Fall of Constantinople

The Fall of Constantinople (Greek: Ἅλωσις τῆς Κωνσταντινουπόλεως, translit. Halōsis tēs Kōnstantinoupoleōs; Turkish: İstanbul'un Fethi, lit. 'Conquest of Istanbul') was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire by an invading Ottoman army on 29 May 1453. The attackers were commanded by the 21-year-old Sultan Mehmed II, who defeated an army commanded by Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos and took control of the imperial capital, ending a 53-day siege that began on 6 April 1453. After conquering the city, Sultan Mehmed transferred the capital of the Ottoman State from Edirne to Constantinople and established his court there.

The capture of the city (and two other Byzantine splinter territories soon thereafter) marked the end of the Byzantine Empire, a continuation of the Roman Empire, an imperial state dating to 27 BC, which had lasted for nearly 1,500 years.[3] The conquest of Constantinople also dealt a massive blow to the defense of mainland Europe, as the Muslim Ottoman armies thereafter were left unchecked to advance into Europe without an adversary to their rear.

It was also a watershed moment in military history. Since ancient times, cities had used ramparts and city walls to protect themselves from invaders, and Constantinople's substantial fortifications had been a model followed by cities throughout the Mediterranean region and Europe. The Ottomans ultimately prevailed due to the use of gunpowder (which powered formidable cannons).[4]

The conquest of the city of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine Empire[5] was a key event in the Late Middle Ages which also marks, for some historians, the end of the Medieval period.[6]

State of the Byzantine Empire

Constantinople had been an imperial capital since its consecration in 330 under Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. In the following eleven centuries, the city had been besieged many times but was captured only once: during the Fourth Crusade in 1204.[7]:304 The crusaders established an unstable Latin state in and around Constantinople while the remaining empire splintered into a number of Byzantine successor states, notably Nicaea, Epirus and Trebizond. They fought as allies against the Latin establishments, but also fought among themselves for the Byzantine throne.

The Nicaeans eventually reconquered Constantinople from the Latins in 1261. Thereafter, there was little peace for the much-weakened empire as it fended off successive attacks by the Latins, the Serbians, the Bulgarians, and, most importantly, the Ottoman Turks.[7] [8][9][10] The Black Plague between 1346 and 1349 killed almost half of the inhabitants of Constantinople.[11] The city was severely depopulated due to the general economic and territorial decline of the empire, and by 1453 consisted of a series of walled villages separated by vast fields encircled by the fifth-century Theodosian walls.

By 1450 the empire was exhausted and had shrunk to a few square miles outside the city of Constantinople itself, the Princes' Islands in the Sea of Marmara, and the Peloponnese with its cultural center at Mystras. The Empire of Trebizond, an independent successor state that formed in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, also survived on the coast of the Black Sea.


When Sultan Mehmed II succeeded his father in 1451, he was just nineteen years old. Many European courts assumed that the young Ottoman ruler would not seriously challenge Christian hegemony in the Balkans and the Aegean.[12] This calculation was boosted by Mehmed's friendly overtures to the European envoys at his new court.[13] But Mehmed's mild words were not matched by actions. By early 1452, work began on the construction of a second fortress (Rumeli hisarı) on the Bosphorus,[14] on the European side several miles north of Constantinople, set directly across the strait on the Asian side from the Anadolu Hisarı fortress, built by his great-grandfather Bayezid I. This pair of fortresses ensured complete control of sea traffic on the Bosphorus;[15] and defended against attack by the Genoese colonies on the Black Sea coast to the north. (This new fortress, was called Boğazkesen, which means 'strait-blocker' or 'throat-cutter', to emphasize its strategic position.) In October 1452, Mehmed ordered Turakhan Beg to station a large garrison force in the Peloponnese to block Thomas and Demetrios (despotes in Southern Greece) from providing aid to their brother Constantine XI Palaiologos during the impending siege of Constantinople.[nb 1] Michael Critobulus says about the speech of Mehmed II to his soldiers: "My friends and men of my empire! You all know very well that our forefathers secured this kingdom that we now hold at the cost of many struggles and very great dangers and that, having passed it along in succession from their fathers, from father to son, they handed it down to me. For some of the oldest of you were sharers in many of the exploits carried through by them—those at least of you who are of maturer years—and the younger of you have heard of these deeds from your fathers. They are not such very ancient events nor of such a sort as to be forgotten through the lapse of time. Still, the eyewitness of those who have seen testifies better than does the hearing of deeds that happened but yesterday or the day before."

Role of Christian Schism

Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI swiftly understood Mehmed's true intentions and turned to Western Europe for help; but now the price of centuries of war and enmity between the eastern and western churches had to be paid. Since the mutual excommunications of 1054, the Pope in Rome was committed to establishing authority over the eastern church. Nominal union had been negotiated in 1274, at the Second Council of Lyon, and indeed, some Palaiologoi emperors (Latin, Palaeologan) had since been received into the Latin church. Emperor John VIII Palaiologos had also recently negotiated union with Pope Eugene IV, with the Council of Florence of 1439 proclaiming a Bull of Union. These events, however, stimulated a propaganda initiative by anti-unionist Orthodox partisans in Constantinople; the population, as well as the laity and leadership of the Byzantine Church, became bitterly divided. Latent ethnic hatred between Greeks and Italians, stemming from the events of the Massacre of the Latins in 1182 by the Greeks and the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by the Latins, played a significant role. Finally, the attempted Union failed, greatly annoying Pope Nicholas V and the hierarchy of the Roman church.

Eastern Mediterranean 1450
The Byzantine Empire in the first half of the 15th century. Thessaloniki was captured by the Ottomans in 1430. A few islands in the Aegean and the Propontis remained under Byzantine rule until 1453 (not shown on the map).

In the summer of 1452, when Rumelı Hisari was completed and the threat had become imminent, Constantine wrote to the Pope, promising to implement the Union, which was declared valid by a half-hearted imperial court on 12 December 1452.[7]:373 Although he was eager for an advantage, Pope Nicholas V did not have the influence the Byzantines thought he had over the Western kings and princes, some of whom were wary of increasing Papal control, and these had not the wherewithal to contribute to the effort, especially in light of the weakened state of France and England from the Hundred Years' War, Spain, being in the final part of the Reconquista, the internecine fighting in the German Principalities, and Hungary and Poland's defeat at the Battle of Varna of 1444. Although some troops did arrive from the mercantile city-states in the north of Italy, the Western contribution was not adequate to counterbalance Ottoman strength. Some Western individuals, however, came to help defend the city on their own account. Cardinal Isidore, funded by the pope, arrived in 1452 with 200 archers.[17] One of these was an accomplished soldier from Genoa, Giovanni Giustiniani, who arrived with 400 men from Genoa and 300 men from Genoese Chios, in January 1453.[18]:83–84 As a specialist in defending walled cities, he was immediately given the overall command of the defense of the land walls by the emperor. Around the same time, the captains of the Venetian ships that happened to be present in the Golden Horn offered their services to the Emperor, barring contrary orders from Venice, and Pope Nicholas undertook to send three ships laden with provisions, which set sail near the end of March.[18]:81

In Venice, meanwhile, deliberations were taking place concerning the kind of assistance the Republic would lend to Constantinople. The Senate decided upon sending a fleet in February 1453, but there were delays, and when it finally set out late in April, it was already too late for it to be able to take part in the battle.[19][18]:85 Further undermining Byzantine morale, seven Italian ships with around 700 men slipped out of the capital at the moment when Giustiniani arrived, men who had sworn to defend the capital. At the same time, Constantine's attempts to appease the Sultan with gifts ended with the execution of the Emperor's ambassadors — even Byzantine diplomacy could not save the city.[7]:373

Walls of Constantinople
Restored Walls of Constantinople
Haliç zinciri (2)
The chain that closed off the entrance to the Golden Horn in 1453, now on display in the İstanbul Archaeology Museums.

Fearing a possible naval attack along the shores of the Golden Horn, Emperor Constantine XI ordered that a defensive chain be placed at the mouth of the harbour. This chain, which floated on logs, was strong enough to prevent any Turkish ship from entering the harbour. This device was one of two that gave the Byzantines some hope of extending the siege until the possible arrival of foreign help.[19]:380 This strategy was enforced because in 1204 the armies of the Fourth Crusade successfully circumvented Constantinople's land defenses by breaching the Golden Horn Wall. Another strategy employed by the Byzantines was the repair and fortification of the Land Wall (Theodosian Walls). Emperor Constantine deemed it necessary to ensure that the Blachernae district's wall were the most fortified because that section of the wall protruded northwards. The land fortifications comprised a 60 ft (18 m) wide moat fronting inner and outer crenellated walls studded with towers every 45–55 metres.[20]


Siege of Constantinople 1453 map-fr
Map of Constantinople and the dispositions of the defenders and the besiegers

The army defending Constantinople was relatively small, totaling about 7,000 men, 2,000 of whom were foreigners.[nb 2] At the onset of the siege, probably fewer than 50,000 people were living within the walls, including the refugees from the surrounding area.[21]:32 [nb 3] Turkish commander Dorgano, who was in Constantinople in the pay of the Emperor, was also guarding one of the quarters of the city on the seaward side with the Turks in his pay. These Turks kept loyal to the Emperor and perished in the ensuing battle. The defending army's Genoese corps were well trained and equipped, while the rest of the army consisted of small numbers of well-trained soldiers, armed civilians, sailors and volunteer forces from foreign communities, and finally monks. The garrison used a few small-calibre artillery pieces, which nonetheless proved ineffective. The rest of the city repaired walls, stood guard on observation posts, collected and distributed food provisions, and collected gold and silver objects from churches to melt down into coins to pay the foreign soldiers.

The Ottomans had a much larger force. Recent studies and Ottoman archival data state that there were about 50,000–80,000 Ottoman soldiers including between 5,000 and 10,000 Janissaries,[22] *70 cannons[23]:139–140[21][24] an elite infantry corps, and thousands of Christian troops, notably 1,500 Serbian cavalry that the Serbian lord Đurađ Branković was forced to supply as part of his obligation to the Ottoman sultan—just a few months before, he had supplied the money for the reconstruction of the walls of Constantinople. Contemporaneous Western witnesses of the siege, who tend to exaggerate the military power of the Sultan, provide disparate and higher numbers ranging from 160,000 to 200,000 and to 300,000[22](Niccolò Barbaro: 160,000;[25] the Florentine merchant Jacopo Tedaldi[26] and the Great Logothete George Sphrantzes:[27] 200,000; the Cardinal Isidore of Kiev[28] and the Archbishop of Mytilene Leonardo di Chio:[29] 300,000).[30]

Ottoman dispositions and strategies

Dardanelles Gun Turkish Bronze 15c
The Dardanelles Gun, cast in 1464 and based on the Orban bombard that was used by the Ottoman besiegers of Constantinople in 1453 (British Royal Armouries collection).

Mehmed built a fleet to besiege the city from the sea (partially manned by Greek sailors from Gallipoli).[21] Contemporary estimates of the strength of the Ottoman fleet span between about 110 ships (Tedaldi),[26] 145 (Barbaro),[25] 160 (Ubertino Pusculo),[31] 200–250 (Isidore of Kiev,[28] Leonardo di Chio[32]) to 430 (Sphrantzes).[27] A more realistic modern estimate predicts a fleet strength of 126 ships comprising 6 large galleys, 10 ordinary galleys, 15 smaller galleys, 75 large rowing boats, and 20 horse-transports.[21]:44

Before the siege of Constantinople, it was known that the Ottomans had the ability to cast medium-sized cannons, but the range of some pieces they were able to field far surpassed the defenders' expectations. Instrumental to this Ottoman advancement in arms production was a somewhat mysterious figure by the name of Orban (Urban), a Hungarian (though some suggest he was German).[7]:374 One cannon designed by Orban was named "Basilica" and was 27 feet (8.2 m) long, and able to hurl a 600 lb (272 kg) stone ball over a mile (1.6 km).[33]

Conquest of Constantinople, Zonaro
Modern painting of Mehmed and the Ottoman Army approaching Constantinople with a giant bombard, by Fausto Zonaro

The master founder initially tried to sell his services to the Byzantines, who were unable to secure the funds needed to hire him. Orban then left Constantinople and approached Mehmed II, claiming that his weapon could blast 'the walls of Babylon itself'. Given abundant funds and materials, the Hungarian engineer built the gun within three months at Edirne, from which it was dragged by sixty oxen to Constantinople. In the meantime, Orban also produced other cannons for the Turkish siege forces.[18]:77–8

Orban's cannon had several drawbacks: it took three hours to reload; cannonballs were in very short supply; and the cannon is said to have collapsed under its own recoil after six weeks (this is disputed,[22] however, given that it was only reported in the letter of Archbishop Leonardo di Chio[29] and in the later and often unreliable Russian chronicle of Nestor Iskander).[nb 4] Having previously established a large foundry about 150 miles (240 km) away, Mehmed now had to undertake the painstaking process of transporting his massive artillery pieces. Orban's giant cannon was said to have been accompanied by a crew of 60 oxen and over 400 men.[7]:374

In preparation for the final assault, Mehmed had an artillery train of seventy large pieces dragged from his headquarters at Edirne, in addition to the bombards cast on the spot.[34]

Mehmed planned to attack the Theodosian Walls, the intricate series of walls and ditches protecting Constantinople from an attack from the West, the only part of the city not surrounded by water. His army encamped outside the city on the Monday after Easter, 2 April 1453.

The bulk of the Ottoman army were encamped south of the Golden Horn. The regular European troops, stretched out along the entire length of the walls, were commanded by Karadja Pasha. The regular troops from Anatolia under Ishak Pasha were stationed south of the Lycus down to the Sea of Marmara. Mehmed himself erected his red-and-gold tent near the Mesoteichion, where the guns and the elite regiments, the Janissaries, were positioned. The Bashi-bazouks were spread out behind the front lines. Other troops under Zagan Pasha were employed north of the Golden Horn. Communication was maintained by a road that had been constructed over the marshy head of the Horn.[18]:94–5

Byzantine dispositions and strategies

Painting of the Fall of Constantinople, by Theophilos Hatzimihail

The city had about 20 km of walls (land walls: 5.5 km; sea walls along the Golden Horn: 7 km; sea walls along the Sea of Marmara: 7.5 km), one of the strongest sets of fortified walls in existence. The walls had recently been repaired (under John VIII) and were in fairly good shape, giving the defenders sufficient reason to believe that they could hold out until help from the West arrived.[21]:39 In addition, the defenders were relatively well-equipped with a fleet of 26 ships: 5 from Genoa, 5 from Venice, 3 from Venetian Crete, 1 from Ancona, 1 from Aragon, 1 from France, and about 10 Byzantine.[21]:45

On 5 April, the Sultan himself arrived with his last troops, and the defenders took up their positions. As their numbers were insufficient to occupy the walls in their entirety, it had been decided that only the outer walls would be manned. Constantine and his Greek troops guarded the Mesoteichion, the middle section of the land walls, where they were crossed by the river Lycus. This section was considered the weakest spot in the walls and an attack was feared here most. Giustiniani was stationed to the north of the emperor, at the Charisian Gate (Myriandrion); later during the siege, he was shifted to the Mesoteichion to join Constantine, leaving the Myriandrion to the charge of the Bocchiardi brothers. Minotto and his Venetians were stationed in the Blachernae palace, together with Teodoro Caristo, the Langasco brothers, and Archbishop Leonardo of Chios.[18] :92

To the left of the emperor, further south, were the commanders Cataneo, with Genoese troops, and Theophilus Palaeologus, who guarded the Pegae Gate with Greek soldiers. The section of the land walls from the Pegae Gate to the Golden Gate (itself guarded by a Genoese called Manuel) was defended by the Venetian Filippo Contarini, while Demetrius Cantacuzenus had taken position on the southernmost part of the Theodosian wall.[18] :92

The sea walls were manned more sparsely, with Jacobo Contarini at Stoudion, a makeshift defense force of Greek monks to his left hand, and prince Orhan at the Harbour of Eleutherius. Pere Julià was stationed at the Great Palace with Genoese and Catalan troops; Cardinal Isidore of Kiev guarded the tip of the peninsula near the boom. The sea walls at the southern shore of the Golden Horn were defended by Venetian and Genoese sailors under Gabriele Trevisano.[18] :93

Two tactical reserves were kept behind in the city, one in the Petra district just behind the land walls and one near the Church of the Holy Apostles, under the command of Loukas Notaras and Nicephorus Palaeologus, respectively. The Venetian Alviso Diedo commanded the ships in the harbor.[18] :94

Although the Byzantines also had cannons, they were much smaller than those of the Ottomans and the recoil tended to damage their own walls.[29]

According to David Nicolle, despite many odds, the idea that Constantinople was inevitably doomed is wrong, and the overall situation was not as one-sided as a simple glance at a map might suggest.[21]:40It has also been claimed that Constantinople was "the best-defended city in Europe" at that time.[35]


At the beginning of the siege, Mehmed sent out some of his best troops to reduce the remaining Byzantine strongholds outside the city of Constantinople. The fortress of Therapia on the Bosphorus and a smaller castle at the village of Studius near the Sea of Marmara were taken within a few days. The Princes' Islands in the Sea of Marmara were taken by Admiral Baltoghlu's fleet.[18]:96–7 Mehmed's massive cannon fired on the walls for weeks, but due to its imprecision and extremely slow rate of reloading the Byzantines were able to repair most of the damage after each shot, limiting the cannon's effect.[7]:376

Kusatma Zonaro
The Ottoman Turks transport their fleet overland into the Golden Horn.

Meanwhile, despite some probing attacks, the Ottoman fleet under Suleiman Baltoghlu could not enter the Golden Horn due to the chain the Byzantines had previously stretched across the entrance. Although one of the fleet's main tasks was to prevent any ships from outside from entering the Golden Horn, on 20 April a small flotilla of four Christian ships[nb 5] managed to slip in after some heavy fighting, an event which strengthened the morale of the defenders and caused embarrassment to the Sultan.[7]:376 Baltoghlu's life was spared after his subordinates testified to his bravery during the conflict.

Mehmed ordered the construction of a road of greased logs across Galata on the north side of the Golden Horn, and dragged his ships over the hill, directly into the Golden Horn on 22 April, bypassing the chain barrier.[7]:376 This seriously threatened the flow of supplies from Genoese ships from the — nominally neutral — colony of Pera, and demoralized the Byzantine defenders. On the night of 28 April, an attempt was made to destroy the Ottoman ships already in the Golden Horn using fire ships, but the Ottomans had been warned in advance and forced the Christians to retreat with heavy losses. Forty Italians escaped their sinking ships and swam to the northern shore. On orders of Mehmed, they were impaled on stakes, in sight of the city's defenders on the sea walls across the Golden Horn. In retaliation, the defenders brought their Ottoman prisoners, 260 in all, to the walls, where they were executed, one by one, before the eyes of the Ottomans.[18]:108[36] With the failure of their attack on the Ottoman vessels, the defenders were forced to disperse part of their forces to defend the sea walls along the Golden Horn.

The Ottoman army had made several frontal assaults on the land wall of Constantinople, but were always repelled with heavy losses.[37] Venetian surgeon Niccolò Barbaro, describing in his diary one of such frequent land attacks especially by the Janissaries, wrote:

They found the Turks coming right up under the walls and seeking battle, particularly the Janissaries ... and when one or two of them were killed, at once more Turks came and took away the dead ones ... without caring how near they came to the city walls. Our men shot at them with guns and crossbows, aiming at the Turk who was carrying away his dead countryman, and both of them would fall to the ground dead, and then there came other Turks and took them away, none fearing death, but being willing to let ten of themselves be killed rather than suffer the shame of leaving a single Turkish corpse by the walls.[25]
Siege constantinople bnf fr2691
Siege of Constantinople as depicted between 1453 and 1475.[38]

After these inconclusive frontal offensives, the Ottomans sought to break through the walls by constructing underground tunnels in an effort to mine them from mid-May to 25 May. Many of the sappers were miners of Serbian origin sent from Novo Brdo by the Serbian despot. They were placed under the command of Zagan Pasha. However, an engineer named Johannes Grant, a German[nb 6] who came together with the Genoese contingent, had counter-mines dug, allowing Byzantine troops to enter the mines and kill the workers. The Byzantines intercepted the first Serbian tunnel on the night of 16 May. Subsequent tunnels were interrupted on 21, 23, and 25 May, and destroyed with Greek fire and vigorous combat. On 23 May, the Byzantines captured and tortured two Turkish officers, who revealed the location of all the Turkish tunnels, which were then destroyed.[39]

On 21 May, Mehmed sent an ambassador to Constantinople and offered to lift the siege if they gave him the city. He promised he would allow the Emperor and any other inhabitants to leave with their possessions. Moreover, he would recognize the Emperor as governor of the Peloponnese. Lastly, he guaranteed the safety of the population that might choose to remain in the city. Constantine XI only agreed to pay higher tributes to the sultan and recognized the status of all the conquered castles and lands in the hands of the Turks as Ottoman possession.

Giving you though the city depends neither on me nor on anyone else among its inhabitants; as we have all decided to die with our own free will and we shall not consider our lives.[nb 7]

Around this time, Mehmed had a final council with his senior officers. Here he encountered some resistance; one of his Viziers, the veteran Halil Pasha, who had always disapproved of Mehmed's plans to conquer the city, now admonished him to abandon the siege in the face of recent adversity. Zagan Pasha argued against Halil Pasha, and insisted on an immediate attack. Mehmed planned to overpower the walls by sheer force, expecting that the weakened Byzantine defense by the prolonged siege would now be worn out before he ran out of troops and started preparations for a final all-out offensive.

Final assault

Theofilos Palaiologos
Painting by the Greek folk painter Theophilos Hatzimihail showing the battle inside the city, Constantine is visible on a white horse

Preparations for the final assault were started in the evening of 26 May and continued to the next day.[7]:378 For 36 hours after the war council decision to attack, the Ottomans extensively mobilized their manpower in order to prepare for the general offensive.[7]:378 Prayer and resting would be then granted to the soldiers on the 28th, and then the final assault would be launched. On the Byzantine side, a small Venetian fleet of 12 ships, after having searched the Aegean, reached the Capital on May 27 and reported to the Emperor that no large Venetian relief fleet was on its way.[7]:377 On May 28, as the Ottoman army prepared for the final assault, large-scale religious processions were held in the city. In the evening a last solemn ceremony was held in the Hagia Sophia, in which the Emperor and representatives of both the Latin and Greek church partook, together with nobility from both sides.[41]:651–2

Shortly after midnight on May 29 the all-out offensive began. The Christian troops of the Ottoman Empire attacked first, followed by the successive waves of the irregular azaps, who were poorly trained and equipped, and Anatolians who focused on a section of the Blachernae walls in the northwest part of the city, which had been damaged by the cannon. This section of the walls had been built earlier, in the eleventh century, and was much weaker. The Anatolians managed to breach this section of walls and entered the city but were just as quickly pushed back by the defenders. Finally, as the battle was continuing, the last wave, consisting of elite Janissaries, attacked the city walls. The Genoese general in charge of the land troops,[22][28][29] Giovanni Giustiniani, was grievously wounded during the attack, and his evacuation from the ramparts caused a panic in the ranks of the defenders.[nb 8]

Zonaro GatesofConst
Sultan Mehmed II's entry into Constantinople, painting by Fausto Zonaro (1854–1929).

With Giustiniani's Genoese troops retreating into the city and towards the harbor, Constantine and his men, now left to their own devices, kept fighting and managed to successfully hold off the Janissaries for a while, but eventually they could not stop them from entering the city. The defenders were also being overwhelmed at several points in Constantine's section. When Turkish flags were seen flying above a small postern gate, the Kerkoporta, which was left open, panic ensued, and the defense collapsed, as Janissary soldiers, led by Ulubatlı Hasan pressed forward. Many Greek soldiers ran back home to protect their families, the Venetians ran over to their ships, and a few of the Genoese got over to Galata. The rest committed suicide by jumping off the city walls or surrendered.[19] The Greek houses nearest to the walls were the first to suffer from the Ottomans. It is said that Constantine, throwing aside his purple regalia, led the final charge against the incoming Ottomans, perishing in the ensuing battle in the streets just like his soldiers. On the other hand, Nicolò Barbaro, a Venetian eyewitness to the siege, wrote in his diary that it was said that Constantine hanged himself at the moment when the Turks broke in at the San Romano gate, although his ultimate fate remains unknown.[nb 9]

After the initial assault, the Ottoman Army fanned out along the main thoroughfare of the city, the Mese, past the great forums, and past the Church of the Holy Apostles, which Mehmed II wanted to provide a seat for his newly appointed patriarch which would help him better control his Christian subjects. Mehmed II had sent an advance guard to protect key buildings such as the Church of the Holy Apostles.

A small few lucky civilians managed to escape. When the Venetians retreated over to their ships, the Ottomans had already taken the walls of the Golden Horn. Luckily for the occupants of the city, the Ottomans were not interested in killing potentially valuable slaves, but rather in the loot they could get from raiding the city's houses, so they decided to attack the city instead. The Venetian captain ordered his men to break open the gate of the Golden Horn. Having done so, the Venetians left in ships filled with soldiers and refugees. Shortly after the Venetians left, a few Genoese ships and even the Emperor's ships followed them out of the Golden Horn. This fleet narrowly escaped prior to the Ottoman navy assuming control over the Golden Horn, which was accomplished by midday.[19] The Army converged upon the Augusteum, the vast square that fronted the great church of Hagia Sophia whose bronze gates were barred by a huge throng of civilians inside the building, hoping for divine protection. After the doors were breached, the troops separated the congregation according to what price they might bring in the slave markets.

Ottoman casualties are unknown but they are believed by most historians to be very heavy due to several unsuccessful Ottoman attacks made during the siege and final assault. Barbaro described blood flowing in the city "like rainwater in the gutters after a sudden storm", and bodies of Turks and Christians floating in the sea "like melons along a canal".[25]

Plundering phase

Mehmed II granted his soldiers three days to plunder the city, as he had promised them.[18]:145[43] Soldiers fought over the possession of some of the spoils of war.[44]:283 According to the Venetian surgeon Nicolò Barbaro, "all through the day the Turks made a great slaughter of Christians through the city". According to Philip Mansel, widespread persecution of the city's civilian inhabitants took place, resulting in thousands of murders and rapes and 30,000 civilians being enslaved or forcibly deported.[45]

The looting was extremely thorough in certain parts of the city. A week later on 2 June, the Sultan would find the city largely deserted and half in ruins; churches had been desecrated and stripped, houses were no longer habitable and stores and shops were emptied. He is famously reported to have been moved to tears by this, speaking "What a city we have given over to plunder and destruction."[18]:152


On the third day of the conquest, Mehmed II ordered all looting to stop and issued a proclamation that all Christians who had avoided capture or who had been ransomed could return to their homes without further molestation, although many had no homes to return to, and many more had been taken captive and not ransomed.[18]:150–51 Byzantine historian George Sphrantzes, an eyewitness to the fall of Constantinople, described the Sultan's actions:[46][47]

On the third day after the fall of our city, the Sultan celebrated his victory with a great, joyful triumph. He issued a proclamation: the citizens of all ages who had managed to escape detection were to leave their hiding places throughout the city and come out into the open, as they were to remain free and no question would be asked. He further declared the restoration of houses and property to those who had abandoned our city before the siege. If they returned home, they would be treated according to their rank and religion, as if nothing had changed.

The Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque, but the Greek Orthodox Church was allowed to remain intact and Gennadius Scholarius was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople. This was once thought to be the origin of the Ottoman millet system; however, it is now considered a myth and no such system existed in the fifteenth century.[48][49]

Following the city's conquest, the Church of the Holy Wisdom (the Hagia Sophia) was converted into a mosque.

After the sack, many feared other European Christian kingdoms would suffer the same fate as Constantinople. Two possible responses emerged amongst the humanists and churchmen of that era: Crusade or dialogue. Pope Pius II strongly advocated for another Crusade, while Nicholas of Cusa supported engaging in a dialogue with the Ottomans.[50]

The Morean (Peloponnesian) fortress of Mystras, where Constantine's brothers Thomas and Demetrius ruled, constantly in conflict with each other and knowing that Mehmed would eventually invade them as well, held out until 1460. Long before the fall of Constantinople, Demetrius had fought for the throne with Thomas, Constantine, and their other brothers John and Theodore.[51]:446Thomas escaped to Rome when the Ottomans invaded Morea while Demetrius expected to rule a puppet state, but instead was imprisoned and remained there for the rest of his life. In Rome, Thomas and his family received some monetary support from the Pope and other Western rulers as Byzantine emperor in exile, until 1503. In 1461 the independent Byzantine state in Trebizond fell to Mehmed.[51]:446

Constantine XI had died without producing an heir, and had Constantinople not fallen he likely would have been succeeded by the sons of his deceased elder brother, who were taken into the palace service of Mehmed after the fall of Constantinople. The oldest boy, renamed to Murad, became a personal favorite of Mehmed and served as Beylerbey (Governor-General) of Rumeli (the Balkans). The younger son, renamed Mesih Pasha, became Admiral of the Ottoman fleet and Sancak Beg (Governor) of the Province of Gallipoli. He eventually served twice as Grand Vizier under Mehmed's son, Bayezid II.[52]

With the capture of Constantinople, Mehmed II had acquired the "natural" capital of its kingdom, albeit one in decline due to years of war. The loss of the city was a crippling blow to Christendom, and it exposed the Christian west to a vigorous and aggressive foe in the east. The Christian re-conquest of Constantinople remained a goal in Western Europe for many years after its fall to the House of Osman. Rumors of Constantine XI's survival and subsequent rescue by an angel led many to hope that the city would one day return to Christian hands. Pope Nicholas V called for an immediate counter-attack in the form of a crusade. When no European monarch was willing to lead the crusade, the Pope himself decided to go, but his early death stopped this plan. As Western Europe entered the 16th century, the age of Crusading began to come to an end.

For some time Greek scholars had gone to Italian city-states, a cultural exchange begun in 1396 by Coluccio Salutati, chancellor of Florence, who had invited Manuel Chrysoloras, a Byzantine scholar to lecture at the University of Florence.[53] After the conquest many Greeks, such as John Argyropoulos and Constantine Lascaris, fled the city and found refuge in the Latin West, bringing with them knowledge and documents from the Greco-Roman tradition to Italy and other regions that further propelled the Renaissance.[54][55] Those Greeks who stayed behind in Constantinople mostly lived in the Phanar and Galata districts of the city. The Phanariotes, as they were called, provided many capable advisers to the Ottoman rulers.

Third Rome

Gentile Bellini 003
Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, by Gentile Bellini

Byzantium is a term used by modern historians to refer to the later Roman Empire. In its own time, the Empire ruled from Constantinople (or "New Rome" as some people call it, although this was a laudatory expression that was never an official title) was considered simply as "the Roman Empire." The fall of Constantinople led competing factions to lay claim to being the inheritors of the Imperial mantle. Russian claims to Byzantine heritage clashed with those of the Ottoman Empire's own claim. In Mehmed's view, he was the successor to the Roman Emperor, declaring himself Kayser-i Rum, literally "Caesar of Rome", that is, of the Roman Empire, though he was remembered as "the Conqueror". He founded a political system that survived until 1922 with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.

Stefan Dušan, Tsar of Serbia, and Ivan Alexander, Tsar of Bulgaria both made similar claims, regarding themselves as legitimate heirs to the Roman Empire. Other potential claimants, such as the Republic of Venice and the Holy Roman Empire have disintegrated into history.[56]

Impact on the Churches

In 17th-century Russia, the fall of Constantinople had a role in the fierce theological and political controversy between adherents and opponents of the reforms in the Russian Orthodox Church carried out by Patriarch Nikon, which he intended to bring the Russian Church closer to the norms and practices of other Orthodox churches. Avvakum and other "Old Believers" saw these reforms as a corruption of the Russian Church, which they considered to be the "true" Church of God. As the other Churches were more closely related to Constantinople in their liturgies, Avvakum argued that Constantinople fell to the Turks because of these heretical beliefs and practices.

The fall of Constantinople has a profound impact on the ancient Pentarchy of the Orthodox Church. Today, the four ancient sees of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople are almost completely devoid of followers and believers because of Islamization and the Dhimma system to which Christians have been subjected since the earliest days of Islam. As a result of this process, the center of authority in the Orthodox Church changed and migrated to Eastern Europe (e.g., Russia) rather than remaining in the former Byzantine Near East.

Cultural references


There are many legends in Greece surrounding the Fall of Constantinople. It was said that the partial lunar eclipse that occurred on 22 May 1453 represented a fulfillment of a prophecy of the city's demise.[57] Four days later, the whole city was blotted out by a thick fog, a condition unknown in that part of the world in May. When the fog lifted that evening, a strange light was seen playing about the dome of the Hagia Sophia, which some interpreted as the Holy Spirit departing from the city. "This evidently indicated the departure of the Divine Presence, and its leaving the City in total abandonment and desertion, for the Divinity conceals itself in cloud and appears and again disappears." [58] For others, there was still a distant hope that the lights were the campfires of the troops of John Hunyadi who had come to relieve the city.[nb 10]

Another legend holds that two priests saying divine liturgy over the crowd disappeared into the cathedral's walls as the first Turkish soldiers entered. According to the legend, the priests will appear again on the day that Constantinople returns to Christian hands.[18]:147 Another legend refers to the Marble King (Constantine XI), holding that an angel rescued the emperor when the Ottomans entered the city, turning him into marble and placing him in a cave under the earth near the Golden Gate, where he waits to be brought to life again (a variant of the sleeping hero legend).[60][61]

Cultural impact

Guillaume Dufay composed several songs lamenting the fall of the Eastern church, and the duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, avowed to take up arms against the Turks. However, as the growing Ottoman power from this date on coincided with the Protestant Reformation and subsequent Counter-Reformation, the recapture of Constantinople became an ever-distant dream. Even France, once a fervent participant in the Crusades, became an ally of the Ottomans.

Nonetheless, depictions of Christian coalitions taking the city and of the late Emperor's resurrection by Leo the Wise persisted.[10]:280

29 May 1453, the day of the fall of Constantinople, fell on a Tuesday, and since then Tuesday has been considered an unlucky day by Greeks generally.[62]

Impact on the Renaissance

The migration waves of Byzantine scholars and émigrés in the period following the sacking of Constantinople and the fall of Constantinople in 1453 is considered by many scholars key to the revival of Greek and Roman studies that led to the development of the Renaissance humanism[55] and science. These émigrés were grammarians, humanists, poets, writers, printers, lecturers, musicians, astronomers, architects, academics, artists, scribes, philosophers, scientists, politicians and theologians.[63] They brought to Western Europe the far greater preserved and accumulated knowledge of their own (Greek) civilization.

Megali idea

Between 1919 and 1922, Greek politician Eleftherios Venizelos attempted to implement the Megali Idea (recapture of Constantinople from the Ottoman Empire) in the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) since the Ottoman Empire was severely weakened by its defeat in World War I and by the occupation of Constantinople by the British and French. However, in the course of the war Venizelos lost the election of 1920 and went into exile and Greece was defeated in the war by Turkey.

Renaming of the city

Ottomans used the Arabic transliteration of the city's name "Kostantiniyye," (القسطنطينية), as can be seen in numerous Ottoman documents. Islambol (اسلامبول, Full of Islam) or Islambul (find Islam) or Islam(b)ol (old Turkic: be Islam), both in Turkish Language, were folk-etymological adaptations of Istanbul created after the Ottoman conquest of 1453 to express the city's new role as the capital of the Islamic Ottoman Empire. It is first attested shortly after the conquest, and its invention was ascribed by some contemporary writers to Sultan Mehmed II himself.[64]

The name of Istanbul is thought to be derived from the Greek phrase īs tīmbolī(n) (Greek: εἰς τὴν πόλιν, translit. eis tēn pólin, "to the City"), and it is claimed that it had already spread among the Turkish populace of the Ottoman Empire before the conquest. However, Istanbul only became the official name of the city in 1930 by the revised Turkish Postal Law as part of Atatürk's reforms.[65][66][67]

In historical fiction

  • Lew Wallace, The Prince of India; or, Why Constantinople Fell. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1893. 2 volumes
  • Mika Waltari, The Dark Angel (Original title Johannes Angelos) 1952. Translated from the Finnish by Naomi Walford and pub. in English edition, New York: Putnam, 1953
  • Muharem Bazdulj, "The Bridge on Land" from The Second Book, 2000. Translated from Bosnian by Oleg Andric and Andrew Wachtel and pub. in English edition, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2005
  • Andrew Novo, Queen of Cities, Seattle: Coffeetown Press, 2009
  • Jack Hight, Siege. London: John Murray Publisher Ltd, 2010
  • James Shipman, "Constantinopolis", Amazon Digital Services, 2013
  • C.C. Humphreys, A Place called Armageddon. London: Orion, 2011
  • Emanuele Rizzardi, L'ultimo Paleologo. PubMe Editore, 2017
  • John Bellairs, "The Trolley to Yesterday" Dial, 1989
  • Kiersten White, "The Conqueror's Saga", 2016
  • Stefan Zweig, "Die Eroberung von Byzanz (Conquest of Byzantium)" in "Sternstunden der Menschheit (Decisive Moments in History)", 1927

See also


  1. ^ While Mehmed II had been steadily preparing for the siege of Constantinople, he had sent the old general Turakhan and the latter's two sons, Ahmed Beg and Omar Beg, to invade the Morea and to remain there all winter also to prevent the despots Thomas and Demetrius from giving aid to Constantine XI.[16]:146
  2. ^ According to Sphrantzes, whom Constantine had ordered to make a census, the Emperor was appalled when the number of native men capable of bearing arms turned out to be only 4,983. Leonardo di Chio gave a number of 6,000 Greeks.[18]:85
  3. ^ The Spanish Cristóbal de Villalón claims there were ' 60,000 Turkish households, 40,000 Greek and Armenian, 10,000 Jewish.[18]:85
  4. ^ Another expert who was employed by the Ottomans was Ciriaco de' Pizzicolli, also known as Ciriaco of Ancona, a traveler and collector of antiquities.
  5. ^ These were the three Genoese ships sent by the Pope, joined by a large Imperial transport ship which had been sent on a foraging mission to Sicily previous to the siege and was on its way back to Constantinople.[18]:100
  6. ^ Runciman speculates that he may have been Scottish[18]:84
  7. ^ Original text: Τὸ δὲ τὴν πόλιν σοῖ δοῦναι οὔτ' ἐμὸν ἐστίν οὔτ' ἄλλου τῶν κατοικούντων ἐν ταύτῃ• κοινῇ γὰρ γνώμῃ πάντες αὐτοπροαιρέτως ἀποθανοῦμεν καὶ οὐ φεισόμεθα τῆς ζωῆς ἡμῶν.[40]
  8. ^ Sources hostile towards the Genoese (such as the Venetian Nicolò Barbaro), however, report that Longo was only lightly wounded or not wounded at all, but, overwhelmed by fear, simulated the wound to abandon the battlefield, determining the fall of the city. These charges of cowardice and treason were so widespread that the Republic of Genoa had to deny them by sending diplomatic letters to the Chancelleries of England, France, the Duchy of Burgundy and others.[42]:296–97 Giustiniani was carried to Chios, where he succumbed to his wounds a few days later.
  9. ^ Barbaro added the description of the emperor's heroic last moments to his diary based on information he received afterward. According to some Ottoman sources Constantine was killed in an accidental encounter with Turkish marines a little further to the south, presumably while making his way to the Sea of Marmara in order to escape by sea.[21]
  10. ^ It is possible that all these phenomena were local effects of the cataclysmic Kuwae volcanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean. The "fire" seen may have been an optical illusion due to the reflection of intensely red twilight glow by clouds of volcanic ash high in the atmosphere.[59]


  1. ^ "Exaggerated" western estimates ranged between 160,000 and 300,000.
  2. ^ "İstanbul'un fethinde 600 Türk askeri, Fatih'e karşı savaştı" [In the Conquest of Istanbul 600 Turkish Military Fought Against the Conqueror]. Osmanlı Arauştırmalarlı (in Turkish).
  3. ^ Momigliano & Schiavone (1997), Introduction ("La Storia di Roma"), p. XXI
  4. ^ "The fall of Constantinople". The Economist. 23 December 1999. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  5. ^ Frantzes, Georgios; Melisseidis (Melisseides), Ioannis (Ioannes) A.; Zavolea-Melissidi, Pulcheria (2004). Εάλω η ΠόλιςΤ•ο χρονικό της άλωσης της Κωνσταντινούπολης: Συνοπτική ιστορία των γεγονότων στην Κωνσταντινούπολη κατά την περίοδο 1440 – 1453 [The City has Fallen: Chronicle of the Fall of Constantinople: Concise History of Events in Constantinople in the Period 1440–1453] (in Greek) (5 ed.). Athens: Vergina Asimakopouli Bros. ISBN 9607171918.
  6. ^ Foster, Charles (22 September 2006). "The Conquest of Constantinople and the end of empire". Contemporary Review. Archived from the original on 11 June 2009. It is the end of the Middle Ages)
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Norwich, John Julius (1997). A Short History of Byzantium. New York: Vintage Books.
  8. ^ Madden, Thomas (2005). Crusades: The Illustrated History. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.
  9. ^ Haldon, John (2000). Byzantium at War 600 – 1453. New York: Osprey.
  10. ^ a b Mango, Cyril (2002). The Oxford History of Byzantium. New York: Oxford University Press.
  11. ^ "The Black Death". Archived from the original on 25 June 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2008.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link), Channel 4 – History.
  12. ^ Runciman Fall. p.60
  13. ^ Norwich Short Byz. Hist. p.373
  14. ^ "Bosphorus (i.e. Bosporus), View from Kuleli, Constantinople, Turkey". World Digital Library. 1890–1900. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
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  16. ^ Setton, Kenneth M. (1978). The Papacy and the Levant (1204–1571): The Fifteenth Century. 2. DIANE Publishing. ISBN 0-87169-127-2.
  17. ^ Crowley, Roger (12 February 2013). 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West. Hachette Books. ISBN 978-1-4013-0558-1.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Runciman, Steven (1965). The Fall of Constantinople, 1453 (Canto ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521398329.
  19. ^ a b c d Nicol, Donald M. (1993). The Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261–1453 (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  20. ^ Michael Spilling, ed., Battles That Changed History: Key Battles That Decided the Fate of Nations ( London, Amber Books Ltd. 2010) p.187.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h Nicolle, David (2000). Constantinople 1453: The End of Byzantium (Campaign). 78. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-091-9.
  22. ^ a b c d Pertusi, Agostino, ed. (1976). La Caduta di Costantinopoli, I: Le testimonianze dei contemporanei scrittori greci e latini [The Fall of Constantinople, I: The Testimony of the Contemporary Greek and Latin Writers] (in Italian). I. Verona: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla.
  23. ^ Lanning, Michael Lee (2005). The Battle 100: The Stories Behind History's Most Influential Battles. Sourcebooks, Inc. ISBN 1-4022-2475-3.
  24. ^ İnalcıkt, Halil (2001). Osmanlı İmparatorluğu Klasik Çağ (1300–1600) [The Ottoman Empire, The Classical Age, 1300–1600]. Translated by Itzkouritz, Norman; Imber, Colin. London: Orion.
  25. ^ a b c d Nicolò Barbaro, Giornale dell'Assedio di Costantinopoli, 1453. The autograph copy is conserved in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice. Barbaro's diary has been translated into English by John Melville-Jones (New York:Exposition Press, 1969)
  26. ^ a b (in French) Concasty, M.-L., Les «Informations» de Jacques Tedaldi sur le siège et la prise de Constantinople
  27. ^ a b Sphrantzes, George. Οικτρός Γεώργιος ο Φραντζής ο και Πρωτοβεσιαρίτης Γρηγόριος τάχα μοναχός ταύτα έγραψεν υπέρ των καθ' αυτών και τινων μερικών γεγονότων εν τώ της αθλίας ζωής αυτε χρόνω [The Pitiful George Frantzes Who was Protovestiaros, Now a Monk, Wrote This for the Βetterment of Others and as Recompense for Some Deeds in His Miserable Life, This Chronicle] (in Greek).
  28. ^ a b c Rutheniae, Isidorus (6 July 1453). "Isidore of Ruthenia" (Letter) (in Latin). Letter to Bisarion.
  29. ^ a b c d (in Latin) Leonardo di Chio, Letter to Pope Nicholas V, dated 16 August 1453, edited by J.-P. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, 159, 923A–944B.
  30. ^ Leonardo di Chio, Letter,927B: "three hundred thousand and more".
  31. ^ Ubertino Pusculo, Constantinopolis, 1464
  32. ^ Leonardo di Chio, Letter, 930C.
  33. ^ Davis, Paul (1999). 100 Decisive Battles. Oxford. p. 166. ISBN 978-0-19-514366-9.
  34. ^ Arnold (2001) p. 111
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  36. ^ Crowley (2005), pp. 150–54
  37. ^ Marios Philippides and Walter K. Hanak, The Siege and the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, (Ashgate Publishing, 2011), 520.
  38. ^ From Jean Chartier, Chronicle of Charles VII, king of France, MS Bnf Français 2691, f. 246v [1]
  39. ^ Crowley, Roger. 1453: the holy war for Constantinople and the clash of Islam and the West. New York: Hyperion, 2005. pp. 168–171. ISBN 1-4013-0850-3.
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Further reading

  • Babinger, Franz (1992): Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01078-1
  • Crowley, Roger (2005): 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West. Hyperion. ISBN 978-1-4013-0558-1
  • Fletcher, Richard A.: The Cross and the Crescent (2005) Penguin Group ISBN 0-14-303481-2
  • Harris, Jonathan (2007): Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium. Hambledon/Continuum. ISBN 978-1-84725-179-4
  • Harris, Jonathan (2010): The End of Byzantium. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11786-8

Melville Jones, John, The Siege of Constantinople 1453: Seven Contemporary Accounts, Amsterdam 1972

  • Momigliano, Arnaldo; Schiavone, Aldo (1997). Storia di Roma, 1 (in Italian). Turin: Einaudi. ISBN 88-06-11396-8.
  • Murr Nehme, Lina (2003). 1453: The Conquest of Constantinople. Aleph Et Taw. ISBN 2-86839-816-2.
  • Pertusi, Agostino, ed. (1976). La Caduta di Costantinopoli, II: L'eco nel mondo [The Fall of Constantinople, II: The Echo in the World] (in Italian). II. Verona: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla.

Philippides, Marios and Walter K. Hanak, The Siege and the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, Ashgate, Farnham and Burlington 2011.

  • Smith, Michael Llewellyn, "The Fall of Constantinople", in History Makers magazine No. 5 (London, Marshall Cavendish, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1969) p. 192
  • Wheatcroft, Andrew (2003): The Infidels: The Conflict Between Christendom and Islam, 638–2002. Viking Publishing ISBN 0-670-86942-2
  • Wintle, Justin (2003): The Rough Guide History of Islam. Rough Guides. ISBN 1-84353-018-X

External links

Coordinates: 41°01′00″N 28°58′37″E / 41.0167°N 28.9769°E

Athanasius II of Constantinople

Athanasius II (? – 29 May 1453) was the last Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople before the Fall of Constantinople. He supposedly served from 1450 to 1453. The only document about his existence is "Acts of the council in Hagia Sophia", that is considered to be a fake because of anachronisms in the text.

Christianity in the 15th century

The 15th century is part of the High Middle Ages, the period from the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 to the close of the 15th century, which saw the fall of Constantinople (1453), the end of the Hundred Years War (1453), the discovery of the New World (1492), and thereafter the Protestant Reformation (1515). It also marked the later years of scholasticism and the growth of Christian humanism and other developments of the early Renaissance.

Constantine XI Palaiologos

Constantine XI Dragases Palaiologos, Latinized as Palaeologus (Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος ΙΑ' Δραγάσης Παλαιολόγος, Kōnstantinos XI Dragasēs Palaiologos; Serbian: Константин XI Драгаш Палеолог, Konstantin XI Dragaš Paleolog; 8 February 1405 – 29 May 1453) was the last reigning Roman and Byzantine Emperor, ruling as a member of the Palaiologos dynasty from 1449 to his death in battle at the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Previously serving as regent for his brother John VIII 1437–1439, Constantine succeeded his brother, who died in Constantinople of natural causes in 1448, as Emperor following a short dispute with his younger brother Demetrios. Despite the mounting difficulties of his reign, contemporary sources generally speak respectfully of Constantine. Constantine would rule for just over 4 years, his reign culminating in the Ottoman siege and conquest of Constantinople, the imperial capital, under Sultan Mehmed II. Constantine did what he could to organize the defenses of the city, stockpiling food and repairing the old Theodosian walls, but the reduced domain of the Empire and the poor economy meant that organizing a force large enough for the defense of the city was impossible. Constantine led the defending forces, numbering approximately 7,000, against an Ottoman army numbering around 10 times that and died in the ensuing fighting.

Following his death, he became a legendary figure in Greek folklore as the "Marble Emperor" who would awaken and recover the Empire and Constantinople from the Ottomans. His death marked the end of the Roman Empire. It had continued in the East as the Byzantine Empire for 977 years after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476. The Empire had begun with the reign of Augustus in 27 BC, 1,479 years prior.

Fetih 1453

Fetih 1453 (English: The Conquest 1453) is a 2012 Turkish epic action film directed by Faruk Aksoy and produced by Faruk Aksoy, Servet Aksoy and Ayşe Germen. Starring Devrim Evin, İbrahim Çelikkol and Dilek Serbest, the film is based on fictionalized events surrounding the Conquest of Constantinople (now Istanbul) to the Ottoman Turks during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II.

George Sphrantzes

George Sphrantzes, also Phrantzes or Phrantza (Greek: Γεώργιος Σφραντζής or Φραντζής; 1401 – c. 1478), was a late Byzantine Greek historian and Imperial courtier. He was an attendant to Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos, protovestiarites ("Lord of the Imperial Wardrobe") under John VIII Palaiologos, and a close confidant to Constantine XI Palaiologos. He was an eyewitness of the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, made a slave by the victorious Turks, but ransomed shortly afterwards. Sphrantzes served the surviving members of the Palaiologian family for the next several years until taking monastic vows in 1472. It was while a monk he wrote his history, which ends with the notice of Sultan Mehmed II's attempt to capture Naupaktos, which he dates to the summer of 1477; Sphrantzes is assumed to have died not long after that event.

Giovanni Giustiniani

Giovanni Giustiniani Longo (Greek: Ιωάννης Λόγγος Ιουστινιάνης, Iōánnēs Lóngos Ioustiniánēs; Latin: Ioannes Iustinianus Longus; 1418–June 1, 1453) was a Genoese captain, a member of one of the greatest families of the Republic of Genoa, a kinsman to the powerful house of Doria in Genoa, and protostrator of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. He led 700 professional soldiers, both Genovese and Greeks from the island of Chios, which at the time was part of the Republic of Genoa, to the defense of Constantinople against the Ottoman army of Sultan Mehmed II in 1453. He personally financed, organized and led this expedition on his own initiative, and upon arriving was placed in command of the land defenses by Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos of the Byzantine Empire. Giustiniani was key in controlling the land forces and keeping the Greeks, Genoese and Venetians from quarrelling with each other, and instead kept focused on repairing the land walls after the Ottoman cannons had shot holes in them. It was at least partly because of Giustiniani's charisma that the Byzantine forces were able to hold out so long against overwhelming odds.

On May 29, 1453, during the final attack by Mehmet II, Giustiniani was wounded by an Ottoman cannon while defending the walls of Constantinople. Some sources say the wound was caused by a crossbow bolt. Sources disagree about whether the wound was to his arm, leg, or chest, but it forced him to withdraw from his station at the land wall. He exited through the locked gate into the city, which opened up the opportunity for the fearful to flee, and panic spread throughout the lines.

Seeing the loss of morale caused among the defenders by Giustiniani's retreat, Mehmed II ordered a renewed assault that eventually overwhelmed the Byzantines defenses and Constantinople was taken by the Turks. Although Giustiniani's men managed to escape with their general after its fall, Giustiniani died from his wounds on June 1, 1453.

His body was carried by his comrades to the then Genoese island of Chios. His tomb in the Church of San Domenico on Chios is lost (maybe in the earthquake of 1881), but several descriptions survive.

History of science in the Renaissance

During the Renaissance, great advances occurred in geography, astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, manufacturing, anatomy and engineering. The rediscovery of ancient scientific texts was accelerated after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the invention of printing democratized learning and allowed a faster propagation of new ideas. But, at least in its initial period, some see the Renaissance as one of scientific backwardness. Historians like George Sarton and Lynn Thorndike have criticized how the Renaissance affected science, arguing that progress was slowed for some amount of time. Humanists favored human-centered subjects like politics and history over study of natural philosophy or applied mathematics. Others have focused on the positive influence of the Renaissance, pointing to factors like the rediscovery of lost or obscure texts and the increased emphasis on the study of language and the correct reading of texts.

Marie Boas Hall coined the term Scientific Renaissance to designate the early phase of the Scientific Revolution, 1450–1630. More recently, Peter Dear has argued for a two-phase model of early modern science: a Scientific Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries, focused on the restoration of the natural knowledge of the ancients; and a Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, when scientists shifted from recovery to innovation.

Isidore of Kiev

Isidore of Kiev, also known as Isidore of Thessalonica (Greek: Ἰσίδωρος τοῦ Κιέβου; Russian: Исидор; Ukrainian: Ісидор; b. Peloponnesus, 1385 – d.Rome, 27 April 1463) was a Byzantine Greek Metropolitan of Kiev, cardinal, humanist, and theologian. He was one of the chief Eastern defenders of reunion at the time of the Council of Florence.Isidore became the last hierarch of the Old Russian Church before it split into the Russian Eastern Orthodox Church of the Grand Duchy of Moscow and Ruthenian Eastern Orthodox Church of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Following his arrest, the Grand Duke Vasily II of Moscow initiated a schism by installing own Metropolitans in Moscow without approval of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Lamentatio sanctae matris ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae

Lamentatio sanctae matris ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae ('Lament of the Holy Mother Church of Constantinople') is a motet by the Renaissance composer Guillaume Dufay. Its topic is a lament of the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Because of its Byzantine subject matter, it is sometimes grouped together with Vasilissa ergo gaude, Apostolus gloriosus and Balsamus et munda cera as one of Dufay's "Byzantine motets".

Loukas Notaras

Loukas Notaras (Greek: Λουκᾶς Νοταρᾶς; 5 April 1402 – 3 June 1453) was a Byzantine statesman who served as the last megas doux (commander-in-chief of the Byzantine navy) and the last mesazon (chief minister) of the Byzantine Empire, under emperors John VIII Palaiologos and Constantine XI Palaiologos.


Orban, also known as Urban (Hungarian: Orbán; died 1453), was an iron founder and engineer from Brassó, Transylvania, in the Kingdom of Hungary (today Brașov, Romania), who cast superguns for the Ottoman siege of Constantinople in 1453.

Orban was Hungarian, according to most modern authors, while some scholars also mention his potential German ancestry. Alternative theories suggest he had Wallachian roots. He was described by Laonikos Chalkokondyles with the term "Dacian".In 1452 he originally offered his services to the Byzantines, but emperor Constantine XI could not afford his high salary nor did he possess the materials necessary for constructing such a large siege cannon. Orban then left Constantinople and approached the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II, who was preparing to besiege the city. Claiming that his weapon could blast 'the walls of Babylon itself', Orban was given abundant funds and materials by the sultan. Orban managed to build the giant size gun within three months at Adrianople, from which it was dragged by sixty oxen to Constantinople. In the meantime, Orban also produced other smaller cannons used by the Turkish siege forces.The bombard technology, which mainly German technicians designed at first for the Hungarian Army, had been established between 1400 and 1450 all over western Europe, transforming siege warfare, with some pieces like the Faule Mette, Dulle Griet, Mons Meg and the Pumhart von Steyr which are still extant from the period. Orban, along with an entire crew, was probably killed during the siege when one of his superguns exploded, which was not an unusual occurrence during that time.

Paisios Ligarides

Paisios Ligarides (Παΐσιος Λιγαρίδης), born Pantaleon Ligarides (Παντολέων Λιγαρίδης; latinized Ligaridus; c.1610 – 1678) was Greek Orthodox scholar and Bishop of the Church of Jerusalem; Orthodox Metropolitan of Gaza.

Born in Chios, he taught literature and theology in the Greek college in Rome established in 1577 by Pope Gregory XIII. He was at first supportive of reconciliation of Orthodox with Catholic theology, but later returned to

Greek Orthodoxy and wrote against both Catholicism and Calvinism.

Leaving Rome, he went to Constantinople, and later (1646) to Târgoviște in Wallachia where he established (or revived) a Greek school.

In 1651 he travelled to Palestine in the company of patriarch Paisius of Jerusalem, taking monastic vows and adopting the monastic name of Paisius. In 1652, he received the titular office of Metropolitan of Gaza from Paisius.

In 1655, he wrote a very long Chrismology [Chrismologion] of Constantinople, the New Rome, the first comprehensive collection of the mass of Greek oracular and prophetic produced in reference to the Fall of Constantinople .Paisios Ligarides is known as a trader of indulgences, which he sold in Russia.

He was appointed as head of the Great Moscow Synod of 1666 by the Tsar.

After 1666, he wrote an account of the Synod's condemnation of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow in the form of a polemical essay in support of the absolute authority of the Russian Tsar in theological matters.

Pope Nicholas V

Pope Nicholas V (Latin: Nicholaus V; 13 November 1397 – 24 March 1455), born Tommaso Parentucelli, was Pope from 6 March 1447 until his death. Pope Eugene made him a cardinal in 1446 after successful trips to Italy and Germany, and when Eugene died the next year Parentucelli was elected in his place. He took his name Nicholas in memory of his obligations to Niccolò Albergati.

The Pontificate of Nicholas saw the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks and the end of the Hundred Years War. He responded by calling a crusade against the Ottomans, which never materialized. By the Concordat of Vienna he secured the recognition of papal rights over bishoprics and benefices. He also brought about the submission of the last of the antipopes, Felix V, and the dissolution of the Synod of Basle. A key figure in the Roman Renaissance, Nicholas sought to make Rome the home of literature and art. He strengthened fortifications, restored aqueducts, and rebuilt many churches. He ordered design plans for what would eventually be the Basilica of St. Peter.

Prosopographisches Lexikon der Palaiologenzeit

The Prosopographisches Lexikon der Palaiologenzeit (German: "Prosopographical Lexicon of the Palaiologan era"), abbreviated PLP, is a German-language reference work on the people of the last two centuries of the Byzantine Empire, from 1261 until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, when the Empire was governed by the Palaiologos dynasty.

It was published between 1976 and 1995 by the Austrian Academy of Sciences, under the direction of Erich Trapp, with the cooperation of Rainer Walther, Hans-Veit Beyer, Katja Sturm-Schnabl, Ewald Kislinger, Sokrates Kaplaneres and Ioannis Leontiadis. It consists of 15 volumes: 12 main volumes, 2 appendix and errata volumes and 1 index volume. In 2001, the PLP was launched online as a subscription-based service and a CD.

The work is a comprehensive source on the biographies and genealogy not only of Byzantine Greeks, but also Bulgarians, Serbs, Albanians, Turks and other peoples who interacted with the Byzantine Empire at the time.

The Dark Angel (Waltari novel)

The Dark Angel (original title Johannes Angelos) is a novel by Finnish author Mika Waltari about a hopeless love affair and the Fall of Constantinople. The Finnish version was originally published in 1952, with an English edition being published in Great Britain in 1953.

Theodore II of Constantinople

Theodore II Eirenikos (Greek: Θεόδωρος Β' Εἰρηνικός), (? – 31 January 1216), also known as Theodore Kopas or Koupas (Κωπάς/Κουπάς), was a high-ranking Byzantine official and chief minister during most of the reign of the Byzantine emperor Alexios III Angelos (r. 1195–1203). After the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade, he fled to the Empire of Nicaea, where he became a monk and served as Patriarch of Constantinople in exile in 1214–1216.

Topkapı—Ulubatlı (Istanbul Metro)

Topkapı—Ulubatlı is an underground station on the M1 line of the Istanbul Metro. It is located in eastern Fatih between the neighborhoods of Karagümrük and Topkapı in Istanbul. An out-of-system transfer to Vatan station on the T4 light-rail line is available as well as connections to İETT city buses. Topkapı—Ulubatlı was opened on 3 September 1989 as part of the first rapid transit line in Istanbul as well as Turkey and is one of the six original stations of the M1 line. The station is right next to the Byzantine-era Theodosian Walls of Constantinople. The station gets part of its name from the 15th century soldier, Ulubatlı Hasan who was one of the first Ottoman soldiers to scale the walls during the Fall of Constantinople.

Zagan Pasha

Zaganos Pasha (Turkish: Zağanos Paşa; fl. 1446 – 1462 or 1469) was an Ottoman military commander, with the titles and ranks of kapudan pasha and the highest military rank, grand vizier, during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II "the Conqueror". Originally a Christian who was conscripted and converted through the devşirme system, he became a Muslim and rose through the ranks of the janissaries. He became one of the prominent military commanders of Mehmed II and a lala – the sultan's advisor, mentor, tutor, councillor, protector, all at once. He removed his rival, the previous Grand Vizier Çandarlı Halil Pasha the Younger, amid the fall of Constantinople. He later served as the governor of Thessaly of Macedonia.

Çandarlı Halil Pasha the Younger

Çandarlı Halil Pasha (died 1 June 1453), known as the Younger, was a highly influential Ottoman grand vizier under the sultans Murad II and, for the first few years of his reign, Mehmed II (from 1439 to 1 June 1453 precisely). He was a member of the Çandarlı family, a highly influential political family in the Ottoman Empire. His grandfather and namesake, Çandarlı Kara Halil Hayreddin Pasha (Çandarlı Halil Pasha the Elder), also earlier served as grand vizier, under Murad I.

Ottoman Empire Major sieges by the Ottoman Empire by century

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