omnibus omnia

When the Crescent conquered Byzantium (a fragment)

In Catholicism, Christianity, Europe, Faith, History, Islam, Medieval, Orthodoxy, Politics, Religion, Society, War on October 18, 2007 at 14:45

The fall of Constantinople was a political catastrophe, but no one now weeps for the day the Crescent flew over the Hagia Sophia 


…With the fall of Acre, the only Western Christian strongholds left in the Levant were Cyprus and Rhodes, too weak to undertake major land operations; and so the Ottoman Empire, the proud heir of the Umayyads and the Abbasids, was free at last to focus its energies on conquering Africa and the Eastern Roman Empire.  Ottoman forces then wept through the Aegean into the Balkan Peninsula, destroying the last colonies of Byzantine power.


Constantinople was at last surrounded, and, having lost its people and lands, the Eastern Roman Empire was powerless to reverse the Islamic tide.  Once more, it begged the West for aid; envoys were sent to the Pope; and Western Christendom’s answer was a multinational Crusade to rescue the Empire.  It went overland from Germany, aiming to relieve Constantinople by defeating the Ottoman army that lay athwart its path.  However, the composite force of French, German, and other Western forces had no effective unified command, and when they met the Ottomans at Nika, the militarily inept French cavalry, intent on winning the glory, scuttled the battle plan with a premature charge (as brilliantly described by Barbara Tuchman).  The battle turned into a rout, and thus, with the Western defeat, the last hope of Byzantium was lost.


Nothing more could stop the Ottoman Empire.  Gibbon, Carlton Hayes, and a host of other historians have told and retold the sad story of what followed, but it can be summed up in this, that one by one, Byzantine cities and towns were put to the sword, till all that remained of the Eastern Roman Empire, which under Justinian, had stretched from Rome to Syria, was a portion of the Peloponnesian peninsula in southern Greece, the land surrounding Constantinople, and the coast of Pontus along of the Black Sea, centered on the city of Trebizond.  It was militarily helpless; all that kept it alive for another century after Nika was the decision of the Ottomans to deal first with the Christian kingdoms in the Balkans, and with the independent Islamic principalities. 


Within a hundred years, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania among Christian states, and Tripoli, Algiers, and Tunis among the Islamic, bowed before the Sultan.  Then, at last, in 1453, after the Peloponnesus had been taken, came Constantinople’s turn.  The last Eastern Roman army, strengthened by a force of Western knights, fought valiantly but in vain to withstand the Ottoman siege.  Finally, a part of the wall collapsed, and Turkish soldiers swept through the outnumbered defenders into Constantinople.  It was the end, though Trebizond held out for another four years. 


Thus was the great center of Rome’s ancient power finally lost, and with it the Empire that  had long guarded the eastern marches of Christian Europe against the advance of Islamic power.  The heartland of Eastern Christianity moved to Russia, which struggled for the next five centuries to recover Byzantium; and the peoples of Eastern Europe–Slav, Magyar, Romanian, and German–, aided by the Popes and by Hapsburg Spain, became the bulwark of the Cross, paying with blood for the ill-used freedom of the West.  The fall of Constantinople was a political catastrophe, but it masqueraded as a political non-event, so feeble had the Empire become in its dotage; and no one now weeps for the day  the Crescent flew over the Hagia Sophia…

  1. […] When the Crescent conquered Byzantium (a fragment) When the Crescent conquered Byzantium (a fragment) The fall of Constantinople was a political catastrophe, but no one now weeps for the day the Crescent flew over the Hagia Sophia… Posted in Hagia-Sophia | Trackback | | Top Of Page […]

  2. The Eastern Christianity survived in Greece, Bulgaria, the Romanian provinces and Hungary too . Some of the Romanian princes fought bravely the Turks after the fall of Constantinople. The Romanian provinces never converted to Islam even when they did pay tribute to the sultans. The Eastern-Europe was in fact a buffer between the West and the Turks.

  3. […] true the Romanian provinces (Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania) had to bow before the Sultan as the article linked by Stephen affirms but this did not mean, loosing identity, blind obedience or conversion to Islam: […]

  4. The heartland of Eastern Christendom Russia? They raped their mother Kyiv (Kiev) twice, stole its legacy and metropolitan to establish a patriarchate for the tsar’s ambitions. How can an arm of the KGB claim to be a righteous? See

    “The church of the catacombs gave up mountains of corpses and rivers of blood” (Patriarch Josyf Cardinal Slipyj) for the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church of the orthodox faith which is still struggling. See

  5. mykhayl, thanks for the note. I wrote of Russia not in the sense that it formally became the mother-church of Eastern Christianity, but that it became, de facto, the main political representative of the Greco-Slavic church (with more Eastern Christians, I may note, than any other country), as Lithuania-Poland was of the Latin-Slavic. That Muscovy rose to power by overcoming Kiev, Novgorod, etc. is conceded.

  6. What did Churchill say, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside of an enigma… or to that effect. So why assume the Muscovite analytical argument? Without Slavophil political pressure will it thrive? When Orthodoxy in Ukrainian is free will Kyiv or Moscow have the numbers? Are we talking numbers of true believers, card carrying party members or the amount of real-estate? Some see Russian Orthodoxy in Eurasia like the Ku Klux Klan was in the US.

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