Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Fall of Byzantium



Today, May 29th, marks the 554th anniversary of the fall of the Byzantine Empire, and the symbolic death of the Middle Ages. The Sultan Mehmed II, long enamored with the fabled splendour of the Byzantine Empire (it is said that two thirds of all the riches of the world were held by the Byzantines), faces a weak and fragmented Empire. By that time, Byzantium had practically been reduced to the great city of Constantinople; and seizing this opportunity, the sultan starts a campaign to conquer the Queen of Cities. This is an especially sad and poignant moment in history; the Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos, had been facing intrigues from his court for his pro-Latin stance, with most of the pressure coming from his own Megas Doux, Loukas Notaras. To top it all off, the Byzantine armies were themselves crumbling; only a handful of thousands remained, augmented by a few thousand Western mercenaries under the leadership of the ruthlessly efficient and valiant Giovanni Giustiniani. Despite this effort, however, the forces that defended the city still numbered a paltry 5000-7000, an infinitesimally small figure compared to the 100,000 plus strong army of the Ottomans.

Sadly, Constantinople was conquered in the end. It is said that when Mehmet II finally entered the city, he exclaimed 'What a town this once was!', perhaps to express his lamentation at having reduced this city of desires to a pile of rubble. Still, some maintain it was an expression of his disappointment at the crumbling state of the city. The Great Church of Hagia Sophia in particular suffered much; the Ottomans stabled their horses and captives in the sanctuary, as they plundered the treasures of the church. of which it is proper to quote Scripture and say of them 'De te fabula narratur'. For such was the adornment of the Great Church, that it was the boast of all Christendom: silver chandeliers hanging from silver chains thick as a man's arm, 40 tons of silver that covered the sanctuary area, an altar studded with thousands of precious stones. And when they finally found the Emperor's body, buried among his own troops, the only way they were able to distinguish him was through his purple boots.

The following is considered the most accurate account of the Siege of Constantinople, written by an eyewitness to those events, the Venetian surgeon Nicolo Barbaro. It is written in diary format, and details much of the doings of his fellow Venetians, as well as some details of several naval affairs. It is especially recommended reading for this day.

5 comments:

Archistrategos said...

On a completely unrelated note, check this out! http://www.monsterpig.com

Andrew said...

Sawasdeekhap! Or something like that. Hello from Bangkok.

I thought that the emperor was distinguished by his red boots? Perhaps u can check it out for me.

On your completely unrelated note, the monster pig is HUGE! I know about hogzilla which only had one photo to prove its existence but apparently, this one has video and it's going to be mounted. Wow...interestin, ain't it, the stuff that exists out there.

Archistrategos said...

I forgot if it was red or purple-- most of the accounts I've read say red; in fact, some Orthodox criticize the pope for daring to add the red buskins to his apparel, because it was supposed to be reserved for the Byzantine emperors alone. On the other hand I read in an article once that it was actually purple; I'm not sure which one is correct, though, so I almost always use them interchangeably.

Yes, it is a HUGE pig! I was surprised when I saw it as well... it doesn't seem as long as Hogzilla, but from that site, it trumps him in nearly all accounts. Check out Hallowed Ground as well, they have a nice post about this thing! LOL

Hope you're having a great time in Thailand, Andrew! I would live to go there as well (got some relatives in Phuket. How are the beaches? Hehe

Andrew said...

Unfortunately, it's been all business for me. Trapped for more than an hour in a jam yesterday. The traveling time minus the jam is about an hour, at 110-120KM per hour. So it took me 2 hours to get back to the hotel. We came straight from the airport, Suvarnabhumi (meaning Land of Gold) to the factory and I was dead tired.

Today, I've stuck in this meeting room the whole morning and afternoon. Even ate in here.

Sigh...hopefully, I'll be able to do some sighseeing tonight, if I'm not too tired out by the meeting. On the other hand, we accidentally scheduled our trip not knowing that Wesak falls on Thursday so I have a day to spare =) Not sure about the conditions though. Bombs, the constitutional court about to declare the two largest parties illegal... wonder whats going to happen next.

Strange that you mentioned Phuket cos one of the manages here just talked about how he pulled his son out of the sea during the tsunami. Knowing that I can't swim, I think I'll stay clear =)

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Nice blog!

God bless