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160

CHARACTER OF MAHOMET THE SECOND.

solicit the succour of the western powers; from the Morea, you shall sail to Cyprus on a particular commission; and from thence proceed to Georgia to receive and conduct the future empress."

709. How were the public and private designs of the emperor interrupted?

By the Turkish war, which involved the empire in ruin.

710. What was the character of Mahomet the Second?

Mahomet, the son of the second Amurath, in his youth was bigoted, but an aspiring genius and the experience of age, freed him from narrow sentiments; and though a devout disciple of the Koran, he disdained to acknowledge the prophet his superior. Mahomet spoke fluently in Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Chaldean or Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.

711. When did Mahomet make preparations for besieging Constantinople?

A.D. 1452.

712. Describe the great cannon of Mahomet?

He employed a Danish or Hungarian engineer, and his artillery surpassed any before used. A foundry was established at Adrianople; and in three months a piece of brass ordnance was produced of stupendous and almost incredible magnitude; a measure of twelve palms is assigned to the bore; and the stone bullet weighed about six hundred pounds.

713. Where was the first experiment tried?

Before the new palace: the explosion was felt or heard in a circuit of a hundred furlongs: the ball, by the force of gunpowder, was driven above a mile; and

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on the spot where it fell, it buried itself above a fathom deep in the ground.

714. How was this destructive engine conveyed from place to place?

On a frame constructed of thirty waggons, drawn by a team of sixty oxen: two hundred were stationed on either side, to poise and support the rolling weight: two hundred and fifty workmen marched before to smooth the way and repair the bridges: the journey of one hundred and fifty miles, occupied nearly two months.

715. What was the force of the Turks?

Philelphus, who upbraids the pusillanimity of the nations who had yielded to a handful of barbarians, numbered only sixty thousand horse, and twenty thousand foot: this was probably the regular establishment of the Capiculi or Palatine troops, who marched with the prince, and were paid from the royal treasury; but the bashaws in their respective governments maintained or levied a provincial militia, styled Seratculi: many lands were held by a military tenure; many volunteers were attracted by the hope of spoil; and the sound of the holy trumpet invited a swarm of hungry and fearless fanatics.

716. What is the account of other historians?

Ducas, Chalcondyles, and Leonard of Chios magnify the mass of the Turkish powers to three or four hundred thousand men ; but Phranza was a less remote and more accurate judge, and his precise definition is two hundred and fifty-eight thousand.

717. What was the navy of the besiegers?

It only consisted of three hundred and twenty sail;

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FORCE OF THE GREEKS.

and of these, not more than eighteen could be rated as galleys of war, the rest being store-ships and transports.

718. Name the force of the Greeks.

In her last decay, Constantinople was still peopled with more than a hundred thousand inhabitants; but these numbers are found in the accounts, not of war, but of captivity; mechanics, priests, and women, and of men devoid of that spirit which even women have often exerted for the common safety.

719. To whom were the lists of those able and willing to bear arms, entrusted?

To Phranza, who, after a diligent calculation, informed his master, with grief and surprise, that the national defence was reduced to four thousand nine hundred and seventy Romans.

720. What succour arrived from the Christian princes?

Their generosity was slow and tardy. Early in April, five ships arrived, one bearing the imperial flag, the remaining four from the Genoese; but some accession had been previously derived from a body of two thousand strangers, under the command of John Justiniani, a noble Genoese.

721. Why did Mahomet transport his navy overland?

The reduction of the city appeared hopeless, unless a double attack could be made from the harbour, as well as from the land.

722. How was this bold and marvellous plan executed?

A level way was covered with a broad platform of

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strong and solid planks; and to render them slippery and smooth, they were anointed with the fat of sheep and oxen. Fourscore light galleys and brigantines, of fifty and thirty oars, were disembarked on the Bosphorus shore, arranged successively on rollers, and drawn forwards by the power of men and pulleys. Two guides and pilots were stationed at the helm and prow of each vessel, the sails were unfurled to the wind, and the labour was cheered by song and acclamation.

723. What distance did the Turkish fleet travel by land?

Ten miles of ground, which, until myriads were employed on its surface, was uneven and covered with thickets. In one night, it painfully climbed the hill, steered over the plain, and was launched from the declivity into the shallow waters of the harbour, far above the molestation of the deeper vessels of the Greeks.

724. What was the state of the city at this juncture?

After a siege of forty days, the fate of Constantinople could no longer be averted. The diminutive garrison was exhausted by a double attack. The fortifications, which had stood for ages against hostile violence, were dismantled on all sides by the Ottoman cannon; many breaches were opened; and near the gate of St. Romanus four towers had been levelled with the ground.

725. When did Mahomet issue his final orders?

On the twenty-seventh of May, in the presence of the military chiefs, heralds were dispersed through the camp to proclaim the duty, and the motives of the enterprise; and the menaces of the sultan were expressed in the Oriental style, that "the fugitives and

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DEATH OF CONSTANTINE.

deserters, had they the wings of a bird, should not escape from his inexorable justice."

726. How did Constantine fall?

The emperor accomplished all the duties of a general and a soldier, was long seen, and finally lost. The nobles, who fought round his person, sustained, till their last breath, the honourable names of Palæologus and Cantacuzene. His mournful exclamation was heard, "Cannot there be found a Christian to cut off my head?" And his last fear was that of falling alive into the hands of the infidels. The prudent despair of Constantine cast away the purple: amidst the tumult, he fell by an unknown hand, and his body was buried under a mountain of slain.

727. How many days did the siege last?

Fifty-three days: it defied the power of Chosroes, the chagan, and the caliphs; was irretrievably subdued by the arms of Mahomet the Second. Her empire, only, had been subverted by the Latins; her religion was trampled in the dust by her Moslem conquerors.

728. Was St. Sophia despoiled?

Yes, of the oblations of ages; and the gold and silver, the pearls and jewels, the vases and sacerdotal ornaments, were pillaged, and the images and paintings were destroyed. At the principal door of St. Sophia, Mahomet alighted from his horse, and entered the dome; and such was his jealous regard for that monument of his glory, that on observing a zealous Mussulman in the act of breaking the marble pavement, he admonished him with his cimeter, that, if the spoil and captives were granted to the soldiers, the public and private buildings had been reserved for the prince.

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