THE FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE
On Tuesday, May 29 1453 the last bastion on Christianity in the East, Constantinople, fell to the Ottoman Turks led by Sultan Mehmet ( also called Mahomet ). This ended the 1100 year reign of the Byzantium Empire and gave the Ottomans a new capital. One of the most famous churches in history, the Church of Holy Wisdom ( also known as the Hagia Sophia ) was converted into a Mosque. The Turks used a revolutionary weapon in the siege - the cannon. Though the cannon had been in Europe for over a century, this was one of the first times they were used effectively.
The Turkish army would not have been able to capture Constantinople had they not had the great cannon with them, had the Byzantinians not been so isolated from the West and had the Turkish soldiers not been so devoted.
The cannon was essential in the capture of Constantinople. The walls of the city were massive, and had repulsed invaders since 330 A.D. It would have taken the Turks a lot longer to breech the walls if they did not have the great cannon, and aid from the West would have arrived. The cannon had a long range, and it was used to block access to Constantinople by sea. The very presence of the cannon was very demoralizing for the defenders of the city, "Once more the bells of the churches rang to sound the alarm, but the noise was drowned out by the roar from the great cannon," " the reverberations could be heard for a hundred stadia after it fired."Imagine standing on a wall having cannon balls weighing 12 hundredweight booming towards you.
The isolation from the West, the preoccupation of the Western powers with other issues and the clash of the Eastern and Western variations of Christianity helped lead to the fall of Constantinople. The people of Byzantine Empire had some disdain for Western Christianity, and did not want to form a union of churches with the West. The pope (Pius II) was not anxious to send reinforcements until he felt that a true union of the churches had been achieved. Most of the other European powers had their own problems to deal with, and while they wanted to help the citizens of Constantinople they were either to far away (Russia, which became a major Christian center after the fall of Constantinople) or had their own problems to deal with.(there was a revolt in Rome in January 1453)
The absolute devotion of the Turkish soldiers to their Sultan and to their God helped Mehmet capture the city. The troops of the sultan were fiercely loyal, especially the fearsome Janissaries,( Christian youths taken from captured villages, and trained for seven years. They were fanatical Muslims and fiercely loyal to the Sultan.) The soldiers believed that God would have a special place in Paradise for those who died attacking the city. "They shall conquer Qostantiniya." "Glory be to the Prince and to the army that achieve it."The sultan offered a fantastic prize to the first man inside the city, this, added to the belief that the soldiers had, that those to fall in battle would rise to Paradise, and the men they killed would be their servants there, had each man whipped into a fanatical fervor, willing to rush the walls, ignoring the Christian missiles. This allowed the Turks to capture the city very quickly, before the West would decided to send aid.
As you can see, the three main factors that led the Turks to capture Constantinople were, the devotion of their troops, the isolation of the City ( both physically and spiritually ) and their innovative use of the cannon, a new weapon. This shows us that new weapons have a great power to change the world ( Airplanes, Tanks and Nuclear Missiles all have ) and that fanaticism is a grave danger that society as a whole must try to stop. If men are willing to die to establish fundamentalist states and theocracies how are we to stop them?