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On Tuesday, May 29 1453 the last bastion

on Christianity in the East, Constantinople, fell to the Ottoman Turks

led by Sultan Mehmet ( also called Mahomet ). This ended the 1100 year

reign of the Byzantium Empire and gave the Ottomans a new capital. One

of the most famous churches in history, the Church of Holy Wisdom ( also

known as the Hagia Sophia ) was converted into a Mosque. The Turks used

a revolutionary weapon in the siege – the cannon. Though the cannon had

been in Europe for over a century, this was one of the first times they

were used effectively.

The Turkish army would not have

been able to capture Constantinople had they not had the great cannon with

them, had the Byzantinians not been so isolated from the West and had the

Turkish soldiers not been so devoted.

The cannon was essential in the capture

of Constantinople. The walls of the city were massive, and had repulsed

invaders since 330 A.D. It would have taken the Turks a lot longer to breech

the walls if they did not have the great cannon, and aid from the West

would have arrived. The cannon had a long range, and it was used to block

access to Constantinople by sea. The very presence of the cannon was very

demoralizing for the defenders of the city, “Once more the bells of the

churches rang to sound the alarm, but the noise was drowned out by the

roar from the great cannon,” ” the reverberations could be heard for a

hundred stadia after it fired.”Imagine standing on a wall having cannon

balls weighing 12 hundredweight booming towards you.

The isolation from the West, the preoccupation

of the Western powers with other issues and the clash of the Eastern and

Western variations of Christianity helped lead to the fall of Constantinople.

The people of Byzantine Empire had some disdain for Western Christianity,

and did not want to form a union of churches with the West. The pope (Pius

II) was not anxious to send reinforcements until he felt that a true union

of the churches had been achieved. Most of the other European powers had

their own problems to deal with, and while they wanted to help the citizens

of Constantinople they were either to far away (Russia, which became a

major Christian center after the fall of Constantinople) or had their own

problems to deal with.(there was a revolt in Rome in January 1453)

The absolute devotion of the Turkish soldiers

to their Sultan and to their God helped Mehmet capture the city. The troops

of the sultan were fiercely loyal, especially the fearsome Janissaries,(

Christian youths taken from captured villages, and trained for seven years.

They were fanatical Muslims and fiercely loyal to the Sultan.) The soldiers

believed that God would have a special place in Paradise for those who

died attacking the city. “They shall conquer Qostantiniya.” “Glory be to

the Prince and to the army that achieve it.”The sultan offered a fantastic

prize to the first man inside the city, this, added to the belief that

the soldiers had, that those to fall in battle would rise to Paradise,

and the men they killed would be their servants there, had each man whipped

into a fanatical fervor, willing to rush the walls, ignoring the Christian

missiles. This allowed the Turks to capture the city very quickly, before

the West would decided to send aid.

As you can see, the three main factors

that led the Turks to capture Constantinople were, the devotion of their

troops, the isolation of the City ( both physically and spiritually ) and

their innovative use of the cannon, a new weapon. This shows us that new

weapons have a great power to change the world ( Airplanes, Tanks and Nuclear

Missiles all have ) and that fanaticism is a grave danger that society

as a whole must try to stop. If men are willing to die to establish fundamentalist

states and theocracies how are we to stop them?