Siege of Constantinople

The battle of the Siege of Constantinople took place in 1453 when the Ottoman Empire laid siege to the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Although severely weakened by this time and commanding relatively humble military resources, the city resisted valiantly for a while.

But the Ottoman army was soon able to overwhelm the resistance of the city and after a battle of sorts which lasted nearly a month, the city was finally stormed and taken by Ottoman soldiers. The battle marked the decisive end of the Byzantine Empire.

Background

From being the most powerful political entity in Eastern Europe, the Byzantine Empire had been reduced to a small size and limited resources since its capture by the Fourth Crusade in the 13th century. The key stronghold of the remnants of the Empire was the capital city of Constantinople.

Even the capital was poorly guarded and could not furnish any more than 20,000 to 30,000 men and nearly two dozen ships. The Ottomans had long been expressing their designs of conquering Constantinople and when Mehmet II became the Ottoman Sultan in 1451, he began decisive preparations for the siege of the city.

Preparations

Mehmet II blocked the strait from the Black Sea ensuring that no help would come to Constantinople. He brought together an army of nearly 100,000 men and a fleet of more than 100 ships to aid the siege.

Byzantine Emperor Constantine, on the other hand, repaired the Theodosian Walls which formed the key bulwark against an outside attack. He also had a huge chain stretched across the Golden Horn harbor in order to ensure that no naval attack could be launched on the city from that side.

The Fighting

Ottomans launched the first wave of siege efforts by destroying any minor Byzantine strongholds outside the city walls. He then began battering at the Theodosian Walls with his cannons but this had little effect since Byzantines rapidly repaired the damages. After being unable to enter the Golden Horn due to Constantine’s chain, Mehmet II had several ships hauled over land and re-floated on this side of the chain.

On the landslide, Ottomans attempted to bring down the Theodosian Walls by digging tunnels but these attempts failed. On May 28, Mehmet II ordered a full-scale attack. After sustaining significant losses, Ottomans were finally able to overwhelm city defenses and force their way into the city. Emperor Constantine was killed in fighting.

Aftermath

The battle of the siege of Constantinople resulted in an Ottoman victory. The Byzantine Empire, which had stood weakened and diminished for nearly two centuries, finally collapsed. Ottomans effectively took control of the city of Constantinople which was plundered for three days following the Ottoman victory.

Sultan Mehmet II ordered his men to spare many key buildings in the city, including the Hagia Sophia. The fall of Constantinople also meant that Western Europe no longer had a trade route through Asia Minor. This compelled many political entities in Western Europe to explore sea routes, contributing the age of naval exploration.

Constantinople: The Last Great Siege, 1453 by Roger Crowley (2013-04-18) Paperback – 1746

Learn More about the Siege of Constantinople at WIkipedia

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