last extremity of their distress ; but his compassion was tardy; his efforts were faint and unavailing; and Constantinople had faller before the squadrons of Genoa and Venice could sail from their harbours.27 Even the princes of the Morea and of the Greek islands affected a cold neutrality: the Genoese colony of Galata negociated a private treaty; and the sultan indulged them in the delusive hope that by his clemency they might survive the ruin of the empire. A plebeian crowd and some Byzantine nobles basely withdrew from the danger of their country; and the avarice of the rich denied the emperor, and reserved for the Turks, the secret treasures which might have raised in their defence whole armies of mercenaries.28 The indigent and solitary prince prepared however to sustain bis formidable adversary; but if his courage were equal to the peril, his strength was inadequate to the contest. In the beginning of the spring the Turkish vanguard swept the towns and villages as far as the gates of Constantinople : submission was spared and protected; whatever presumed to resist was exterminated with fire and sword. The Greek places on the Black Sea, Mesembria, Acheloum, and Bizon, surrendered on the first summons; Selymbria alone deserved the honours of a siege or blockade; and the bold inhabitants, while they were invested by land, launched their boats, pillaged the opposite coast of Cyzicus, and sold their captives in the public market. But on the approach of Mahomet himself all was silent and prostrate: he first halted at the distance of five miles; and, from thence advancing in battle array, planted before the gate of St. Romanus the Imperial standard ; and on the sixth day of April formed the memorable siege of Constantinople. The troops of Asia and Europe extended on the right and left

from the Propontis to the harbour; the Janizaries in the

front were stationed before the sultan's tent; the Ottoman line was covered by a deep intrenchment; and a subordinate army enclosed the suburb of Galata, and watched the doubtful faith of the Genoese. The inquisitive Philelphus, who resided in Greece about thirty years before the siege, is confident that all the Turkish forces of any name or value could not exceed the number of sixty

Forces of the Turks;

37 Non audivit, indignum ducens, says the honest Antoninus; but, as the Roman court was afterwards grieved and ashamed, we find the more courtly expression of Platina, in animo fuisse pontifici juvare Græcos, and the positive assertion of Æneas Sylvius, structam classem, &c. (Spond. A.D. 1453, No. 3.)

28 Antonin. in Proem. Epist. Cardinal. Isidor. apud Spondanum; and Dr. Johnson, in the tragedy of Irene, has happily seized this characteristic circumstance:

The groaning Greeks dig up the golden caverns,
The accumulated wealth of hoarding ages;
That wealth which, granted to their weeping prince,
Had rang'd einbattled nations at their gates.

thousand horse and twenty thousand foot; and he upbraids tlie pusillanimity of the nations who had tamely yielded to a handfu. of barbarians. Such indeed might be the regular establishment of the Capiculi,29 the troops of the Porte who marched with the prince, and were paid from his royal treasury. But the bashaws, in their respective governments, maintained or levied a provincial militia ; many lands were held by a military tenure; many volunteers were attracted by the hope of spoil ; and the sound of the holy trumpet invited a swarm of hungry and fearless fanatics, who might contribute at least to multiply the terrors, and in a first attack to blunt the swords of the Christians. The whole mass of the Turkish powers is magnified by Ducas, Chalcocondyles, and Leonard of Chios, to the amount of three or four hundred thousand men ; but Phranza was a less remote and more accurate judge; and his precise definition of two hundred and fifty-eight thousand does not exceed the measure of experience and probability.30 The navy of the besiegers was less formidable : the Propontis was overspread with three hundred and twenty sail; but of these no more than eighteen could be rated as galleys of war; and the far greater part must be degraded to the condition of store-ships and transports, which poured into the camp fresh supplies of men, ammunition, and provisions. In her last decay Constantinople was still peopled with more than an hundred thousand inhabitants; but these numbers are found in the accounts, not of war, but of captivity; and they mostly consisted of mechanics, of priests, of women, and of men devoid of that spirit which even women have sometimes exerted for the common safety. I can suppose, I could almost excuse, the reluctance of subjects to serve on a distant frontier, at the will of a tyrant; but the man who dares not expose his life in the defence of his children and his property has lost in society the first and most active energies of nature. By the emperor's command a particular inquiry had been made through the streets and houses, how many of the citizens, or even of the monks, were able and willing to bear arms for their country. The lists were intrusted to Phranza ;31 and after a diligent

of the Greeks.

% The palatine troops are styled Capiculi; the provincials, Seratculi; and most of the names and institutions of the Turkish militia existed before the Canon Nameh of Soliman II., from which, and his own experience, Count Marsigli has composed his Military State of the Ottoman Empire.

30 The observation of Philelphus is approved by Cuspinian in the year 1508 (de Cæsaribus, in Epilog. de Militia Turcicâ, p. 697). Marsigli proves that the effective armies of the Turks are much less numerous than they appear. In the army that besieged Constantinople Leonardus Chiensis reckons no more than 15,000 Janizaries.

u Ego, eidem (Imp.) tabellas extribui non absque dolore et mæstitia, mansitque apud nos duos aliis occultus numerus (Phranza, l. iii. c. 3 (p. 241, ed. Bonn). With somo indulgence for national prejudices, we cannot desire a more authentic witness, not only of public facts, but of private counsels.

addition he informed his master, with grief and surprise, that the national defence was reduced to four thousand nine hundred and seventy Romans. Between Constantine and his faithful minister this comfortless secret was preserved ; and a sufficient proportion of shields, cross-bows, and muskets, was distributed from the arsenal to the city bands. They derived some accession from a body of two thousand strangers, under the command of John Justiniani, a noble Genoese ; a liberal donative was advanced to these auxiliaries; and a princely recompense, the isle of Lemnos, was promised to the valour and victory of their chief. A strong chain was drawn across the mouth of the harbour : it was supported by some Greek ana Italian vessels of war and merchandise ; and the ships of every Christian nation, that successively arrived from Candia and the Black Sea, were detained for the public service. Against the powers of the Ottoman empire, a city of the extent of thirteen, perhaps of sixtten, miles was defended by a scanty garrison of seven or eight thousand soldiers. Europe and Asia were open to the besiegers; but the strength and provisions of the Greeks must sustain a daily decrease ; nor could they indulge the expectation of any foreign succour or supply. The primitive Romans would have drawn their swords in the reso

lution of death or conquest. The primitive Christians might have embraced each other, and awaited in patience and charity the stroke of martyrdom. But the Greeks of

Constantinople were animated only by the spirit of religion, and that spirit was productive only of animosity and discord. Before his death the emperor John Palæologus had renounced the unpopular measure of an union with the Latins; nor was the idea revived till the distress of his brother Constantine imposed a last trial of flattery and dissimulation.32 With the demand of temporal aid his ambassadors were instructed to mingle the assurance of spiritual obedience : his neglect of the church was excused by the urgent cares of the state; and his orthodox wishes solicited the presence of a Roman legate. The Vatican had been too often deluded; yet the signs of repentance could not decently be overlooked; a legate was more easily granted than an army; and about six months before the final de struction, the cardinal Isidore of Russia appeared in that character with a retinue of priests and soldiers. The emperor saluted him as a friend and father; respectfully listened to his public and private sermons; and with the most obsequious of the clergy and laymen subscribed the act of union, as it had been ratified in the council of

False union of the two churches, A.D. 1452, Dec. 12.

32 In Spondanus the narrative of the union is not only partial, but imperfect. The bishop of Pamiers died in 1642, and the history of Ducas, which represents these scones (c. 36, 37) with such truth and spirit, was not printed till the year 1649.


cism of the

Florence. On the twelfth of December the two nations, in the church of St. Sophia, joined in the communion of sacrifice and prayer; and the names of the two pontiffs were solemnly commemorated; the names of Nicholas the Fifth, the vicar of Christ, and of the patriarch Gregory, who had been driven into exile by a rebellious people.

But the dress and language of the Latin priest who officiated at the altar were an object of scandal; and it was observed with horror that he consecrated a cake or wafer of unlea- and fanativened bread, and poured cold water into the cup of the Greeks. sacrament. A national historian acknowledges with a blush that none of his countrymen, not the emperor himself, were sincere in this occasional conformity.33 Their hasty and unconditional submission was palliated by a promise of future revisal ; but the best, or the worst, of their excuses was the confession of their own perjury. When they were pressed by the reproaches of their honest brethren, “ Hare patience,” they whispered, “ have patience till God shall “ have delivered the city from the great dragon who seeks to devour

You shall then perceive whether we are truly reconciled with “the Azymites.” But patience is not the attribute of zeal ; nor can the arts of a court be adapted to the freedom and violence of popular enthusiasm. From the dome of St. Sophia the inhabitants of either sex, and of every degree, rushed in crowds to the cell of the monk Gennadius, 34 to consult the oracle of the church. The holy man was invisible; entranced, as it should seem, in deep meditation, or divine rapture : but he had exposed on the door of his cell a speaking tablet; and they successively withdrew, after reading these tremendous words: “O miserable Romans, why will ye abandon the truth; “ and why, instead of confiding in God, will ye put your trust in the “ Italians ? In losing your faith you will lose your city. Have

mercy on me, O Lord ! I protest in thy presence that I am inno“ cent of the crime. O miserable Romans, consider, pause, and

repent. At the same moment that you renounce the religion of

your fathers, by embracing impiety, you submit to a foreign servi“ tude.” According to the advice of Gennadius, the religious virgins, as pure as angels, and as proud as dæmons, rejected the act

66 US.

23 Phranza, one of the conforming Greeks, acknowledges that the measure was adopted only propter spem auxilii; he affirins with pleasure

that those who refused to perform their devotions in St. Sophia, extra culpam et in pace essent (1. iii. c. 20).

34 His primitive and secular name was George Scholarius, which he changed for that of Gennadius, either when he became a monk or a patriarch. His defence, at Florence, of the same union which he so furiously attacked at Constantinople, has tempted Leo Allatius (Diatrib. de Georgiis, in Fabric. Biblioth. Græc. tom, x. p. 760. 786) to divide him into two men; but Ronaudot (p. 343-383) has restored the identity of bis person and the duplicity of his character.

of union, and abjured all communion with the present and future Associates of the Latins; and their example was applauded and imitated by the greatest part of the clergy and people. From the monastery the devout Greeks dispersed themselves in the taverns; drank confusion to the slaves of the pope ; emptied their glasses in honour of the image of the holy Virgin ; and besought her to defend against Mahomet the city which she had formerly saved from Chosroes and the Chagan. In the double intoxication of zeal and wine, they valiantly exclaimed, “What occasion have we for succour, “ or union, or Latins? far from us be the worship of the Azymites !" During the winter that preceded the Turkish conquest the nation was distracted by this epidemical frenzy; and the season of Lent, the approach of Easter, instead of breathing charity and love, served only to fortify the obstinacy and influence of the zealots. The confessors scrutinised and alarmed the conscience of their votaries, and a rigorous penance was imposed on those who had received the communion from a priest who had given an express or tacit consent to the union. His service at the altar propagated the infection to the mute and simple spectators of the ceremony : they forfeited, by the impure spectacle, the virtue of the sacerdotal character; nor was it lawful, even in danger of sudden death, to invoke the assistance of their prayers or absolution. No sooner had the church of St. Sophia been polluted by the Latin sacrifice than it was deserted as a Jewish synagogue, or a heathen temple, by the clergy and people; and a vast and gloomy silence prevailed in that venerable dome, which had so often smoked with a cloud of incense, blazed with innumerable lights, and resounded with the voice of prayer and thanksgiving. The Latins were the most odious of heretics and infidels; and the first minister of the empire, the great duke, was heard to declare that he had rather behold in Constantinople the turban of Mahomet than the pope's tiara or a cardinal's hat.3. A sentiment so unworthy of Christians and patriots was familiar and fatal to the Greeks: the emperor was deprived of the affection and support of his subjects , and their native cowardice was sanctified by resignation to the divine decree or the visionary hope of a miraculous deliverance. Of the triangle which composes the figure of Constantinople the

two sides along the sea were made inaccessible to an

enemy; the Propontis by nature, and the harbour by art. BeMabomet II. tween the two waters, the basis of the triangle, the land side

was protected by a double wall and a deep ditch of the depth

of one hundred feet. Against this line of fortification, which * Pariódov, ráauttpa, may be fairly translated a cardinal's hat. The difference a the Greek and Latin habits embittered the schismu.

Siege of Constantinople

A.D. 1453,
April 6–
May 29.

« ForrigeFortsett »