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The Loss of the S. S. Titanic: Its Story and Its Lessons By Lawrence Beesley Characters: 9306

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The Greek Empire, under John Pal?ologus V, the most unfortunate and incompetent of men, on the accession of Murad, was in a perilous and decadent condition. We have already shown how small were its remaining possessions in Europe. It had no friends on whom it could rely to stem the advance of the Moslems. The old spirit of the early Crusaders in Europe was almost extinct. There was a bitter feud between the Latin and Greek Churches. They hated one another more than they feared the Turks. It was a condition of any assistance of the Latin Christians that the Greeks should come into the fold of the Pope of Rome. The Greeks, on their part, flatly refused this, even for the purpose of saving their Empire from extinction by the Moslem Turks.

It was under these conditions that Murad, in the first year of his reign, determined to follow up the designs of his father by conquests in Europe. Leaving Brusa, the then capital of his State, he crossed the Dardanelles, and at the head of a great army marched into Thrace. His generals, Evrenos and Lalashahin, commanded the two wings of it. Evrenos advanced on the left, recaptured the fortress of Tchorlu, five miles from Constantinople, massacred its garrison, and razed its walls. Lalashahin, on the right, captured Kirk Kilisse, and thus protected the army from a possible landing of the enemy from the Black Sea. Murad then advanced with the centre of his army, formed a junction with the two wings, and fought a great battle at Eski Baba, in 1363, in which he completely defeated the Byzantine army opposed to him, with the result that Adrianople surrendered without a struggle and almost the whole of Thrace fell into Murad's hands. Lalashahin then advanced up the Maritza Valley into Bulgaria and captured Philippopolis, a Byzantine possession south of the Balkans.

As a result of this successful invasion the Greek Emperor found himself compelled to enter into a treaty with Murad, by which he bound himself to refrain from any attempt to recover what he had lost in Thrace, to abstain from giving aid to the Serbians and Bulgarians in resisting a further advance of the Ottomans in Europe, and to support Murad against his Anatolian enemies, the Turkish Emirs. Murad thereupon returned to Brusa to cogitate over new enterprises and to organize his forces. He was soon recalled to Europe by most serious events. The Christian Powers had shown no disposition to help the Greeks against the Ottoman invasion, while their possessions in Asia and Europe were being invaded, but the advance into Bulgaria seems to have caused alarm to them. Pope Urban V stirred up Louis, the King of Hungary, and the Princes of Serbia, Bosnia, and Wallachia to resist. They combined together and sent an army of twenty thousand men into Thrace, with the avowed object of driving the Turks out of Europe. Murad hastened to confront them, but before he could arrive on the scene of action his general, Lalashahin, led an army against the allies. The two armies met on the River Maritza, not far from Adrianople, in 1363. Ilbeki, in command of the Ottomans, made a sudden night attack, when the Christian troops were heavy with sleep after a festive revel. A stampede took place. The Turkish historian says of the allied army: "They were caught even as wild beasts in their lair. They were driven as flames are driven before the wind, till, plunging into the Maritza, they perished in its waters."

The Christian army was practically exterminated. The King of Hungary escaped by a miracle. It was the first conflict of the Ottomans with the Hungarians, who were destined to bar the way into Europe for a hundred and fifty years. As a result of this battle all the country south of the Balkan Mountains was incorporated in the Ottoman Empire. Ilbeki, who devised the night attack, and so successfully carried it out, was made away with by poison, at the instance of Lalashahin, who was madly jealous of his great victory.

The battle of the Maritza was a crushing blow to the Christians. One result of it was that Murad decided in favour of a scheme of conquest in Europe rather than in Asia. In this view he transferred the seat of his government from Brusa to Thrace, and made Demotika the capital of his Empire. Three years later he transferred it to Adrianople, which for ninety years, till after the capture of Constantinople, held this position, and from thence he organized his great invasion of the Balkan States. Another result was that the Greek Emperor, John Pal?ologus V, was forced into a further step towards subjection to the Ottomans. He agreed to become a tributary to the Sultan and to send a

contingent to the Ottoman army in future wars.

After a time the Emperor fretted under this position of vassalage, and in 1369 he went on a mission to Rome, in the hope of inducing the Pope to stir up the Christian Powers of Europe to another crusade against the Ottomans. He left his eldest son, Andronicus, in charge of the government at Constantinople during his absence. Arriving at Rome, he submitted to the most humiliating conditions with the object of gaining the support of the Pope Urban V. He abjured at St. Peter's, before the High Altar, the principles of the Greek Church, so far as they differed from those of Rome. He admitted the ecclesiastical supremacy of the Pope. He was then permitted to bend his knee, and to kiss the Pope's feet and hands. He was privileged also to lead the Pope's mule by the bridle. He obtained, however, no return for these abject humiliations. The Pope was unable to induce the Christian Powers again to take up arms against the Ottomans.

The Emperor's concessions to the Pope were also disavowed by the Hierarchs of the Greek Church at Constantinople. There never was any prospect of a reunion of the two Churches. The Emperor, John Pal?ologus, embarked on his homeward journey having nothing to show for his pains. On his way back, when passing through Venice, he was arrested, at the instance of his Venetian creditors, who had lent him money to defray the cost of his mission. Not having the means to pay, he could not discharge the legal process. Andronicus had no wish that his father should ever return to Constantinople. He made no effort to raise money for the release of the Emperor. He pleaded the poverty of the Treasury. A younger son, Manuel, however, with more filial piety, raised the necessary sum, by selling all his property, and obtained the release of his father. Shortly after his return to Constantinople the Emperor, as was to be expected, deprived Andronicus of all his appointments, and replaced him by Manuel, whom he also made co-Emperor with himself.

The son of Andronicus, of the same name, furious at this treatment of his father, entered into a mad conspiracy with Saoudji, the youngest son of Sultan Murad, with the object of dethroning both Emperor and Sultan and reigning in their place. Saoudji, being in command of the Sultan's army in Europe, during the absence of Murad in Asia, was able to tamper with the loyalty of the Ottoman troops. He assembled a considerable force in the neighbourhood of Constantinople, where he was joined by a large number of the sons of Greek nobles and by many soldiers.

Murad, when he heard, at Brusa, of this mad outbreak, returned with all haste to Europe, and organized resistance to it, in concert with the Greek Emperor. They agreed that the two rebels, when captured, should be deprived of their eyesight. Murad thereupon, taking what soldiers he could get together, marched to meet Saoudji's army. When within hearing of it, he called out to the soldiers by night, urging them to return to their duty and promising pardon to them. The soldiers, hearing the voice of the Sultan, who had so often led them to victory, repented of their treachery and deserted the cause which they had so foolishly taken up. Saoudji and Andronicus and the band of Greek nobles, thus deserted by the rank and file of the army, took refuge in the fortress of Demotika. Murad had no difficulty in capturing this place, and with it the two rebel princes and the Greek nobles. In pursuance of his agreement with the Emperor, he then deprived his own son of his eyesight and, going beyond his promise, had the young man executed. He caused the Greek nobles to be bound, two and three together, and thrown into the Maritza, while he stood on the bank and revelled in the sight of their drowning struggles. In some cases he insisted on parents themselves putting their sons to death in his presence. When they refused, the parents were drowned in the river together with their sons. In this instance Murad showed that he had in him the vein of cruelty which was conspicuous, more or less, in all the descendants of Othman. Andronicus was handed over to the Greek Emperor, who partially, but not completely, carried out his promise of depriving his grandson of eyesight.

As a result of these events, the Emperor John Pal?ologus found himself compelled to enter into another treaty with Murad, by which, in order "that he might enjoy up to the end of his life in peace his last possession," he recognized himself as vassal of the Sultan, promised to do military service in the Ottoman army, and gave his son Manuel in charge of Murad as a hostage.

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