empire. A child of prophecy, destined to one day take over the Christian capital of the world which was Constantinople. Had tremendous shoes to fill as he was the son and successor to his father, the previous sultan, Murad II, one that his people adored. He was a hot tempered youngster, defiant, attitude, and sometimes his personality made him clash with his mentors. Mystery and death surrounded him all his life as his older brothers who were heirs to the throne somehow were killed, and as he’d get older, he’d be the one doing the killing. Always getting what he wanted from the time he was born, his ambitions would grow, and the most important was him taking over the Byzantine Empire. He, twice, both during his adolescent years had an opportunity to be an Emperor but his youth and lack of experience is what set him back. His sexual appetites matched that of his craving to wait for his time to rule the Byzantine city and obtain the Red Apple. Now that his father’s death allowed him (barely out of his teens and now a young adult) to the throne he could now become the sultan he always wanted to become, and succeed by accomplishing what no other sultan did before, capturing the Christian nation.
HALIL PASHA – the chief vizier, advisor, and mentor during Mehmet’s adolescence. A friend of Murad, a member of the Candarli family, an extremely wealthy family who had influence in the Ottoman Empire caused tension between him and the young Mehmet. During the early years of Mehemt’s rule and wanted to rush into war with the Byzantines, Halil always advised against it, often differing his views with his other governors, Shihabettin and Zaganos. He was a diplomat,
a man of thought, rational, made a pattern of making right decisions that would be peaceful between both sides except only working out for one. The well-being of others, even for his so- called enemies, was his intention, and it was this belief and philosophy when it came to political decision that made his relationship with Mehmet complicated.
Murad II – the father of Mehmet II, the previous sultan. A fine warrior, war is what he knew. Had much respect from his people. He, too, had goals to take over Constantinople, but his constant feuds with other countries and crusader armies always hindered those plans. A man more interested in religion and the arts than politics. In fact Mehmet wasn’t even his favorite son it was Ali. He couldn’t wait to pass down the throne to his son. When he and his other brothers were mysteriously murdered, that always was a lingering thought when it came to him and Mehmet. Wanting the best for him was the first thing on his mind, that’s why it always hurt him when he was never achieving his potential are becoming too hard to handle. He watched him grow into a young man and did his best to be the best father he could be so his son can we day achieve what he was worthy of achieving.
SHIHABETTIN PASHA and ZAGANOS PASHA – Shihabettin, lord of the European provinces. Zaganos, a forceful Christian renegade. They acted as his governors. Both these men favored advancing the plan for taking Constantinople. Zaganos was the highest military commander, both of them were his advisors, mentors, tutors, councilors, and protectors. They never left his side. They were both involved in helping to construct and funding the outer towers at the Rumeli Hisari, the Throat Cutter. Zaganos had a reputation for and had been called the cruelest Ottoman captain of his time, a true enemy to Christians. Hard to fathom when he was originally a Christian and then became a Muslim. They would be remembered for serving their sultan with loyalty, often supporting all his decisions and fighting with him in the siege of Constantinople.
ORBAN – a Hungarian engineer and weapons maker. He had originally offered his services to the Byzantine Empire, but Constantine couldn’t afford his services with the high salary and the country didn’t possess the materials necessary for building a large siege cannon. He decided to leave and become acquainted with Mehmed. He was given abundant funds and materials and was able to build the big gun. He would continue to produce another cannon instrument for the Turkish siege on the city.
TURAHAN BEY – a prominent Ottoman military commander and Ottoman governor of Thessaly.
ULEMA AHMET GURANI AND SHEIK AKSHEMSETTIN – Ahmet was a celebrated mullah, called upon from Murad to help his undisciplined son, Mehmet, succumb to his teachings. One, if not the only teacher and mentor that at all used physical force or used any form of disciplinary action to make the kid improve his behavior and to give him the best education. Sheik was Mehmet’s spiritual adviser and a leading religious figure in the Ottoman Empire. They both advocated his stance on that Constantinople should be taken.
BALTAOGLU SULEYMAN BEY – an admiral of the navy of the Ottoman Empire. Knew everything that need to be known about the ocean.
NAMES OF CHARACTERS WHO FOUGHT IN THE WAR
OMAR BEY – the standard bearer of the European army that fought along with the Turks.
ULUBATLI HASAN – was the first person to erect an Ottoman flag on the Byzantine land wall.
DURAD BRANKOVIC – a Serbian despot and a baron of the Kingdom of Hungary. He was known as the richest monarch in all of Europe. The Ottoman Empire under the rule of Murad II, kept taking properties from Durad. He allied himself with Hungary, and along with Hunyadi and Ladislas made the Peace of Szeged with the Ottomans. It made sense since his daughter, Mara, was married to Murad. She was the one that convinced him to participate in it
MARA BRANKOVIC – the daughter of Durad, the wife of Murad. The wedding took place as an attempt to prevent an invasion of Serbia from the Ottoman Empire. Had a helping hand in trying to get Murad to consider peace with Hungary and got her dad to feel the same way. Although the raids continued. When Murad died, she immediately went back to her parents. The widow, along with her new found freedom, was approached by George Sphrantzes as a potential wife to Constantine, she declined because she swore to live by the vow that she made to herself that if she were to be released her from the hands of Murad that she’d forever live in celibacy and chastity for the rest of her life. Later, she did join the court of her stepson Mehmet.
JOHN HUYANDI – a leading Hungarian military and political figure in Central and Southeastern Europe. He mastered his military skills on the southern borderlands of the Kingdom of Hungary that were exposed to Ottoman attacks. He kept battling them when they were trying to expand their empire. Along with Durad and Ladislas, they signed the Peace of Szeged. He was bribed by Brankovic with vast estates in Hungary for him to support the ten year truce. He swore that he’d never give up the crusade. So the future peace and oath was invalid. He had a few victories and these immediately made him an enemy to the Ottomans. He led some crusades along with King Ladislas from them invading Hungary that led to failure. From the many times he didn’t succeed, that never held him back. He was a man on a mission, a man with one goal in mind, to stop the Ottoman Empire from taking over his country.
KING LADISLAS – the King of Hungary. Led several military campaigns, along with Hunyadi, becoming friends, against the Ottoman army from expanding their power. He did participate in the signing of the Peace of Szeged. He died in one of the battles.
IBRAHIM BEY – the bey of karaman, was upset by the Turks taking his land. When the Ottomans were at war with the Hungarian crusaders, he took the opportunity to overthrow some of the cities. When Murad was done signing the truce he went back and went back to retaliate against him. He was forced to sign a treaty with unfavorable terms. When Mehmet became the sultan, assuming by his youthful appearance as him lacking experience, he tried again to wrest back territory from Anatolia from Ottoman control. He would’ve succeeded had Mehmet and his generals not show up and put an end to it.
POPE EUGENE IV – was the serving Pope in the Catholic Church from 1431- 1447 and attended during the council of Florence and inspired the Hungarian Crusaders to fight with the Ottoman Empire.
POPE NICHOLAS V – was the serving Pope of the Catholic Church from 1447-1455 and he also inspired the Hungarian army to rally against Ottoman forces. He was constantly get envoys from Constantinople for his aid during their crisis from the invading Turks. Sometimes he did do his best to help them, sometimes he didn’t. The result was that he saw it fall to Ottoman control.
CONSTANTINOPLE - was the capital city of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and the Ottoman empires. Across from the Asia continent, the Bosphorus separates them. PLACES: Blachernae Imperial Palace, St. Sophia, Hippodrome, and the Pantocrator.
EDIRNE – also known as Adrianople, the third capital city of the Ottoman Empire from 1413 to 1453 and above Constantinople. PLACES: Royal Palace of Edirne, the Harem.
MYSTRAS or MOREA - was the name of the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece. PLACES: fortress and palace and cathedral in Mistra.
BOSPHORUS – referred to sometimes as the Istanbul Strait, is a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia.
GOLDEN HORN – a major inlet of the Bosphorus, separates Constantinople from Galata.
GALATA - located at the northern shore of the Golden Horn, the inlet which separates it from the historic peninsula of old Constantinople.
ITALY - is a unitary parliamentary republic in Southern Europe. PLACES: Venice - is a city in northeastern Italy. Rome – a city and special commune in Italy and is the capital of Italy and also of the homonymous province and of the region of Lazio and is where the Vatican is located.
RUMELI HISARI – also known as the Throat Cutter, on a hill at the European side of the Bosphorus strait, just opposite of Anadoluhisarı.
Constantinople, now known as Istanbul, exists as a trophy for the Turks that conquered it. Its prideful monument and religious achievement, St. Sophia, now a mosque, stands as a reminder of what happened on a fateful day that would change history. The expansion of the Turks was fulfilled, while the last city of the Christian Empire was no more. Because of that moment, it is considered by many scholars key to the revival of Greek and Roman studies that led to the development of the Renaissance humanism and science. This story traces back the feud between Christians and Catholics, the bitterness that still exists between Europeans and Turkish people, and the dispute of what really took place during the battle. This moment was the crucial link that provided the chain of events that connects the historic confrontations of the Mideast to the modern world. A legend tells that when the Ottomans entered the city, an angel rescued the 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 Christians. Mehmet left behind an imposing reputation in both the Islamic and Christian worlds that was regarded as a bloodthirsty tyrant by the Christian world and by a part of his subjects. No matter what legends say, what is remembered is that two leaders of two different religions and countries clashed together; one trying to fulfill a prophecy brought forth to him so he could make his father proud by any means; one whose prime on the battlefield was way past him, in desperation and used the little life he had from dueling with his own family and townspeople to protect the city he promised that he’d fight for. Even though the Ottomans did win, and even though the Byzantines and their allies knew their fate was doomed, they continued on anyway, side by side, and went down with a fight, those people forever are remembered for their courage and bravery, they were the last of the Romans.