Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Fall of Constantinople

The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire took place on 29 May 1453 after a 53-day siege. The Ottomans were commanded by the then 21-year-old Sultan Mehmet II (who became known as the Conqueror), the seventh sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The defenders had been lead by the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos.

The capture of Constantinople effectively marked the end of the near 1,500 year Roman Empire and dealt a massive blow to Christendom, as the Muslim Ottoman armies thereafter were left unchecked to advance into Europe without an adversary to their rear. After the conquest, Sultan Mehmet II transferred the capital of the Ottoman Empire from Edirne to Constantinople.

The conquest of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine Empire was perhaps the key event in the Late Middle Ages and marks for some historians the end of the Middle Ages.

Having taken the Byzantine capital, Mehmet turned his attention to picking off the last small remnant kingdoms of the Empire. The Morea fell in 1460 and the Empire of Trebizond in 1461. Mehmet continued his conquests, invading Wallachia in 142 and Bosnia in 1463.

Prior to the fall, the maritime republics of Genoa and Venice had maintained an uneasy policy of trade and sometimes co-operation with the Ottoman state. Whilst a Genoese general, Giovani Giustiniani, commanded the defenses along the Land Wall of Constantinople during the siege, Genoa remained officially neutral - and used its concessionary territory of Galata (Pera) across the Golden Horn to sell arms and equipment to both sides during the siege. Venice also made no official contribution to the defense of Constainople - a rescue fleet was belatedly dispatched but far too late. However the sizable Venetian community within Constantinople, led by their bailio, fought alongside their old Genoese rivals both at the wall and as a patchwork flotilla of ships defending the Golden Horne.

After the fall, Venice's policy began to change and La Serenissima began preparations for the inevitable military confrontation with the Ottoman empire. War was officially begun in 1463 and lasted until 1479, a conflict which became known as The Long War.

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