Decisive Ottoman victory
Fall of the
Republic of Genoa
Republic of Genoa
Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily
* Ottoman defectors
COMMANDERS AND LEADERS
* CONSTANTINE XI †
Theophilos Palaiologos †
Giovanni Giustiniani Longo (WIA )
Orhan Çelebi :418-420
* MEHMED II
BYZANTINES LAND FORCES:
* 7,000–10,000 :85 :755 :343 :755 :46 -12,000, many of whom were
* 600 Ottoman defectors
* 26 ships :45
LAND FORCES: 50,000–80,000 :101 :49 :52 :618
100,000 :755–160,000 –200,000
* 70 cannons :139–14014 large and 56 small caliber ) :179
* 70 ships, :4420 galleys
* 90 – 126 ships
CASUALTIES AND LOSSES
* 4,000 killed in total (including combatants and civilians) :37-8
* 30,000 enslaved or deported
Unknown but heavy
* ^ More specifically, the
Byzantine Empire under the Palaiologos
* ^ The
Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily mainly donated ships and a few soldiers,
it was not official however, and was done by several Cardinals.
* ^ The Venetians decided to make a peace treaty with the Ottomans
in September 1451, because their Doge was on good terms already with
the Ottomans and they did not want to ruin a relationship. They also
did not want the Ottomans to interfere with their trade in the Black
Sea and Mediterranean. The Venetians' efforts mainly included giving
Constantine XI ships and a total of 800 soldiers in February 1453. The
Venetians also promised that a larger fleet would arrive to save
Constantine, this fleet would be full of ammunition, fresh soldiers
and supplies. This fleet arrived too late.
* ^ The Genoese captain
Giovanni Giustiniani Longo was wounded in
battle, but managed to escape, he died during the early days of June
* ^ By nationality, there were 5,000
Greeks and 2,000 foreigners,
mostly of Genoese and Venetian origin.
* ^ Figures according to recent estimates and Ottoman archival
data. The Ottoman Empire, for demographic reasons, would not have been
able to put more than 80,000 men into the field at the time. :215
* ^ Figures according to contemporaneous Western/Christian
* Catalan campaign
* 1st Thessalonica
* 2nd Thessalonica
* 3rd Constantinople
The FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE (Greek : Ἃλωσις τῆς
Κωνσταντινουπόλεως, Halōsis tēs
Kōnstantinoupoleōs; Turkish : İstanbul'un Fethi CONQUEST OF
ISTANBUL) was the capture of the capital of the
Byzantine Empire by an
invading army of the
Ottoman Empire on 29 May 1453. The Ottomans were
commanded by the then 21-year-old
Mehmed the Conqueror
Mehmed the Conqueror , the seventh
sultan of the
Ottoman Empire , who defeated an army commanded by
Constantine XI Palaiologos . The conquest of
Constantinople followed a 53-day siege that had begun on 6 April 1453.
The capture of
Constantinople (and two other
territories soon thereafter) marked the end of the
Byzantine Empire ,
a continuation of the
Roman Empire dating to 27 BC, an imperial state
lasting for nearly 1,500 years. The Ottoman conquest of
Constantinople also dealt a massive blow to
Christendom , as the
Muslim Ottoman armies thereafter were left unchecked to advance into
Europe without an adversary to their rear. After the conquest, Sultan
Mehmed II transferred the capital of the
Ottoman Empire from
It was also a watershed moment in military history. Since ancient
times, cities had used ramparts and city walls to protect themselves
from invaders, and Constantinople's substantial fortifications had
been a model followed by cities throughout the Mediterranean region
and Europe. The Ottomans ultimately prevailed due to the use of
gunpowder (which powered formidable cannons).
The conquest of the city of
Constantinople and the end of the
Byzantine Empire was a key event in the
Late Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages which also
marks, for some historians, the end of the Middle Ages.
* 1 State of the
* 2 Preparations
* 2.1 Strength
* 2.1.1 Ottoman dispositions and strategies
Byzantine dispositions and strategies
* 3 Siege
* 3.1 Final assault
* 3.2 Plundering phase
* 4 Aftermath
* 4.2 Impact on the Churches
* 5 Cultural references
* 5.1 Legends
* 5.2 Cultural impact
* 5.3 Impact on the
* 5.4 Megali idea
* 5.5 Renaming of the city
* 5.6 In historical fiction
* 6 See also
* 7 Notes
* 8 References
* 9 Further reading
* 10 External links
STATE OF THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE
Constantinople had been an imperial capital since its consecration in
330 under Roman Emperor,
Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great . In the following
eleven centuries, the city had been besieged many times but was
captured only once: during the
Fourth Crusade in 1204. :304 The
crusaders established an unstable Latin state in and around
Constantinople while the remaining empire splintered into a number of
Byzantine successor states, notably
Nicaea , Epirus and Trebizond .
They fought as allies against the Latin establishments, but also
fought among themselves for the
The Nicaeans eventually reconquered
Constantinople from the Latins in
1261. Thereafter there was little peace for the much-weakened empire
as it fended off successive attacks by the Latins, the Serbians , the
Bulgarians , and, most importantly, the Ottoman Turks . The Black
Plague between 1346 and 1349 killed almost half of the inhabitants of
Constantinople. The city was severely depopulated due to the general
economic and territorial decline of the empire, and by 1453 consisted
of a series of walled villages separated by vast fields encircled by
the fifth-century Theodosian walls .
By 1450 the empire was exhausted and had shrunk to a few square miles
outside the city of
Constantinople itself, the Princes\' Islands in
Sea of Marmara , and the
Peloponnese with its cultural center at
Mystras . The
Empire of Trebizond , an independent successor state
that formed in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, also survived on
the coast of the
Black Sea .
Mehmed II succeeded his father in 1451, it was widely
believed that the young ruler, then 19 years old, would prove
incapable—and that he would pose no great threat to Christian
possessions in the
Balkans and the Aegean. :60 This optimism was
reinforced by friendly assurances made by Mehmed to envoys sent to his
new court. :373 But Mehmed's actions spoke far louder than his mild
words. Beginning early in 1452, he built a second Ottoman fortress on
Bosphorus , on the European side several miles north of
Constantinople, set directly across the strait from the similar
fortress, Anadolu Hisarı , which his great-grandfather
Bayezid I had
previously built on the Asian side. This pair of fortresses gave the
Turks complete control of sea traffic on the Bosphorus; :373
specifically, it prevented help from the north, the Genoese colonies
Black Sea coast, from reaching Constantinople. (The new
fortress was also known as Boğazkesen, which held the dual meanings
'strait-blocker' or 'throat-cutter', emphasizing its strategic
position.) In October 1452, Mehmed ordered
Turakhan Beg to lead a
large force into the
Peloponnese and remain there to keep Thomas and
Demetrios from assisting their brother
Constantine XI Palaiologos
during the impending siege of Constantinople.
Constantine XI swiftly understood Mehmed's true
intentions and turned to
Western Europe for help; but now the price of
centuries of war and enmity between the eastern and western churches
had to be paid. Since the mutual excommunications of 1054, the
Rome was committed to establishing authority over the eastern church .
Nominal union had been negotiated in 1274, at the Second Council of
Lyon , and indeed, some Palaiologoi emperors (Latin, Palaeologan) had
since been received into the Latin church . Emperor John VIII
Palaiologos had also recently negotiated union with
Pope Eugene IV ,
with the Council of Florence of 1439 proclaiming a Bull of Union.
These events, however, stimulated a propaganda initiative by
anti-unionist Orthodox partisans in Constantinople; the population, as
well as the laity and leadership of the
Byzantine Church, became
bitterly divided. Latent ethnic hatred between
Greeks and Italians,
stemming from the events of the
Massacre of the Latins in 1182 by the
Greeks and the sack of
Constantinople in 1204 by the Latins, played a
significant role. Finally, the attempted Union failed, greatly
Pope Nicholas V and the hierarchy of the Roman church.
Byzantine Empire in the first half of the 15th century.
Thessaloniki was captured by the Ottomans in 1430. A few islands in
the Aegean and the
Propontis remained under
Byzantine rule until 1453
(not shown on the map).
In the summer of 1452, when Rumelı Hisari was completed and the
threat had become imminent, Constantine wrote to the Pope, promising
to implement the Union, which was declared valid by a half-hearted
imperial court on 12 December 1452. :373 Although he was eager for an
Pope Nicholas V did not have the influence the Byzantines
thought he had over the Western kings and princes, some of whom were
wary of increasing Papal control, and these had not the wherewithal to
contribute to the effort, especially in light of the weakened state of
France and England from the Hundred Years\' War , Spain being in the
final part of the
Reconquista , the internecine fighting in the German
Principalities , and Hungary and Poland's defeat at the Battle of
Varna of 1444. Although some troops did arrive from the mercantile
city states in the north of Italy, the Western contribution was not
adequate to counterbalance Ottoman strength. Some Western individuals,
however, came to help defend the city on their own account. Cardinal
Isidore, funded by the pope, arrived in 1452 with 200 archers One of
these was an accomplished soldier from
Giovanni Giustiniani ,
who arrived with 400 men from
Genoa and 300 men from Genoese Chios, in
January 1453. :83-84 As a specialist in defending walled cities, he
was immediately given the overall command of the defense of the land
walls by the emperor. Around the same time, the captains of the
Venetian ships that happened to be present in the
Golden Horn offered
their services to the Emperor, barring contrary orders from
Pope Nicholas undertook to send three ships laden with provisions,
which set sail near the end of March. :81
In Venice, meanwhile, deliberations were taking place concerning the
kind of assistance the Republic would lend to Constantinople. The
Senate decided upon sending a fleet in February 1453, but there were
delays, and when it finally set out late in April, it was already too
late for it to be able to take part in the battle. :85 Further
Byzantine morale, seven Italian ships with around 700 men
slipped out of the capital at the moment when Giustiniani arrived, men
who had sworn to defend the capital. At the same time, Constantine's
attempts to appease the Sultan with gifts ended with the execution of
the Emperor's ambassadors — even
Byzantine diplomacy could not save
the city. :373 Restored Walls of
Fearing a possible naval attack along the shores of the Golden Horn,
Constantine XI ordered that a defensive chain be placed at the
mouth of the harbour. This chain, which floated on logs, was strong
enough to prevent any Turkish ship from entering the harbour. This
device was one of two that gave the Byzantines some hope of extending
the siege until the possible arrival of foreign help. :380 This
strategy was enforced because in 1204 the armies of the Fourth Crusade
successfully circumvented Constantinople's land defenses by breaching
Golden Horn Wall. Another strategy employed by the Byzantines was
the repair and fortification of the Land Wall (Theodosian Walls).
Emperor Constantine deemed it necessary to ensure that the Blachernae
district's wall were the most fortified because that section of the
wall protruded northwards. The land fortifications comprised a 60 ft
(18 m) wide moat fronting inner and outer crenellated walls studded
with towers every 45–55 metres.
Constantinople and the dispositions of the defenders and
The army defending
Constantinople was relatively small, totaling
about 7,000 men, 2,000 of whom were foreigners. At the onset of the
siege, probably fewer than 50,000 people were living within the walls,
including the refugees from the surrounding area. :32 Turkish
commander Dorgano, who was in
Constantinople in the pay of the
Emperor, was also guarding one of the quarters of the city on the
seaward side with the Turks in his pay. These Turks kept loyal to the
Emperor and perished in the ensuing battle. The defending army's
Genoese corps were well trained and equipped, while the rest of the
army consisted of small numbers of well-trained soldiers, armed
civilians, sailors and volunteer forces from foreign communities, and
finally monks . The garrison used a few small-calibre artillery
bullets, which nonetheless proved ineffective. The rest of the city
repaired walls, stood guard on observation posts, collected and
distributed food provisions, and collected gold and silver objects
from churches to melt down into coins to pay the foreign soldiers.
The Ottomans had a much larger force. Recent studies and Ottoman
archival data state that there were about 50,000–80,000 Ottoman
soldiers including between 5,000 and 10,000 Janissaries , an elite
infantry corps, and thousands of Christian troops, notably 1,500
Serbian cavalry that the Serbian lord
Đurađ Branković was forced to
supply as part of his obligation to the Ottoman sultan—just a few
months before, he had supplied the money for the reconstruction of the
walls of Constantinople. Contemporaneous Western witnesses of the
siege, who tend to exaggerate the military power of the Sultan,
provide disparate and higher numbers ranging from 160,000 to 200,000
and to 300,000 (
Niccolò Barbaro : 160,000; the Florentine merchant
Jacopo Tedaldi and the Great Logothete
George Sphrantzes : 200,000;
Isidore of Kiev and the Archbishop of
di Chio: 300,000). At this time cannons were being made.
Ottoman Dispositions And Strategies
Dardanelles Gun , cast in 1464 and based on the Orban
bombard that was used by the Ottoman besiegers of
Royal Armouries collection).
Mehmed built a fleet to besiege the city from the sea (partially
manned by Greek sailors from
Gallipoli ). Contemporary estimates of
the strength of the Ottoman fleet span between about 100 ships
(Tedaldi), 145 (Barbaro), 160 (Ubertino Pusculo), 200–250
(Isidore of Kiev, , Leonardo di Chio ) to 430 (Sphrantzes). A more
realistic modern estimate predicts a fleet strength of 126 ships
comprising 6 large galleys , 10 ordinary galleys, 15 smaller galleys,
75 large rowing boats, and 20 horse-transports. :44
Before the siege of Constantinople, it was known that the Ottomans
had the ability to cast medium-sized cannons , but the range of some
pieces they were able to field far surpassed the defenders'
expectations. Instrumental to this Ottoman advancement in arms
production was a somewhat mysterious figure by the name of Orban
(Urban), a Hungarian (though some suggest he was German). :374 One
cannon designed by
Orban was named "Basilica" and was 27 feet (8.2 m)
long, and able to hurl a 600 lb (272 kg) stone ball over a mile (1.6
km). Modern painting of Mehmed and the Ottoman Army approaching
Constantinople with a giant bombard, by
The master founder initially tried to sell his services to the
Byzantines, who were unable to secure the funds needed to hire him.
Orban then left
Constantinople and approached Mehmed II, claiming that
his weapon could blast 'the walls of
Babylon itself'. Given abundant
funds and materials, the Hungarian engineer built the gun within three
Edirne , from which it was dragged by sixty oxen to
Constantinople. In the meantime,
Orban also produced other cannons for
the Turkish siege forces. :77-8
Orban's cannon had several drawbacks: it took three hours to reload;
cannonballs were in very short supply; and the cannon is said to have
collapsed under its own recoil after six weeks (this is disputed,
however, given that it was only reported in the letter of Archbishop
Leonardo di Chio and in the later and often unreliable Russian
Nestor Iskander ). Having previously established a large
foundry about 150 miles (240 km) away, Mehmed now had to undergo the
painstaking process of transporting his massive artillery pieces.
Orban's giant cannon was said to have been accompanied by a crew of 60
oxen and over 400 men. :374
In preparation for the final assault, Mehmed had an artillery train
of seventy large pieces dragged from his headquarters at Edirne, in
addition to the bombards cast on the spot.
Mehmed planned to attack the Theodosian Walls, the intricate series
of walls and ditches protecting
Constantinople from an attack from the
West, the only part of the city not surrounded by water. His army
encamped outside the city on the Monday after
Easter , 2 April 1453.
The bulk of the Ottoman army were encamped south of the Golden Horn.
The regular European troops, stretched out along the entire length of
the walls, were commanded by Karadja Pasha. The regular troops from
Anatolia under Ishak Pasha were stationed south of the Lycus down to
the Sea of Marmara. Mehmed himself erected his red-and-gold tent near
the Mesoteichion, where the guns and the elite regiments, the
Janissaries, were positioned. The Bashi-bazouks were spread out behind
the front lines. Other troops under
Zagan Pasha were employed north of
the Golden Horn. Communication was maintained by a road that had been
constructed over the marshy head of the Horn. :94-5
Byzantine Dispositions And Strategies
Painting of the Fall of Constantinople, by Theophilos
The city had about 20 km of walls (land walls : 5.5 km; sea walls
along the Golden Horn: 7 km; sea walls along the Sea of Marmara: 7.5
km), one of the strongest sets of fortified walls in existence. The
walls had recently been repaired (under John VIII ) and were in fairly
good shape, giving the defenders sufficient reason to believe that
they could hold out until help from the West arrived. :39In addition,
the defenders were relatively well-equipped with a fleet of 26 ships:
Genoa , 5 from
Venice , 3 from Venetian
Crete , 1 from
Aragon , 1 from France, and about 10 Byzantine. :45
On 5 April, the Sultan himself arrived with his last troops, and the
defenders took up their positions. As their numbers were insufficient
to occupy the walls in their entirety, it had been decided that only
the outer walls would be manned. Constantine and his Greek troops
guarded the Mesoteichion, the middle section of the land walls, where
they were crossed by the river Lycus. This section was considered the
weakest spot in the walls and an attack was feared here most.
Giustiniani was stationed to the north of the emperor, at the
Charisian Gate (Myriandrion); later during the siege, he was shifted
to the Mesoteichion to join Constantine, leaving the Myriandrion to
the charge of the Bocchiardi brothers. Minotto and his Venetians were
stationed in the
Blachernae palace, together with Teodoro Caristo, the
Langasco brothers, and Archbishop Leonardo of Chios. :92
To the left of the emperor, further south, were the commanders
Cataneo, with Genoese troops, and Theophilus Palaeologus, who guarded
the Pegae Gate with Greek soldiers. The section of the land walls from
the Pegae Gate to the Golden Gate (itself guarded by a certain Genoese
called Manuel) was defended by the Venetian Filippo Contarini, while
Demetrius Cantacuzenus had taken position on the southernmost part of
the Theodosian wall. :92
The sea walls were manned more sparsely, with Jacobo Contarini at
Stoudion , a makeshift defense force of Greek monks to his left hand,
and prince Orhan at the Harbour of Eleutherius. Pere Julià was
stationed at the Great Palace with Genoese and Catalan troops;
Isidore of Kiev guarded the tip of the peninsula near the
boom. The sea walls at the southern shore of the
Golden Horn were
defended by Venetian and Genoese sailors under
Gabriele Trevisano .
Two tactical reserves were kept behind in the city, one in the Petra
district just behind the land walls and one near the Church of the
Holy Apostles , under the command of
Loukas Notaras and Nicephorus
Palaeologus, respectively. The Venetian Alviso Diedo commanded the
ships in the harbor. :94
Although the Byzantines also had cannons, they were much smaller than
those of the Ottomans and the recoil tended to damage their own walls.
David Nicolle , despite many odds, the idea that
Constantinople was inevitably doomed is wrong, and the overall
situation was not as one-sided as a simple glance at a map might
suggest. :40It has also been claimed that
Constantinople was "the
best-defended city in Europe" at that time.
At the beginning of the siege, Mehmed sent out some of his best
troops to reduce the remaining
Byzantine strongholds outside the city
of Constantinople. The fortress of Therapia on the
Bosphorus and a
smaller castle at the village of Studius near the
Sea of Marmara were
taken within a few days. The Princes\' Islands in the Sea of Marmara
were taken by Admiral Baltoghlu 's fleet. :96-7 Mehmed's massive
cannon fired on the walls for weeks, but due to its imprecision and
extremely slow rate of reloading the Byzantines were able to repair
most of the damage after each shot, limiting the cannon's effect. :376
The Ottoman Turks transport their fleet overland into the Golden
Meanwhile, despite some probing attacks, the Ottoman fleet under
Suleiman Baltoghlu could not enter the
Golden Horn due to the chain
the Byzantines had previously stretched across the entrance. Although
one of the fleet's main tasks was to prevent any ships from outside
from entering the Golden Horn, on 20 April a small flotilla of four
Christian ships managed to slip in after some heavy fighting, an
event which strengthened the morale of the defenders and caused
embarrassment to the Sultan. :376 Baltoghlu's life was spared after
his subordinates testified to his bravery during the conflict.
Mehmed ordered the construction of a road of greased logs across
Galata on the north side of the Golden Horn, and dragged his ships
over the hill, directly into the
Golden Horn on 22 April, bypassing
the chain barrier. :376 This seriously threatened the flow of supplies
from Genoese ships from the — nominally neutral — colony of Pera ,
and demoralized the
Byzantine defenders. On the night of 28 April, an
attempt was made to destroy the Ottoman ships already in the Golden
Horn using fire ships , but the Ottomans had been warned in advance
and forced the Christians to retreat with heavy losses. Forty Italians
escaped their sinking ships and swam to the northern shore. On orders
of Mehmed, they were impaled on stakes, in sight of the city's
defenders on the sea walls across the Golden Horn. In retaliation, the
defenders brought their Ottoman prisoners, 260 in all, to the walls,
where they were executed, one by one, before the eyes of the Ottomans.
:108 With the failure of their attack on the Ottoman vessels, the
defenders were forced to disperse part of their forces to defend the
sea walls along the Golden Horn.
The Ottoman army had made several frontal assaults on the land wall,
but were always repelled with heavy losses. Venetian surgeon Niccolò
Barbaro , describing in his diary one of such frequent land attacks
especially by the Janissaries, wrote:
They found the Turks coming right up under the walls and seeking
battle, particularly the Janissaries ... and when one or two of them
were killed, at once more Turks came and took away the dead ones ...
without caring how near they came to the city walls. Our men shot at
them with guns and crossbows, aiming at the Turk who was carrying away
his dead countryman, and both of them would fall to the ground dead,
and then there came other Turks and took them away, none fearing
death, but being willing to let ten of themselves be killed rather
than suffer the shame of leaving a single Turkish corpse by the walls.
Constantinople as depicted between 1453 and 1475.
After these inconclusive frontal offensives, the Ottomans sought to
break through the walls by constructing underground tunnels in an
effort to mine them from mid-May to 25 May. Many of the sappers were
miners of Serbian origin sent from
Novo Brdo by the Serbian despot .
They were placed under the command of
Zagan Pasha . However, an
Johannes Grant , a German who came together with the
Genoese contingent, had counter-mines dug, allowing
to enter the mines and kill the workers. The Byzantines intercepted
the first Serbian tunnel on the night of 16 May. Subsequent tunnels
were interrupted on 21, 23, and 25 May, and destroyed with Greek fire
and vigorous combat. On 23 May, the Byzantines captured and tortured
two Turkish officers, who revealed the location of all the Turkish
tunnels, which were then destroyed.
On 21 May, Mehmed sent an ambassador to
Constantinople and offered to
lift the siege if they gave him the city. He promised he would allow
the Emperor and any other inhabitant to leave with their possessions.
Moreover, he would recognize the Emperor as governor of the
Peloponese. Lastly, he guaranteed the safety of the population that
would remain in the city.
Constantine XI agreed to pay higher tributes
to the sultan and recognized the status of all the conquered castles
and lands in the hands of the Turks as Ottoman possession.
Giving you though the city depends neither on me nor on anyone else
among its inhabitants; as we have all decided to die with our own free
will and we shall not consider our lives.
Around this time, Mehmed had a final council with his senior
officers. Here he encountered some resistance; one of his Viziers, the
veteran Halil Pasha , who had always disapproved of Mehmed's plans to
conquer the city, now admonished him to abandon the siege in the face
of recent adversity.
Zagan Pasha argued against Halil Pasha, and
insisted on an immediate attack. Mehmed planned to overpower the walls
by sheer force, expecting that the weakened
Byzantine defense by the
prolonged siege would now be worn out before he ran out of troops and
started preparations for a final all-out offensive.
Painting by the Greek folk painter Theophilos Hatzimihail
showing the battle inside the city, Constantine is visible on a white
Preparations for the final assault were started in the evening of 26
May and continued to the next day. :378 For 36 hours after the war
council decision to attack, the Ottomans extensively mobilized their
manpower in order to prepare for the general offensive. :378 Prayer
and resting would be then granted to the soldiers on the 28th, and
then the final assault would be launched. On the
Byzantine side, a
small Venetian fleet of 12 ships, after having searched the Aegean,
reached the Capital on May 27 and reported to the Emperor that no
large Venetian relief fleet was on its way. :377 On May 28, as the
Ottoman army prepared for the final assault, large-scale religious
processions were held in the city. In the evening a last solemn
ceremony was held in the
Hagia Sophia , in which the Emperor and
representatives of both the Latin and Greek church partook, together
with nobility from both sides. :651-2
Shortly after midnight on May 29 the all-out offensive began. The
Christian troops of the
Ottoman Empire attacked first, followed by the
successive waves of the irregular azaps , who were poorly trained and
Anatolians who focused on a section of the Blachernae
walls in the northwest part of the city, which had been damaged by the
cannon. This section of the walls had been built earlier, in the
eleventh century, and was much weaker. The
Anatolians managed to
breach this section of walls and entered the city but were just as
quickly pushed back by the defenders. Finally, as the battle was
continuing, the last wave, consisting of elite Janissaries, attacked
the city walls. The Genoese general in charge of the land troops,
Giovanni Giustiniani , was grievously wounded during the attack, and
his evacuation from the ramparts caused a panic in the ranks of the
defenders. Sultan Mehmed II's entry into Constantinople,
Fausto Zonaro (1854–1929).
With Giustiniani's Genoese troops retreating into the city and
towards the harbor, Constantine and his men, now left to their own
devices, kept fighting and managed to successfully hold off the
Janissaries for a while, but eventually they could not stop them from
entering the city. The defenders were also being overwhelmed at
several points in Constantine's section. When Turkish flags were seen
flying above a small postern gate, the Kerkoporta, which was left
open, panic ensued, and the defense collapsed, as
Ulubatlı Hasan pressed forward. Many Greek soldiers ran back
home to protect their families, the Venetians ran over to their ships,
and a few of the Genoese got over to Galata. The rest committed
suicide by jumping off the city walls or surrendered. The Greek
houses nearest to the walls were the first to suffer from the
Ottomans. It is said that Constantine, throwing aside his purple
regalia, led the final charge against the incoming Ottomans, perishing
in the ensuing battle in the streets just like his soldiers. On the
other hand, Nicolò Barbaro, a Venetian eyewitness to the siege, wrote
in his diary that it was said that Constantine hanged himself at the
moment when the Turks broke in at the San Romano gate, although his
ultimate fate remains unknown.
After the initial assault, the Ottoman Army fanned out along the main
thoroughfare of the city, the Mese, past the great forums, and past
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles , which
Mehmed II wanted to provide a
seat for his newly appointed patriarch which would help him better
control his Christian subjects.
Mehmed II had sent an advance guard to
protect key buildings such as the
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles .
A small few lucky civilians managed to escape. When the Venetians
retreated over to their ships, the Ottomans had already taken the
walls of the Golden Horn, luckily for them, the Ottomans were not
interested in killing them but more in the loot they could get from
raiding the city's houses, so they decided to attack the city and not
them. The Venetian captain ordered his men to break open the gate of
the Golden Horn, after they did, they left with ships filled with
Venetian soldiers and refugees. Shortly after they left a few Genoese
ships and even the Emperor's ships followed them out of the Golden
Horn. This was done in perfect timing because shortly after they had
left, the Ottoman navy had control over the
Golden Horn by midday.
The Army converged upon the
Augusteum , the vast square that fronted
the great church of
Hagia Sophia whose bronze gates were barred by a
huge throng of civilians inside the building, hoping for divine
protection. After the doors were breached, the troops separated the
congregation according to what price they might bring in the slave
Ottoman casualties are unknown but they are believed by most
historians to be very heavy due to several unsuccessful Ottoman
attacks made during the siege and final assault. Barbaro described
blood flowing in the city "like rainwater in the gutters after a
sudden storm", and bodies of the Turks and Christians floating in the
sea "like melons along a canal".
Mehmed II had promised to his soldiers three days to plunder the
city, to which they were entitled. :145 Soldiers fought over the
possession of some of the spoils of war . :283 According to the
Venetian surgeon Nicolò Barbaro "all through the day the Turks made a
great slaughter of Christians through the city". According to Philip
Mansel, widespread persecution of the city's civilian inhabitants took
place, resulting in thousands of murders and rapes and 30,000
civilians being enslaved or forcibly deported.
The looting was extremely thorough in certain parts of the city.
Weeks later on 2 June, the Sultan would find the city largely deserted
and half in ruins; churches had been desecrated and stripped, houses
were no longer habitable and stores and shops were emptied. He is
famously reported to have been moved to tears by this, speaking "What
a city we have given over to plunder and destruction." :152
On the third day of the conquest,
Mehmed II ordered all looting to
stop and issued a proclamation that all Christians who had avoided
capture or who had been ransomed could return to their homes without
further molestation, although many had no homes to return to, and many
more had been taken captive and not ransomed. :150-51 Byzantine
George Sphrantzes , an eyewitness to the fall of
Constantinople, described the Sultan's actions:
On the third day after the fall of our city, the Sultan celebrated
his victory with a great, joyful triumph. He issued a proclamation:
the citizens of all ages who had managed to escape detection were to
leave their hiding places throughout the city and come out into the
open, as they were to remain free and no question would be asked. He
further declared the restoration of houses and property to those who
had abandoned our city before the siege, if they returned home, they
would be treated according to their rank and religion, as if nothing
Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque, but the Greek Orthodox
Church was allowed to remain intact and
Gennadius Scholarius was
appointed Patriarch of
Constantinople . This was once thought to be
the origin of the Ottoman millet system , however, it is now
considered a myth and no such system existed in the fifteenth century.
Following the city's conquest, the Church of the Holy Wisdom
Hagia Sophia ) was converted into a mosque .
After the sack, many feared other European Christian kingdoms would
suffer the same fate as Constantinople. Two possible responses emerged
amongst the humanists and churchmen of that era:
Crusade or dialogue.
Pius II strongly advocated for another Crusade, while Nicholas of
Cusa supported engaging in a dialogue with the Ottomans.
The Morean (Peloponnesian) fortress of Mystras, where Constantine's
brothers Thomas and Demetrius ruled, constantly in conflict with each
other and knowing that Mehmed would eventually invade them as well,
held out until 1460. Long before the fall of Constantinople, Demetrius
had fought for the throne with Thomas, Constantine, and their other
brothers John and Theodore . :446Thomas escaped to Rome when the
Morea while Demetrius expected to rule a puppet
state, but instead was imprisoned and remained there for the rest of
his life. In Rome, Thomas and his family received some monetary
support from the
Pope and other Western rulers as
Byzantine emperor in
exile, until 1503. In 1461 the independent
Byzantine state in
Trebizond fell to Mehmed. :446
Constantine XI had died without producing an heir, and had
Constantinople not fallen he likely would have been succeeded by the
sons of his deceased elder brother, who were taken into the palace
service of Mehmed after the fall of Constantinople. The oldest boy,
renamed to Murad, became a personal favorite of Mehmed and served as
Beylerbey (Governor-General) of Rumeli (the Balkans). The younger son,
Mesih Pasha , became Admiral of the Ottoman fleet and Sancak
Beg (Governor) of the Province of Gallipoli. He eventually served
twice as Grand Vizier under Mehmed's son,
Bayezid II .
With the capture of Constantinople,
Mehmed II had acquired the
"natural" capital of its kingdom, albeit one in decline due to years
of war. The loss of the city was a crippling blow to Christendom, and
it exposed the Christian west to a vigorous and aggressive foe in the
east. The Christian re-conquest of
Constantinople remained a goal in
Western Europe for many years after its fall to the
House of Osman
House of Osman .
Rumors of Constantine XI's survival and subsequent rescue by an angel
led many to hope that the city would one day return to Christian
Pope Nicholas V called for an immediate counter-attack in the
form of a crusade. When no European monarch was willing to lead the
Pope himself decided to go, but his early death stopped
this plan. As
Western Europe entered the 16th century, the age of
Crusading began to come to an end.
For some time Greek scholars had gone to
Italian city-states , a
cultural exchange begun in 1396 by
Coluccio Salutati , chancellor of
Florence, who had invited
Manuel Chrysoloras , a
Byzantine scholar to
lecture at the
University of Florence
University of Florence . After the conquest many
Greeks, such as
John Argyropoulos and
Constantine Lascaris , fled the
city and found refuge in the Latin West, bringing with them knowledge
and documents from the Greco-Roman tradition to Italy and other
regions that further propelled the
Renaissance . Those
stayed behind in
Constantinople mostly lived in the
Phanar and Galata
districts of the city. The
Phanariotes , as they were called, provided
many capable advisers to the Ottoman rulers.
Third Rome Sultan
Mehmed II the Conqueror, by
Byzantium is a term used by modern historians to refer to the later
Roman Empire. In its time, the Empire ruled from
"New Rome" as Constantine had officially named it) was considered
simply "the Roman Empire." The fall of
Constantinople led competing
factions to lay claim to being the inheritors of the Imperial mantle.
Russian claims to
Byzantine heritage clashed with those of the Ottoman
Empire's own claim. In Mehmed's view, he was the successor to the
Roman Emperor , declaring himself Kayser-i Rum, literally "Caesar of
Rome ", that is, of the Roman Empire, though he was remembered as "the
Conqueror". He founded a political system that survived until 1922
with the establishment of the
Republic of Turkey
Republic of Turkey .
Stefan Dušan , Tsar of
Serbia , and
Ivan Alexander , Tsar of
Bulgaria both made similar claims, regarding themselves as legitimate
heirs to the Roman Empire. Other potential claimants, such as the
Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice and the Holy
Roman Empire have disintegrated into
IMPACT ON THE CHURCHES
In 17th century Russia, the Fall of
Constantinople had a role in the
fierce theological and political controversy between adherents and
opponents of the reforms in the
Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church , carried out
Patriarch Nikon and intended to bring the Russian Church closer to
the norms and practices of other Orthodox churches.
Avvakum and other
of the "
Old Believers " saw these reforms as a corruption of the
Russian Church, which they considered to be the "true" Church of God.
As the other Churches were more closely related to
Avvakum argued that
Constantinople fell to the Turks
because of these heretical beliefs and practices.
There are many legends in Greece surrounding the Fall of
Constantinople. It was said that the partial lunar eclipse that
occurred on 22 May 1453 represented a fulfillment of a prophecy of the
city's demise. Four days later, the whole city was blotted out by a
thick fog , a condition unknown in that part of the world in May. When
the fog lifted that evening, a strange light was seen playing about
the dome of the Hagia Sophia, which some interpreted as the Holy
Spirit departing from the city. "This evidently indicated the
departure of the Divine Presence, and its leaving the City in total
abandonment and desertion, for the Divinity conceals itself in cloud
and appears and again disappears." For others, there was still a
distant hope that the lights were the campfires of the troops of John
Hunyadi who had come to relieve the city.
Another legend holds that two priests saying divine liturgy over the
crowd disappeared into the cathedral's walls as the first Turkish
soldiers entered. According to the legend, the priests will appear
again on the day that
Constantinople returns to Christian hands. :147
Another legend refers to the Marble King (Constantine XI), holding
that an angel rescued the emperor when the Ottomans entered the city,
turning him into marble and placing him in a cave under the earth near
the Golden Gate, where he waits to be brought to life again (a variant
of the sleeping hero legend).
Guillaume Dufay composed several songs lamenting the fall of the
Eastern church, and the duke of Burgundy,
Philip the Good
Philip the Good , avowed to
take up arms against the Turks. However, as the growing Ottoman power
from this date on coincided with the
Protestant Reformation and
Counter-Reformation , the recapture of Constantinople
became an ever-distant dream. Even France, once a fervent participant
of the Crusades, became an ally of the Ottomans.
Nonetheless, depictions of Christian coalitions taking the city and
of the late Emperor's resurrection by
Leo the Wise persisted. :280
IMPACT ON THE RENAISSANCE
Greek scholars in the Renaissance
The migration waves of
Byzantine scholars and émigrés in the period
following the sacking of
Constantinople and the fall of Constantinople
in 1453 is considered by many scholars key to the revival of Greek and
Roman studies that led to the development of the
and science . These émigrés were grammarians, humanists, poets,
writers, printers, lecturers, musicians, astronomers, architects,
academics, artists, scribes, philosophers, scientists, politicians and
theologians. They brought to
Western Europe the far greater preserved
and accumulated knowledge of their own (Greek) civilization.
Between 1919 and 1922, Greek politician Eleftherios Venizelos
attempted to implement the
Megali Idea (recapture of Constantinople
from the Ottoman Empire) in the
Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922)
Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) since
Ottoman Empire was severely weakened by its defeat in World War I
and by the occupation of
Constantinople by the British and French.
However, in the course of the war Venizelos lost the election of 1920
and went into exile and Greece was defeated in the war by Turkey.
RENAMING OF THE CITY
Ottomans used the Arabic transliteration of the city's name
"Kostantiniyye," (القسطنطينية), as can be seen in numerous
Ottoman documents. Islambol ( اسلامبول, Full of Islam) or
Islambul (find Islam) or Islam(b)ol (old Turkic : be Islam), both in
Turkish Language, were folk-etymological adaptations of Istanbul
created after the Ottoman conquest of 1453 to express the city's new
role as the capital of the Islamic Ottoman Empire. It is first
attested shortly after the conquest, and its invention was ascribed by
some contemporary writers to Sultan
Mehmed II himself.
The name of
Istanbul is thought to be derived from the Greek phrase
īs tīmbolī(n) (Greek : εἰς τὴν πόλιν, translit. eis
tēn pólin, "to the City"), and it is claimed that it had already
spread among the Turkish populace of the
Ottoman Empire before the
Istanbul only became the official name of the city
in 1930 by the revised Turkish Postal Law as part of
IN HISTORICAL FICTION
Lew Wallace , The Prince of India; or, Why
New York: Harper border:solid #aaa 1px">
Byzantine Empire portal
* Military history of the
Ottoman Empire portal
How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? ", question
linked to the imagery of pointless debate while the city was falling.
* Military of the
Tursun Beg (Turkish historian)
Dolfin Dolfin , venetian , naval commander during the siege
* ^ While
Mehmed II had been steadily making preparations for the
siege of Constantinople, he had sent the old general Turakhan and the
letter's two sons, Ahmed Beg and Omar Beg to invade the
Morea and to
remain there all winter to prevent the despots Thomas and Demetrius
from coming to assistance to their brother Constantine XI. :146
* ^ According to Phrantzes, whom Constantine had ordered to make a
census, the Emperor was appalled when the number of native men capable
of bearing arms turned out to be only 4,983. Leonardo di Chio gave a
number of 6,000 Greeks. :85
* ^ The Spanish Cristóbal de Villalón claims there were ' 60,000
Turkish households, 40,000 Greek and Armenian, 10,000 Jewish. :85
* ^ Another expert who was employed by the Ottomans was Ciriaco
de\' Pizzicolli , also known as Ciriaco of
Ancona , a traveler and
collector of antiquities.
* ^ These were the three Genoese ships sent by the Pope, joined by
a large Imperial transport ship which had been sent on a foraging
mission to Sicily previous to the siege and was on its way back to
* ^ Runciman speculates that he may have been Scottish :84
* ^ Original text: Τὸ δὲ τὴν πόλιν σοῖ
δοῦναι οὔτ' ἐμὸν ἐστίν οὔτ' ἄλλου
τῶν κατοικούντων ἐν ταύτῃ• κοινῇ
γὰρ γνώμῃ πάντες αὐτοπροαιρέτως
ἀποθανοῦμεν καὶ οὐ φεισόμεθα τῆς
* ^ Sources hostile towards the Genoese (such as the Venetian
Nicolò Barbaro), however, report that Longo was only lightly wounded
or not wounded at all, but, overwhelmed by fear, simulated the wound
to abandon the battlefield, determining the fall of the city. These
charges of cowardice and treason were so widespread that the Republic
Genoa had to deny them by sending diplomatic letters to the
Chancelleries of England, France, the Duchy of Burgundy and others.
:296-97 Giustiniani was carried to
Chios , where he succumbed to his
wounds a few days later.
* ^ Barbaro added the description of the emperor's heroic last
moments to his diary based on information he received afterward.
According to some Ottoman sources Constantine was killed in an
accidental encounter with Turkish marines a little further to the
south, presumably while making his way to the
Sea of Marmara in order
to escape by sea.
* ^ It is possible that all these phenomena were local effects of
Kuwae volcanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean. The
"fire" seen may have been an optical illusion due to the reflection of
intensely red twilight glow by clouds of volcanic ash high in the
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Byzantine Empire topics
* Theodosian dynasty
* Leonid dynasty
* Justinian dynasty
* Heraclian dynasty
* Twenty Years\' Anarchy
* Isaurian dynasty
* Amorian dynasty
* Macedonian dynasty
* Doukas dynasty
* Komnenos dynasty
* Angelos dynasty
Latin Empire /
Nicaea / Epirus –Thessalonica /
Morea / Trebizond
* Palaiologos dynasty
* Fall of Constantinople
* Imperial bureaucracy
* Praetorian prefects
Comes sacrarum largitionum
Comes rerum privatarum
Quaestor sacri palatii
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Logothetes tou dromou
Logothetes tou genikou
Logothetes tou stratiotikou
* Chartoularios tou sakelliou
* Chartoularios tou vestiariou
Epi tou eidikou
Epi ton deeseon
* Praetorian prefectures
Exarchate of Ravenna
Exarchate of Ravenna
Exarchate of Africa
Exarchate of Africa
* Battle tactics
* Military manuals
* Siege warfare
Late Roman army
East Roman army
East Roman army
Domestic of the Schools
Domestic of the Schools
* Komnenian army
* Palaiologan army
* Maritime themata
* Aegean Sea
Droungarios of the Fleet
Droungarios of the Fleet
* Naval battles
RELIGION AND LAW
Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
* Ecumenical councils
* Patriarchate of
* Great Schism
* Missionary activity
* Kievan Rus\'
Corpus Juris Civilis
Corpus Juris Civilis
CULTURE AND SOCIETY
* Great Palace of
* City Walls
Arch of Galerius and Rotunda
Arch of Galerius and Rotunda
* Panagia Chalkeon
* San Vitale
* Sant\'Apollinare in Classe
* Sant\'Apollinare Nuovo
* Nea Moni of
* Saint Catherine\'s Monastery
* Macedonian period art
* Komnenian renaissance
* Flags and insignia
* Units of measurement
Greek scholars in the Renaissance
* BYZANTINE EMPIRE PORTAL
Major sieges by the