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made between the Christians and Mahometans.
Amurath and Ladislaus took an oath to each other,
the one on the Koran, and the other on the Gospels,
by which the Turk on his side promised to push
his conquests no farther, and even restored part of
what he had taken. By this treaty the limits of the
Ottoman possessions were settled as well as those
of the Hungarians and Venetians.

But Cardinal Julian Cesarini, the pope's legate
in Germany, a man famous for his persecutions of
the Hussites, for having been president of the Coun-
cil of Basel at its first sitting, and for the crusade
which he preached against the Turks, proved on this
occasion, by his blind zeal, the cause of the greatest
disgrace and misfortunes to the Christians.

The treaty of peace was scarcely ratified when
this cardinal endeavored to break it. He flattered
himself with being able to engage the Venetians
and Genoese to assemble a formidable fleet; and
that the Greeks, roused from their long lethargy,
would make one last effort for the preservation of
their liberties. The opportunity was certainly favor-
able; as it was at this very time that Amurath,
relying on the faith of this treaty, had devoted
himself to retirement, and had resigned the govern-
ment to his son Mahomet, a young and inexperi-
enced prince.

Some pretext, however, was wanting for the vio-
lation of this treaty on the side of the Christians.

Turks and Greeks. 105

Amurath had observed all the conditions of the
peace with an exactness which left those who
infringed it without an excuse. The legate there-
fore had no other resource left but to persuade
Ladislaus, the Hungarians, and Polish chiefs that
it was lawful to violate their oath. For this purpose
he harangued and wrote, and assured them that the
peace which they had sworn upon the Gospels was
of no effect, as having been done contrary to the
inclination of the pope. In fact, Eugenius IV., the
then pope, wrote to Ladislaus, commanding him in
express terms, " To break a peace which could not
lawfully be made without the knowledge of the
holy see." We have already seen that they had
introduced the maxim that no faith was to be kept
with heretics. It was, therefore, concluded that no
faith was to be kept with Mahometans.

In just the same manner did ancient Rome break
her truce with Carthage in the last Punic war. But
there was a considerable difference between the two
events. The infidelity of the Roman senate was
the oppressive act of a conqueror; that of the
Christians the effort of an oppressed people to
throw off the yoke of usurpers. In fine, Julian
prevailed ; and all the chiefs suffered themselves
to be carried away by the torrent, especially John
Corvinus Huniades, the famous Hungarian gen-
eral, who so frequently engaged Amurath and
Mahomet II.

Ladislaus, seduced by false hopes, and a manner

io6 Ancient and Modern History.

of thinking which success alone can justify, invaded
the sultan's territories. The janissaries upon this
went in a body to beseech Amurath to quit his
retirement, and put himself at their head, to which
he consented; and the two armies met near the
Pontus Euxinus, in that country now known by
the name of Bulgaria, but which was then called
Mcesia. The battle was fought near the city of
Varna, in 1444. Amurath wore in his bosom the
treaty of peace which he had concluded with the
Christians, and which they had so lately infringed ;
and holding it up in the midst of the crowd, at a
time that he found his troops began to give way, he
called aloud to God, beseeching Him to punish
the perjured Christians, and revenge the insult
offered to the laws of nations. This is what has
given rise to the fabulous report, that the peace
was sworn on the eucharist, and the host deposited
in the hands of Amurath, and that it was to this
host that he addressed himself in the day of battle.
Perjury for this time met with the punishment it
deserved. The Christians were defeated after an
obstinate resistance. King Ladislaus, after receiving
a number of wounds, had his head struck off by a
janissary, who carried it in triumph through the
ranks of the Turkish army; at this fatal sight the
rout of the Christians became general.

Amurath, after his victory, caused the body of
Ladislaus to be buried in the field of battle, with
all military honors. It is even said that he caused

Scanderbeg. 107

a pillar to be erected on his grave ; v;ith an inscrip-
tion, which was so far from insulting his memory,
that it extolled his courage, and lamented his mis-

Some writers say that Cardinal Julian, who was
present at this battle, endeavoring to cross a river
in his flight, was drowned by the weight of gold
which he carried about him. Others again say
that he was slain by the Hungarians. It is certain
that he perished on that day.

But what is most remarkable is, that Amurath,
after having gained this signal victory, betook him-
self again to solitude ; and a second time abdicated
the crown, which he was afterward obliged to
resume, to go forth again to battle, and to con-

At length he died in Adrianopolis, in 1451, leaving
the empire to his son, Mahomet II., who strove
rather to imitate his father's courage than his philos-



ANOTHER warrior of no less fame, whom I know
not whether to call an Osmanist or Christian, checks
the progress of Amurath's arms, and for a long
time becomes a rampart for the Christians against
the victories of Mahomet II. The person I mean

io8 Ancient and Modern History.

is Scanderbeg, who was born in Albania, a province
of Epirus, a country illustrious in the times we
call heroic, and in those truly heroic ages of the
Romans. His true name was John Castriot. He
was the son of a despot or petty king of that country,
that is to say, a vassal prince ; for this is the mean-
ing of the word " despot ; " and it is surprising that
the term " despotic " should have been applied to
great sovereigns who had rendered themselves abso-

After the death of old Castriot, and several years
before the battle of Varna already mentioned, Sul-
tan Amurath made himself master of Albania, while
this John Castriot, who was the only survivor of
four brothers, was yet a child. Amurath had him
carefully brought up. The Turkish annals do not
make the least mention of the three other princes
having been put to death by Amurath; nor does
it at all appear that such barbarity could agree with
the character of a sultan who had twice resigned his
crown; and it is as little probable that Amurath
should have shown such tenderness and confidence
for a person from whom he could expect no return
but an implacable hatred. He loaded him with
favors, and would always have him fight by his side.
The young Castriot distinguished himself so greatly
in several engagements, that the sultan and the
janissaries gave him the name of Scanderbeg, which
signifies Lord Alexander.

At length, friendship getting the better of policy,

Scanderbeg. 109

Amurath entrusted him with the command of a
small army against the despot of Servia, who had
sided with the Christians and declared war against
the sultan, his son-in-law. Scanderbeg, who was
at that time barely twenty years of age, conceived
the bold design of throwing off subjection, and
reigning for himself.

He knew that the secretary, who had the custody
of the sultan's signet, was to pass near his camp.
He caused him to be seized, loaded with chains, and
compelled him to write, and put the sultan's seal to
an order, enjoining the governor of Croia, the capital
of Epirus, to deliver the town and citadel to Scander-

After having despatched this order, he assassinated
the secretary and all those of his train. He then, in
1443, marched with all diligence to Croia, which the
governor, without hesitation, delivered up to him.
The same night he caused a body of Albanians, with
whom he had held a private correspondence, to
advance, who, entering the city, put the governor
and his garrison to the sword, and afterward assisted
Scanderberg in reducing all Albania. The Alban-
ians are reckoned the best soldiers of those countries ;
and Scanderbeg knew so well how to manage them,
and to take advantage of the situation of that craggy
and mountainous country, that, with a handful of
troops, he effectually opposed the numerous armies
of the Turks.

The Mussulmans look upon him as a perfidious

no Ancient and Modern History.

wretch : but, after all, he only deceived his enemies.
He recovered the possession of his father's crown,
and deserved to wear it for his heroic courage.



HAD the Greek emperors acted like Scanderbeg, the
empire of the East might still have been preserved.
But the same spirit of cruelty, weakness, discord, and
superstition which had shaken it for such a length
of time, now hastened its final overthrow.

There were no less than three empires of the East,
so called, when in reality there was but one. The
city of Constantinople, which was in the hands of
the Greeks ; Adrianople, the asylum of the Lascaris
family, till taken by Amurath I., in 1362, and which
has ever since belonged to the sultans ; and a barbar-
ous province of the ancient Colchis, called Trebi-
zond, which served for a retreat to the Comneni, was
the third reputed empire.

This dismembering of the empire was, as we have
already observed, the only considerable effect pro-
duced by the Crusades. Ravaged as it had been by
the Franks, and retaken again by its former masters,
only to undergo new desolation, it is surprising that
it subsisted so long. There were two parties in
Constantinople, bitter enemies to each other on the
score of religion, as was nearly the case in Jerusa-
lem, when that city was besieged by Vespasian and

The Taking of Constantinople. 1 1 1

Titus. One of these factions was for the emperor,
who, through the vain hope of aid from the Latins,
had consented to subject the Greek Church to that
of Rome. The other was composed of the priests
and the people, who, having fresh in their memories
the invasion of the Crusaders, utterly abhorred the
thoughts of a union of the two churches. While
these two factions were taken up with their mutual
bickerings and controversial disputes, the Turks
appeared at their gates.

John VII., surnamed Palaeologus, reigned in Con-
stantinople twenty-seven years; and at his death,
which happened in 1449, he left the empire in so
weak a condition that one of his sons, called Con-
stantine, was obliged to receive the confirmation of
the imperial dignity from the Turkish sultan, Amu-
rath II., as from his lord paramount. A brother of
this Constantine had Lacedaemonia, another Corinth,
and a third, all that part of Peloponnesus which did
not belong to the Venetians.

Such was the situation of the Greeks, when Maho-
met Bouyouck, or the Great, succeeded Sultan
Amurath, his father, for the second time. The
monkish writers have described this prince as a
senseless barbarian, who at one time cut off the
head of his supposed mistress, Irene, to appease a
sedition of the janissaries ; and at another, ordered
fourteen of his pages to have their bellies ripped
open, in order to discover which of them had eaten
a melon that was missing. We still find some of

112 Ancient and Modern History.

these absurd stories in our biographical dictionaries,
which have for a long time been little better than
alphabetical registers of falsehoods.

All the Turkish annals inform us that Mahomet
was one of the best educated princes of his time.
What we have already observed concerning his
father, Amurath, sufficiently proves that he was not
likely to neglect the education of a son who was to
succeed him in the kingdom. Nor has it ever been
denied that Mahomet behaved with all filial respect
and duty, and without hearkening to the dictates of
ambition, in cheerfully yielding the throne to his
father when he wished to resume it. He twice
returned to the degree of subject from that of king,
without showing the least signs of discontent. This
is an action unparalleled in history; and so much
the more extraordinary, as Mahomet to an ambitious
spirit added a fiery and impetuous disposition.

He spoke the Greek, Arabian, and Persian lan-
guages, understood Latin and designing, and knew
as much of geography and mathematics as could be
known in those times. He was fond of painting;
and every lover of the liberal arts knows that he sent
for the famous Gentili Bellino from Venice, and
rewarded him, as Alexander did Apelles, not only
with a pecuniary gratification, but with the indul-
gence of his private friendship; he presented him
with a golden crown and chain, and three thousand
gold ducats ; and sent him home loaded with honors.
And here I cannot help classing among the rank

The Taking of Constantinople. 113

of improbable tales, that of the slave whose head
Mahomet is said to have cut off, to show Bellino the
action of the skin and muscles in a neck separated
from the trunk. These cruelties, though exercised
by us upon animals, to answer certain purposes, are
never practised by mankind on one another, unless
in the heat of fury and revenge, or agreeable to
the law of arms. Mahomet II. was frequently
guilty of cruel and savage actions, like all other
conquerors who have ravaged the earth; but why
impute cruelties of so improbable a nature to him ;
or wherefore take delight in multiplying horrid
relations ?

He was twenty-two years of age when he ascended
the throne of the sultans, and immediately formed
the design of placing himself on that of Constanti-
nople, while this wretched city was running into
religious factions about using leavened or unleav-
ened bread, or praying in Latin or in Greek.

In 1453, he began by blocking up the city on the
side of Europe and Asia. At length, in the begin-
ning of April, he covered the whole adjacent country
with his troops, which the exaggerated relations of
the writers of those times have made to amount to
three hundred thousand, and entered the straits of
Propontis with three hundred galleys and two hun-
dred other smaller vessels.

One of the most extraordinary and best attested
facts, is the use which Mahomet made of a part of

these vessels. As he could not enter the harbor
Vol. 268

114 Ancient and Modern History.

of Constantinople, by reason of the great chains
and booms which the enemy had laid across it
and which from their advantageous situation,
they were able to defend against all attempts, he,
in one night's time, covered a space of nearly two
leagues, on the shore, with deal planks besmeared
with grease and tallow, and made in the form of a
ship's cradle, and, with the help of engines and a
prodigious number of men, he drew up eighty gal-
leys and seventy of the smaller vessels, out of the
water upon these planks, whence he launched them
all into the harbor. And this amazing work was
completed in the space of one night, so that the next
morning the besieged were surprised with the sight
of a large fleet of ships riding in the midst of their
port. The same day he caused a bridge of boats to
be built across the harbor in their sight, on which
he raised a battery of cannon.

Assuredly Constantinople must have been very
deficient in artillery, or the artillery must have been
very badly served. Else what prevented the
besieged from beating this bridge of boats to pieces
with their cannon? Rather doubtful is also what
is said of Mahomet's making use of cannon that
carried balls of two hundred pounds weight. The
conquered always exaggerate matters. It is plain
that one of these balls would require near a hundred-
weight of powder to throw it to any distance. Now
such a quantity of powder could never be fired all
at once, and the ball would be discharged from the

The Taking of Constantinople. 115

cannon before the fifteenth part of the powder could
take fire, consequently it would have very little
effect. Perhaps the Turks might, through ignor-
ance, have made use of such cannon, and through
a like ignorance, the Greeks might be terrified at the
appearance of them.

In the beginning of May, the Turks began to
make several assaults on that city, which thought
itself the capital of the world. Constantinople was
then very weakly fortified, and not better defended.
The emperor, in conjunction with a cardinal of
Rome, named Isidore, performed his devotions ac-
cording to the Romish ritual, which at once exasper-
ated and discouraged his Greek subjects, who would
not so much as enter the churches which he fre-
quented, declaring, " They had rather see a Turkish
turban in their churches, than a cardinal's hat."

In former times almost all the princes of Chris-
tendom, under pretence of a holy war, had joined
together to invade this metropolis and bulwark of
the Christian world, and now that it was attacked by
the enemies to the faith, not one stirred in its

Emperor Frederick III. was neither sufficiently
enterprising nor powerful to attempt anything for
its relief. Poland was under too bad an administra-
tion. France was but just recovered from the miser-
able state to which she had been reduced by her wars
at home, and those she had been engaged in against
the English, England began to be divided and

n6 Ancient and Modern History. .

weak. The duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good,
was indeed a powerful prince, but he had too much
understanding to revive the Crusades alone, and
was too old to bear a share in such enterprises.
The Italian princes were engaged in war with each
other. The kingdoms of Aragon and Castile were
not yet united, and a great part of Spain was still
in the possession of the Moors.

In short, there were but two sovereigns in Europe
capable of encouraging Mahomet II. These were
John Huniades, prince of Transylvania, who could
hardly defend his own territories ; and the famous
Scanderbeg, who had enough to do to keep posses-
sion of the mountains of Epirus, like Pelagius Tudo-
mer, heretofore in those of Asturias, when the
Moors overran Spain. Four Genoese ships, of
which one belonged to Emperor Frederick III.,
were almost all the assistance the Christian world
could at that time afford Constantinople. This
unfortunate city was commanded by a foreigner,
whose name was Justiniani, a native of Genoa. An
edifice reduced to such props must infallibly fall
to ruin. The ancient Greeks never had a Persian
for a chief, nor was the Roman republic ever
headed by a Gaul. Constantinople, therefore, must
necessarily be taken, and it was so; but in a man-
ner entirely different from that we find related in
all our authors, who have copied after Ducas and

The Turkish annals, collected and digested by

The Taking of Constantinople. 117

the late Prince Demetrius Cantemir at Constan-
tinople, inform us, that, after having sustained a
siege of seven weeks, Emperor Constantine was
at length obliged to capitulate; and that he sent
Greek deputies to receive the laws the conqueror
should please to impose on them. Several articles
were agreed upon at this meeting : but, as the Greek
envoys were returning to the city, Mahomet, who
had something further to say to them, despatched a
body of men to bring them back to his camp. The
besieged, who from the walls beheld a large troop
of armed Turks in full pursuit as they thought
of their deputies, imprudently fired on them. This
party was instantly joined by a much greater num-
ber. The envoys got into the city by one of the
posterns, and the Turks entered pell-mell with
them, and soon made themselves masters of the
upper town, which is separated from the lower.
The emperor Constantine was killed in the crowd;
and Mahomet thereupon turned the imperial palace
into a palace for himself, and made the cathedral
church of St. Sophia a Turkish mosque.

Being thus master, by right of conquest, of one
half of Constantinople, he had the humanity or
policy to offer the same terms of capitulation to
that part which still held out as he had proposed to
grant to the whole city; and religiously observed
his agreement. This fact is so true, that all the
Christian churches of the lower town remained till
the reign of his grandson Selim, who ordered

1 1 8 Ancient and Modern History.

several of them to be demolished. The Turks called
them the mosques of Issevi, Issevi being the Turk-
ish name for Jesus. The church of the Greek patri-
arch still remains in Constantinople, on the canal
of the Black Sea ; and the Ottoman emperors have
permitted an academy to be founded in that quarter
of the city where the modern Greeks teach the
ancient language, now almost entirely disused, the
Aristotelian philosophy, divinity, and physic: and
in this school were educated Constantine Ducas,
Maurocordatos, and Demetrius Cantemir, after-
ward made princes of Transylvania by the Turks.
I must acknowledge that Demetrius Cantemir
abounds with a great number of old fabulous stories ;
but he could not be deceived in relation to the
modern monuments, which were before his eyes,
nor the academy in which he himself was brought

The Christians are still indulged with a church
and one street in the city to themselves, in con-
sideration of a Greek architect named Christobulus,
whom Mahomet II. employed to build a new
mosque on the ruins of the Holy Apostles, an ancient
edifice built by the empress Theodora, wife of the
emperor Justinian. This architect succeeded so well
that his building proved little inferior in beauty to
the famous mosque of St. Sophia. He was also
employed by the sultan's orders in building eight
public schools, and the same number of hospitals,
all belonging to this mosque ; and, as a reward for

The Taking of Constantinople. 119

his services, the sultan granted him the street just
mentioned, which still remains in the possession of
his family. It may not perhaps appear a fact worthy
a place in history, that an architect was rewarded
with the grant of a street ; but it is of some impor-
tance to know that the Turks do not always behave
in that cruel and brutal manner to Christians which
we are apt to imagine they do. Whole nations have
been misled by the errors of historians : a number
of Oriental writers have asserted that the Turks
adored Venus, and denied the providence of a God.
Grotius himself tells us after others, that Mahomet,
the great false prophet of the Turks, had trained
up a pigeon to fly to his ear, and made the people
believe that it was the spirit of God who came to
instruct him under that form ; and we find as many
ridiculous stories related concerning the great con-
queror, Mahomet II.

One evident proof that Mahomet was a prince of
more knowledge and policy than he is usually sup-
posed to have been, and notwithstanding all that
Cardinal Isidore and others may say to the contrary,
is, that he allowed the conquered Christians the lib-
erty of choosing their own patriarch ; he even per-
formed the ceremony of installation himself, with
the usual solemnities, and invested him with the
crosier and ring, which the emperors of the West
had not dared to do for a long time, and departed in
no one point from the accustomed ceremony, unless
it was in conducting the patriarch-elect, Gennadius,

I2O Ancient and Modern History.

to the gate of his palace, who told the sultan on
this occasion that he was confounded at receiving
an honor which no one of the Christian emperors
had ever bestowed upon his predecessors. Since
that time the Ottoman emperors have always made
one patriarch, who is called the ecumenical patri-
arch, and the pope another, who is called the Latin
patriarch. Each of these patriarchs is taxed by the
divan in a certain sum, which he pays as a ransom
for his flock. The two churches, though groaning
alike under the yoke of bondage, were still at irrec-
oncilable enmity with each other; and the sultans
were frequently obliged to interpose their authority,
in order to put an end to their disputes ; thus becom-
ing the moderators, as well as conquerors of the

But the Turkish victors have not acted with
regard to the Greeks as they did in the tenth and
eleventh centuries by the Arabians, whose language,
religion, and customs they adopted, after having
conquered them. When the Turks subdued the
Arabians, they were in most things utterly barbar-
ous ; but when they made the conquest of the Greek
Empire, the constitution of their government had
been long formed. Besides, they had a veneration

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