Sidebilder
PDF

A.D. 1448–1453. CONSTANTINE, THE LAST ROMAN EMPEROR. 139

soon violated by the Turkish conquerors; but the Janizaries, who wore his bones enchased in a bracelet, declared by this superstitious amulet their involuntary reverence for his valour. The instant ruin of nis country may redound to the hero's glory; yet, had he balanced the consequences of submission and resistance, a patriot perhaps would have declined the unequal contest which must depend on the life and genius of one man. Scanderbeg might indeed be supported by the rational, though fallacious, hope that the pope, the king of Naples, and the Venetian republic would join in the defence of a free and Christian people, who guarded the sea-coast of the Adriatic and the narrow passage from Greece to Italy. His infant son was saved from the national shipwreck; the Castriots” were invested with a Neapolitan dukedom, and their blood continues to flow in the noblest families of the realm. A colony of Albanian fugitives obtained a settlement in Calabria, and they preserve at this day the language and manners of their ancestors.”

In the long career of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, I have reached at length the last reign of the princes of Con-,

- - - onstantine

stantinople, who so feebly sustained the name and majesty of of the Caesars. On the decease of John Palaeologus, who on survived about four years the Hungarian crusade," the o royal family, by the death of Andronicus and the monastic Fo profession of Isidore, was reduced to three princes, Con- ** stantine, Demetrius, and Thomas, the surviving sons of the emperor Manuel. Of these, the first and the last were far distant in the Morea; but Demetrius, who possessed the domain of Selymbria, was in the suburbs, at the head of a party; his ambition was not chilled by the public distress, and his conspiracy with the Turks and the schismatics had already disturbed the peace of his country. The funeral of the late emperor was accelerated with singular and even suspicious haste; the claim of Demetrius to the vacant throne was justified by a trite and flimsy sophism, that he was born in the purple, the eldest son of his father's reign. But the empress-mother, the senate and soldiers, the clergy and people, were unanimous in the cause of the lawful

the giant Scanderbeg to the human size (A.D. 1461, No. 20; 1463, No. 9; 1465, No. 12, 13; 1467, No. 1). His own letter to the pope, and the testimony of Phranza (l. iii. c. 28), a refugee in the neighbouring isle of Corfu, demonstrate his last distress, which is awkwardly concealed by Marinus Barletius (l. x.).

* See the family of the Castriots, in Ducange (Fam. Dalmaticae, &c., xviii. p. 348– 350).

* This colony of Albanese is mentioned by Mr. Swinburne (Travels into the Two Sicilies, vol. i. p. 350-354).

*7 The chronology of Phranza is clear and authentic; but instead of four years and seven months, Spondanus (A.D. 1445, No. 7) assigns seven or eight years to the reign of the last Constantine, which he deduces from a spurious epistle of Eugenius IV. to the king of Æthiopia.

successor; and the despot Thomas, who, ignorant of the change, accidentally returned to the capital, asserted with becoming zeal the interest of his absent brother. An ambassador, the historian Phranza, was immediately despatched to the court of Adrianople. Amurath received him with honour and dismissed him with gifts; but the gracious approbation of the Turkish sultan announced his supremacy, and the approaching downfal of the Eastern empire. By the hands of two illustrious deputies the Imperial crown was placed at Sparta on the head of Constantine. In the spring he sailed from the Morea, escaped the encounter of a Turkish squadron, enjoyed the acclamations of his subjects, celebrated the festival of a new reign, and exhausted by his donatives the treasure, or rather the indigence, of the state. The emperor immediately resigned to his brothers the possession of the Morea; and the brittle friendship of the two princes, Demetrius and Thomas, was confirmed in their mother's presence by the frail security of oaths and embraces. His next occupation was the choice of a consort. A daughter of the doge of Venice had been proposed, but the Byzantine nobles objected the distance between an hereditary monarch and an elective magistrate; and in their subsequent distress the chief of that powerful republic was not unmindful of the affront. Constantine afterwards hesitated between the royal families of Trebizond and Georgia; and the embassy of Phranza represents in his public and private life the last days of the Byzantine empire.*. The protovestiare, or great chamberlain, Phranza, sailed from ConEmbassies stantinople as the minister of a bridegroom, and the relics “"..." of wealth and luxury were applied to his pompous appear** ance. His numerous retinue consisted of nobles and guards, of physicians and monks: he was attended by a band of music; and the term of his costly embassy was protracted above two years. On his arrival in Georgia or Iberia the natives from the towns and villages flocked around the strangers; and such was their simplicity that they were delighted with the effects, without understanding the cause, of musical harmony. Among the crowd was an old man, above an hundred years of age, who had formerly been carried away a captive by the barbarians,” and who amused his hearers with a tale of the wonders of India,” from whence he had returned to Portugal by an * Phranza (l. iii. c. 1-6) deserves credit and esteem. * Suppose him to have been captured in 1394, in Timour's first war in Georgia (Sherefeddin, l. iii. c. 50), he might follow his Tartar master into Hindostan in 1398, and from thence sail to the spice islands. * The happy and pious Indians lived a hundred and fifty years, and enjoyed the most perfect productions of the vegetable and mineral kingdoms. The animals were

on a large scale: dragons seventy cubits, ants (the formica Indica) nine inches loug, sheep like elephants, elephants like sheep. Quidlibet audendi, &c.

unknown sea.” From this hospitable land Phranza proceeded to the court of Trebizond, where he was informed by the Greek prince of the recent decease of Amurath. Instead of rejoicing in the deliverance, the experienced statesman expressed his apprehension that an ambitious youth would not long adhere to the sage and pacific system of his father. After the sultan's decease his Christian wife, Maria,” the daughter of the Servian despot, had been honourably restored to her parents; on the fame of her beauty and merit she was recommended by the ambassador as the most worthy object of the royal choice; and Phranza recapitulates and refutes the specious objections that might be raised against the proposal. The majesty of the purple would ennoble an unequal alliance; the bar of affinity might be removed by liberal alms and the dispensation of the church; the disgrace of Turkish nuptials had been repeatedly overlooked; and, though the fair Maria was near fifty years of age, she might yet hope to give an heir to the empire. Constantine listened to the advice, which was transmitted in the first ship that sailed from Trebizond; but the factions of the court opposed his marriage, and it was finally prevented by the pious vow of the sultana, who ended her days in the monastic profession. Reduced to the first alternative, the choice of Phranza was decided in favour of a Georgian princess; and the vanity of her father was dazzled by the glorious alliance. Instead of demanding, according to the primitive and national custom, a price for his daughter,” he offered a portion of fifty-six thousand, with an annual pension of five thousand, ducats; and the services of the ambassador were repaid by an assurance that, as his son had been adopted in baptism by the emperor, the establishment of his daughter should be the peculiar care of the empress of Constantinople. On the return of Phranza the treaty was ratified by the Greek monarch, who with his own hand impressed three vermilion crosses on the golden bull, and assured the Georgian envoy that in the spring his galleys should conduct the bride to her Imperial palace. But Constantine embraced his faithful servant, not with the cold approbation of a

* He sailed in a country vessel from the spice islands to one of the ports of the exterior India; invenitaue navem grandem Ibericam, quá in Portugalliam est delatus, This passage, composed in 1477 (Phranza, l. iii. c. 30), twenty years before the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, is spurious or wonderful. But this new geography is sullied by the old and incompatible error which places the source of the Nile in India.

* Cantemir (p. 83), who styles her the daughter of Lazarus Ogli, and the Helen of the Servians, places her marriage with Amurath in the year 1424. It will not easily be believed that, in six-and-twenty years' cohabitation, the sultan corpus ejus, non tetigit. After the taking of Constantinople she fled to Mahomet II. (Phranza, l. iii. e. 22.)

* The classical reader will recollect the offers of Agamemnon (Iliad, I. v. 144), and the general practice of antiquity.

sovereign, but with the warm confidence of a friend, who, after a long absence, is impatient to pour his secrets into the bosom of his friend. s....... “Since the death of my mother and of Cantacuzene, who Byzantine “alone advised me without interest or passion,” I am sur-. court. 44. ded,” said the emperor. “by men whom I can neither rounded, peror, “by

“love, nor trust, nor esteem. You are not a stranger to Lucas No“taras, the great admiral: obstinately attached to his own sentiments, “he declares, both in private and public, that his sentiments are the “absolute measure of my thoughts and actions. The rest of the “courtiers are swayed by their personal or factious views; and how “can I consult the monks on questions of policy and marriage? I “have yet much employment for your diligence and fidelity. In the “spring you shall engage one of my brothers to solicit the succour “of the Western powers; from the Morea you shall sail to Cyprus “on a particular commission, and from thence proceed to Georgia to “receive and conduct the future empress.” “Your commands,” replied Phranza, “are irresistible; but deign, great sir,” he added, with a serious smile, “to consider that, if I am thus perpetually absent from “my family, my wife may be tempted either to seek another husband, “or to throw herself into a monastery.” After laughing at his apprehensions, the emperor more gravely consoled him by the pleasing assurance that this should be his last service abroad, and that he destined for his son a wealthy and noble heiress; for himself, the important office of great logothete, or principal minister of state. The marriage was immediately stipulated: but the office, however incompatible with his own, had been usurped by the ambition of the admiral. Some delay was requisite to negociate a consent and an equivalent; and the nomination of Phranza was hals declared and half suppressed, lest it might be displeasing to an insolent and powerful favourite. The winter was spent in the preparations of his embassy; and Phranza had resolved that the youth his son should embrace this opportunity of foreign travel, and be left, on the appearance of danger, with his maternal kindred of the Morea. Such were the private and public designs, which were interrupted by a Turkish war, and finally buried in the ruins of the empire.

* Cantacuzene (I am ignorant of his relation to the emperor of that name) was great domestic, a firm asserter of the Greek creed, and a brother of the queen of Servia, whom he visited with the character of ambassador. (Syropulus, p. 37, 38, 45.)

CHAPTER LXVIII.

RKign AND CHARACT3R of MAHOMET THE SEcoSD. — SIEGE, Assault, AND FINAL CoNQUEST of CoNSTANTINoPLE BY THE TURKs. – DEATIt of CoNstanTINE PALAEoLogus. – SERVITUDE of THE GREEKs. – Extinction or THE Roman EMPIRE IN THE EAST. — CoNSTERNATION of EURoPE. – ConQUESTs AND DEATH of MAHOMET THE SEcond.

THE siege of Constantinople by the Turks attracts our first attention to the person and character of the great destroyer. Ma- character of homet the Second was the son of the second Amurath; ** 11. and though his mother has been decorated with the titles of Christian and princess, she is more probably confounded with the numerous concubines who peopled from every climate the haram of the sultan. His first education and sentiments were those of a devout Musulman; and as often as he conversed with an infidel he purified his hands and face by the legal rites of ablution. Age and empire appear to have relaxed this narrow bigotry: his aspiring genus disdained to acknowlege a power above his own; and in his looser hours he presumed (it is said) to brand the prophet of Mecca as a robber and impostor. Yet the sultan persevered in a decent reverence for the doctrine and discipline of the Koran: * his private indiscretion must have been sacred from the vulgar ear; and we should suspect the credulity of strangers and sectaries, so prone to believe that a mind which is hardened against truth must be armed with superior contempt for absurdity and error. Under the tuition of the most skilful masters Mahomet advanced with an early and rapid progress in the paths of knowledge; and besides his native tongue it is affirmed that he spoke or understood five languages,” the Arabic, the Persian, the Chaldaean or Hebrew, the Latin, and the Greek. The Persian might indeed

For the character of Mahomet II. it is dangerous to trust either the Turks or the

Christians. The most moderate picture appears to be drawn by Phranza (l. i. c. 32

. 93, ed. Bonn]), whose resentment had cooled in age and solitude. See likewise Spondanus (A.D. 1451, No. 11), and the continuator of Fleury (tom. xxii. p. 552), the Elogia of Paulus Jovius (l. iii. p. 164–166), and the Dictionnaire de Bayle (toln. iii. p. 272–279).

* Cantemir (p. 115), and the mosques which he founded, attest his public regard for religion. Mahomet freely disputed with the patriarch Gennadius on the two religions (Spond...A.D. 1453, No. 22).

* Quinque linguas praeter suam noverat, Graecam, Latinam, Chaldaicam, Persicam. The Latin translator of Phranza has dropped the Arabic, which the Koran must re. commend to every Musulman."

* It appears in the original Greek text, p. 95, edit. Bonn.—M.

« ForrigeFortsett »