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Παρασκευή, 25 Μαΐου 2007

29 OF MAY 1453 THE FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE

On May 22, 1453, the moon, symbol of Constantinople, rose in dark eclipse, fulfilling a prophecy on 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, "flames engulfed the dome of the Hagia Sophia, and lights, too, could be seen from the walls, glimmering in the distant countryside far behind the Turkish camp (to the west),". This was interpreted as some as the Holy Spirit departing from the Cathedral. All these phenomeae were however local effects of the cataclysmic Kuwae volcanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean. The "fire" seen was an optical illusion due to the reflection of intensely red twilight glow by clouds of volcanic ash high in the atmosphere. On the morning of May 29 the attack began. The first wave of attackers, the azabs (auxilaries), were poorly trained and equipped, and were meant only to kill as many Byzantine defenders as possible. The second assault, consisting largely of Anatolians, focused on a section of the Blachernae walls in the northwest part of the city, which had been partially damaged by the cannon. This section of the walls had been built much more recently, in the eleventh century, and was much weaker; the crusaders in 1204 had broken through the walls there. The Ottoman attackers also managed to break through, but were just as quickly pushed back out by the Byzantine defenders. The Byzantines also managed for a time to hold off the third attack by the Sultan's elite Janissaries, but a Genoan general in charge of a section of the defense, Giovanni Giustiniani, was grievously wounded during the attack, and his evacuation from the ramparts caused a panic in the ranks of the defenders.Some historians suggest that the Kerkoporta gate in the Blachernae section had been left unlocked, and the Ottomans soon discovered this mistake (there was no question of bribery or deceit by the Ottomans; the gate had simply been overlooked, probably because rubble from a cannon attack had obscured or blocked the door). The Ottomans rushed in. Constantine XI himself led the last defense of the city, and throwing aside his purple regalia, dove headfirst into the rushing Ottomans, dying in the ensuing battle in the streets, like his soldiers.Mehmed had promised his troops they could loot the city for three days, in accordance with ancient military tradition. Many civilians were slaughtered by the Turks when they first burst through the walls and captured the towers on the land walls, although order was quickly restored. After the initial assault, the Ottoman army fanned out along the main throughfare of the city, the Mese, past the great forums, and past the mammoth church of the Holy Apostles, which Mehmet wanted spared to provide a seat for his newly appointed patriach which would help him better control his Christian subjects. Mehmet had sent an advance guard to protect key buildings such as the Holy Apostles, as he had did not wish to establish his new capital in a thoroughly devastated city.The Army converged upon the Augusteum, the vast square that fronted the great church of Haghia Sophia whose bronze gates were barred by a huge throng of civilians inside the building, hoping for divine protection at this late hour. After the doors were breached, the troopes separated the congregation according to what price they might bring on the slave markets. A few of the elderly and some infants were summarily slain with a commercial ruthlessness. Soldiers fought over the possession of richly clad senators or for the comely youth or maiden.There are many legends in Greece surrounding the Fall of Constantinople. One of them 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 Constantinople returns to Christian hands[3]. Another legend refers to the Marble King, Constantine XI, holding that, when the Ottomans entered the city, an angel rescued the emperor, turned him into marble and placed him in a cave under the earth near the Golden Gate, where he waits to be brought to life againAlthough Mehmet II allowed the rape, pillage and looting of the city, as was the custom of all armies during that age, he changed his mind after seeing the great structures of the city being destroyed and stopped the activities after 24 hours; unfortunately at that point a large part of the populace was either raped, despoiled, or enslaved. Of the estimated 50,000 persons residing in the city at the time of its capture, approximately half were still free when Mehmet issued his order to cease the pillage of the city.
 

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