Siege and fall of Constantinople, 2 April-29 May 1453

Siege and fall of Constantinople, 2 April-29 May 1453

Siege and fall of Constantinople, 2 April-29 May 1453

By 1453 Constantinople was the only remnant of the Byzantine Empire, left as an hostile fortress in the heart of the Ottoman Empire. The great walls of Constantinople were still the strongest in Europe, and their failure was one of the earliest triumphs of gunpowder artillery.The Ottoman sultan, Mahomet II, hired a Hungarian gun-founder, who made him a over sixty guns, including eleven larger guns that proved to be key to the siege. Only ten days into the bombardment (11 April), the Ottomans made the first break, collapsing a tower at the gate of St. Romanus. This breach then became the focus of the fighting, but was held by determined fighting until 29th May, when a Turkish column found a lightly defended and badly maintained postern gate and broke into the city. The already battered defenders of the breach heard the fighting behind them in the streets, and their resistance collapsed. The last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine, died in the fighting, and the last remnant of the Roman Empire was destroyed.

The Siege and the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Historiography, Topography, and Military Studies

This is a monster of a book. It must be the most detailed assessment of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 that there has ever been. It subjects the scholarly literature devoted to the subject over the last century-and-a-half to a searching scrutiny. It is the work of two authors, who between them have a profound knowledge of the written sources, the bibliography, the topography and the material remains relating to the fall of Constantinople. Marios Philippides has been working on the fall of Constantinople for more than 30 years and has produced a string of distinguished studies on different authors and texts, as well as a series of translations and new editions of texts. Walter K. Hanak, who is a generation older, is a specialist in the history of medieval Russia. They cooperated on an annotated translation of The Tale of Constantinople by Nestor-Iskander, which is the main narrative in Russian of the fall of Constantinople.(1) They rescued the text from comparative obscurity and demonstrated that it contained an eyewitness account of the fall of Constantinople, which was worth taking seriously. Their new book is divided into two parts, ‘The pen’ and ‘The sword’, which to all intents and purposes are separate books. The first deals with historiographical aspects of the fall of Constantinople and the second with military matters. Far from complementing each other they pull in different directions, which is a reflection of an uncomfortable fact confronting anybody writing about the fall of Constantinople: there are so many sources, yet so few which are of much value when it comes to reconstructing the event.

The first part covers what Agostino Pertusi called ‘L’eco nel mondo’ and concerns itself with the after-life of the fall of Constantinople rather than the event itself. The second part provides an examination of the fall of Constantinople in purely military terms. This section divides into a detailed investigation of the walls of Constantinople and a careful study of the main features of the siege. It is based on painstaking examination of the sources and the material remains with the aim of providing a partial reconstruction. It rests on a few ‘reliable’ – the authors’ word – sources: Nicolò Barbaro’s Journal of the Siege, Leonardo of Chios’s Letter to Pope Nicholas V, various letters of Cardinal Isidore, the histories of Doukas and Khalkokondyles and Kritoboulos’s Life of Mehmed II. To these must be added Ubertino Puscolo’s Constantinopolis – a long known but somewhat neglected source, whose full importance the authors bring out, and Tetaldi’s Informations, of which there is now a reliable text of the French version thanks to Philippides. The second part concentrates on the details of the siege, while the first part looks forward to the 16th century and even to the 19th century. Since it would have made more sense, certainly in chronological terms, to deal with the siege first, that is where I shall begin.

Vital to any understanding of the course of the siege are the walls themselves. The authors provide a painstaking inspection of the walls, which is backed up by excellent photographs and plans. As always there is much discussion of the St Romanos Gate, which was the key point of the defence in 1453. They maintain its traditional identification with the Topkapi Gate and are wary of the recent discovery of an inscription by Neslihan Asutay, which points to the St Romanos Gate being identical with the Fourth Military Gate.(2) Asutay has also put forward strong grounds for believing that from the mid 14th century the imperial residence was no longer the Blakhernai Palace, but was the adjoining palace of the Porphyrogenitos (now known as the Tekfur Saray), which occupies an exposed point at the juncture of the Blakhernai and the Theodosian walls.(3) The authors have nothing to say about this and therefore miss its important implications. It is well known that on 6 April 1453 Constantine XI handed over the defence of the imperial palace to the Venetian bailò. But, following Asutay this was the Tekfur Saray and not the Blakhernai Palace, which is the traditional (and the authors’) assumption. In her favour is the large number of commanders attested for the Blakhernai sector, which would have made the presence of the Venetian bailò there more or less superfluous. The emperor’s decision to entrust the defence of the imperial palace to the Venetians means that his whereabouts during the siege are mysterious, whence Michel Balard’s bon mot: ‘il est partout et nulle part dans la ville’. His elusiveness supports Balard’s conviction that the emperor played little active part in the defence of the city, which he left in the hands of western commanders.(4) Balard’s stylish and perceptive essay does not impress Philippides and Hanak (p. 5, n. 10). However, they fail to challenge his dismissive treatment of Constantine XI. They are apparently unaware that the emperor’s role in the defence of the city is a historical problem. Tucked away at the very end of the book in an appendix on the death of Loukas Notaras (p. 599), they note that Ubertino Puscolo talks of the emperor establishing his headquarters in tents set up between the inner and the outer walls, but fail to provide a correct reference. The passage in question (iv. 309–14) makes it quite clear that the emperor commanded the exposed stretch of walls around the St Romanos Gate in conjunction with the Genoese condottiere Giovanni Longo Giustiniani. Far from doing next to nothing, it would seem that the emperor was at the heart of the defence.

On the whole, the book confirms traditional views about the conduct of the defence and offers little new in the way of interpretation. It is not new to suggest that the contribution of artillery to the Ottoman success was largely psychological, though the authors appear to believe that it is. They are hardly breaking new ground with their emphasis on the relative ineffectiveness of the Ottoman artillery. They grudgingly credit Kelly DeVries with anticipating them (p. 552, n. 18), but then criticize him on the grounds that he doesn’t know the sources as well as they do and has failed to appreciate Mehmed II’s ‘elastic’ approach to siege warfare. This may seem a minor point, but they have failed to understand his line of argument, to which a lack of intimate knowledge of the sources is irrelevant. DeVries is suggesting that the Ottoman artillery was effective, but not in the ways usually supposed.(5) He draws attention to passages in Kritoboulos’s Life of Mehmed II, from which we learn that Mehmed II designed mortars, which were a real threat once set up close to the Golden Horn. DeVries’s point is that the large cannon may not have done decisive damage to the land-walls, but the mortars operating in the port area stretched the defence to breaking point. The supervision of these mortars offers a reasonable explanation for Mehmed II’s despatch of his cannon-maker Urban to the Golden Horn sector. It is certainly more plausible than the authors’ assumption that it was a form of demotion because his great bombard had not achieved the anticipated success against the land-walls (p. 456). DeVries’s suggestion that Ottoman artillery was more effective than is usually supposed is in line with recent work, which has pointed to the Ottoman ability to exploit advances in artillery warfare. E. C. Antoche underlines the speed with which the Ottomans created an artillery train.(6) They had virtually no artillery at the battle in Varna in 1444, but four years later they won a victory over the Hungarians at Kosovo thanks in large measure to their field artillery. It should not be forgotten that this was the battle where Mehmed II, so to speak, won his ‘spurs’. It would have alerted him to the value of different kinds of artillery. Mehmed II was a man of great curiosity and intelligence, as becomes immediately apparent from a perusal of his one schoolbook to survive. It makes more plausible Kritoboulos’s information about the conqueror’s contribution to the development of artillery at the time of the siege.

Philippides and Hanak are undoubtedly correct that the defenders had until the very end the better of the struggle. They saw off the artillery attack on the land-walls they dealt with the mining of the walls they burnt the great siege tower. It all came down to the last assault on the evening of 28 May 1453. The defenders drove off two waves of attack, but were unable to resist the final onslaught by the Janissaries, even if, as always, it was a close run thing. In the end, the decisive moment was the departure from the field of battle of the mortally wounded condottiere Giustiniani. But it has usually been assumed that it was only decisive because the Turks had already penetrated the outer-wall through a postern gate known as the Kerkoporta. Philippides and Hanak devote an appendix to this (pp. 619–23), but avoid coming to any conclusions. The problem is that Doukas is the only historian of the siege, who retails this episode. There can be no corroboration. There are also problems of identification of the gate in question. Doukas places it at the lower end of the imperial palace, which following Asutay is likely to have been the Tekfur Saray rather than the Blakhernai. In which case it was situated at one of the weak points of the defences, where the Blakhernai and Theodosian walls met. On this reading the Kerkoporta allowed access to the area between the inner and outer lines of the Theodosian walls. This was critical because the defenders only held the outer walls. Philippides and Hanak have their doubts about Doukas’s evidence, because he was not an eyewitness, but against this he is known to have interviewed some of the janissaries, who were among the first to get into the city. The balance of probability suggests that Doukas’s information is correct. It is difficult otherwise to explain the suddenness of the defence’s collapse.

If by and large ‘The sword’ leaves the traditional picture intact, its value is that it has subjected it to an intense scrutiny. At another level, it offers a clear and well-organised narrative of the defence of the city. ‘The pen’ is more diffuse, but this is a reflection of the task in hand, which is to follow the historiography and mythology of the fall of Constantinople from the 15th to the 19th centuries. There is little emphasis on eyewitness accounts and other contemporary sources beyond tabulating them very efficiently. The real focus of attention is on the development of a historiographical tradition. In the West interest in the fall of Constantinople soon faltered and shifted to the Ottomans themselves. It was different for the Greeks under Ottoman rule, for whom the fall of Constantinople still cast a shadow over their sense of identity in the late 16th century. This was a comparatively neglected topic, when Philippides began working on it some 30 years ago. He now brings his work to a very satisfying conclusion in two chapters: the first deals with the chronicle of the last centuries of Byzantium usually referred to as the Pseudo-Sphrantzes, while the second breaks new ground by examining the myths, legends, and tales, which grew up around the fall of Constantinople. It is a reminder of the different levels at which memory works. The chronicle of the Pseudo-Sphrantzes was a work of the late 16th century by a well-known forger, Makarios Melissourgos, one time bishop of Monemvasia. Despite the high regard he accords it Philippides demonstrates beyond doubt that the section devoted to the siege and fall of Constantinople has no independent value, but derives almost entirely from Leonardo of Chios. Any additional details stem from Melissourgos’s own agenda of family aggrandisement. It is ironic that we still have to rely very largely on the original edition of 1578 for Leonardo of Chios’s eyewitness account of the fall of Constantinople despite its enormous importance for the later development of the historiography of the event, which Philippides has traced so assiduously over the years.

The chapter on myths, legends and tales is subtitled ‘A folk history’. It is a topic, which really deserves a book to itself. The authors have opted for a selective approach. So, they include the humanist interpretation of the fall of Constantinople, which was predicated on the parallels with the fall of Troy. These allowed the introduction of quite unhistorical elements, such as the rape of a virgin on the altar of St Sophia by the conqueror in revenge for the Trojan virgin raped at the time of the fall of Troy. Against this, the Visions of Daniel are left out, despite being one of the key texts used to predict post eventum the fall of Constantinople. This means that Agostino Pertusi’s posthumous work Fine di Bisanzio e fine del mondo – an important contribution to the subject – is not even cited in the vast bibliography.(7) There is a connection, which is missed, in the shape of the aspiring humanist Ubertino Puscolo, who has left one of the most interesting eyewitness accounts of the fall of Constantinople in his poem Constantinopolis. He recounts his experience of the fall of Constantinople in a surprisingly down to earth fashion. He sought explanation for the terrible outcome not in the classical past but, in the same way as so many others, in portents and prophecies. One of the first things that he did when he was released from captivity in 1454 was to translate into Latin a Greek version of the Visions of Daniel. Philippides and Hanak single out a quite different topic: the traditions that grew up about the death of the last Byzantine emperor and the site of his tomb. Again they are selective. They only consider in passing the well-known legend of the ‘Marble Emperor’ entombed at the Golden Gate. They concentrate instead on the traditions, which surfaced in the early 19th century, to the effect that the burial place of the last Byzantine emperor was either at an inn on Vefa Meydan or at Gul Camii. While there is a fairly obvious connection to be made between the Gul Camii and the death of the last Byzantine emperor, this is not the case with the Vefa Meydan. Was it, the authors wonder, perhaps the place of execution of the many Byzantine aristocrats put to death after the Ottoman triumph on Mehmed II’s orders? It has been usual to identify the Gul Camii with the church of St Theodosia, whose feast-day falls on the fateful 29 May, whence the connection to the death of the emperor. Philippides and Hanak give good reasons for supposing that this traditional identification should stand. They offer a fascinating glimpse of the Greek community of Istanbul in the early 19th century, but fail to explain why it was at this point that it became interested in traditions about the burial place of the last Byzantine emperor? I was surprised that nothing was made of the sword of the last Byzantine emperor, which became a cause célèbre in the late 19th century. In 1886 on the coming of age of Prince Constantine, the heir-apparent to the throne of the kingdom of the Hellenes, the Greek community of Istanbul presented him with a sword, on the understanding that it had belonged to his namesake, the last Byzantine emperor. There is a political agenda here, which would have been well worth exploring.

The Ottomans Approach

Though no large-scale help was forthcoming, smaller groups of independent soldiers did come to the city's aid. Among these were 700 professional soldiers under the command of Giovanni Giustiniani. Working to improve Constantinople's defenses, Constantine ensured that the massive Theodosian Walls were repaired and that the walls in the northern Blachernae district were strengthened. To prevent a naval attack against the Golden Horn walls, he directed that a large chain be stretched across the mouth of the harbor to block Ottoman ships from entering.

Short on men, Constantine directed that the bulk of his forces defend the Theodosian Walls as he lacked the troops to man all of the city's defenses. Approaching the city with 80,000-120,000 men, Mehmed was supported by a large fleet in the Sea of Marmara. In addition, he possessed a large cannon made by the founder Orban as well as several smaller guns. The lead elements of the Ottoman army arrived outside Constantinople on April 1, 1453, and began making camp the next day. On April 5, Mehmed arrived with the last of his men and began making preparations for laying siege to the city.


In the 15th century, Constantinople’s walls were widely recognized as the most formidable in all of Europe. The land walls spanned 4 miles (6.5 km) and consisted of a double line of ramparts with a moat on the outside the higher of the two stood as high as 40 feet (12 metres) with a base as much as 16 feet (5 metres) thick. These walls had never been breached in the thousand years since their construction. An adjoining sea wall ran along the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara, the latter section being 20 feet (6 metres) high and 5 miles (8 km) long. When combined with a large metal chain that had been drawn across the Golden Horn, Constantine was confident that the city’s defenses could repel a naval assault and withstand Mehmed’s land forces until relief came from Christian Europe. However, Constantine’s capacity to defend his city was hampered by his small fighting force. Eyewitness Jacopo Tedaldi estimates a presence of 30,000 to 35,000 armed civilians and only 6,000 to 7,000 trained soldiers. Giustiniani intended to concentrate most of these men at the land walls to the north and west, the centre of which he observed to be the most vulnerable section of the city. A small fleet of naval and armed merchant vessels were also stationed in the Golden Horn to defend the chain. However, without outside support, Constantinople’s defenders would be spread thin.

The Ottoman besiegers vastly outnumbered the Byzantines and their allies. Between 60,000 and 80,000 soldiers fought on land, accompanied by 69 cannon. Baltaoğlu Süleyman Bey commanded a fleet stationed at Diplokionion with an estimated 31 large and midsize warships alongside nearly 100 smaller boats and transports. Mehmed’s strategy was straightforward: he would use his fleet and siege lines to blockade Constantinople on all sides while relentlessly battering the walls of the city with cannon. He hoped to breach them or otherwise force a surrender before a Christian relief force could arrive.

On April 6 the Ottomans began their artillery barrage and brought down a section of the wall. They mounted a frontal assault of the land walls on April 7, but the Byzantines repelled them and were able to repair the defenses. After pausing to reposition his cannon, Mehmed reopened fire and thereafter maintained daily bombardment.

On April 12 the sultan dispatched a contingent of troops to subdue two nearby Byzantine forts and ordered Baltaoğlu to rush the chain. The fleet was twice driven back, and Baltaoğlu retreated to Diplokionion until the night of the 17th, when he moved to capture the Princes Islands southeast of the city at the same time that Mehmed’s land regiments assaulted the Mesoteichon section of the wall. Constantinople’s defenders once again held their ground, however, and Baltaoğlu’s success at the islands was irreparably marred by the revelation that three relief ships from the pope and one large Byzantine vessel had nearly reached the city unhindered. The Ottoman galleys were too short to capture the tall European warships, and, with the help of the Golden Horn fleet, the warships safely sailed past the chain. Upon hearing of his navy’s defeat, Mehmed stripped Baltaoğlu of his rank and arranged for his replacement.

Mehmed was determined to take the Golden Horn and pressure the Byzantines into submission. He angled one of his cannons such that it could strike the defenders of the chain and then began to construct an oiled wooden ramp upon which he intended to portage his smaller vessels from the Bosporus to the Golden Horn. By April 22 the ships had circumvented the chain in this way and, barring the chain itself, seized control of all the waters surrounding the city. The defenders attempted to attack the remainder of the Ottoman fleet in the Bosporus, but they were defeated.

Having encircled Constantinople in full, Mehmed continued his artillery barrage of the land walls through May 29. The Ottoman cannon created several breaches, but most were too narrow to send troops through. The city’s defenders continued to repair the walls at night and reinforced areas at the damaged Gate of St. Romanus and the Blachernae sector. In the early hours of May 29, Ottoman labourers filled the moat surrounding the city. Just before dawn, the sultan launched a coordinated artillery, infantry, and naval assault on Constantinople. Two attempts to rush the Gate of St. Romanus and the Blachernae walls were met with fierce resistance, and the Ottoman soldiers were forced to fall back. Mehmed ordered a third attack on the gate, this time with one of his own palace regiments of 3,000 Janissaries. A small group reached the top of a tower through another gate but were nearly eliminated by the defenders until Giustiniani was mortally wounded by Ottoman gunfire while on the ramparts. He was carried to the rear, and his absence sowed confusion and lowered morale among the ranks. This allowed the sultan to send in another Janissary regiment and take the inner wall at the Gate of St. Romanus.

A rout of the defenders ensued, with many of the Venetian and Genoese fighters retreating to their ships in the Golden Horn. Emperor Constantine XI is reported to have been killed while either fighting near the breach or fleeing to an escape boat. Although the sultan attempted to prevent a total sack of the city, he permitted an initial period of looting that saw the destruction of many Orthodox churches. When most of Constantinople was secure, Mehmed himself rode through the streets of the city to the great cathedral of Hagia Sophia, the largest in all of Christendom, and converted it into the mosque Ayasofya. He stopped to pray and then demanded that all further looting cease immediately. The sultan thus completed his conquest of the Byzantine capital.

Medieval Military History | The Siege & Downfall Of The Great City Constantinople

Constantinople is a beautiful city that was founded by Roman Emperor Constantine I in 324 CE. The city served as the capital for the Roman Empire and later the Byzantine Empire. It has faced many sieges and attacks throughout the years but managed to remain standing. The city had once been the most heavily fortified places in the world.

Located in what is now modern day Istanbul, Constantinople was a wealthy and thriving Christian port. This being due to its ideal location between European and Asian empires. The port making it a valuable harbor for trade and expansion of prominent countries. The cities religion, art, and military thrived due to trade for many years and Constantinople has been highly recognized for its magnificent architecture and rich history.

Invaders had attacked the city countless times before but found Constantinople impossible to defeat. The walls of the city had been built to defend against both land and sea campaigns. Switching between layers of brick and stone, the wall is a sturdy structure that create two lines of defense meeting at a ditch. The construction is around five meters thick and twelve meters high making it close to forty feet tall at the time of its creation. The strategic wall also came with nearly a hundred towers with battlement terraces on the top of each one. The architecture features a defensive moat that could easily be flooded when needed situated about fifty feet away from the walls.

The more noteworthy attacks on Constantinople were made when the Arabs attempted to defeat the city around 1674 and 1678 CE. The Arabs among several other adversaries such as the Slavs had tirelessly tried to win in battle. The city managed to defend itself against incoming enemies time after time. According to historian Mike Cartwright in his article on the fall of Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire was no stranger to sieges due to having faced many foes throughout its history. Cartwright wrote:

“Constantinople had withstood many sieges and attacks over the centuries, notably by the Arabs between 674 and 678 CE and again between 717 and 718 CE. The great Bulgar Khans Krum (r. 802-814 CE) and Symeon (r. 893-927 CE) both attempted to attack the Byzantine capital, as did the Rus (descendants of Vikings based around Kiev) in 860 CE, 941 CE, and 1043 CE, but all failed. Another major siege was instigated by the usurper Thomas the Slav between 821 and 823 CE. All of these attacks were unsuccessful thanks to the city’s location by the sea, its naval fleet, and the secret weapon of Greek Fire (a highly inflammable liquid), and, most importantly of all, the protection of the massive Theodosian Walls.”

The Byzantine Empire found itself in a very precarious position surrounded by enemies on all sides. The Bulgarians to start with had grown and now matched their rivals in power and military strength. To make matters worse, the Serbian Empire had been conquering Byzantines lands from the west. The Emperors of Byzantine rushed to come up with a plan to defend their empire. There was no time to waste with the Turks, a very dangerous enemy now raiding the country. Constantinople and its occupants faced many foes. The Emperors relied on aid to provide for the soldiers defending and fighting for their lands.

In an article written by historian William McLaughlin, the Byzantine Empire had been struggling for quite a while against the opposition. The empire did not have a claim to lots of territories anymore and was run down by constant problems. McLaughlin writes:

“Though the Empire again held Constantinople after recovering it from the Fourth Crusade, it was far from the power it had been in the early medieval period. At the time of Michael VIII’s reclamation of Constantinople, the Byzantine territories were confined to Thrace and northern Greece and a part of Western Turkey. The Turks had taken territory in Asia Minor up to the territory of Nicomedia in the north and near to the island of Rhodes in the south. A more sophisticated threat by this time, the Bulgarian Empire, and the Serbian Empires fought against the Byzantines as well. The city itself was greatly weakened by the Black Death and a large earthquake as well as civil wars that divided the populace. Under the Palaiologoi dynasty established after the reclamation of Constantinople, the empire became a shadow of its former self while a new eastern power set its sights on the great city.”

The Byzantines needed the leaders of Europe to assist and protect them. They requested support from the Roman Catholic Church by appealing directly to the pope but they would not receive help without certain demands being met. The cost was Byzantine converting to Catholicism. This logically might have been something easily met however, the people of Byzantine would hear none of it. The emperors were more than willing to pay this price in order to get protection but it wasn’t to be so.

The western Civilization ER Services report that the people would not budge.

“Against all these enemies, the Byzantines could only look west in search of help. The pope, however, continued to stress that aid would only come if the Byzantines adopted the Catholicism of the Latin church. While the Byzantine emperors were willing to do so in order to save their empire, the populace hated the Catholics for the sack of Constantinople, and so attempts to reconcile with the Catholic Church only led to riots. Further theological disagreements inflamed the bitterness between the Orthodox and the Catholics. This was not acceptable for most Byzantines. A popular saying at the time was “Better the Turkish turban than the Papal tiara.” In other words, the Orthodox Byzantines considered it better to be ruled by the Muslim Turks than to go against their religious beliefs and give in to the Catholic Church. Still, the emperors realized that Byzantium would soon fall without help from the west.”

The disagreements definitely presented obstacles for getting aid from the west to Byzantine. The Bishops of Byzantine and Emperor John VIII Palaiologos managed to make an agreement and bring about a resolution. They successfully converted religions per the Pope’s wishes in 1439 CE however, upon their return home, there was definitely trouble brewing. Their own people began attacking them right on the streets and riots broke up. It was pure chaos when they returned to the empire. The deal had provoked in the masses nothing but violence and discontent. The disapproval was felt harshly.

The Byzantine Empire was declining as the Ottoman Empire grew and dominated the world around their lands. The empire had begun as a small Turkish country but managed to conquer those weaker in order to grow. Mark Cartwright in his article about the siege of Constantinople explains the Ottoman Empire’s exploits in full detail:

“By the early 14th century CE, the Ottomans had already expanded into Thrace. With their capital at Adrianople, further captures included Thessaloniki and Serbia. In 1396 CE, at Nikopolis on the Danube, an Ottoman army defeated a Crusader army. Constantinople was the next target as Byzantium teetered on the brink of collapse and became no more than a vassal state within the Ottoman Empire. The city was attacked in 1394 CE and 1422 CE but still managed to resist. Another Crusader army was defeated in 1444 CE at Varna near the Black Sea coast. Then the new Sultan, Mehmed II (r. 1451-1481 CE), after extensive preparations such as building, extending, and occupying fortresses along the Bosporus, notably at Rumeli Hisar and Anadolu in 1452 CE, moved to finally sweep away the Byzantines and their capital.”

Mehmed II would go down in history known as the conqueror. The sultan’s life is a very interesting one and far from average. As heir to the Ottoman throne, Mehmed was well educated. He had lived in Amaysa where he governed and obtained the experience to rule. The prince had numerous teachers and advisers at his disposal. Mehmed was the son of Murat II and would for a time become a ruler at the young age of twelve. Murat II had decided to abdicate his throne to the boy in 1444 CE.

The young new sultan faced many challenges during his early reign but somehow managed to be triumphant in crushing down a crusade directed by János Hunyadi shortly after the Hungarians started to break an established treaty at the Catholic Church’s insistence by entering Ottoman lands. The church was against the Muslim religion. It was at this point Mehmed sought to convince his father to return to the throne. Murat had no desire to do so, and this posed a problem for the young boy. He wrote to Murat and demanded his homecoming in a compelling letter that said:

“If you are the Sultan, come and lead your armies. If I am the Sultan I hereby order you to come and lead my armies.”

The ploy worked as intended by Mehmed because his father Murat II proved quite successful during the Battle of Varna in 1444 CE. The man’s return to his throne proved inevitable. He would rule until his death in 1451 CE. This once again placed the throne in Mehmed’s hands. The boy had grown into a man and was nineteen years old when he once again reigned over the Ottoman Empire. The sultan wasted absolutely no time in expanding his empire. Mehmed began plotting taking over the Byzantines by conquering the city of Constantinople. Preparations for a siege were officially underway.

The siege of Byzantine’s capital city of Constantinople took place in 1453 CE and would last for almost two months. The forces in the empire made up about ten-thousand men and this gave Mehmed’s armies a great advantage. The Byzantines were outnumbered and unprepared. The Ottoman’s had over a hundred thousand men at their side willing to fight. They arrived not only ready to win but supplied with advanced weaponry and tactics. Mehmed had equipped the army with cannons that were able to destroy the wall rather rapidly and warships able to patrol the sea surrounding Constantinople providing control of the waters to the Ottomans preventing aid to reach the Byzantine Empire.

Reports from the Russia and Eastern Europe Web Chronology Project indicate that Constantinople was absolutely devastated by the Ottomans. The defenders were unable to stop the invasion Mehmed and his army was determined to complete.

“After using his heavy artillery to form a breach in the wall, the fist attack was launched upon Constantinople on a May morning at 1:00 a.m. The shout of men could be heard miles away. This fist attack was led by the Bashi-bazouks. They tried to attack the weakest point in the walls. They knew they were outnumbered and out skilled, but they still fought with passion. After fighting for two hours, they were called to retreat.

The second attack was brought on by the Anatolian Turks from Ishak’s army. This army could easily be recognized by their specialized uniforms. This army was also more organized than the first. They used their cannons to blast through the walls of the city. By using trumpets and other noises they were able to break the concentration of their opponents. They were the first army to enter the city. The Christians were ready for them as they entered. They were able to massacre much of the army from this attack. This attack was called off at dawn.

Before the army was able to gain strength and order, another attack feel upon them. Mehmet’s favorite set of troops called the Janissaries started to attack. They launched arrows, missiles, bullets, stones and javelins at the enemy. They maintained perfect unity in this attack, unlike the other attempts. This battle, at the stockade, was a long tiring battle for the troops. The soldiers fought in hand-to-hand combat. Someone had to give. It was the Christians. The Turks remembered a port called the Kerkoporta. They noticed it had accidentally been left open by the Christians. The Christian army frequently used that gate to try to penetrate the flank of the Turkish army. They stormed the gate, but the Christians were able to stop them before completely entering the city.”

The Ottomans had achieved success and with permission from their sultan plundered the richest city they had ever seen however, during the siege before all had been lost there was resistance. The Byzantine defenders did not just give up without the biggest fight of their lives. They tried to save themselves, their city, and its people in every way they could. The men of Constantinople managed to thwart several attempts made by the Ottomans. In his recent article, historian Mark Cartwright describes the defiance and numerous ways the Byzantines fought and lashed out at their attackers.

“The onslaught went on for six weeks but there was some effective resistance. The Ottoman attack on the boom which blocked the city’s harbour was repelled, as were several direct assaults on the Land Walls. On 20 April, miraculously, three Genoese ships sent by the Pope and a ship carrying vital grain sent by Alphonso of Aragon managed to break through the Ottoman naval blockade and reach the defenders. Mehmed, infuriated, then got around the harbour boom by building a railed road via which 70 of his ships, loaded onto carts pulled by oxen, could be launched into the waters of the Golden Horn. The Ottomans then built a pontoon and fixed cannons to it so that they could now attack any part of the city from the sea side, not just the land. The defenders now struggled to station men where they were needed, especially along the structurally weaker sea walls.”

When Mehmed II won and fell, it was the darkest and bleakest moment for the Byzantine people. Thousands were outright killed and many thousands more were shipped off as slaves while the enemy destroyed, pillaged, and raped the occupants of the city. Constantinople would become known as Istanbul.


An engrossing chronicle of the Fourth Crusade and the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, from the bestselling author of Thermopylae.
At the dawn of the thirteenth century, Constantinople stood as the bastion of Christianity in Eastern Europe. The capital city of the Byzantine Empire, it was a center of art, culture, and commerce that had commanded trading routes between Asia, Russia, and Europe for hundreds of years. But in 1204, the city suffered a devastating attack that would spell the end of the Holy Roman Empire.

The army of the Fourth Crusade had set out to reclaim Jerusalem, but under the sway of their Venetian patrons, the crusaders diverted from their path in order to lay siege to Constantinople. With longstanding tensions between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, the crusaders set arms against their Christian neighbors, destroying a vital alliance between Eastern and Western Rome.

In The Great Betrayal, historian Ernle Bradford brings to life this powerful tale of envy and greed, demonstrating the far-reaching consequences this siege would have across Europe for centuries to come.

The Siege and Fall of Constantinople in 1453: Historiography, Topography and Military Studies, by Marios Philippides and Walter K. Hanak

Jonathan Harris, The Siege and Fall of Constantinople in 1453: Historiography, Topography and Military Studies, by Marios Philippides and Walter K. Hanak, The English Historical Review, Volume 128, Issue 532, June 2013, Pages 670–672,

The siege and capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 has been known to generations of undergraduate students through the very readable account of Steven Runciman. More recently, Roger Crowley has produced an equally accessible narrative which avoids Runciman’s over-emphasis on later Greek sources. These dramatic retellings of the last days of the Byzantine capital can be misleading, however, suggesting in their smooth story-lines that the events of the siege are well known and beyond dispute. This is not the case. There remain wide discrepancies and contradictions in the literary sources and all kinds of difficult questions about the physical environment where most of the fighting took place. That is why this large book is both very necessary and extremely welcome.

The authors, Marios Philippides and Walter K. Hanak, have divided their work into two parts. The first, ‘The Pen’.

Post by Windward » 06 Apr 2007, 16:51

a friend sent me this link

siege and fall of Constantinople 1453

Post by ckleisch » 10 May 2007, 17:26

Re: The Siege and Fall of Constantinople

Post by Balrog » 06 May 2009, 13:16

I've read several different accounts of this siege and every one is slightly different.

From what I've read, the Byzantine Emperor's head was not put on display it was never found. An armored body, headless, but wearing purple boots embroidered with Imperial insignia, was discovered among the dead. It was buried, but I believe it was in a mass grave among the Emperor's dead soldiers. Some say Constantine's body was never found at all.

The Emperor was with his soldiers fighting when he saw Byzantine flags being lowered and Ottoman flags being raised in strategic places throughout the city. The defeated Emperor said, "The city has fallen, and I'm still alive." He threw off his Imperial regalia and with some of his Greek soldiers attacked an advancing unit of Jannisaries. He was never seen alive again.

Another point. There was a Turkish prince in Constantinople named Prince Orhan. He was a rival claimant to the Ottoman throne and had been exiled to the city. He was trusted by Constantine and given a sector of the city to defend along with his Turkish followers. When the city fell he was surrounded by Jannisaries, and knowing the fate that would probably befall him if taken prisoner, throw himself onto the sword of one of his Turkish bodyguards-dying like a Roman. What was his relation to Mehmet II? Does anyone know his age or any other biographical information on Prince Orhan?

I've read that the population in the city at the time of the siege was around 50,000. 100 years earlier it had been over 500,000. Constantinople in 1453 was a really run down place.

Siege and fall of Constantinople, 2 April-29 May 1453 - History

The Siege and Fall of Constantinople 1453

Programme details Thursday 28 December 2006

The Siege and Fall of Constantinople 1453

When Sultan Mehmet the Second rode into the city of Constantinople on a white horse in 1453, it marked the end of a thousand years of the Byzantine Empire. After holding out for 53 days, the city had fallen. And as one contemporary witness described it: “The blood flowed in the city like rainwater in the gutters after a sudden storm”. It was the end of the classical world and the crowning of an Ottoman Empire that would last until 1922.

Constantinople was a city worth fighting for – its position as a bridge between Europe and Asia and its triangular shape with a deep water port made it ideal both for trade and defence. It was also rumoured to harbour great wealth. Whoever conquered it would reap rewards both material and political.

Earlier attempts to capture the city had largely failed – so why did the Ottomans succeed this time? What difference did the advances in weaponry such as cannons make in the outcome of the battle? And what effect did the fall of Constantinople have on the rest of the Christian world?

Roger Crowley, author and historian

Judith Herrin, Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King's College London

In the siege and fall of Constantinople in 1453, what was the role of the Galata, and is there a reason it wasn't taken by the Ottoman armies?

on a similar note, it seems like the chain across the harbour was anchored at the Galata, surely it would have been an important strategic point to take the far end of the chain.

Galata, also known as Pera in Latin sources, was officially neutral in the siege of 1453 as it was not specifically a Greek/Byzantine settlement by that point. It was instead the suburb across the Golden Horn of the Genoese merchants with its own walls and fortifications. For this reason you are quite correct in saying that it was surprising that it was neutral despite its highly strategic position. The Turks had good reason to allow this, Galata and Genoese merchants continued to sell them supplies. By Venetian reckoning, the very castle of Rumelii Hisar which Mehmet built to besiege the harbour used Genoese wares.

That is not to say the Turks respected this agreement of neutrality outright and in perpetuity. During the siege Mehmet is known to have bombarded Genoese ships to force them away from the chain stretched across the harbour. They naturally complained and the sultan's position was to deride Genoese impartiality by labelling them condottieri 'mercenaries' of Konstantine and Konstantinople.

Interestingly, the Ottomans were probably correct in their presumption that some in Petra were aiding the Constantinopolitan defence. Giovanii Giustiniani was a renowned pirate and ɼorsair' around the Aegean and Black Sea Caffa since the 1440s. The ships bombarded in 1453 were described similarly as corsairs in Latin sources. (Marios Philippides, Siege and Fall of Constantinople p.382-3).

However, regardless of reputation the Genoese of Petra certainly did not attack the Ottomans directly and they may even have collaborated with the Turks. The Venetian sources claim Galata sold information of a proposed attack upon the Turkish ships after they were transported over land into the Golden Horn. (Marco Barbaro, p.29). This could be simple mudslinging and scapegoating as neither were the inhabitants of Galata outright traitors to Christianity. The Galatan Genoese gave safe harbour to the retreating Giustiniani forces and hosted many individuals after the siege while they awaited ransom. Their loyalties were seemingly a mix of civic loyalty and basic pragmatism and while highly wealthy they were not a huge population in the first place so they were not a military threat.

The morning after the fall on April 29, Galata/Pera surrendered without bloodshed. Many of the Genoese who had fought with Giustiniani fled but the district and it's 'neutral' inhabitants continued their trade under the Ottomans who needed to protect the flow of wealth to repopulate the decimated Queen of Cities.

Bundle of 2 - Muslim Civilizations - Mehmed and the Fall of Constantinople

This is a bundle of 2 highly animated, power point presentations on Muslim Civilizations - Mehmed the Conqueror and the Fall of Constantinople. Both presentations together number 78 slides. Each of the presentation slides are editable so you can change them to fit your individual needs.

Power point presentation #1 is entitled, Muslim Civilizations - Mehmed the Conqueror contains 61 slides and covers the following:

Mehmed II, also known as Mehmed the Conqueror, was an Ottoman Sultan who ruled first for a short time from August 1444 to September 1446 and later from February 1451 to May 1481. At the age of 21, he conquered Constantinople and brought an end to the Byzantine Empire.

Mehmed continued conquests in Anatolia with its reunification, and in Southeast Europe as far west as Bosnia. Mehmed is considered a hero in modern-day Turkey and parts of the wider Muslim world. He was often brutal to the people in the conquered lands. Europe celebrated joyously when he died.

Although Mehmed II died unsatisfied in his goal to build a universal empire, he had established the primacy of the Ottoman Turks within the Muslim world. He extended Ottoman influence east as far as the Euphrates and west throughout the Balkans and even onto the Italian peninsula.

Whether reviled for his brutality and his fervor or saluted for these successes, Mehmed the Conqueror, built a vibrant capital of a growing Turkish Empire from the remains of Byzantium, which would be a major world power over the next four centuries.

Preparation for Leadership

Administration & Culture (4)

Preparing to Attack Constantinople

Siege & Fall of Constantinople

Byzantine Empire: Finished

Repopulation of Constantinople (2)

Conquest on the Black Seacoast (2)

Conquest of Karaman & Akkoyunlu (5)

Power point presentation #2 is entitled, Muslim Civilizations - The Fall of Constantinople contains 17 slides and covers the following:

Constantinople was the seat of Byzantine power for over a 1,000 years. The Byzantine empire had weakened significantly after the city's capture in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade. Mehmed II had ascended to the Ottoman throne in 1451 and began making preparations to capture Constantinople as well as a large part of the Peloponnese in Greece. The Byzantine empire was led by Constantine XI.

Ottoman losses during the siege are not known, but it is believed that the defenders lost around 4,000 men. A devastating blow to Christendom, the loss of Constantinople led Pope Nicholas V to call for an immediate crusade to recover the city. Despite his pleas, no Western monarch stepped forward to lead the effort.

A turning point in Western history, the Fall of Constantinople is seen as the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. The loss of Constantinople also severed European trade links with Asia leading many to begin seeking routes east by sea and keying the age of exploration. Greek scholars arrived in the West bringing with them priceless knowledge and rare manuscripts.

This is one of many bundled power point presentations I offer in my store under the heading. Muslim Civilizations.


Mehmed II was born on 30 March 1432, in Edirne, then the capital city of the Ottoman state. His father was Sultan Murad II (1404–1451) and his mother Hüma Hatun, a slave of uncertain origin. [5] [6] [7]

When Mehmed II was eleven years old he was sent to Amasya with his two lalas (advisors) to govern and thus gain experience, per the custom of Ottoman rulers before his time. [7] Sultan Murad II also sent a number of teachers for him to study under. This Islamic education had a great impact in molding Mehmed's mindset and reinforcing his Muslim beliefs. He was influenced in his practice of Islamic epistemology by practitioners of science, particularly by his mentor, Molla Gürani, and he followed their approach. The influence of Akshamsaddin in Mehmed's life became predominant from a young age, especially in the imperative of fulfilling his Islamic duty to overthrow the Byzantine empire by conquering Constantinople. [ citation needed ]

After Murad II made peace with Hungary on June 12, 1444, [8] he abdicated the throne to his 12-year-old son Mehmed II in July [9] /August [8] 1444.

In Mehmed II's first reign, he defeated the crusade led by John Hunyadi after the Hungarian incursions into his country broke the conditions of the truce Peace of Szeged in September 1444. [8] Cardinal Julian Cesarini, the representative of the Pope, had convinced the king of Hungary that breaking the truce with Muslims was not a betrayal. [ citation needed ] At this time Mehmed II asked his father Murad II to reclaim the throne, but Murad II refused. According to the 17th-century chronicles, [10] Mehmed II wrote, "If you are the sultan, come and lead your armies. If I am the sultan I hereby order you to come and lead my armies." Then, Murad II led the Ottoman army and won the Battle of Varna on 10 November 1444. [8] Halil Inalcik states that Mehmed II did not ask for his father. Instead, it was Çandarlı Halil Pasha's effort to bring Murad II back to the throne. [9] [10]

In 1446 Murad II returned to throne, Mehmed II retained the title of sultan but only acted as a governor of Manisa. Following death of Murad II in 1451, Mehmed II became sultan for second time. İbrahim Bey of Karaman invaded disputed area and instigated various revolts against Ottoman rule. Mehmed II conducted first campaign against İbrahim of Karaman Byzantines threatened to release Ottoman claimant Orhan. [8]

When Mehmed II ascended the throne again in 1451 he devoted himself to strengthening the Ottoman navy and made preparations for an attack on Constantinople. In the narrow Bosphorus Straits, the fortress Anadoluhisarı had been built by his great-grandfather Bayezid I on the Asian side Mehmed erected an even stronger fortress called Rumelihisarı on the European side, and thus gained complete control of the strait. Having completed his fortresses, Mehmed proceeded to levy a toll on ships passing within reach of their cannon. A Venetian vessel ignoring signals to stop was sunk with a single shot and all the surviving sailors beheaded, [12] except for the captain, who was impaled and mounted as a human scarecrow as a warning to further sailors on the strait. [13]

Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, the companion and standard bearer of Muhammad, had died during the first Siege of Constantinople (674–678). As Mehmed II's army approached Constantinople, Mehmed's sheikh Akshamsaddin [14] discovered the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. After the conquest, Mehmed built Eyüp Sultan Mosque at the site to emphasize the importance of the conquest to the Islamic world and highlight his role as ghazi. [14]

In 1453 Mehmed commenced the siege of Constantinople with an army between 80,000 and 200,000 troops, an artillery train of over seventy large field pieces, [15] and a navy of 320 vessels, the bulk of them transports and storeships. The city was surrounded by sea and land the fleet at the entrance of the Bosphorus stretched from shore to shore in the form of a crescent, to intercept or repel any assistance for Constantinople from the sea. [12] In early April, the Siege of Constantinople began. At first, the city's walls held off the Turks, even though Mehmed's army used the new bombard designed by Orban, a giant cannon similar to the Dardanelles Gun. The harbor of the Golden Horn was blocked by a boom chain and defended by twenty-eight warships.

On 22 April, Mehmed transported his lighter warships overland, around the Genoese colony of Galata, and into the Golden Horn's northern shore eighty galleys were transported from the Bosphorus after paving a route, little over one mile, with wood. Thus the Byzantines stretched their troops over a longer portion of the walls. About a month later, Constantinople fell, on 29 May, following a fifty-seven-day siege. [12] After this conquest, Mehmed moved the Ottoman capital from Adrianople to Constantinople.

When Sultan Mehmed II stepped into the ruins of the Boukoleon, known to the Ottomans and Persians as the Palace of the Caesars, probably built over a thousand years before by Theodosius II, he uttered the famous lines of Saadi: [16] [17] [18] [19]

The spider is curtain-bearer in the palace of Chosroes,
The owl sounds the relief in the castle of Afrasiyab.

Some Muslim scholars claimed that a hadith in Musnad Ahmad referred specifically to Mehmed's conquest of Constantinople, seeing it as the fulfillment of a prophecy and a sign of the approaching apocalypse. [20]

After the conquest of Constantinople, Mehmed claimed the title of caesar of the Roman Empire (Qayser-i Rûm), based on the assertion that Constantinople had been the seat and capital of the Roman Empire since 330 AD, and whoever possessed the Imperial capital was the ruler of the Empire. [21] The contemporary scholar George of Trebizond supported his claim. [22] [23] The claim was not recognized by the Catholic Church and most of, if not all, Western Europe, but was recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Mehmed had installed Gennadius Scholarius, a staunch antagonist of the West, as the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople with all the ceremonial elements, ethnarch (or milletbashi) status and rights of property that made him the second largest landlord in the said empire by the sultan himself in 1454, and in turn Gennadius II recognized Mehmed the Conqueror as successor to the throne. [24] [25]

Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos died without producing an heir, and had Constantinople not fallen to the Ottomans he likely would have been succeeded by the sons of his deceased elder brother. Those children were taken into the palace service of Mehmed after the fall of Constantinople. The oldest boy, renamed Has Murad, became a personal favorite of Mehmed and served as beylerbey of the Balkans. The younger son, renamed Mesih Pasha, became admiral of the Ottoman fleet and sanjak-bey of the Gallipoli. He eventually served twice as Grand Vizier under Mehmed's son, Bayezid II. [26]

After the fall of Constantinople, Mehmed would also go on to conquer the Despotate of Morea in the Peloponnese in 1460, and the Empire of Trebizond in northeastern Anatolia in 1461. The last two vestiges of Byzantine rule were thus absorbed by the Ottoman Empire. The conquest of Constantinople bestowed immense glory and prestige on the country. There is some historical evidence that, 10 years after the conquest of Constantinople, Mehmed II visited the site of Troy and boasted that he had avenged the Trojans by conquering the Greeks (Byzantines). [27] [28] [29]

Mehmed II's first campaigns after Constantinople were in the direction of Serbia, which had been an Ottoman vassal state since the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. The Ottoman ruler had a connection with the Serbian Despotate – one of Murad II's wives was Mara Branković – and he used that fact to claim some Serbian islands. That Đurađ Branković had recently made an alliance with the Hungarians, and had paid the tribute irregularly, may have been important considerations. When Serbia refused these demands, the Ottoman army set out from Edirne towards Serbia in 1454. Smederevo was besieged, as was Novo Brdo, the most important Serbian metal mining and smelting center. Ottomans and Hungarians fought during the years till 1456.

The Ottoman army advanced as far as Belgrade, where it attempted but failed to conquer the city from John Hunyadi at the Siege of Belgrade, on 14 July 1456. A period of relative peace ensued in the region until the Fall of Belgrade in 1521, during the reign of Mehmed's great-grandson, known as Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The sultan retreated to Edirne, and Đurađ Branković regained possession of some parts of Serbia. Before the end of the year, however, the 79-year-old Branković died. Serbian independence survived him for only two years, when the Ottoman Empire formally annexed his lands following dissension among his widow and three remaining sons. Lazar, the youngest, poisoned his mother and exiled his brothers, but he died soon afterwards. In the continuing turmoil the oldest brother Stefan Branković gained the throne but was ousted in March 1459. After that the Serbian throne was offered to Stephen Tomašević, the future king of Bosnia, which infuriated Sultan Mehmed. He sent his army, which captured Smederevo in June 1459, ending the existence of the Serbian Despotate. [30]

The Despotate of the Morea bordered the southern Ottoman Balkans. The Ottomans had already invaded the region under Murad II, destroying the Byzantine defenses – the Hexamilion wall – at the Isthmus of Corinth in 1446. Before the final siege of Constantinople Mehmed ordered Ottoman troops to attack the Morea. The despots, Demetrios Palaiologos and Thomas Palaiologos, brothers of the last emperor, failed to send any aid. Their own incompetence resulted in an Albanian-Greek revolt against them, during which they invited in Ottoman troops to help put down the revolt. [31] At this time, a number of influential Moreote Greeks and Albanians made private peace with Mehmed. [32] After more years of incompetent rule by the despots, their failure to pay their annual tribute to the Sultan, and finally their own revolt against Ottoman rule, Mehmed entered the Morea in May 1460. The capital Mistra fell exactly seven years after Constantinople, on 29 May 1460. Demetrios ended up a prisoner of the Ottomans and his younger brother Thomas fled. By the end of the summer, the Ottomans had achieved the submission of virtually all cities possessed by the Greeks.

A few holdouts remained for a time. The island of Monemvasia refused to surrender, and it was ruled for a brief time by a Catalan corsair. When the population drove him out they obtained the consent of Thomas to submit to the Pope's protection before the end of 1460. [33] The Mani Peninsula, on the Morea's south end, resisted under a loose coalition of local clans, and the area then came under the rule of Venice. The last holdout was Salmeniko, in the Morea's northwest. Graitzas Palaiologos was the military commander there, stationed at Salmeniko Castle (also known as Castle Orgia). While the town eventually surrendered, Graitzas and his garrison and some town residents held out in the castle until July 1461, when they escaped and reached Venetian territory. [34]

Emperors of Trebizond formed alliances through royal marriages with various Muslim rulers. Emperor John IV of Trebizond married his daughter to the son of his brother-in-law, Uzun Hasan, khan of the Ak Koyunlu, in return for his promise to defend Trebizond. He also secured promises of support from the Turkish beys of Sinope and Karamania, and from the king and princes of Georgia. The Ottomans were motivated to capture Trebizond or to get an annual tribute. In the time of Murad II they first attempted to take the capital by sea in 1442, but high surf made the landings difficult and the attempt was repulsed. While Mehmed II was away laying siege to Belgrade in 1456, the Ottoman governor of Amasya attacked Trebizond, and although he was defeated, he took many prisoners and extracted a heavy tribute.

After John's death in 1459, his brother David came to power and intrigued with various European powers for help against the Ottomans, speaking of wild schemes that included the conquest of Jerusalem. Mehmed II eventually heard of these intrigues and was further provoked to action by David's demand that Mehmed remit the tribute imposed on his brother.

Mehmed the Conqueror's response came in the summer of 1461. He led a sizable army from Bursa by land and the Ottoman navy by sea, first to Sinope, joining forces with Ismail's brother Ahmed (the Red). He captured Sinope and ended the official reign of the Jandarid dynasty, although he appointed Ahmed as the governor of Kastamonu and Sinope, only to revoke the appointment the same year. Various other members of the Jandarid dynasty were offered important functions throughout the history of the Ottoman Empire. During the march to Trebizond, Uzun Hasan sent his mother Sara Khatun as an ambassador while they were climbing the steep heights of Zigana on foot, she asked Sultan Mehmed why he was undergoing such hardship for the sake of Trebizond. Mehmed replied:

Mother, in my hand is the sword of Islam, without this hardship I should not deserve the name of ghazi, and today and tomorrow I should have to cover my face in shame before Allah. [35]

Having isolated Trebizond, Mehmed quickly swept down upon it before the inhabitants knew he was coming, and he placed it under siege. The city held out for a month before the emperor David surrendered on 15 August 1461.

The Ottomans since the early 15th century tried to bring Wallachia (Ottoman Turkish: والاچیا ‎) under their control by putting their own candidate on the throne, but each attempt ended in failure. The Ottomans regarded Wallachia as a buffer zone between them and the Kingdom of Hungary and for a yearly tribute did not meddle in their internal affairs. The two primary Balkan powers, Hungary and the Ottomans, maintained an enduring struggle to make Wallachia their own vassal. To prevent Wallachia from falling into the Hungarian fold, the Ottomans freed young Vlad III (Dracula), who had spent four years as a prisoner of Murad, together with his brother Radu, so that Vlad could claim the throne of Wallachia. His rule was short-lived, however, as Hunyadi invaded Wallachia and restored his ally Vladislav II, of the Dănești clan, to the throne.

Vlad III Dracula fled to Moldavia, where he lived under the protection of his uncle, Bogdan II. In October 1451, Bogdan was assassinated and Vlad fled to Hungary. Impressed by Vlad's vast knowledge of the mindset and inner workings of the Ottoman Empire, as well as his hatred towards the Turks and new Sultan Mehmed II, Hunyadi reconciled with his former enemy and tried to make Vlad III his own adviser, but Vlad refused.

In 1456, three years after the Ottomans had conquered Constantinople, they threatened Hungary by besieging Belgrade. Hunyadi began a concerted counter-attack in Serbia: while he himself moved into Serbia and relieved the siege (before dying of the plague), Vlad III Dracula led his own contingent into Wallachia, reconquered his native land, and killed the impostor Vladislav II.

In 1459, Mehmed II sent envoys to Vlad to urge him to pay a delayed tribute [36] of 10,000 ducats and 500 recruits into the Ottoman forces. Vlad III Dracula refused and had the Ottoman envoys killed by nailing their turbans to their heads, on the pretext that they had refused to raise their "hats" to him, as they only removed their headgear before Allah.

Meanwhile, the Sultan sent the Bey of Nicopolis, Hamza Pasha, to make peace and, if necessary, eliminate Vlad III. [37] Vlad III set an ambush the Ottomans were surrounded and almost all of them caught and impaled, with Hamza Pasha impaled on the highest stake, as befit his rank. [37]

In the winter of 1462, Vlad III crossed the Danube and scorched the entire Bulgarian land in the area between Serbia and the Black Sea. Allegedly disguising himself as a Turkish Sipahi and utilizing his command of the Turkish language and customs, Vlad III infiltrated Ottoman camps, ambushed, massacred or captured several Ottoman forces. In a letter to Corvinus dated 2 February, he wrote:

I have killed peasants men and women, old and young, who lived at Oblucitza and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea, up to Rahova, which is located near Chilia, from the lower Danube up to such places as Samovit and Ghighen. We killed 23,884 Turks without counting those whom we burned in homes or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers. Thus, your highness, you must know that I have broken the peace with him [Mehmed II]. [38] [ unreliable source ]

Mehmed II abandoned his siege of Corinth to launch a punitive attack against Vlad III in Wallachia [39] but suffered many casualties in a surprise night attack led by Vlad III Dracula, who was apparently bent on personally killing the Sultan. [40] It is said that when the forces of Mehmed the Conqueror and Radu the Handsome came to Târgoviste, they saw so many Turks impaled around the city that, appalled by the sight, Mehmed considered withdrawing but was convinced by his commanders to stay. However, Vlad's policy of staunch resistance against the Ottomans was not a popular one, and he was betrayed by the boyars's (local aristocracy) appeasing faction, most of them also pro-Dăneşti (a rival princely branch). His best friend and ally Stephen III of Moldavia, who had promised to help him, seized the chance and instead attacked him trying to take back the Fortress of Chilia. Vlad III had to retreat to the mountains. After this, the Ottomans captured the Wallachian capital Târgoviște and Mehmed II withdrew, having left Radu as ruler of Wallachia. Turahanoğlu Ömer Bey, who served with distinction and wiped out a force 6,000 Wallachians and deposited 2,000 of their heads at the feet of Mehmed II, was also reinstated, as a reward, in his old gubernatorial post in Thessaly. [41] Vlad eventually escaped to Hungary, where he was imprisoned on a false accusation of treason against his overlord, Matthias Corvinus.

The despot of Serbia, Lazar Branković, died in 1458, and a civil war broke out among his heirs that resulted in the Ottoman conquest of Serbia in 1459/1460. Stephen Tomašević, son of the king of Bosnia, tried to bring Serbia under his control, but Ottoman expeditions forced him to give up his plan and Stephen fled to Bosnia, seeking refuge at the court of his father. [42] After some battles, Bosnia became tributary kingdom to the Ottomans.

On 10 July 1461, Stephen Thomas died, and Stephen Tomašević succeeded him as King of Bosnia. In 1461, Stephen Tomašević made an alliance with the Hungarians and asked Pope Pius II for help in the face of an impending Ottoman invasion. In 1463, after a dispute over the tribute paid annually by the Bosnian Kingdom to the Ottomans, he sent for help from the Venetians. However, none ever reached Bosnia. In 1463, Sultan Mehmed II led an army into the country. The royal city of Bobovac soon fell, leaving Stephen Tomašević to retreat to Jajce and later to Ključ. Mehmed invaded Bosnia and conquered it very quickly, executing Stephen Tomašević and his uncle Radivoj. Bosnia officially fell in 1463 and became the westernmost province of the Ottoman Empire.

According to the Byzantine historian Michael Critobulus, hostilities broke out after an Albanian slave of the Ottoman commander of Athens fled to the Venetian fortress of Coron (Koroni) with 100,000 silver aspers from his master's treasure. The fugitive then converted to Christianity, so Ottoman demands for his rendition were refused by the Venetian authorities. [43] Using this as a pretext in November 1462, the Ottoman commander in central Greece, Turahanoğlu Ömer Bey, attacked and nearly succeeded in taking the strategically important Venetian fortress of Lepanto (Nafpaktos). On 3 April 1463, however, the governor of the Morea, Isa Beg, took the Venetian-held town of Argos by treason. [43]

The new alliance launched a two-pronged offensive against the Ottomans: a Venetian army, under the Captain General of the Sea Alvise Loredan, landed in the Morea, while Matthias Corvinus invaded Bosnia. [44] At the same time, Pius II began assembling an army at Ancona, hoping to lead it in person. [45] Negotiations were also begun with other rivals of the Ottomans, such as Karamanids, Uzun Hassan and the Crimean Khanate. [45]

In early August, the Venetians retook Argos and refortified the Isthmus of Corinth, restoring the Hexamilion wall and equipping it with many cannons. [46] They then proceeded to besiege the fortress of the Acrocorinth, which controlled the northwestern Peloponnese. The Venetians engaged in repeated clashes with the defenders and with Ömer Bey's forces, until they suffered a major defeat on 20 October and were then forced to lift the siege and retreat to the Hexamilion and to Nauplia (Nafplion). [46] In Bosnia, Matthias Corvinus seized over sixty fortified places and succeeded in taking its capital, Jajce, after a 3-month siege, on 16 December. [47]

Ottoman reaction was swift and decisive: Mehmed II dispatched his Grand Vizier, Mahmud Pasha Angelović, with an army against the Venetians. To confront the Venetian fleet, which had taken station outside the entrance of the Dardanelles Straits, the Sultan further ordered the creation of the new shipyard of Kadirga Limani in the Golden Horn (named after the "kadirga" type of galley), and of two forts to guard the Straits, Kilidulbahr and Sultaniye. [48] The Morean campaign was swiftly victorious for the Ottomans they razed the Hexamilion, and advanced into the Morea. Argos fell, and several forts and localities that had recognized Venetian authority reverted to their Ottoman allegiance.

Sultan Mehmed II, who was following Mahmud Pasha with another army to reinforce him, had reached Zeitounion (Lamia) before being apprised of his Vizier's success. Immediately, he turned his men north, towards Bosnia. [48] However, the Sultan's attempt to retake Jajce in July and August 1464 failed, with the Ottomans retreating hastily in the face of Corvinus' approaching army. A new Ottoman army under Mahmud Pasha then forced Corvinus to withdraw, but Jajce was not retaken for many years after. [47] However, the death of Pope Pius II on 15 August in Ancona spelled the end of the Crusade. [45] [49]

In the meantime, the Venetian Republic had appointed Sigismondo Malatesta for the upcoming campaign of 1464. He launched attacks against Ottoman forts and engaged in a failed siege of Mistra in August through October. Small-scale warfare continued on both sides, with raids and counter-raids, but a shortage of manpower and money meant that the Venetians remained largely confined to their fortified bases, while Ömer Bey's army roamed the countryside.

In the Aegean, the Venetians tried to take Lesbos in the spring of 1464, and besieged the capital Mytilene for six weeks, until the arrival of an Ottoman fleet under Mahmud Pasha on 18 May forced them to withdraw. [50] Another attempt to capture the island shortly after also failed. The Venetian navy spent the remainder of the year in ultimately fruitless demonstrations of force before the Dardanelles. [50] In early 1465, Mehmed II sent peace feelers to the Venetian Senate distrusting the Sultan's motives, these were rejected. [51]

In April 1466, the Venetian war effort was reinvigorated under Vettore Cappello: the fleet took the northern Aegean islands of Imbros, Thasos, and Samothrace, and then sailed into the Saronic Gulf. [52] On 12 July, Cappello landed at Piraeus and marched against Athens, the Ottomans' major regional base. He failed to take the Acropolis and was forced to retreat to Patras, the capital of Peloponnese and the seat of the Ottoman bey, which was being besieged by a joint force of Venetians and Greeks. [53] Before Cappello could arrive, and as the city seemed on the verge of falling, Ömer Bey suddenly appeared with 12,000 cavalry and drove the outnumbered besiegers off. Six hundred Venetians and a hundred Greeks were taken prisoner out of a force of 2,000, while Barbarigo himself was killed. [54] Cappello, who arrived some days later, attacked the Ottomans but was heavily defeated. Demoralized, he returned to Negroponte with the remains of his army. There Cappello fell ill and died on 13 March 1467. [55] In 1470 Mehmed personally led an Ottoman army to besiege Negroponte. The Venetian relief navy was defeated and Negroponte was captured.

In spring 1466, Sultan Mehmed marched with a large army against the Albanians. Under their leader, Skanderbeg, they had long resisted the Ottomans, and had repeatedly sought assistance from Italy. [44] Mehmed II responded by marching again against Albania but was unsuccessful. The winter brought an outbreak of plague, which would recur annually and sap the strength of the local resistance. [52] Skanderbeg himself died of malaria in the Venetian stronghold of Lissus (Lezhë), ending the ability of Venice to use the Albanian lords for its own advantage. [56] After Skanderbeg died, some Venetian-controlled northern Albanian garrisons continued to hold territories coveted by the Ottomans, such as Žabljak Crnojevića, Drisht, Lezhë, and Shkodra – the most significant. Mehmed II sent his armies to take Shkodra in 1474 [57] but failed. Then he went personally to lead the siege of Shkodra of 1478–79. The Venetians and Shkodrans resisted the assaults and continued to hold the fortress until Venice ceded Shkodra to the Ottoman Empire in the Treaty of Constantinople as a condition of ending the war.

The agreement was established as a result of the Ottomans having reached the outskirts of Venice. Based on the terms of the treaty, the Venetians were allowed to keep Ulcinj, Antivan, and Durrës. However, they ceded Shkodra, which had been under Ottoman siege for many months, as well as other territories on the Dalmatian coastline, and they relinquished control of the Greek islands of Negroponte (Euboea) and Lemnos. Moreover, the Venetians were forced to pay 100,000 ducat indemnity [58] and agreed to a tribute of around 10,000 ducats per year in order to acquire trading privileges in the Black Sea. As a result of this treaty, Venice acquired a weakened position in the Levant. [59]

During the post-Seljuks era in the second half of the middle ages, numerous Turkmen principalities collectively known as Anatolian beyliks emerged in Anatolia. Karamanids initially centred around the modern provinces of Karaman and Konya, the most important power in Anatolia. But towards the end of the 14th century, Ottomans began to dominate on most of Anatolia, reducing the Karaman influence and prestige.

İbrahim II of Karaman was the ruler of Karaman, and during his last years, his sons began struggling for the throne. His heir apparent was İshak of Karaman, the governor of Silifke. But Pir Ahmet, a younger son, declared himself as the bey of Karaman in Konya. İbrahim escaped to a small city in western territories where he died in 1464. The competing claims to the throne resulted in an interregnum in the beylik. Nevertheless, with the help of Uzun Hasan, the sultan of the Akkoyunlu (White Sheep) Turkmens, İshak was able to ascend to the throne. His reign was short, however, as Pir Ahmet appealed to Sultan Mehmed II for help, offering Mehmed some territory that İshak refused to cede. With Ottoman help, Pir Ahmet defeated İshak in the battle of Dağpazarı. İshak had to be content with Silifke up to an unknown date. [60] Pir Ahmet kept his promise and ceded a part of the beylik to the Ottomans, but he was uneasy about the loss. So during the Ottoman campaign in the West, he recaptured his former territory. Mehmed returned, however, and captured both Karaman (Larende) and Konya in 1466. Pir Ahmet barely escaped to the East. A few years later, Ottoman vizier (later grand vizier) Gedik Ahmet Pasha captured the coastal region of the beylik. [61]

Pir Ahmet as well as his brother Kasım escaped to Uzun Hasan's territory. This gave Uzun Hasan a chance to interfere. In 1472, the Akkoyunlu army invaded and raided most of Anatolia (this was the reason behind the Battle of Otlukbeli in 1473). But then Mehmed led a successful campaign against Uzun Hasan in 1473 that resulted in the decisive victory of the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Otlukbeli. Before that, Pir Ahmet with Akkoyunlu help had captured Karaman. However Pir Ahmet couldn't enjoy another term. Because immediately after the capture of Karaman, the Akkoyunlu army was defeated by the Ottomans near Beyşehir and Pir Ahmet had to escape once more. Although he tried to continue his struggle, he learned that his family members had been transferred to İstanbul by Gedik Ahmet Pasha, so he finally gave up. Demoralized, he escaped to Akkoyunlu territory where he was given a tımar (fief) in Bayburt. He died in 1474. [62] [ better source needed ]

Uniting the Anatolian beyliks was first accomplished by Sultan Bayezid I, more than fifty years before Mehmed II but after the destructive Battle of Ankara in 1402, the newly formed unification was gone. Mehmed II recovered Ottoman power over the other Turkish states, and these conquests allowed him to push further into Europe.

Another important political entity that shaped the Eastern policy of Mehmed II were the White Sheep Turcomans. Under the leadership of Uzun Hasan, this kingdom gained power in the East but because of their strong relations with the Christian powers like the Empire of Trebizond and the Republic of Venice, and the alliance between the Turcomans and the Karamanid tribe, Mehmed saw them as a threat to his own power.

In 1456, Peter III Aaron agreed to pay the Ottomans an annual tribute of 2,000 gold ducats to ensure his southern borders, thus becoming the first Moldavian ruler to accept the Turkish demands. [63] His successor Stephen the Great rejected Ottoman suzerainty and a series of fierce wars ensued. [64] Stephen tried to bring Wallachia under his sphere of influence and so supported his own choice for the Wallachian throne. This resulted in an enduring struggle between different Wallachian rulers backed by Hungarians, Ottomans, and Stephen. An Ottoman army under Hadim Pasha (governor of Rumelia) was sent in 1475 to punish Stephen for his meddling in Wallachia however, the Ottomans suffered a great defeat at the Battle of Vaslui. Stephen inflicted a decisive defeat on the Ottomans, described as "the greatest ever secured by the Cross against Islam," [ by whom? ] with casualties, according to Venetian and Polish records, reaching beyond 40,000 on the Ottoman side. Mara Brankovic (Mara Hatun), the former younger wife of Murad II, told a Venetian envoy that the invasion had been worst ever defeat for the Ottomans. Stephen was later awarded the title "Athleta Christi" (Champion of Christ) by Pope Sixtus IV, who referred to him as "verus christianae fidei athleta" ("the true defender of the Christian faith"). Mehmed II assembled a large army and entered Moldavia in June 1476. Meanwhile, groups of Tartars from the Crimean Khanate (the Ottomans' recent ally) were sent to attack Moldavia. Romanian sources may state that they were repelled. [65] Other sources state that joint Ottoman and Crimean Tartar forces "occupied Bessarabia and took Akkerman, gaining control of the southern mouth of the Danube. Stephan tried to avoid open battle with the Ottomans by following a scorched-earth policy". [66]

Finally Stephen faced the Ottomans in battle. The Moldavians luring the main Ottoman forces into a forest that was set on fire, causing some casualties. According to another battle description, the defending Moldavian forces repelled several Ottoman attacks with steady fire from hand-guns. [67] The attacking Turkish Janissaries were forced to crouch on their stomachs instead of charging headlong into the defenders positions. Seeing the imminent defeat of his forces, Mehmed charged with his personal guard against the Moldavians, managing to rally the Janissaries, and turning the tide of the battle. Turkish Janissaries penetrated inside the forest and engaged the defenders in man-to-man fighting.

The Moldavian army was utterly defeated (casualties were very high on both sides), and the chronicles say that the entire battlefield was covered with the bones of the dead, a probable source for the toponym (Valea Albă is Romanian and Akdere Turkish for "The White Valley").

Stephen the Great retreated into the north-western part of Moldavia or even into the Polish Kingdom [68] and began forming another army. The Ottomans were unable to conquer any of the major Moldavian strongholds (Suceava, Neamț, Hotin) [65] and were constantly harassed by small scale Moldavians attacks. Soon they were also confronted with starvation, a situation made worse by an outbreak of the plague, and the Ottoman army returned to Ottoman lands. The threat of Stephen to Wallachia continued for decades. That very same year Stephen helped his cousin Vlad the Impaler return to the throne of Wallachia for the third and final time. Even after Vlad's untimely death several months later Stephen continued to support, with force of arms, a variety of contenders to the Wallachian throne succeeding after Mehmet's death to instate Vlad Călugărul, half brother to Vlad the Impaler, for a period of 13 years from 1482 to 1495.

Skanderbeg, a member of the Albanian nobility and a former member of the Ottoman ruling elite, led Skanderbeg's rebellion against the expansion of the Ottoman Empire into Europe. Skanderbeg, son of Gjon Kastrioti (who had joined the unsuccessful Albanian revolt of 1432–1436), united the Albanian principalities in a military and diplomatic alliance, the League of Lezhë, in 1444. Mehmed II was never successful in his efforts to subjugate Albania while Skanderbeg was alive, even though he twice (1466 and 1467) led the Ottoman armies himself against Krujë. After Skanderbeg died in 1468, the Albanians couldn't find a leader to replace him, and Mehmed II eventually conquered Krujë and Albania in 1478.

In spring 1466, Sultan Mehmed marched with a large army against Skanderbeg and the Albanians. Skanderbeg had repeatedly sought assistance from Italy, [44] and believed that the ongoing Ottoman–Venetian War (1463–1479) offered a golden opportunity to reassert Albanian independence for the Venetians, the Albanians provided a useful cover to the Venetian coastal holdings of Durrës (Italian: Durazzo) and Shkodër (Italian: Scutari). The major result of this campaign was the construction of the fortress of Elbasan, allegedly within just 25 days. This strategically sited fortress, at the lowlands near the end of the old Via Egnatia, cut Albania effectively in half, isolating Skanderbeg's base in the northern highlands from the Venetian holdings in the south. [56] However, following the Sultan's withdrawal Skanderbeg himself spent the winter in Italy, seeking aid. On his return in early 1467, his forces sallied from the highlands, defeated Ballaban Pasha, and lifted the siege of the fortress of Croia (Krujë) they also attacked Elbasan but failed to capture it. [69] [70] Mehmed II responded by marching again against Albania. He energetically pursued the attacks against the Albanian strongholds, while sending detachments to raid the Venetian possessions to keep them isolated. [69] The Ottomans failed again to take Croia, and they failed to subjugate the country. However, the winter brought an outbreak of plague, which would recur annually and sap the strength of the local resistance. [52] Skanderbeg himself died of malaria in the Venetian stronghold of Lissus (Lezhë), ending the ability of Venice to use the Albanian lords for its own advantage. [56] The Albanians were left to their own devices and were gradually subdued over the next decade.

After Skanderbeg died, Mehmed II personally led the siege of Shkodra in 1478–79, of which early Ottoman chronicler Aşıkpaşazade (1400–81) wrote, "All the conquests of Sultan Mehmed were fulfilled with the seizure of Shkodra." [71] [ better source needed ] The Venetians and Shkodrans resisted the assaults and continued to hold the fortress until Venice ceded Shkodra to the Ottoman Empire in the Treaty of Constantinople as a condition of ending the war.

A number of Turkic peoples, collectively known as the Crimean Tatars, had been inhabiting the peninsula since the early Middle Ages. After the destruction of the Golden Horde by Timur earlier in the 15th century, the Crimean Tatars founded an independent Crimean Khanate under Hacı I Giray, a descendant of Genghis Khan.

The Crimean Tatars controlled the steppes that stretched from the Kuban to the Dniester River, but they were unable to take control over the commercial Genoese towns called Gazaria (Genoese colonies), which had been under Genoese control since 1357. After the conquest of Constantinople, Genoese communications were disrupted, and when the Crimean Tatars asked for help from the Ottomans, they responded with an invasion of the Genoese towns, led by Gedik Ahmed Pasha in 1475, bringing Kaffa and the other trading towns under their control. [72] After the capture of the Genoese towns, the Ottoman Sultan held Meñli I Giray captive, [73] later releasing him in return for accepting Ottoman suzerainty over the Crimean Khans and allowing them to rule as tributary princes of the Ottoman Empire. [72] However, the Crimean khans still had a large amount of autonomy from the Ottoman Empire, while the Ottomans directly controlled the southern coast.

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