Skip to content
Fall Of Constantinople 1453

Fall Of Constantinople 1453

The Ottoman Empire attempted to besiege Constantinople and end the Byzantine Empire on a half-dozen occasions. But these sieges were interrupted by the Crusades, civil wars, rebellions and the invasion of Timur. However, by the middle of the 15th century, the Ottomans consolidated their territory and finally entered a period of internal stability. The next siege of Constantinople was imminent.

In 1444, Sultan Murat II defeated the European Crusaders at the Battle of Varna. The king of Poland and Hungary, Vladislav, was killed during the battle, and that plunged the most powerful states in Central Europe into a crisis. Still, the Ottomans faced resistance from the Albanian Lord Skanderbeg and the Voivode of Transylvania, John Hunyadi. The latter sent numerous letters to the Pope and the kings of Europe calling them to another crusade, but since no one was willing, his activity was limited to raiding into Ottoman territory.

As Skanderbeg was previously an Ottoman vassal, Murat sent three punitive expeditions against him, but all three armies were ambushed and defeated by the outnumbered Albanian forces. Meanwhile, the Sultan was preoccupied with minor rebellions within the Empire, and a campaign against the Despotate of Morea in 1446. During the campaign in Greece, Murat forced the ruler of Morea and future Byzantine emperor Constantine XI to become his vassal and pay tribute.

Fall Of Constantinople 1453

It was time to attack Skanderbeg and Murat won a minor victory at the Battle of Svetigrad in 1448, but chasing the guerrilla force under Skanderberg was impossible, and after setting a few garrisons along the frontier, Murat returned to Edirne. Meanwhile, Hunyadi was preparing another crusade. By September of 1448, he finally raised a 30,000-strong army and started a new campaign. He was hoping that the despot of Serbia, Đurađ Branković, would join him, but the latter was an Ottoman vassal and refused, so instead Serbian lands were raided.

Murat knew about all this and started moving his army to prevent Skanderbeg and Hunyadi from joining forces. Subsequent events are not clear, but it seems that in October, Hunyadi moved to the field of Kosovo to wait for Skanderbeg. Some claim that the latter was blocked by Đurađ. Others think that the local Ottoman garrisons slowed the Albanian force. But in any case, on the 17th of October, the Sultan and his 50,000 troops reached the site where the First Battle of Kosovo between Lazar and Murad I took place.

Hunyadi’s Light Cavalry: The First Day of the Battle

On the first day of the ensuing battle, Hungarian, Polish, Wallachian and Moldovan forces attacked the Ottomans across the front with their armored troops, but despite early successes, were pushed back. Hunyadi attempted to use his light cavalry to attack the Ottoman flanks during the night, but the Ottoman light horsemen intercepted and repelled the crusaders.

On the second day, Murad ordered his flanks to retreat and that tricked Hunyadi. His troops attacked the Ottoman center head-on and were able to push the Ottoman light infantry back. However, the Janissaries stopped the Crusader advance near the Sultan’s position. At this point, the Ottoman flanks returned to the battle and encircled Hunyadi’s forces. The leader of the crusading army managed to retreat, but more than half of his troops were killed, while the Ottomans lost around 5,000 men.

The Battle of Kosovo sealed the fate of the Balkan people for the next few centuries. Skanderbeg continued his resistance, and a few more campaigns against him did not bring any tangible success. But the focus of the Ottomans was now on Constantinople. When Murad II passed away and his son Mehmed II came to power in 1451, his singular goal was to take the Byzantine capital.

Fall Of Constantinople 1453

Constantinople was not the city it once was. The total number of the population was now between 50,000 and 100,000, and vast swathes of land within the walls were empty and even used for farming. The Byzantine emperor Constantine XI now controlled only a small territory along the coast and had to pay tribute to the Ottoman Sultan. Mehmed signed treaties with Venice, Genoa and Hungary to ensure that they were not going to attack him. A new rebellion by the Karamanids allowed him to cross into Anatolia and consolidate his power in the region. Constantine XI was hoping to end the practice of paying tribute to the Sultan and threatened to support Mehmed’s cousin Orhan in claiming the Ottoman throne. That gave Mehmed a reason to declare their previous treaty null and void.

The Ottoman Fortress Rumelihisar in the Black Sea, Constantinople

The Ottomans started preparing for war. In April of 1452, the Sultan gave orders to build a fortress called Rumelihisarı on the northern end of the Bosphorus to prevent any ships from assisting Constantinople from the Black Sea. The fort was built by the end of August, and Constantine had no other choice but to start bringing his subjects into the city, storing up supplies and sending pleas for help to the European states. Only a contingent of Venetian ships and around 1,000 mercenary soldiers led by Giovanni Giustiniani arrived to help, while most Christian monarchs ignored the pleas. The Ottomans had more than 100,000 warriors, 69 cannons and 126 ships under the overall command of Mehmed II against 7,000 professional Byzantine troops, among them 500 Ottomans of Prince Orhan and a dozen or so cannons and 26 ships. More than 30,000 locals were pressed into service. The Byzantine and Italian ships were better than their counterparts while their guns were outdated. One of the Ottoman guns was particularly big and would play an iconic role in the upcoming siege.

Each section of the wall would be commanded by one of the Italian commanders, with Giustiniani being the leader. While Constantine and his Guard were in reserve in the Blachernae Palace. The defenders repaired the walls and a chain was set across the Golden Horn to prevent the Ottomans from attacking the walls from the sea.

The vanguard of the Ottoman army arrived at the walls of Constantinople on April 1st, 1453 and began making camp the next day. The Sultan reached the city on the 5th of April and started preparing to besiege it. The giant Ottoman cannons were in place on the 6th and started blasting the Theodosian Walls, but with little effect. The cannons were so massive they needed three hours to reload, and the Byzantines were able to repair the damage done to the walls.

On the 7th, the Sultan ordered his light infantry and skirmishers to assault the walls, but the defenders easily repelled the Ottomans. Unfortunately for them, their biggest cannons were lost in the accident and their smaller ones were not capable of doing much damage. The Byzantines attempted a few sallies on the 8th and 9th, but no positive results were achieved. The Ottomans started battering the city walls on the 11th, and this bombardment continued until the very end of the siege.

Fall Of Constantinople 1453

On the 7th, the Sultan ordered his light infantry and skirmishers to assault the walls, but the defenders easily repelled the Ottomans. Unfortunately for them, their biggest cannons were lost in the accident and their smaller ones were not capable of doing much damage. The Byzantines attempted a few sallies on the 8th and 9th, but no positive results were achieved. The Ottomans started battering the city walls on the 11th, and this bombardment continued until the very end of the siege.

Night-Assault by the Ottomans in the Golden Horn: An Invasion by Constantine

On the 17th and the 18th, the Ottomans attempted night assaults, but the defenders held on. On the water, the Ottoman fleet was unable to penetrate the chain and move into the Golden Horn. On the contrary, a few Venetian ships arrived and joined the defenders on the 20th of April. The Sultan needed to employ a new strategy. He famously ordered his ships to be moved across land near the Genoese colony of Pera. The ships were then set to water in the Golden Horn behind the chain on April 28th. Constantine sent his fire ships to quickly get rid of this threat, but the defenders lost this battle. From now on, Constantine had to keep at least part of his troops on the northern wall and that weakened his defenses elsewhere. Some of the Byzantine cannons were moved into the area, but they failed to defend the Allied ships which had to return to the harbours. Their crews joined the defense.

On May 6th, Ottoman cannons managed to destroy the Gates of St. Romanus and during the night, their forces almost breached the defenses in the area. But Giustiniani arrived and fended off the attackers. On the 11th, the Caligarian Gate was damaged and the Ottomans moved in towards the Blachernae Palace but the Emperor was able to push them back. The Ottoman Sultan commanded an all-out assault on the 29th. A massive bombardment was followed by a light infantry assault, but despite numerical advantage, they failed to take the walls from Giustiniani. Mehmed’s artillery destroyed part of the gates near the Gates of St. Romanus and 3,000 Janissaries were sent to attack this position. The Byzantines were able to defend once again, but the Janissaries took one of the towers and planted the Ottoman flag. At this point, Giustiniani was heavily wounded and carried away from the battlements. This was a massive blow to the morale of the defenders and when a few hundred Janissaries entered the city near the Gates of St. Romanus, the Byzantine defenses fell.

Citizens and defenders attempted to board the ships and leave the city. Sources say that the Emperor and his last guards attempted a desperate counterattack near the Gates of St. Romanus, but he was killed. Thus the last Roman Emperor died alongside his empire. The Fall of Constantinople was the event that marked the end of the Medieval Era, sparked the next phase of the Renaissance, started the Ages of Discovery and colonization and also centuries of wars between the European powers and the Ottoman Empire.

As usual, please share our content and bookmark our blog! Stay tuned for more!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.