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The Loss of the S. S. Titanic: Its Story and Its Lessons By Lawrence Beesley Characters: 56091

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


If Mahomet, the eldest son of Murad, at the age of fourteen, had been reckoned too feeble to cope with the emergencies of the State, it is very certain that he soon made wonderfully rapid progress. At the age of twenty-one, when he again mounted the throne on the death of his father, he was amply, and almost precociously, endowed with many of the best, and many also of the worst, qualities of an autocrat, and was quite able alone to take command of the State. He was undoubtedly the ablest man that the house of Othman had as yet produced, not only as a general, but as a statesman. He had also great intellectual capacity and literary attainments. He spoke five languages fluently. He was the most proud and ambitious of his race and the most persistent in pursuing his aims. He combined with these high qualities, however, extreme cruelty and perfidy and sensuality of the grossest and vilest kind. He differed from his predecessors in his craving for absolute power, free from control by his ministers, and in his reckless disregard of human life. Hitherto, from Othman to Murad II, the Sultans had been in intimate association with their viziers and generals, and had shared their meals with them. They were accessible to their subjects, high and low. Mahomet was very different. He was the true despot after the Oriental fashion. He held himself aloof. He took his meals alone. He made no confidants. He treated his viziers and pashas as though they were his slaves. He had no regard for their lives. There were men in his personal service who were adepts at striking off heads by single blows of their scimitars. Two at least of Mahomet's Grand Viziers were put to death in this way in his presence without warning or compunction. This levelling process was not apparently objected to by his subjects.

On hearing at Magnesia of the death of his father, Mahomet, who was eager to resume power, mounted at once an Arab horse, and exclaiming, "Let all who love me follow!" he rode to the Hellespont, and thence crossed to Gallipoli and made his way to Adrianople. He was there again acclaimed as Sultan, not, however, without having to submit to onerous presents to the Janissaries, a bad precedent which was later always followed on the accession of a Sultan. The first act of his reign was to direct that his brother, an infant son of Murad, by his latest wife, a Serbian princess, should be put to death. He feared that the child, when grown up, might dispute the throne with him, on the ground that its mother was a legitimate wife of royal descent, while he himself (Mahomet) was only the son of a slave. A high officer of the Court was directed to drown the child in a bath. This was effected at the very moment when the mother was engaged in offering her congratulations to the new Sultan on his accession. The foul deed created a very bad impression, and Mahomet found it expedient to disown the act. He did so by directing the execution of the officer who had carried out his order. He compelled the mother, in spite of her royal rank, to marry a slave, an outrageous insult to the Serbian prince and to the memory of his father.

From the earliest moment of his accession it became clear that Mahomet intended to signalize his reign by the capture of Constantinople. With this view, he came to terms for a three years' truce with Hunyadi and the Hungarians. He chastised and then gave easy terms to the Karamanians, and accepted as a wife the daughter of their prince. He sent an army to the Peloponnesus to prevent the two brothers of the Greek Emperor, who were ruling there, from lending their aid to the Greeks of Constantinople. He directed the erection of a great fortress on the European side of the Bosphorus, at its narrowest point opposite to another, which had been erected by Bayezid, very near to the capital, so as to command the Straits. When the Greek Emperor sent an envoy to protest against this, Mahomet replied:-

I make no threats against your city. By assuring the safety of my country I am not infringing any treaty. Have you forgotten the extremity to which my father was reduced when your Emperor, in league with the Hungarians, endeavoured to prevent his crossing to Europe by closing the Straits against him? Murad was compelled to ask for the assistance of the Genoese. I was at Adrianople at the time and was very young. The Mussulmans were in great alarm and you Greeks insulted them. My father took an oath at the battle of Varna to erect a fort on the European side. This oath I will fulfil. Have you the right or the power to prevent my doing what I wish on my own territory? The two sides of the Straits are mine-that of Asia Minor because it is peopled by Ottomans, that of Europe because you are unable to defend it. Tell your master that the Sultan who now reigns in no way resembles his predecessors. My power goes beyond their vows. I permit you now to withdraw, but in the future I will have flayed alive those who bring me such messages.14

No more envoys were sent to him after this by the Greeks. Their Emperor, Constantine-the last of his line-had succeeded his brother three years before the accession of Mahomet. He was a brave and conscientious prince, who gave lustre to the last days of the Empire. But he was most unwise and provocative in his conduct to the new Sultan, evidently under the belief that he had to deal with the inexperienced youth who had been displaced by Murad six years previously. He threatened to let loose, as a rival claimant to the Ottoman throne, Orkhan, a grandson of Bayezid, who was under his charge, if a larger allowance was not given for his maintenance. Mahomet contemptuously rejected the claim. The Grand Vizier, Khalil, who was suspected of being in the pay of the Greeks, warned the Emperor of his extreme folly. "Your madness," he said to the Greek ambassador, "will put Constantinople in the hands of the Sultan. Proclaim Orkhan Sultan in Europe, call in the Hungarians to your aid, retake what provinces you can, and you will speedily see the end of the Greek Empire."

The new fortress was completed in the autumn of 1452. It was then seen that, in combination with the fortress on the opposite shore, it gave complete command of the Straits to the Ottomans. Venetian vessels which attempted to pass were captured and their crews were sawn in halves. Mahomet then declared his intention to attack Constantinople. In an address to his principal pashas, after describing the conquests made by his predecessors in Europe and Asia, he pointed out that the great barrier to further progress was this city and the army of the Emperor.

The opposition [he said] must be ended; these barriers must be removed. It was for them to complete the work of their fathers. They had now against them a single city, one which could not resist their attacks; a city whose population was greatly reduced and whose former wealth had been diminished by Turkish sieges, and by the continued incursions made by his ancestors upon its territories; a city which was now only one in name, for in reality its buildings were useless and its walls abandoned and for the great part in ruins. Even from its weakness, however, they knew that from its favourable position, commanding both land and sea, it had greatly hindered their progress and could still hinder it, opposing their plans and being always ready to attack them. Openly or secretly it had done all it could against them. It was the city which had brought about the attack by Timerlane and the suffering which followed. It had instigated Hunyadi to cross the Danube, and on every occasion and in every possible manner had been their great enemy. The time had now come when, in his opinion, it should be captured or wiped off the face of the earth. One of two things: he would either have it within his Empire or he would lose both. With Constantinople in his possession, the territories already gained could be safely held and more would be obtained; without it, no territory that they possessed was safe.15

In the ensuing winter (1452) Mahomet made every preparation at Adrianople for a campaign in the next year. Having no means of casting cannons, which at that time were coming into use in European armies, he tempted a Wallachian, who was experienced in such work, and who was in the service of the Greeks, to come over to his side for higher pay, and devised with him a cannon of enormous size, firing stone balls of 2-1/2 feet in diameter, and many other smaller, but still large, guns throwing balls of 150 lb. weight, for use against the walls of Constantinople. He also constructed a large fleet of war vessels propelled by oars, biremes and triremes, to be used in the siege of the city. He was most active and eager, working day and night in concerting plans with his generals for his great purpose. Early in the following year (1453) he collected in front of the walls of Constantinople an army, estimated at a hundred and fifty thousand men, including twelve thousand Janissaries, and a vast number of irregulars and camp followers eager for the sack of the great city.

Constantine, on his part, was equally engaged in making preparations for the defence of his capital. He collected supplies of every kind. He did his best to repair and strengthen the walls of the city, which had been neglected and badly repaired by fraudulent Greek contractors. He invited the aid of the Christian princes of Western Europe for the coming struggle. In this view, and in the hope of getting full support from the Pope, he agreed to a scheme of union between the Greek and Latin Churches, in which everything was conceded to the latter. A great service was held at St. Sophia to ratify this union. Cardinal Isidore, the legate of the Pope, a Greek by birth, presided. It was attended by the Emperor and all his Court, clergy, and the officers of State. This gave great offence to the main body of the Greek clergy, and to the great majority of the people of Constantinople. There was implacable hatred between the members of the two Churches, and not even the grave peril of the State could induce them to compose their differences. St. Sophia was deserted by its congregation. It was thought to be polluted by the service.16 The Grand Duke Notaras, the second person in the State after the Emperor, in command of all the forces, was specially offended. He even went the length of saying in public that he would rather see the turban of the Turks at Constantinople than the hat of a cardinal. It resulted that the Greeks were divided into two parties. Priests refused to give the sacrament to dying men not of their party. The Churches refused to contribute out of their vast wealth to necessities of the State. Constantine was seriously embarrassed and weakened by the division among his people. Of a total population of the city, reduced as it was, as compared with the past, and estimated at a hundred thousand, not more than six thousand took up arms in support of Constantine against the Turks.

The appeals to the Western Powers resulted in a certain, but very insufficient, number of volunteers from Southern Europe giving their services to support the Greek cause in its final struggle with the Moslems. Seven hundred Genoese came under the command of Giustiniani, an able soldier of fortune, who proved to be the main support of Constantine. Others had come with Cardinal Isidore, at the instance of the Pope, and with some small amount of money from the same quarter. There were Catalans and Aragonese from Spain, but the number of these recruits from Western Europe did not exceed three thousand. The total force under the command of Constantine for the defence of the city amounted to no more than eight thousand. It is strange that there were no volunteers from France and Germany, or from Hungary and Poland, from whence so many crusaders had volunteered in previous years to drive the Turks out of Europe. Nor was there any valid assistance in men and money from the numerous Greeks in the Levant. The unfortunate Constantine was not only very deficient in men, but his resources in money were very low. He had, however, in his service twenty powerful galleys well manned, and three galleys had come from Venice.

It would seem that the cause of Constantine did not much interest Europe, and did not even meet with an effective support among the Greeks themselves.

The city of Constantinople, as it then existed, was situate between the Golden Horn, its great harbour, and the sea of Marmora. Its land frontage, distant about nine miles from the entrance to the harbour, was four miles in length. It was protected by a triple line of walls, the two inner of which were very massive, flanked by towers at distances of 170 feet. There was a space of 60 feet between these walls. The third and outer wall was a crenelated breastwork on the other side of a fosse, of a width of 60 feet. This powerful line of defence had been devised by the Emperor Theodosius II about a thousand years ago and had protected the city in twenty sieges. Before the invention of cannon it was practically impregnable.17 There were also fortifications extending for about nine miles on the side of the Golden Horn. The eight thousand men were too few even for effective defence of the four miles of walls, which were to be attacked directly by the Ottoman army, to say nothing of the fortifications along the side of the Golden Horn. The defence, however, with these limited means, was a spirited one. It showed that if the Greek Emperor had been adequately supported by the Western Powers Mahomet might not have been able to capture the city.

The siege was commenced by Mahomet on April 6, 1453. Much time had been occupied in conveying the cannon from Adrianople. There were two very interesting incidents in the siege which are worth recording. The one was the breaking of the close blockade of the port by four powerful and well-manned Genoese galleys, bringing provisions and stores to the beleaguered city from Chios. They sailed across the Marmora and up the Bosphorus with a strong breeze in their favour. The Sultan sent against them a hundred and forty of his fleet of smaller vessels propelled by oars. They found great difficulty in stemming the heavy sea. The four larger Genoese vessels came down on the smaller craft, crashing against them and shivering their oars. Their crews hurled big stones on the Turkish galleys and emitted against others the inextinguishable fire of which the Greeks had the secret. The Turkish boats could make no headway against the superior weight of the bigger vessels. A large number of them were sunk with serious loss of life. When near to the entrance of the harbour the wind died off and the Genoese vessels were in imminent peril, surrounded as they were by the numerous Turkish craft. But at the last moment an evening breeze sprang up. The Genoese vessels were able to force their way through. The chain which prevented ingress to the harbour was lowered, and the relieving vessels were admitted.

The Sultan had watched the naval battle from the shore. He spurred his horse some distance into the shallow sea in the hope of animating his sailors to greater efforts. He was bitterly disappointed at this first engagement of his new fleet. The next morning he sent for the admiral, Balta Oghlou, a sturdy Bulgarian by birth, and bitterly reproached him for his failure. He directed the admiral to be laid on the ground and held there by four strong men, while he was bastinadoed. Some historians state that the Sultan himself belaboured the unfortunate admiral with his mace.

The other incident, growing out of the naval defeat, was that Mahomet, on finding that his small craft, propelled only by oars, were of little effect against the powerful vessels at the disposal of the Greeks, determined to transfer a large number of them from the Bosphorus to the upper part of the harbour, where the bigger vessels could not engage them, owing to the shallow depth of water, and where they would be of use against the inner defence of the city. For this purpose Mahomet directed the construction of a broad plank road from Tophane, on the Bosphorus, across the hill intervening between it and the head of the Golden Horn. This road was well greased with tallow, and the vessels were dragged up it with windlasses and oxen. The descent on the other side of the hill was easy enough. The scheme was not quite a novelty, as an operation of the same kind, though on a smaller scale, had been attempted elsewhere. It was carried out with striking success; and in one night eighty of the Turkish galleys were transferred in this way to the upper harbour. Mahomet also constructed a pontoon bridge across the harbour, on which batteries were erected. The two schemes together enabled him to attack the Greek defences along the line of the harbour, and compelled Constantine to withdraw many men from the defence of the landward walls, where the main attack was made.

The young Sultan took a most active part in the siege work. He traced the lines of fourteen batteries from which the walls were bombarded. The first great cannon was a failure. It burst at the first shot and blew to pieces the Wallachian who had cast it. It was recast, however, and two others of the same size were also cast. About two hundred smaller guns were used. They threw stone balls18 against the walls and towers of the city, and ultimately succeeded in effecting a breach. There can be no doubt that the capture of the city was mainly due to the provision of these great guns, which were far above anything previously used against fortresses. The Greeks also used cannons in defence, but the parapets of the walls were not wide enough to allow of the recoil of the guns, and where it was possible to use them the walls suffered from the concussion. Gunpowder was also deficient.

After seven weeks of siege the bombardment effected breaches in the walls at three points such as to give Mahomet every hope of success in a final assault. The principal breach was at St. Romanus, where the outer of the two main walls was practically levelled for a length of four hundred yards, and four of the flanking towers were destroyed. The broad ditch was filled in part by the débris of the wall and in part by fascines. The Sultan decided that the assault should take place on May 29th. This became known to the Greeks in the city, and both sides made every preparation for a supreme effort.

On the 28th, Mahomet ordered a proclamation to be made to his troops, to the effect that when the city was captured it would be given up to them to sack at their will for three days. The Sultan, it said, had sworn by the everlasting God, by the four thousand prophets, by Mahomet, and by his own soul that the whole population of the city, men, women, and children, should be given over to them. This was received by the troops with tumultuous expressions of delight.

On the same day the Sultan reviewed his army in three divisions, each of fifty thousand men, and afterwards received in his tent all the leaders, military and naval. He made a speech to them in which he announced his intention to make a final assault on the city on the next day, explained to them the method of attack, and gave his final orders. He enlarged on his promise to give to the troops the plunder of the city.

In the city [he said] there was an infinite amount and variety of wealth of all kinds-treasure in the palaces and private houses, churches abounding in furniture of silver, gold, and precious stones. All were to be theirs. There were men of high rank and in great numbers who could be captured and sold as slaves; there were great numbers of ladies of noble families, young and beautiful, and a host of other women who could either be sold or taken into their harems. There were boys of good family. There were houses and beautiful gardens. "I give you to-day a grand and populous city, the capital of the ancient Romans, the very summit of splendour and of glory, which has become, so to say, the centre of the world. I give it over to you to pillage, to seize its incalculable treasure of men, women, and boys, and everything that adorns it. You will henceforward live in great happiness and leave great wealth to your children. The great gain to all the sons of Othman would be the conquest of a city whose fame was great throughout the world. The greater its renown, the greater would be the glory of taking it by assault. A great city which had always been their enemy, which had always looked upon them with a hostile eye, which in every way had sought to destroy the Turkish power, would come into their possession. The door would be open to them by its capture to conquer the whole of the Greek Empire."19

We have quoted this speech of Mahomet as further proof that plunder and the capture of men, women, and boys for sale or for their harems, and not religious fanaticism, was the main incentive to Moslem conquest.

The night before the assault was spent by the Turks in rejoicing. Their camp was illuminated. Very different was the action of the Greeks on this last day of their Empire. There was a religious procession through the city, in which every one whose presence was not required in defence of the walls took part and joined in prayer, imploring God not to allow them to fall into the hands of the enemy. Eikons and relics were paraded. At the close of the procession the Emperor Constantine addressed a gathering of nobles and military leaders. He called attention to the impending assault. He said:-

It had always been held the duty of a citizen to be ready to die either for his faith, his country, his sovereign, or his wife and children. All these incentives to heroic sacrifice were now combined. The city was the refuge for all Christians, the pride and joy of every Greek, and of all who lived in Eastern lands. It was the Queen of Cities, the city which, in happy times, had subdued nearly all the lands under the sun. The enemy coveted it as his chief prize. He had provoked the war. He had violated all his engagements in order to obtain it. He wished to put the citizens under his yoke, to take them as slaves, to convert the holy churches, where the divine Trinity was adored and the most holy Godhead worshipped, into shrines for his blasphemy, and to put the false prophet in the place of Christ. As brothers and fellow-soldiers it was their duty to fight bravely in the defence of all that was dear to them, to remember that they were the descendants of the heroes of ancient Greece and Rome, and so conduct themselves that their memory should be as fragrant in the future as that of their ancestors.... For himself, he was determined to die in its defence.... He and they should put their trust in God, and not, as did their enemy, in the multitude of his hordes.

In the evening a solemn service was held at St. Sophia, memorable as the last Christian service before its conversion into a Turkish mosque. The Emperor and his followers partook of the Sacrament and bade farewell to the Greek Patriarch. It was a memorable scene-a requiem service for the Empire which was about to expire. Later the Emperor paid a last visit to his palace and bade farewell there to its staff. It was a most touching occasion. One who was present there wrote of it: "If a man had been made of wood or stone, he must have wept at the scene." It is very certain that the Emperor had no hope of saving the city from capture by its mortal foes.

Very early in the morning of the next fateful day, the 29th May, 1453, the final assault was delivered by the Turkish army. The scheme of the Sultan was to attack the walls of the city at many points, from both land and sea, but to make the main assault on the part of the wall which had been so much injured by the cannon in the Lycus Valley, near the gate of St. Romanus, and then, by successive waves of his vastly greater army, to overwhelm the defenders, using first his inferior troops, and reserving his best for the last attack, when the enemy would be wearied by long fighting. The first assault was made by an immense horde of irregulars, armed with bows and arrows, and with slings throwing stones and iron balls. Gunpowder, though already used for cannon, was not yet applied to muskets. The men advanced with scaling-ladders for the assault, and a cloud of arrows darkened the sky. No more than two thousand Greeks could be spared to defend this part of the long line of fortifications. They were collected in the peribolus between the two walls. The gates in the inner wall were closed, so that these men had no opportunity of shirking the defence and retreating into the city. They had to fight for their very lives between the two walls.

The Sultan directed the great cannon to be brought to the edge of the fosse, and a shot from it broke down the stockade which had been erected in place of the outer wall. Under cover of the dust the Turks made the assault. They were bravely met by the defenders, and were driven back with heavy loss. A second assault was then made by the Anatolian infantry, a very superior force to the irregulars. But they were no more successful. The Sultan, thinking that the Greeks must be exhausted by these two assaults, then personally led a third great body of men to a third assault. It consisted of his Janissaries. He led them to the edge of the fosse, and thence directed their attack. The cannon was used again against the stockade, and again under cover of the dust caused by it the Janissaries made their assault. Some of them succeeded in getting over the stockade, and a hand-to-hand fight occurred between them and the Greeks. The defenders seemed to have the best of it. But at this crisis a grave misfortune occurred to the Greeks. Giustiniani, who commanded them, was severely wounded. Blood flowed freely from his wounds. He decided to leave the field of battle and return to his ship in the harbour, for medical relief. The Emperor Constantine, who was near by, in vain implored him to remain, pointing out to him the damaging effect his departure would have on the soldiers who remained. Others thought that the wounds were not very serious and that the general was not justified in leaving the field. But he insisted on doing so, and demanded the key of the gate in the inner wall. With him departed some of his Genoese soldiers. This defection caused dismay and depression among the troops. Their resistance to the Turks slackened.

Some Greek historians accuse Giustiniani of cowardice in deserting the battle at so critical a moment, and Gibbon lends the weight of his great authority to this. The reputation, however, of the famous Italian soldier has been vindicated by later historians, such as Mr. Finlay and Sir Edwin Pears. They have shown that Giustiniani died of his wounds within a few days of the capture of Constantinople, the best proof of their serious and fatal character. All the same, he may not have sufficiently appreciated the effect of his withdrawal on the soldiers. It might have been better to have died there rather than on board his ship. However that might have been, all are agreed that the departure of the general was the turning-point of the day, and that it had the worst effect on the soldiers engaged in the defence.

The Emperor did his utmost to retrieve the position. He took upon himself the charge vacated by Giustiniani, and led the defence. Mahomet, on his part, had observed from the other side of the fosse the slackening of the defence. He called out to the Janissaries: "We have the city! It is ours! The wall is undefended!" He urged them to a final effort. They rushed the stockade and effected an entry into the peribolus. Soon great swarms of others followed, and overwhelmed the defenders with their vast numbers. The Emperor, despairing of success, threw aside his imperial mantle. He c

alled out, "The city is taken and I am still alive!" Drawing his sword, he threw himself into the mêlée. He died fighting gloriously for his city and his Empire. His body was never found, though search was made for it by order of the Sultan. The Greek and Italian soldiers in the peribolus were now completely outnumbered. There was no exit through the inner wall by which they could escape. They were in a trap between the two walls. They were massacred to a man. The Janissaries, having effected this, found no difficulty in making their way through the inner wall, which, as we have explained, was not defended owing to the want of men.

All attacks on other parts of the city were failures. This one alone succeeded. Victory here was due in part to the good generalship of Mahomet and to his indomitable persistency, and in part to the ill-fortune of the Greeks in the withdrawal of Giustiniani at the critical moment of the defence. The defenders of the city had nobly performed their duty. Their numbers were quite insufficient. They had received no adequate support from Western Europe, or even from the neighbouring Christian States. It is quite certain that a few thousand more soldiers would have saved the city. Thirty galleys sent by the Pope with reinforcements were on their way when the city fell. They had been detained at Scio by adverse wind. "Auxilium deus ipse negavit," says the Greek historian.

When the Turks entered the city they began to massacre all the persons they met in the streets, without distinction of age or sex. But there was practically no resistance. There were no armed men left in the city. The population was cowed and panic-stricken, as well they might be in face of the overwhelming misfortune which now came upon them. After a short period of massacre the Turks turned their attention to the more practical business of looting and taking captives for sale. They effected this in a deliberate and systematic way. One great band of soldiers devoted themselves to plundering the palaces of the wealthy, another to the churches, and a third to the shops and smaller houses. Everything of value was gathered together for subsequent division among the soldiers. Of the inmates of the palaces and houses the older people were put to death; the stronger and younger of both sexes were carried off in bands as prisoners, bound together with ropes, with a view to ultimate sale as slaves.

The Turkish historian, Seadeddin, in words which seem to smack of pleasure at the scene, says:-

Having received permission to loot, the soldiers thronged into the city with joyous hearts, and there, seizing the possessors and their families, they made the wretched unbelievers weep. They acted in accordance with the precept, "Slaughter their aged and capture their youth."20

The gravest misfortunes fell upon the wealthier and more cultured classes in the city. Their daughters and sons were torn from them to be sold to harems in Asia Minor, or for other vile purposes. The parents, if still strong, were sold as slaves. Numbers of them fled from their houses and crowded into St. Sophia and other churches, hoping that their foes would respect places of worship, or expecting that a miracle of some kind would save them. But it was in vain. St. Sophia acted as a kind of drag-net in which all the best in the city were collected, and were carried off thence in gangs. Virgins consecrated to God were dragged from this and other churches by their hair and were ruthlessly stripped of every ornament they possessed. A horde of savage brutes committed unnameable barbarities.

The city was cleared of everything of value and was all but denuded of its population. By the lowest estimate, fifty thousand persons, mostly the strong and the young of both sexes, were made captives, and later were sold as slaves and deported to Asia Minor. Some few escaped from the city into the country districts. Others found refuge in the Greek and Genoese galleys in the harbour, which were able to get away and escape because the crews of the Turkish vessels blockading the port had deserted in order to take part in the sack. Some were able to hide themselves in the city, and emerged later when the scene of horrors was at an end. Others, we know not how many, were ruthlessly massacred because they were of no value for sale. The proceeds of the sack and of the sale of captives brought wealth to every soldier in the Turkish army. No such dire misfortune to a city had occurred since the destruction of Carthage.

After three days and nights of these orgies the Sultan intervened and proclaimed an end of them. Meanwhile, on the day of the last assault, when his troops were in possession of the city, the Sultan rode into it. He went direct to St. Sophia, and, dismounting, entered the great church. He took pains at once to prevent any destruction of its contents, and himself struck down a soldier engaged in this work, telling him that buildings were reserved for himself. He instructed a mollah to call people to prayer from the pulpit. He thus inaugurated the conversion of the splendid Christian church into a mosque.

After this he sent for Notaras, who had been in command of the Greek forces under the Emperor, and affected to treat him with generosity. He obtained a list of all the leading men in the city and offered a large reward for their heads.

On the next day the Sultan made an inspection of the city and paid a visit to the Imperial Palace. On entering it he quoted the lines from a Persian poet:-

The spider's web hangs before the portal of C?sar's palace,

The owl is the sentinel on the watch-tower.

Later he presided at a great banquet, where he appears to have imbibed too freely of wine. When half-drunk he directed the chief eunuch to go to Notaras and demand of him his youngest son, a handsome lad of fourteen. Notaras refused, preferring death to dishonour for his son. The Sultan thereupon ordered Notaras and all his family to be put to death at once. Their heads were struck off and brought to the banquet and placed before the Sultan as a decoration of his table.

It was said that the Sultan's ferocity was stimulated by the last favourite of his harem, with whom he was much enamoured, and that she, on her part, was instigated by her father, a Greek renegade. Under this influence the Sultan ordered the execution of all the persons to whom on the previous day he had promised liberty. The Papal legate, Cardinal Isidore, escaped recognition and was sold as a slave by a soldier for a mean price. He was later ransomed. Orkhan, the grandson of Bayezid, who had been brought up as a Christian at the Imperial Court, committed suicide rather than be sold as a slave.

Although many cruel deeds were committed by the Sultan and his soldiers, and a terrible calamity fell upon the whole community of Greeks, it cannot be said that the capture of Constantinople was the scene of such infamous orgies as took place in 1204, when it was captured by the Crusaders. After the first few hours of entry there was on this occasion no general massacre. There was not much incendiarism. The Sultan did his best, successfully, to save the churches and other buildings.

Although the young Sultan was most brutal in some of his actions, he showed in others remarkable foresight and statesmanship. One of his earliest acts, after putting an end to the sack of the city, was to proclaim himself as protector of the Greek Church. A charter was granted to the Orthodox members of that Church securing to the use of it some of the churches in the capital, and authority to celebrate in them religious rites according to their ancient usage. It also gave to them a certain amount of autonomy in civil matters. It recognized their laws of marriage and of succession to property and gave jurisdiction to the Patriarch and to Ecclesiastical Courts to enforce them.

The most eminent survivor of the Greek clergy, Gennadius, was sought for. He had been sold as a slave after the sack of the city to a pasha at Adrianople. He was brought back to Constantinople and was invested by the Sultan with the office of Patriarch of the Greek Church. Mahomet, in doing so, said: "I appoint you Patriarch. May Heaven protect you. In all cases and all occasions count on my friendship and enjoy in peace all the privileges of your predecessors." This was a most wise and opportune act of policy. The Sultan had been advised by fanatics among the Turks to order a general massacre of Greeks and others who would not embrace Islam. Mahomet's record shows that he would have sanctioned this if he had thought it for the interest of the State, and he would probably have revelled in it. In pursuance of a deliberate policy of enlightened statecraft he rejected this advice. It was necessary to repeople his capital and to attract others than Turks to it. Mahomet was also ambitious of further conquests in Europe. He recognized that the attempt to force a wholesale change of religion on the vanquished would stimulate their resistance, while a wise tolerance might weaken it. When the Prince of Serbia asked Hunyadi, the Hungarian patriot, what he would do with the Orthodox Greek Church if he made himself master of that province, the reply was, "I will establish everywhere Catholic churches." The reply of Mahomet to a similar question was, "By the side of every mosque a church shall be erected in which your people will be able to pray."

This great act of tolerance of Mahomet was far ahead of the political ethics of the Christian Powers of Europe at that time. His example was not followed by the Spaniards, when they drove from their country the Moslem Moors, who had refused to adopt the religion of their victors. The action of Mahomet is another proof that the Turkish invasion of Europe was not actuated by religious fanaticism or the desire to spread Islam. There seems to have been no attempt to induce or compel the Greeks and others of the conquered city to embrace Islam.

Mahomet also set to work, at an early date, to repeople Constantinople. For a long time previous to the conquest its population had been dwindling. In proportion as the Greek Empire was reduced by the loss of its territories, so the importance of the capital was diminished. Mahomet invited all who had fled after the capture to return, promising protection to their property and religion. He directed the transfer of families of Greeks, Jews, and Turks from many parts of his Empire. When he took possession of Trebizond and the Morea, many thousands of Greeks were forcibly removed to Constantinople. The same was the case with many islands in the ?gean Sea. At the end of his reign Constantinople was far more populous and flourishing than it had been under the last Greek Emperor.

Although the capture of Constantinople was the principal feat in Mahomet's long reign, and that on which his fame in history chiefly rests, it was, in fact, only the first of a long list of conquests which earned for him from his countrymen the title par éminence of 'the Conqueror.' During the thirty years of his reign he was almost always at war in personal command of his armies, and there were very few in which he did not add fresh territory to his Empire, either in Europe or Asia.

Bosnia and the Morea, which had become tributary States under previous Sultans, were now again invaded and were compelled to become integral parts of the Empire. Their princes were dethroned and put to death. Wallachia and the Crimea were forced to become vassal States. In Asia, Karamania, so long the rival and foe of the Ottomans, and which, after many wars, had agreed to pay tribute, was now forcibly annexed, and its Seljukian line of kings was put an end to by death. The great city of Trebizond and its adjoining province of Cappadocia, which had been cut off from the parent Empire, after the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders, and formed into a miniature Empire, under the Comneni dynasty, was invaded and annexed by Mahomet, and at his instance its reigning family was put to death. The possessions of the Genoese on the coasts of the Black Sea were seized and appropriated.

Many islands in the Greek Archipelago, including Lesbos, Lemnos, and Cephalonia, were also attacked and annexed. The same fate befell Eub?a. It belonged to the Republic of Venice, which was also deprived of others of its possessions on the coast of the Morea. Besides all these enterprises, Mahomet in several successive years sent armies to ravage parts of Styria and Transylvania. He even sent an army across the frontier of Italy to ravage the region of Friuli, and other districts almost within sight of Venice, whose Republic was compelled to enter into an ignominious treaty, binding it to assist the Ottomans in other wars with a naval force. The last achievement of the ambitious Sultan was to send a force to the South of Italy, where it captured Otranto. The only captures which Mahomet attempted without success were those of Belgrade, in 1456, and the island of Rhodes in 1480. The case of Belgrade was of the greatest importance, for it long barred the way to the invasion of Hungary and Germany. The Sultan himself took command of the army of attack with a hundred and fifty thousand men and three hundred guns. He thought the capture of it would be an easy task after that of Constantinople. But Western Europe, which had rendered so little assistance to the Greek Empire in its extremities, was alarmed at the prospect of the invasion of Germany through the loss of Belgrade. The Pope preached another crusade, and a large body of knights volunteered for the defence of this frontier city.

Hunyadi led the Hungarians in this his last campaign. The lower town was taken by the Turks after great loss of life; but the upper town made a protracted resistance. The Christian knights in a notable sortie attacked the batteries of the enemy, captured all the guns, and wounded the Sultan himself. Mahomet was compelled to raise the siege after losing fifty thousand men. It was the last feat of the Hungarian patriot. He died twenty days after this signal success. It was fifty years before Belgrade was again attacked and captured and the road was opened for the invasion of Hungary and Vienna.

In all these campaigns Mahomet personally led his armies in the field, with the exception of those for the invasion of the Crimea, the attack on Rhodes, and the capture of Otranto, where he delegated the task to able generals, of whom he appears to have had an abundant supply. But there never was a great commander who more completely dominated the generals under him and maintained his supremacy in the State. He made no confidences as to his intended military operations, or what were his immediate objects of attack. There were no councils of war. His armies were collected, year after year, on one side or other of the Bosphorus, without any one knowing their destination. When, on one occasion, one of his generals asked him what was his next object, he replied that if a single hair of his beard knew what his intentions were he would pluck it out and cast it into the fire. He held secrecy and rapidity to be the first elements of success in war, and he acted on this principle. With the exception of the single case of the invasion of Wallachia, the provocation for war was in every case on the part of the Sultan. Invasion and attack were preceded by laconic messages calling upon the State or city aimed at to surrender, and the actual attack was made with the shortest possible delay.

Having determined on war and invasion, his object was pursued with the utmost vigour, and wholly regardless of the loss of life. As a rule, his campaigns were short; but the war with Venice was an exception. It lasted for many years. It consisted mainly of attacks on strongholds of the Republic in the islands of the Archipelago and the coasts of Greece and Albania, where the fleets of the two Powers played a large part. The conquest of Albania also was only effected after a struggle spread over many years, in which the patriot hero, Scanderbeg, defeated successive attacks by Ottoman armies enormously exceeding his native levies. It was not till after the death of this great chief, in 1467, that Mahomet was able to wear down opposition in Albania by sheer force of numbers.

Early in his reign Mahomet recognized the strategic value of Constantinople. It became the keystone of his Empire. He transferred the seat of his government to it from Adrianople. He fortified the Dardanelles by the erection of two castles on either side of it near to Sestos and Abydos, each with thirty guns, which commanded the Straits. This secured his capital from attack. It prevented the entrance of a hostile fleet into the Sea of Marmora and the Black Sea. He added greatly to his navy, and made it superior to that of any other single Power in the Mediterranean. It gave him absolute supremacy in the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmora. The possessions of the Genoese in the Black Sea were at his mercy. He sent a flotilla of small vessels up the Danube to assist in the siege of Belgrade.

Throughout all his campaigns Mahomet exhibited perfidy and cruelty on a scale almost without precedent. Princes, generals, and armies, who capitulated on the promises of safety of life and respect of property, were put to death without compunction, in gross breach of faith. The inhabitants of cities were sold into slavery or transferred forcibly to Turkish dominions, in total disregard of solemn pledges.

A notable case of this kind was that of Bosnia, where the final victory was achieved by the Ottoman Grand Vizier, in command of one of the armies engaged, under the supreme command of the Sultan. The Prince of Bosnia and his army capitulated on the distinct engagement in writing that their lives would be spared. Mahomet was full of wrath at this concession. It was his deliberate policy to extinguish by death the family of any reigning prince whom he vanquished in war. He consulted on the point the Mufti, with doubtless a strong hint as to what the answer should be. The Mufti issued a fetva which declared that no treaty of this kind with an infidel was binding on the Sultan. The holy man went so far as to offer himself to act as executioner. When the Bosnian king was summoned to the presence of the Sultan, and came before him trembling, with the treaty of capitulation in his hand, the Mufti himself struck off his head in the presence of the Sultan, exclaiming that it was a good deed to put an end to an infidel. The fetva in this case formed a precedent for numerous similar cases. The whole of the royal family of Comnenus, the Emperor of Trebizond, who, without a fight, surrendered his kingdom to Mahomet, upon the promise of life and private property to himself and his family, were put to death a few weeks later in Constantinople on the most flimsy pretence.

In a similar way, when the island of Eub?a was captured from the Venetians in 1470 by the Sultan, the Venetian garrison, supported by the Greek population, made a most gallant defence and inflicted enormous losses on the Turks. Paul Evizzo, the Venetian general in command of the island, eventually surrendered on the promise of safety of life to himself and his army. Mahomet broke his word. He put to death the whole of the Venetian garrison by the cruel method of impaling. The gallant Evizzo was, by the Sultan's order, sawn in two. His daughter was summoned to Mahomet's tent, and when she refused to submit to his lust, was put to death by his order. The island was added to the Ottoman Empire in 1471.

It must be admitted that in all these conquests the Ottoman armies were very greatly superior in number and in armaments. In many cases they were also assisted by the disunion of their opponents. The subjection of Karamania was due to the death of its last king, Ibrahim, who left seven sons behind him. Six of them were sons of a wife of royal descent, the seventh the son of a slave. The father favoured the youngest, whom he declared his heir. The other six fought for their patrimony against the youngest and besieged him in Konia, the capital. Mahomet thought that this was a good opportunity to intervene and to annex the whole country. Without any cause of quarrel he marched an army of a hundred thousand men into the country and waged war against all the sons. The Grand Vizier, Mahmoud Pasha, was sent on in advance, and defeated Ishak, the youngest son of Ibrahim, in front of Konia. The terms of capitulation were thought by Mahomet to be too humane. He determined to punish Mahmoud for his leniency. The cords of his tent were cut while the Vizier was asleep. The tent fell on the luckless sleeper. This was a sign of disgrace. Mahmoud, who was a most able and successful general and statesman, was removed from his post and was put to death. The Karamanian dynasty, which for so long had been the rival of that of Othman, was now completely subdued. The country became a province of the Turkish Empire. Its two principal cities were depopulated and lost their splendour. It never again gave trouble to the Ottoman government.

The country which suffered most from the cruelties of Mahomet was Greece. Here, again, disunion was the main cause of its ruin. Two brothers of Constantine, the last Greek Emperor at Constantinople, Demetrius and Thomas, held sway as tributaries of the Sultan, the one at Argos, the other at Patras. Unmindful of the danger which threatened them, they fought one another for supremacy, after the death of Constantine, and were assisted in their internecine war by large numbers of turbulent Albanians, who transferred their services, now to one and now to another of these petty despots, and are said to have changed sides three times in the course of a single Sunday. Mahomet, in 1458, thinking that the disputes between the two brothers afforded a good occasion for getting full possession of the Morea, invaded it with a large force. The two brothers, instead of uniting to defend the country, continued to fight against one another, and attempted, at the same time, singly to fight against the Turks. There followed scenes of massacre and rapine as Mahomet's army passed through the country, besieging and capturing successively its many petty strongholds. In nearly every case, after vigorous resistance, capitulation was offered and agreed to on promise of life to the garrisons. In no case was the promise kept. As a rule, the fighting-men were massacred after surrender, their leaders were sawn in two, and the other inhabitants were sold into slavery, or were in some cases transferred en masse to Constantinople as colonists to fill the empty city. The two brothers were driven from the country. Demetrius appears to have made some kind of terms with the Sultan, one of which was that his daughter should enter Mahomet's harem. This promise was not kept; she was not thought worthy of it, and she was insulted by being deprived of the only eunuch who attended her. It is not stated what became of her. Thomas fled from the country, carrying with him, instead of treasure, a valuable relic, the head of St. Andrew, with which he disappeared from history. The Sultan possessed himself of the whole country, with the exception of two or three seaports in the hands of the Venetians. The memory of this cruel invasion of the Turks was deeply impressed on the minds of the people of Greece. But for 471 years, with a short interlude when it was held by the Venetians, it remained a Turkish province.

On his way back to Constantinople the Sultan passed by Athens, where one Franco reigned as Duke, but tributary to the Turks. He gave orders that Franco was to be strangled. As a special favour this operation was effected, not in the tent of the Turkish general, but in his own domicile, and thus the last spark of Greek independence passed away.

It is not perhaps fair to judge of Mahomet as regards his cruelties and perfidies by a high standard. His opponents, the chiefs of the countries he invaded and conquered, were, in many cases, not inferior to him in these respects. Scanderbeg, whose patriotic defence of Albania won for him the reputation of a saint in his own country, and a high place in history, was most cruel and vindictive whenever he had the opportunity. He habitually massacred the prisoners taken in his battles. The two despots of the Morea were not behindhand in this respect. The Prince, or Voivode as he was called, of Wallachia, Wlad by name, was one of the most cruel and bloodthirsty ruffians recorded in history. He was known by the name of "the Impaler." He revelled in the dying agonies of the prisoners and other victims whom he subjected to this cruel death. They were reserved for this purpose to enliven his banquets. When some guest expressed surprise that he could bear the odour emanating from the victims of this death, the prince directed the immediate execution of his guest, on a higher pale than the others, so that he might not be incommoded by the odour he complained of.

Mahomet invaded Wallachia, in 1462, with an army of two hundred thousand. In his pursuit of Wlad he came across a field where twenty thousand Turks and Bulgarians had been put to death, one-half of them by impalement and the other half by crucifixion. Mahomet defeated and drove into exile this ruffian, and installed in his place a favourite named Radul, who had been brought up at his Court as a page. On the death of this man Wlad turned up again, but was killed by a slave. Wallachia, which previously had been compelled to pay tribute by Mahomet, was now made a vassal State. The Sultan appointed its prince. It was not otherwise treated as a Turkish province.

The failure of the Turkish general to capture the island of Rhodes was said to be due to the fact that, just before the final assault, after long resistance by the Knights who held this island, the Turkish general issued an order to the army that there was to be no pillage of the city, wishing to reserve for the Sultan and himself the wealth which might be captured. This dispirited the Turkish soldiers, and they made no effort for success in the assault. The Knights again repulsed the attack and the siege was raised. It was not till 1520 that Rhodes was finally captured.

Great as Mahomet was as a warrior and general, he was not less conspicuous as an administrator and statesman. The organization and provisioning of his armies in his numerous campaigns were specially worthy of notice. His soldiers were always well fed and were amply equipped with guns and armaments. He was also the sole source of legislation for his Empire. He had supreme power over life and property of all his subjects. More than any of his predecessors and successors, he founded mosques, hospitals, colleges, and schools in Constantinople and other cities of his Empire. He fully recognized the importance of science in education. He cultivated the society of learned men and loved to converse with them. He had some reputation as a poet. With all this, he was notorious for evil and sensual life in a direction which is held to be infamous and degrading by all peoples. He was not only himself guilty of fratricide, but he prescribed it as a family law for his successors. He died at the age of fifty-one, after thirty years of reign. He had collected a great army for another campaign, but no one knew what his aims and intentions were, whether for another attack on Rhodes, or for the invasion of Candia, or to follow up his success in Calabria. His secret died with him. He was the first Sultan to be buried at Constantinople, in the famous mosque which he built there. In spite of his cruelties and perfidies and of his evil life, he has been held in honour by successive generations of his countrymen, and has been rightly designated as 'the Conqueror.'

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VIII

BAYEZID II

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