I have decided to revise and update the series I wrote last year about the siege. It had some good feedback and I think that I can add something more this time around.
In the years before 1453 the Turks had gradually eroded the last major landholdings of the Empire. On the eve of the final battle for survival, Byzantium was reduced to a few isolated territories surrounded by the fast growing Ottoman Empire: the Peloponnese governed from Mistra; Trebizond on the Black Sea but completely isolated from the rest of the Empire; and Constantinople itself, still under Byzantine control, but surrounded by Ottoman territory. Despite making treaties with the Emperor, it was clear that by 1453 that Mehmet’s preparations to take the city were complete; it had become an anomaly and irritant, which the Sultan had decided to remove.
The long story of the Roman-Byzantine Empire was almost over.
On the 5th of April 1453, the Ottoman Turkish Sultan, Mehmet II “The Conqueror” (1451-1481) arrived to join his army establishing its siege of Constantinople. The people of the city had experienced many long sieges over the preceding centuries. They had reason to hope; the thousand-year old walls of Theodosius remained strong, and their faith in the Virgin Mary was unshakeable. How many times had She saved the city before? Why would She not save them again?
The Byzantine Emperor was appropriately enough named Constantine, the eleventh to bear that name; but he would be the last. He had prepared the city for the expected attack, and had organised large stores of arms, cleared the ditches, and repaired the walls. The citizens had worked to support their Emperor, stopping only for the Easter celebrations in Hagia Sophia (1 April). He had called upon allies for help but none was forthcoming, save seven hundred Genoese led by Giovanni Giustiniani Longo.
Night fell. The dawn would bring the roar of Mehmet’s cannon.