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Thursday, May 29, 2008

"The Last Day of the World."

On this day in the year of Our Lord 1453, Constantinople fell to the Janissaries of Sultan Mehmet II, and was given over to slaughter, rapine and pillage. Though it is likely that the last was over quickly, given that the city was quite poor and thinly populated by the mid-fifteenth century. After taking the Second Rome, Mehmet's forces came within a hairsbreadth of taking the first in 1481, but withdrew after being delayed by fierce resistance and the subsequent death of the Sultan.

Contrary to the consistent anti-Byzantine twittery espoused in this tome, the 50,000 inhabitants of the city fought bravely during the siege despite having few allies (Genoese and Venetian mercenaries), being outnumbered in fighting men by more than 10 to 1 and being equipped with inferior arms and technology. They might have lasted longer, or even seen the siege fail, had not a sally port in the walls of the city been left unsecured.

The Greek-speaking world still calls it Black Tuesday, or "the Last Day of the World."

[Thanks to Steve Tirone for the link to the article on the Martyrs of Otranto.]

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