Constantinople Finally Falls To The Ottoman Empire

Today on May 29, 1453, after months of siege and constant bombardment, the Ottoman army brings about the Fall of Constantinople.

The Fall of Constantinople marked a watershed moment in history. It definitively marked the end of the Byzantine Empire, formerly known as the Eastern Roman Empire. The Ottomans tried besieging Constantinople six times before its eventual fall. Previous attempts were called off due to internal civil wars, the crusades, and the invasions of Timur. However, the empire had stabilized by the mid-15 century and was ready to resume its ambitions. In 1448, the Ottomans delivered a crushing defeat to the Hungarian army at the Battle of Kosovo. Their decisive victory ultimately sealed the fate of Balkans for centuries to come. The road was now clear for the Ottomans to march on Constantinople without any major resistance in the region.

In 1451, Mehmed the Conqueror became the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire following the death of his father, Muad II. The 19-year-old sultan’s sole purpose was to bring about the fall of Constantinople. The once-mighty Byzantine capital now stood as a shadow of its former self. Emperor Constantine XI controlled a small territory with a greatly reduced population. In preparation, Mehmed signed treaties with Venice, Genoa, and Hungary to ensure they would not attack him. In 1452, the Ottomans constructed a fortress called Rumelihisari on the north bank of the Bosphorus; preventing support from any ships in the Black Sea. Constantine sent emissaries to Europe pleading for help but was largely ignored. The Venetians sent a few ships and mercenaries under the command Giustinianvi.

On April 1, 1453, Mehmed’s vanguard arrived at the gates of Constantinople. With over 100,000 soldiers, 69 cannons and 126 ships, he greatly outnumbered the Byzantines. Meanwhile, Constantine could only muster 7,500 infantry, 15 cannons, and 26 ships to defend the city. He eventually pressed more than 30,000 men into service. The massive Ottoman cannons began hammering the thick Theodosian Walls but made little impact. Mehmed ordered several assaults that were ultimately repulsed. Next, the Ottoman navy famously moved their warships on land (around the fortifications of Pera) to reach the Golden Horn. Mehmed now hammered the walls from both land and sea. On May 29, the St Romanus Gate was destroyed and the city quickly fell. Constantine and his guards made one final stand before being killed. The Fall of Constantinople signaled the beginning of the renaissance period.

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