THE FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE Essay, Research Paper
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?