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Furthermore, with Constantinople having suffered through several devastating sieges, the city’s population had dropped from roughly 400,000 in the 12th century to between 40,000 and 50,000 by the 1450s. A rout of the defenders ensued, with many of the Venetian and Genoese fighters retreating to their ships in the Golden Horn. Now devoid of both a long-standing buffer against the Ottomans and access to the Black Sea, Christian kingdoms relied on Hungary to halt any further westward expansion. Behind that was an outer wall which had a patrol track to oversee the moat. In the early hours of May 29, Ottoman labourers filled the moat surrounding the city. 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. He asserted this claim with a series of campaigns that thoroughly subjugated both the Balkans and Greece by the late 15th century. This final defence was almost 5 metres thick, 12 metres high, and presented to the enemy 96 projecting towers. A small fleet of naval and armed merchant vessels were also stationed in the Golden Horn to defend the chain. The emperor could have fled the city days before but he chose to stay with his people, and a legend soon grew up that he had not died at all but, instead, he had been magically encased in marble and buried beneath the city which he would, one day, return to rule again. Constantinople was made the new Ottoman capital, the massive Golden Gate of the Theodosian Walls was made part of the castle treasury of Mehmed, while the Christian community was permitted to survive, guided by the bishop Gennadeios II. To the Turks, victory not only brought a new imperial capital, but guaranteed that their empire would last. The attacking Ottoman army, which significantly outnumbered Constantinople's defenders, was commanded by the 21-year-old Sultan Mehmed II (later called "the Conqueror"), while the Byzantine army was led by Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos. For Genoa’s part, the city-state sent 700 soldiers to Constantinople, all of whom arrived in January 1453 with Giovanni Giustiniani Longo at their head. After pausing to reposition his cannon, Mehmed reopened fire and thereafter maintained daily bombardment. When the army assembled at the city walls of Constantinople on 2 April 1453 CE, the Byzantines got their first glimpse of Mehmed’s cannons. Our latest articles delivered to your inbox, once a week: Our mission is to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide. When the western portion of the Roman Empire disintegrated in the fifth century (see The Fall of Rome ) Western Europe was propelled into the Dark Ages. Some soldiers are pointing canons to the city and 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. However, Constantine’s capacity to defend his city was hampered by his small fighting force. The Fall of Constantinople (Greek: Ἅλωσις τῆς Κωνσταντινουπόλεως). The result of years of research, it presents all available sources along with critical evaluations of these narratives. Mehmed repopulated the city with people from a multitude of backgrounds and faiths and relocated his capital from Edirne to Constantinople, ensuring a multicultural seat of power for a multicultural empire. Having encircled Constantinople in full, Mehmed continued his artillery barrage of the land walls through May 29. The Theodosian Walls were relentlessly blasted, chunk by chunk, into rubble. Meanwhile, Mehmed, aged only 21 and now known as "the Conqueror", settled in for a long reign and another 28 years as Sultan. No significant help could be expected from the West where the Popes were already unimpressed with the Byzantine’s unwillingness to form a union of the Church and accept their supremacy. The population of the city had collapsed so severely that it was now little more than a cluster of villages separated by fields. The Byzantines had actually had first option on the cannons as they had been offered them by their inventor, the Hungarian engineer named Urban, but Constantine could not meet his asking price. Meanwhile, the rape, pillage, and destruction began. The commander in chief, Mehmed…. by Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (Public Domain). Zaganos vehemently rejected the proposal to raise the siege. Between 60,000 and 80,000 soldiers fought on land, accompanied by 69 cannon. Mehmed II and his army were remarkably restrained in their handling of affairs after the fall of Constantinople. The city of Constantinople (modern Istanbul) was founded by Roman emperor Constantine I in 324 CE and it acted as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantine Empire as it has later become known, for well over 1,000 years. Please support Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation. They climbed to the top of the wall and raised the Ottoman flag, then they worked their way around to the main gate and allowed their comrades to flood into the city. License. In the 15th century, Constantinople’s walls were widely recognized as the most formidable in all of Europe. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/article/1180/. An Ottoman attack on a Venetian ship in the Bosporus prompted the Venetian Senate to send 800 troops and 15 galleys to the Byzantine capital, and many Venetians presently in Constantinople also chose to support the war effort, but the bulk of the Venetian forces were delayed for too long to be of any help. Some soldiers are pointing canons to the city and others are pulling boats 15th-century CE Ottoman Cannonby The Land (Public Domain). The Fall of Constantinople occurred on May 29, 1453, after a siege which began on April 6. In April, having quickly seized Byzantine coastal settlements along the Black Sea and Sea of Marmara, Ottoman regiments in Rumelia and Anatolia assembled outside the Byzantine capital. The Ottoman cannon created several breaches, but most were too narrow to send troops through. The defenders attempted to attack the remainder of the Ottoman fleet in the Bosporus, but they were defeated. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Mehmed II had one thing that previous besiegers of Constantinople had lacked: cannons. 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 Empire of Trebizond was an offshoot of the Byzantine Empire... Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire, The Siege and the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. These walls had never been breached in the thousand years since their construction. The fall of Constantinople in May 1453 was the end of an age for much of Europe and the Near East. After 800 years of resisting all comers, the city’s defences were finally breached by the knights of the Fourth Crusade in 1204 CE, although the attackers got in through a carelessly left-open door and not because the fortifications themselves had failed in their purpose. Mehmed ordered a third attack on the gate, this time with one of his own palace regiments of 3,000 Janissaries. The Byzantines were hopelessly outnumbered in men, ships, and weapons. 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. Mark is a history writer based in Italy. Another Crusader army was defeated in 1444 CE at Varna near the Black Sea coast. Many sought refuge in churches and barricaded themselves in, including inside the Hagia Sophia, but these were obvious targets for their treasures, and after they were looted for their gems and precious metals, the buildings and their priceless icons were smashed, the cowering captives butchered. Byzantine culture would survive, especially in the arts and architecture, but the fall of Constantinople was, nevertheless, a momentous episode of world history, the end of the old Roman Empire and the last surviving link between the medieval and ancient worlds. 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 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. He hoped to breach them or otherwise force a surrender before a Christian relief force could arrive. Already tested, it could fire a ball weighing 500 kilos over 1.5 km. Baltaoğlu Süleyman Bey commanded a fleet stationed at Diplokionion with an estimated 31 large and midsize warships alongside nearly 100 smaller boats and transports. In 1444 he lost an important battle to a Christian alliance in the Balkans and abdicated the throne to his son, Mehmed II. Sultan Murad II laid siege to Constantinople in 1422, but he was forced to lift it in order to suppress a rebellion elsewhere in the empire. It seemed that only divine intervention could save them now, but in the many previous sieges over centuries gone by, it was believed that just such intervention had saved the city; perhaps history would be repeated. Theodosian Wallsby Bigdaddy1204 (CC BY-SA). Many modern scholars also agree that the exodus of Greeks to Italy as a result of this event marked the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. Today in history, on May 29, 1453, the sword of Islam conquered Constantinople. Well, not quite. Perhaps 4,000 were killed outright, and over 50,000 were shipped off as slaves. On 6 April the attack began. In 1453 the Turks finally extinguished the Byzantine empire (barring Trebizond, which followed soon after) created by the emperor Constantine in around 330AD in his new capital of … Just before dawn, the sultan launched a coordinated artillery, infantry, and naval assault on Constantinople. The city fell on 29 May 1453, the culmination of a 53-day siege which had begun on 6 April 1453. We thank Professor Melville-Jones for his permission to republish this translation. Then again, there were also ominous tales of impending doom: prophesies that proclaimed the fall of Constantinople when the emperor was called Constantine (a good number were, of course) and there was an eclipse of the moon - which there was in the days before the siege of 1453 CE. The fall of Constantinople, which occurred on May 29,1453 was the final phase of the Byzantine-Ottoman Wars (1265-1453) and the darkest page in … This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms. Byzantine relations with the rest of Europe had soured over the last several centuries as well: the Schism of 1054 and the 13th-century Latin occupation of Constantinople entrenched a mutual hatred between the Orthodox Byzantines and Roman Catholic Europe. 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. Even the Genoese colony of Pera, facing the capital, attempted to stay neutral. Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership, https://www.britannica.com/event/Fall-of-Constantinople-1453. In contrast to the Byzantines, the Ottoman Turks had extended their control over virtually all of the Balkans and most of Anatolia, having conquered several Byzantine cities west of Constantinople in the latter half of the 14th century. 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. 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. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. The towers were so placed on the middle wall so as not to block the firing possibilities from the towers of the inner wall. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 shocked Christians in the Latin West and Greek East alike. John Melville-Jones (New York, 1969). 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. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. "1453: The Fall of Constantinople." The fall of the city removed what was once a powerful defense for Christian Europe against Muslim invasion, allowing for uninterrupted Ottoman expansion into eastern Europe. With their capital at Adrianople, further captures included Thessaloniki and Serbia. However, without outside support, Constantinople’s defenders would be spread thin. Their fleet moved from Gallipoli to nearby Diplokionion, and the sultan himself set out to meet his army. 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 Ottoman Empire had begun as a small Turkish emirate founded by Osman in Eskishehir (western Asia Minor) in the late 13th century CE, but by the early 14th century CE, it had already expanded into Thrace. In 1396 CE, at Nikopolis on the Danube, an Ottoman army defeated a Crusader army. Numerous educational institutions recommend us, including Oxford University and Michigan State University and University of Missouri. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Some Rights Reserved (2009-2021) under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license unless otherwise noted. Mehmed was determined to take the Golden Horn and pressure the Byzantines into submission. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. On April 12 the sultan dispatched a contingent of troops to subdue two nearby Byzantine forts and ordered Baltaoğlu to rush the chain. Although the city suffered many attacks, prolonged sieges, internal rebellions, and even a period of occupation in the 13th century CE by the Fourth Crusaders, its legendary defences were the most formidable in both the ancient and medieval worlds. Hungary was the primary European threat to the Ottomans on land, and Venice and Genoa controlled much of the Aegean and Black seas. Another major siege was instigated by the usurper Thomas the Slav between 821 and 823 CE. Nevertheless, just as deeply entrenched was the understanding that Byzantine control of Constantinople was a necessary bastion against Muslim control of land and sea in the eastern Mediterranean. Constantinople was deeply weakened by 1453 and its eventual fall to the Ottoman Turks shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. He was carried to the rear, and his absence sowed confusion and lowered morale among the ranks. 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. The world owes much of its cultural legacy to Constantinople's walls. After the big guns did their work, Ottoman troops plundered the ancient city and put its residents to the sword. This lesson will provide the background, summary… On a Tuesday, May 29th 1453, the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos died, as did his empire, fighting at the city streets alongside his soldiers. 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. The defenders could do no more than fire back with their own smaller cannons by day, hold off the attackers where the cannons had punched the biggest holes, and try and repair those gaps each night as best they could, using rocks, barrels, and anything else they could get their hands on. Constantinople remained the most difficult military nut to crack in the world. 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. The Roman / Byzantine Empire falls after the Ottoman Empire sieges Constantinople. Greek Fireby Unknown Artist (Public Domain). Omissions? The people of the city could only stock up on food and arms and hope their defences would save them yet again. He stopped to pray and then demanded that all further looting cease immediately. So mammoth was this cannon that it took an awfully long time to load and cool it so that it could only be fired seven times a day. Mehmed surrounded Constantinople from land and sea while employing cannon to maintain a constant barrage of the city’s formidable walls. It was an ominous sign of things to come. We have also been recommended for educational use by the following publications: Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation is a non-profit organization registered in Canada. In 1452 he reached peace treaties with Hungary and Venice. Orthodox leaders voted in favour of union, but the people of Constantinople were adamantly against it and rioted in response. The Fall of Constantinople occured on May 29, 1453 after a siege which began on April 6. Each tower was placed around 70 metres distant from another and reached a height of 20 metres. The captain of the vessel survived but was captured, decapitated, and then impaled on a stake. Still, the Ottomans had plenty of smaller cannon, each capable of firing over 100 times a day. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 23 Jan 2018. Then, behind that wall was a third, much more massive, inner wall. The city's plight had been neglected, and negligible help was sent in this crisis. Urban then peddled his expertise to the Sultan, and Mehmed showed more interest and offered him four times what he was asking. The resulting rubble piles actually absorbed the cannon shot better than fixed walls but, eventually, one of the infantry assaults would surely get through. Yet the fall of Constantinople proved to be Despite a desperate last-ditch defense of the city by the massively outnumbered Christian forces (7,000 men, 2,000 of whom were sent by Rome), Constantinople finally fell to the Ottomans after a two-month … The Ottoman besiegers vastly outnumbered the Byzantines and their allies. Ancient History Encyclopedia. This piece, Lamentatio sanctae matris ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae (Lament of the Holy Mother, the Church of Constantinople) by the French composer Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474) depicts the Church of Constantinople lamenting before God's throne for the fall of the city. Behind this was a second wall which had regular towers and an interior terrace so as to provide a firing platform to shoot down on any enemy forces attacking the moat and first wall. Rumeli Fortress (Rumeli Hisarı) on the European bank of the Bosporus, Istanbul. Constantinople itself became an Ottoman vassal during this period. What was left of the old Byzantine empire was absorbed into Ottoman territory following the conquest of Mistra in 1460 CE and Trebizond in 1461 CE. Many of the city’s inhabitants committed suicide rather than be subject to the horrors of capture and slavery. Of all Islam’s conquests of Christian territory, this was by far the most symbolically significant. Back in Asia Minor, Mehmed faced several revolts as his subjects became unruly while their Sultan and his army were abroad. The Ottoman attack on the boom which blocked the city’s harbour was repelled, as were several direct assaults on the Land Walls. The Byzantine emperor at the time of the attack was Constantine XI (r. 1449-1453 CE), and he took personal charge of the defence along with such notable military figures as Loukas Notaras, the Kantakouzenos brothers, Nikephoros Palaiologos, and the Genoese siege expert Giovanni Giustiniani. On April 2, 1453, the Ottoman army, led by the 21-year-old Sultan Mehmed II, laid siege to the city with 80,000 men. According to Georges Sphrantzes, the Ottoman army numbered 200,000 men, but modern historians prefer a more realistic figure of 60-80,000. 06 Jan 2021. Crusader armies captured, looted, and destroyed parts of … Cite This Work 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. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. 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. Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited is a non-profit company registered in the United Kingdom. Fall of Constantinople, (May 29, 1453), conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire. It could not, though, resist the mighty cannons of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, and Constantinople, jewel and bastion of Christendom, was conquered, smashed, and looted on Tuesday, 29 May 1453 CE. Submitted by Mark Cartwright, published on 23 January 2018 under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. (383), Bibliography Books For only $5 per month you can become a member and support our mission to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide. While it does cover that topic, it is about far more. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the Publishing Director at AHE. Attackers first faced a 20-metre wide and 7-metre deep ditch which could be flooded with water fed from pipes when required. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 signaled a shift in history, and the end of the Byzantium Empire. 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. Cartwright, M. (2018, January 23). Fall of Constantinople, (May 29, 1453), conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire. Summary This major study is a comprehensive scholarly work on a key moment in the history of Europe, the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The Turkish army of Mehmet II attacks Constantinople in 1453. Emperor Constantine XI is reported to have been killed while either fighting near the breach or fleeing to an escape boat. This is why you remain in the best website to look the incredible book to have. However, on May 29, 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. Chaos now ensued with some of the defenders maintaining their discipline and meeting the enemy while others rushed back to their homes to defend their own families. Cartwright, Mark. Web. Worse still, the once great Byzantine navy now consisted of a mere 26 ships, and most of those belonged to the Italian colonists of the city. He also began the construction of the Boğazkesen (later called the Rumelihisarı), a fortress at the narrowest point of the Bosporus, in order to restrict passage between the Black and Mediterranean seas. Myles Hudson was an Editorial Intern at Encyclopædia Britannica. Thank you! Some fool had left the small Kerkoporta gate in the Land Walls open and the Janissaries did not hesitate in using it. The Turkish army of Mehmet II attacks Constantinople in 1453. In short, Constantinople, with the greatest defences in the medieval world, was impregnable. The sultan thus completed his conquest of the Byzantine capital. Emperor Constantine XI named Giustiniani commander of his land defenses and spent the rest of the winter strengthening the city for a siege. By the mid-15th century, constant struggles for dominance with its Balkan neighbours and Roman Catholic rivals had diminished Byzantine imperial holdings to Constantinople and the land immediately west of it. Its fall was inevitable, really only a question of time. The battle was part of the Byzantine-Ottoman Wars (1265-1453). Cartwright, Mark. The city’s celebrated walls were a triple row of fortifications built during the reign of Theodosius II (408-450 CE) which protected the land side of the peninsula occupied by the city. The Fall of Constantinople: A Captivating Guide to the Conquest of Constantinople... Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. In the meantime, Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI Palaeologus entreated major powers in Christendom to aid him in the impending siege. By March 1453 Urban’s cannon had been transported from the Ottoman capital of Edirne to the outskirts of Constantinople. 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. This text is from Nicolo Barbaro, Diary of the Siege of Constantinople 1453, trans. Another major siege was instigated by the usurper … Mehmed then tasked the Hungarian gunsmith Urban with both arming Rumelihisarı and building cannon powerful enough to bring down the walls of Constantinople. The largest was 9 metres long with a gaping mouth one metre across. It was a powerful statement that the city’s role as a bastion of Christianity for twelve centuries was now over. He is expected to graduate from the University of Chicago in 2021 with bachelor’s degrees in English language and literature and political... Map showing the expansion of the Ottoman Empire (c. 1300–1700). Constant barrage of the Ottoman cannon created several breaches, but guaranteed that their Empire would.! 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