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1453 Fall of Constantinople ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Outcome: The Fall of Constantinople and the end of Byzantium 29 May 1453
War  &  Enemy: Enemy:
Ottoman Turks
Byzantine-Ottoman Wars
Battle Type:
City Capture
The Battlefield Constantinople Location:
Modern Country:
  The Byzantines(emperor:  Constantine XI Palaiologos) The Enemies
Commander: Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos Sultan Mehmet II
Forces: 7,000 (incl. 2000 westerners)+26 ships at least 80,000 +126 ships
Losses: 4,000 dead Unknown but heavy
Background story: In 1448 and 1451, there was a change in the Byzantine and Ottoman leaderships, respectively. Murad II died and was succeeded by Mehmet II the Conqueror whilst Constantine XI Palaiologos succeeded John VIII.
Constantine and Mehmet did not get along well; the former's successful conquests of Crusader territory in the Peloponnese alarmed the latter, who had since subjugated as vassals the crusaders in the region, and Mehmet had around 40,000 soldiers sent to nullify these gains. Constantine XI threatened to rebel against Mehmet unless certain conditions were met by the Sultan regarding the status quo.
Mehmet responded by building fortifications in the Bosporus and thus cutting off Constantinople from outside naval assistance. The Ottomans already controlled the area around Constantinople and began their assault on 6 April 1453. Despite a union of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the Byzantines received no official aid from Western Europe, with the exception of a few soldiers from Venice and Genoa.
2,000 western mercenaries, 700 of which were Genoese, under Giovanni Giustiniani Longo, arrived to assist the 5,000 militia soldiers raised from a city whose population had been seriously eroded by heavy taxation, plague and civil conflict.
The Battle:
The Turkish army encamped outside the city on the Monday after Easter, 2 April 1453. The Turks had employed a mysterious Hungarian named Urban who constructed a big canon (the "Basilica"), 8.2 long, and able to hurl a 270 kg stone ball over a mile. The weapon was dragged by 60 oxen. Urban also produced other cannons instrumental for the Turkish siege forces.
The big canon caused terror but it was not so successful, as it took 3 hours to reload and the Greeks were able to repair the damaged walls in the meantime.
The Ottoman fleet could not enter the Golden Horn due to the chain the Byzantines had laid 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 4 western ships managed to slip, in an event which boosted the morale of the defenders and caused embarrassment to the Sultan who ordered the construction of a road of greased logs across Galata and rolled his ships across on 22 April, thus bypassing the chain. From then on, the defenders were forced to disperse part of their forces to the Golden Horn walls, weakening the defense in other sections of the walls.
The Turks had made several frontal assaults on the land wall, but were always repelled with heavy losses, including a persistent effort to undermine the walls with tunnels.
The final assault began shortly after midnight on 29 May
The Christian troops of the Ottomans attacked first, followed by successive waves of irregulars 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. The Anatolians managed to breach this section of walls and entered the city but were just as quickly pushed back. Finally, the last wave, consisting of elite Janissaries, attacked. The Genoese Giovanni Giustiniani, was grievously wounded during the attack, and his departure caused panic.
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, the defense collapsed. It is said that Constantine, throwing aside his purple regalia, led the final charge against the incoming Ottomans, dying in the ensuing battle in the streets with his soldiers.
The city was captured. Slaughter and plundering followed. On the third day, Mehmet II ordered all looting to stop and sent his troops back outside the city wall.
Aftermath: The capture of Constantinople marked the end of the glorious Byzantine Empire, which lasted for more than 1,000 years. It was also a massive blow to Christendom. Constantinople became the Ottoman Empire's new capital.