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The fall of Constantinople

Although we are accustomed to contemplate the fall of Constantinople as an isolated event, as a drastic turning point that defined the beginning of a new era, it is rather the end of an old story; the abrupt disappearance of a city that praised wisdom, a city that studied and conserved the classic texts of the Greeks; the remains of a civilization full of splendour.

As Steven Rusciman clearly mentions, historians tend to simplify past events.History is not formed by stagnant cases, but by a constant co-relationship of events. When Mehmet II goes through the Byzantium Wall, the seeds have already been planted; what the fall of Constantinople does, is simply precipitate the harvest. The aforementioned author declares in his book:

There are no reasons for affirming that the medieval world is transformed in the Modern World after this date. Long before 1453, the movement called Renaissance had already been started in Italy and the Mediterranean world. And long after 1453 the medieval ideas persisted in the North. Before the year 1453, the first ocean routes that altered the whole global economy were discovered, even though various decades elapsed, after the year 1453, before the exploration of the cited maritime routes and before its effects were felt in Europe.

When the Ottoman warriors discover the Kerkaporta door[1], the armed forces of Mehmet II rush into the citadel. The reports of Edmondo de Amicis mention that when the battle becomes desperate the gigantic Janissary Hassan de Olubad jumps the first into the bastions; and Constantine XI- getting rid of his Emperor badges- fights in the midst the last of his brave soldiers. Soon, the trumpets announce the evident winner. Constantinople has fallen and, from Geneve to Lisbon, the death rattle of the Byzantium Empire is heard in Europe. This defeat signified the close of the maritime routes and it speeded up the discovery of a new continent; therefore, it helped the West to expand and to become a superpower. It also had great influence in the Renaissance, as Eusebi Ayensa Prat declared in an interview [2]. Moreover, it represented a strategic victory for the Ottoman Empire. And, of course, what it was mentioned before, the end of an old story. However, when Constantine asked for help, Europe looked the other way. The Western world was too busy looking itself in the mirror.

Footnotes

  1. As Stefan Zweig states in his book, dos exploradores descubren que la llamada puerta de Kerkaporta se ha quedado abierta; se trata sólo de una pequeña puerta (…), y precisamente porque no tiene ninguna función militar, en medio de la excitación general de la última noche se han olvidado al parecer de su existencia.
  2. Prat, A. P. Personal communication, July 2008.
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