« ForrigeFortsett »
night suppress his voice and measure his footsteps; but the march
and labour of thousands must inevitably produce a strange confusion
of dissonant clamours, which reached the ears of the watchmen of the
towers. At daybreak, without the customary signal of the morning
gun, the Turks assaulted the city by sea and land; and the similitude
of a twined or twisted thread has been applied to the closeness and
continuity of their line of attack.” The foremost ranks consisted of
the refuse of the host, a voluntary crowd who fought without order or
command; of the feebleness of age or childhood, of peasants and
vagrants, and of all who had joined the camp in the blind hope of
plunder and martyrdom. The common impulse drove them onwards to the wall; the most audacious to climb were instantly precipitated; and not a dart, not a bullet, of the Christians, was idly wasted on
the accumulated throng. But their strength and ammunition were exhausted in this laborious defence: the ditch was filled with the bodies of the slain; they supported the footsteps of their companions; and of this devoted vanguard the death was more serviceable than the life. Under their respective bashaws and sanjaks, the troops of Anatolia and Romania were successively led to the charge : their progress was various and doubtful; but, after a conflict of two hours, the Greeks still maintained and improved their advantage ; and the voice of the emperor was heard, encouraging his soldiers to achieve, by a last effort, the deliverance of their country. In that fata. moment the Janizaries arose, fresh, vigorous, and invincible. The sultan himself on horseback, with an iron mace in his hand, was the spectator and judge of their valour; he was surrounded by ten thousand of his domestic troops, whom he reserved for the decisive occasion; and the tide of battle was directed and impelled by his voice and eye. His numerous ministers of justice were posted behind the line, to urge, to restrain, and to punish; and if danger was in the front, shame and inevitable death were in the rear, of the fugitives. The cries of fear and of pain were drowned in the martial music of drums, trumpets, and attaballs; and experience has proved that the mechanical operation of sounds, by quickening the circulation of the blood and spirits, will act on the human machine more forcibly than the eloquence of reason and honour. From the lines, the galleys, and the bridge, the Ottoman artillery thundered on all sides; and the camp and city, the Greeks and the Turks, were involved in a cloud of smoke, which could only be dispelled by the final deliverance or destruction of the Roman empire. The single combats of the heroes of history or fable amuse our fancy and engage our affections:
* Besides the 10,000 guards, and the sailors and the marines, Ducas numbers in this general assault 250,000 Turks, both horse and foot [c. 39, p. 283, ed. Bonn].
the skilful evolutions of war may inform the mind, and improve a necessary, though pernicious, science. But in the uniform and odious pictures of a general assault, all is blood, and horror, and confusion; nor shall I strive, at the distance of three centuries and a thousand miles, to delineate a scene of which there could be no spectators, and of which the actors themselves were incapable of forming any just or adequate idea. The immediate loss of Constantinople may be ascribed to the bullet, or arrow, which pierced the gauntlet of John Justiniani. The sight of his blood, and the exquisite pain, appalled the courage of the chief, whose arms and counsels were the firmest rampart of the city. As he withdrew from his station in quest of a surgeon, his flight was perceived and stopped by the indefatigable emperor. “Your “wound,” exclaimed Palaeologus, “is slight; the danger is pressing: “your presence is necessary; and whither will you retire?”—“I will “retire,” said the trembling Genoese, “by the same road which “God has opened to the Turks;” and at these words he hasty passed through one of the breaches of the inner wai. By this pusillanimous act he stained the honours of a military life; and the few days which he survived in Galata, or the isle of Chios, were embittered by his own and the public reproach.” His example was imitated by the greatest part of the Latin auxiliaries, and the defence began to slacken when the attack was pressed with redoubled vigour. The number of the Ottomans was fifty, perhaps a hundred, times superior to that of the Christians; the double walls were reduced by the cannon to a heap of ruins: in a circuit of several miles some places must be found more easy of access, or more feebly guarded; and if the besiegers could penetrate in a single point, the whole city was irrecoverably lost. The first who deserved the sultan's reward
* In the severe censure of the flight of Justiniani, Phranza expresses his own feelings and those of the public. For some private reasons he is treated with more lenity and respect by Ducas; but the words of Leonardus Chiensis express his strong and recent indignation, glorite salutis suique oblitus. In the whole series of their Eastern policy, his countrymen, the Genoese, were always suspected, and often
was Hassan the Janizary, of gigantic stature and strength. With his scimitar in one hand and his buckler in the other, he ascended the outward fortification: of the thirty Janizaries who were emulous of his valour, eighteen perished in the bold adventure. Hassan and his twelve companions had reached . the summit: the giant was precipitated from the rampart: he rose on one knee, and was again oppressed by a shower of darts and stones. But his success had proved that the achievement was possible: the walls and towers were instantly covered with a swarm of Turks; and the Greeks, now driven from the vantage ground, were overwhelmed by increasing multitudes. Amidst these multitudes, the emperor,” who accomplished all the duties of a general and a soldier, was long seen and finally lost. The nobles, who fought round his person, sustained, till their last breath, the honourable names of Palaeologus and Cantacuzene: his mournful exclamation was heard, “Cannot there be found “a Christian to cut off my head?”" and his last fear was that of falling alive into the hands of the infidels.” The prudent despair of Constantine cast away the purple: amidst the tumult he fell by an unknown hand, and his body was buried under a mountain of the slain. After his death resistance and order were no Death of the more : the Greeks fled towards the city; and many were .m.
pressed and stifled in the narrow pass of the gate of St. *
Romanus. The victorious Turks rushed through the breaches of the inner wall; and as they advanced into the streets, they were soon joined by their brethren, who had forced the gate Phenar on the side of the harbour.” In the first heat of the pursuit about two thousand Christians were put to the sword; but avarice soon prevailed over cruelty; and the victors acknowledged that they should immediately have given quarter, if the valour of the emperor and his chosen bands
* Ducas kills him with two blows of Turkish soldiers; Chalcocondyles wounds him in the shoulder, and then tramples him in the gate. The grief of Phranza, carrying him among the enemy, escapes from the precise image of his death; but we may, without flattery, apply these noble lines of Dryden:—
As to Sebastian, let them search the field;
* Spondanus (A.D. 1453, No. 10), who has hopes of his salvation, wishes to absolve this demand from the guilt of suicide.
* Leonardus Chiensis very properly observes that the Turks, had they known the emperor, would have laboured to save and secure a captive so acceptable to the sultan.
* Cantemir, p. 96. The Christian ships in the mouth of the harbour had flanked and retarded this naval attack.
had not prepared them for a similar opposition in every part of the 1...... capital. . It was thus, after a siege of fifty-three days, that city and Constantinople, which had defied the power of Chosroes, " the Chagan, and the caliphs, was irretrievably subdued by the arms of Mahomet the Second. Her empire only had been subverted by the Latins: her religion was trampled in the dust by the Moslem conquerors.” * The tidings of misfortune fly with a rapid wing; yet such was the The Turk, extent of Constantinople, that the more distant quarters ... might prolong, some moments, the happy ignorance of their *P*. ruin.” But in the general consternation, in the feelings of selfish or social anxiety, in the tumult and thunder of the assault, a sleepless night and morning" must have elapsed; nor can I believe that many Grecian ladies were awakened by the Janizaries from a sound and tranquil slumber. On the assurance of the public calamity, the houses and convents were instantly deserted; and the trembling inhabitants flocked together in the streets, like a herd of timid animals, as if accumulated weakness could be productive of strength, or in the vain hope that amid the crowd each individua. might be safe and invisible. From every part of the capital they flowed into the church of St. Sophia: in the space of an hour, the sanctuary, the choir, the nave, the upper and lower galleries, were filled with the multitudes of fathers and husbands, of women and children, of priests, monks, and religious virgins: the doors were barred on the inside, and they sought protection from the sacred dome which they had so lately abhorred as a profane and polluted edifice. Their confidence was founded on the prophecy of an enthusiast or impostor, that one day the Turks would enter Constantinople, and pursue the Romans as far as the column of Constantine in the square before St. Sophia: but that this would be the term of their calamities; that an angel would descend from heaven with a sword in his hand, and would deliver the empire, with that celestial weapon, to a poor man seated at the foot of the column. “Take
* Chalcocondyles most absurdly supposes that Constantinople was sacked by the Asiatics in revenge for the ancient calamities of Troy [l. viii. p. 403, ed. Bonn); and the grammarians of the xvth century are happy to meltdown the uncouth appellation of Turks into the more classical name of Teucri.
* When Cyrus surprised Babylon during the celebration of a festival, so vast was the city, and so careless were the inhabitants, that much time elapsed before the distant quarters knew that they were captives. Herodotus (l. i. c. 191), and Usher ...Annal. p. 78), who has quoted from the prophet Jeremiah a passage of similar import.
* This refers to an expression in Ducas, “sleep resting on the eyes of youths and who, to heighten the effect of his de- “maidens;” p. 288, edit. Bekker.—M. weription, speaks of the “sweet morning
“this sword,” would he say, “and avenge the people of the Lord.” At these animating words the Turks would instantly fly, and the victorious Romans would drive them from the West, and from al. Anatolia, as far as the frontiers of Persia. It is on this occasion that Ducas, with some fancy and much truth, upbraids the discord and obstinacy of the Greeks. “Had that angel appeared,” exclaims the historian, “had he offered to exterminate your foes if you would “consent to the union of the church, even then, in that fatal moment, “you would have rejected your safety, or have deceived your God.” While they expected the descent of the tardy angel, the doors were broken with axes; and as the Turks encountered no resist- captivity of ance, their bloodless hands were employed in selecting and ** securing the multitude of their prisoners. Youth, beauty, and the appearance of wealth, attracted their choice; and the right of property was decided among themselves by a prior seizure, by personal strength, and by the authority of command. In the space of an hour the male captives were bound with cords, the females with their veils and girdles. The senators were linked with their slaves; the prelates with the porters of the church; and young men of a plebeian class with noble maids whose faces had been invisible to the sun and their nearest kindred. In this common captivity the ranks of society were confounded; the ties of nature were cut asunder; and the inexorable soldier was careless of the father's groans, the tears of the mother, and the lamentations of the children. The loudest in their wailings were the nuns, who were torn from the altar with naked bosoms, outstretched hands, and dishevelled hair; and we should piously believe that few could be tempted to prefer the vigils of the haram to those of the monastery. Of these unfortunate Greeks, of these domestic animals, whole strings were rudely driven through the streets; and as the conquerors were eager to return for more prey, their trembling pace was quickened with menaces and blows. At the same hour a similar rapine was exercised in all the churches and monasteries, in all the palaces and habitations, of the capital; nor could any place, however sacred or sequestered, protect the persons or the property of the Greeks. Above sixty thousand of this devoted people were transported from the city to the camp and fleet; exchanged or sold according to the caprice or interest of their masters, and dispersed in remote servitude through the provinces of the Ottoman empire. Among these we may notice some remarkable * This lively description is extracted from Ducas (c. 39 [p. 291, ed. Bonn]), who, two years afterwards, was sent ambassador from the prince of Lesbos to the sultan (c. 44). Till Lesbos was subdued in 1463 (Phranza, l. iii. c. 27), that island must
have been full of the fugitives of Constantinople, who delighted to repeat, perhaps to adorn, the tale of their misery.