The Fall of Constantinople

Five hundred years ago Constantinople—long a bastion of the Western world—fell to the armies of the Grand Turk. G.R. Potter gives his account of how the last remnants of the Byzantine Empire finally disappeared.

The plight of Constantinople in 1453 bore a close resemblance to that of West Berlin in 1953. The Ottoman Turks, eastern representatives of a religion, a culture and a way of life utterly different from that of the West - had penetrated far into Europe, reaching the Danube and bringing the Balkans under their sway. Communications between the West and the capital of the dismembered Byzantine empire were fair from easy, a narrow sea-passage being with difficulty kept open, while in the city itself Greeks, Venetians and Genoese were almost as much rivals as allies. Yet this outpost of the West was of enormous importance: so long as it remained Christian there was always a hope that the oriental menace could be fought back and, in any case, the government controlling the bridgehead between Europe and Asia, commanding the entry and exit of the Black Sea, must be in a position of considerable power. The city was great. The New Rome, to which Constantine had transferred the capital of the Empire, had been celebrated through the ages for its beauty, wealth and strength.

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