On This Day in 1453: The Fall of Constantinople

·

The 29th of May, 1453, marks the end to one of the longest-lasting Medieval powers and the beginning of centuries of Greek oppression. The Byzantine Empire, an extension of the Roman Empire, fell almost two months into grappling against an Ottoman siege. Constantinople, the centre of the Byzantine Empire, is today known as Turkey’s major city Instanbul. The Greek Herald looks back on how the Ottomans captured Constantinople and the repercussions it had for Greek life and culture. 

The first Christian capital: Constantinople had been the seat of the Byzantine Empire since 330 AD. 

The Byzantine Empire had been the cradle of Roman civilisation since 330 AD but had slowly dwindled in population and size since. It was once a super-power but centuries of constant warfare and conflict over the East-West schism (1054) in the Christian church had torn the empire apart. It continued to shrink through to 1450, where it was just surrounded Constantinople by a few square kilometres. 

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Constantinople was the seat of Imperial Power when Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor, declared it his capital. The city had been targeted several times before, falling only once during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, but eventually became threatened by a massive army led by Sultan Mehmed II, who was hellbent on making the capital his new seat of power. Why? Constantinople was not only a bastion holding against Muslim control of the eastern Mediterranean, but it was also the gateway to eastern Europe. Constantinople marks the crossroads between Europe and Asia Minor and it’s fall would allow Ottoman expansion into the continent and leave it’s mostly secular states vulnerable to attack. Rome, which was the last of five major cities not under Ottoman control, was particularly vulnerable. So much so, Nicholas V put out a crusade to retake Constantinople from the Ottomans. 

The Ottomans had conquered most of the Balkans and Anatolia dating back to the 14th century. Mehmed II intended to fulfil his father’s vision of the Ottoman Empire’s expansion. Mehmed II and the Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Palaeologus, were rallying support ahead of a massive blow-out between the two Empires. 

The Battle 

The battle saw both lead impressive armies, but one slightly larger than the other. 50 to 80 thousand Ottomans descended on 7 to 10 thousand Byzantines; an army a fraction the size of theirs. The Ottomans were also well-equiped with cannons and artillery. The Byzantines, on the other hand, had one of the strongest sets of fortified walls in existence. This, however, was only enough to hold back the Ottomans for fifty-five days until they finally suceeding in their siege. 

The death toll of Byzantine’s was staggering. It is estimated that four thousand Byzantine soldiers died while battling the Ottomans, and a further 30,000 were enslaved in the aftermath. The Ottoman death toll is unknown but is assumed to have been substantial. 

The fall of Constantinople is considered to be one of the most important events in human history. 

To some historians, it marks the end of the Medieval Period, and to others, the long, drawn-out fall of the Roman Empire. 

Advertisement

Share:

KEEP UP TO DATE WITH TGH

By subscribing you accept our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Advertisement

Latest News

Hellenism takes over Brighton-Le-Sands as Greek Fest makes triumphant return

On Sunday, Bay Street in Brighton-Le-Sands was packed with people as the Greek Fest made its triumphant return after 21 long years.

Cypriot communities across Australia and NZ gather for 51st Annual Conference

On Friday, May 24, the Federation of Cyprus Communities and Organizations of Australia and NZ officially inaugurated its 51st Annual Conference following a four-year...

Three generations of Pontians raise funds to preserve their ‘second home’ in Sydney

Three generations of proud Pontians supported Pontoxeniteas NSW's 'Winter Wonderland Fundraising Gala' for its 45-year-old Pontian House.

6th Annual Breakfast for Brain Cancer in Sydney: A morning of hope and progress

The White Pearl Foundation hosted its 6th Annual Breakfast for Brain Cancer in Sydney in support of The Brain Cancer Group.

Melbourne’s Greek community gathers to commemorate the Battle of Crete

Melbourne's Greek community gathered at events over the weekend to commemorate the 83rd anniversary of the Battle of Crete.

You May Also Like

On this day in 1801, Lord Elgin removed and stole the Parthenon Marbles from Greece

In the early morning light on July 31, 1801, a ship-carpenter, five crew members, and twenty Athenian labourers "mounted the walls" of the Parthenon...

Rare Apollo mission moon rock returns to Cyprus after 50 years

A rare moon rock which was brought back by US astronauts has been returned to its original destination, the island of Cyprus.

Evripidis Mouxouris celebrates 101st birthday in style at The Cyprus Club

Evripidis Mouxouris celebrated his 101st birthday in style on Friday night at the kafenio in the basement of The Cyprus Club at Stanmore.