A History Post: Conquering Rome

The following is a historical post written in a creative manner. This is telling the story of the conquest of Constantinople – from the POV of an Ottoman Muslim soldier. I had immense fun writing this. Enjoy.

————-

Dear Reader,

The following letters where found buried in the ancient city of Edirne. They are the writings of an old Ottoman military commander, who fought in the armies of successive Ottoman sultans. These letters are not in chronological order, and the writer is documenting events over a span of almost seven decades, as they happen. Some of these letters are flashbacks, memories of an experience the writer had previously, which he documented during the last days of his life. These letters are extremely rare, and extremely valuable.

Sincerely.

…..

30th of March, 1510, Constantinople

You are about to read an amazing story. I am writing from the castle of the Sultan Bayezid in Constantinople. Istanbul as the locals call it now. I am one of the soldiers who first entered the conquered city under the flag of the great Conqueror, Mehmet II. I had previously left my story hidden in my hometown of Edirne, and today I was able to retrieve it. I want to tell you the story of how an army that I fought in, turned the Turks from a sultanate, into a global empire. There were many things that we did, and many people that we saw. We fulfilled a great prophecy, and our sultan defeated the Eastern Roman empire. There is no more Rome. This is the story of the events, that led to the day we conquered Rome.

30th of March, 1452, Edirne

My name is Ahmet Omer. I am a young soldier in the Sultan’s army. I was born the capital of the Ottoman Sultanate, Edirne. This is also where I currently live. I am twenty-three years old, and the father of three. The sultanate has a new Sultan, and I am not sure how I feel about this. Sultan Mehmet II is the new sultan of the sultanate, although this is his second stint on the throne. I am not sure that I support a man younger than me leading our sultanate forward, but I will not voice my thoughts out loud. Our new sultan is currently troubled, as the Greek Christians continue to attack Muslims in our territories. There is rumor in the sultanate that the new sultan could be planning an attack on Constantinople. I do not want to seem like a traitor at a time like this, and I will effectively keep my mouth closed.

However, I think I know why the sultan wants to attack Constantinople. The Prophet Muhammad, Peace be Upon Him, prophesied that a great leader would conqueror Constantinople. He said that this leader will be an amazing commander, and that he will lead an amazing army.[1] No doubt that many Muslims have dreamed of being the ones to conqueror the great walled city. One of our Muslim predecessors, the Umayyads, had come close, but even they could not conqueror Constantinople. I wonder if I’ll ever live to see the day we conqueror the city! Perhaps I can be a soldier in that amazing army! What an honor that would be for a humble Turk like myself. Who knows what the future holds.

1st of March, 1453

             It’s been a while since I wrote any letters. The sultan has begun assembling the army. We are to set out towards Constantinople. With any luck, we are the army that was prophesized in the Hadith of the Prophet Peace be Upon Him. The sultan has amassed a massive army. The rumors flying around say that the army is greater than 100,000 soldiers. I cannot contain my excitement. For a young man from Edirne, the glory of Constantinople is something that I only imagine will shake history. I feel like we are on the verge of something great.

The trust in the sultan is not great. I must admit that the sultan is still a young man, and many of the elders here are hesitant about whether or not he can deliver us to victory. But I put my trust in God first, and in our soldiers second. I’ll trust that if this sultan is the prophesized commander, then he is more than capable of leading this Muslim Ummah forward.

Muslim Constantinople, 1510

             Looking back to our preparations, I cannot help but smile. What a moment that was. God was good to us, and our commander was truly amazing. Today, our life in the new empire is amazing.

Attacking Constantinople, 1453, The Beginning

             The fight for Constantinople is upon us, in the name of God. Our aim is to gain Constantinople, and to protect ourselves from Western attacks. The sultan began his ambitious plan by building a massive fort five miles off the coast of Constantinople, on the Bosporus River.[2] The fort was a statement, that he was here to fight, and that he was here to win. He had the fort built in a style that had it read the name: Muhammad. This was in honor of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace be Upon Him. The Greeks could not stop our sultan from building his fort, as our army was too large, and too strong. Their hope in this war is bound to be in their walls. As unconquerable as they may seem, our sultan has convinced that we can triumph. He has been seen speaking with a man of western appearance several times. I do not know who this man is, but it seems like he may hold the key to helping us conqueror the walls of Constantinople. Despite all the signs favoring us, and the weak position of the Greeks, a few Greeks thought they could attack our ships, but they were easily crushed.

The sultan spoke to us today. We are going to create a new Muslim empire, in God’s name. He led us in prayer, and I have to admit, moral is high. Any doubt I had in the sultan is fading, I believe he will lead us to do the previously thought impossible. It continues to hit me how young he is. How can a man so young be so convincing. No doubt the Greeks underestimated him. His youth and age are characteristics that they thought were in their favor, but he is hungry to prove himself, and I think that the Greeks will pay a heavy price for their underestimating our sultan.

The Sultan, 1510

             My opinion of the sultan Mehmet the Conqueror has greatly evolved. When he first became sultan, I doubted that I could follow a commander younger than I. Today however, I look back at the Conqueror, and I must say that it was the greatest honor of my life to serve under him. I read my letters from the days of the war, and I smile. Little did I know, little did Europe know, the man who this sultan was to be. I will, to the best of my ability, describe him as I remember him.

One thing that sticks out in my memory is the dominance of our empire when it came to European trade. Prior to the rise of our great empire, the European trading routes where dominated by Venice.[3] Naturally, our new conqueror, Mehmet II, wanted to make our empire the dominant economic powerhouse. By 1489, we had captured key areas. We captured Albania, Cyprus and Morea.[4] With Eastern Rome a thing of the past, Christian control over trade was broken. Of course, our dominance came at a price. The Venetians were not too eager to give up control to the Muslim Ottomans, and our great leader fought many wars against them during the years of 1463 to 1479.[5] During this time we had to make many key decisions. At this point in time, I had risen up in ranks, and I was an Agha. I played an important role in furthering the cause of the empire. We imprisoned many Venetian merchants.[6] This led to many concessions, and the Sultan wisely decided to ally himself with Florence. By helping Florence and giving Florence more economic freedom, the empire had a European ally, and the sultan was able to strengthen the economy of the Ottoman Empire.[7]

             Today is April 7th. We are now less than a mile outside the walls of Constantinople.[8] I don’t believe that what I am feeling is fear. I believe this is faith. The sultan has finally reveled his great weapon. We have managed to convince a great western engineer to join our great army, and he has designed for us massive cannons.[9] The sultan is convinced that these cannons will help bring down the walls of the city, and upon seeing them myself, I cannot help but agree! The cannons are magnificent. The sultan had them transported to our location in secret, while the Greeks slept. Imagine their horror when they would wake up to face the might of our new arsenal. However, we have yet to begin the battle. We are currently awaiting the arrival of our brothers on our fleet, and until they arrive, my sword will see no battle.

My history, 1510

             There are days when I think back to my childhood and aspirations. I had always wanted to live the life of a soldier. As an elder man, I look back at who I was, and I question whether or not I succeeded in becoming the man I wanted to become. My parents were not poor, but we certainly were not rich. I did not hang out with the elites of our society, nor did I want to. I was taught the art of war by my father and brother. They taught me how to hold my sword, and how to use my body when I fight. I quickly became the best fighter in our neighborhood. At a young age, I joined the army of Murad II. Although I never saw war under the leadership of the powerful sultan, I learned many things during my years of training. I appreciate my time in the military of the sultan, although I am thankful to his son, Mehmett II, for having given me the chance to shine. I was a standout soldier during the war against the Greek for Constantinople, and in the wars that followed. I rose through the ranks quite rapidly, and I was finally made an Agha during our wars against Venice. I was finally able to retire during the reign of the Conqueror’s son, and I have to say that I have enjoyed my life. I married the love of my life, Zeinep, and we had three wonderful children. I am very thankful to God for his blessings.

The Attack

After many days, we have begun our attack. Sadly, I write this letter having been here for almost two months. I have spent the last fifty days participating with my brothers in our fight for glory, but it seems that the walls of Constantinople remain as strong as they where fifty days ago. Our leaders are ordering us to keep our chins up, and to believe that we can succeed.

In late May, our sultan called for a council of war.[10] We would begin a final assault on the city of Constantinople. Either we take the city from them, or we fall as many of our brothers had fallen before us.

For multiple days, we attacked. We attacked them from every corner, from the land, from the sea, heroes and warriors would late try to imitate our soldiers. We fought until the walls of Constantinople, the indestructible walls, collapsed. Our army was so strong, that our sultan was able to easily walk into the city. During the confusion of the long days of the final assault, the Greek emperor died. There would be no power struggle. Our sultan had won. There was no longer an Eastern Roman empire, no more was Constantinople in the way of the Ottomans. A new world power had arrived, and the red Ottoman flag was finally, waving over our new capital city.

The Christians were allowed refuge, we did not bar them from their worship or business. Many of them left, but those who chose to stay where under the protection of our commander. He was the one who fulfilled the prophecy. The prophecy of the one he was named after, had finally come true. What a commander Mehmet the Conqueror is, and what an army our army is. We conquered Rome.

Ottoman Economics and Life, 1510

             I remember the wars we fought with the Venetians. Not only did we emerge as the stronger party, our sultan was forgiving. Remember this dear reader, wherever you may be, our sultan granted the Venetians special economic privileges. As soon as they stopped fighting us, and their wars ceased, we granted them economic liberty.[11] Our sultan was always an open man, and our merchants where people of all faiths. Among our ranks where even the most surprising group; the Greeks.[12] This may have come as a shock, but I wish to inform my reader that upon the conquest of Constantinople, our sultan granted the Greeks safety. He granted them the right to worship as freely as we, Muslims, did. He granted them the right to business, and it can be no surprise that many of our merchants where, in fact, Greek.[13] The Greeks where not the only people welcomed in our new capital, I heard from a high ranking Agha that the Sultan had reached out to the Jewish and Armenian communities.[14] He wished to invite them to our new land, how great was he! I greatly admire his desire to make our empire truly the greatest that the world has ever seen.

Greek Letters

Upon settling in my new home, I found a huge stack of Greek letters hidden in a cupboard. I must admit, that my curiosity has been satisfied, the letters give great descriptions for how Constantinople was before our great victory. How different where these Greeks, they built their homes around their forum.[15] Perhaps they greatly valued the public life. No doubt however, is a certain letter I found describing the sultan Mehmet II. The Greeks saw the sultan in a similar way to how I had previously seen him. They saw him as a young, inexperienced sultan, and one that that they saw as unlikely to pose them any serious threat.[16] Our Sultan had tried to be friendly with the Greek during his early days in power. I don’t doubt that he was considering what course of action he was going to take. More interestingly, the Greeks where more interested in having an heir to their Roman throne. Their emperor had married multiple times, and none of his wives had given him any children.[17] Not only where they not concerned by the new Ottoman sultan, their biggest concern was whether or not their emperor was going to have an heir! Many daughters where recommended to the emperor.[18] Despite my never knowing what would come of this, I managed to find records of the Greeks celebrating the death of our sultan Murad. No doubt a great leader, the Greeks welcomed his death as a good sign for their empire.[19] Our great sultan died in 1451. Their empire fell in 1453.

Conclusion, 1510

             This will be my final letter. I am old in age, I have out lived my sultan. During my life, I have experienced the joy of victory, the frustration of defeat. I lived under the reigns of three great sultans. Murad II, was a powerful man. He laid the foundation necessary for our sultan Mehmet the Conqueror to fulfill his destiny. Sultan Mehmet is the sultan who was prophecized about by the Prophet Muhammad, Peace be Upon Him. What an honor for me, having served in his great victory. Shortly afterwards, I rose in rank, and his son, Beyzeid, made me a powerful man in the Ottoman Empire. I retired satisfied, that my life was spent well. I spent my life serving my God and my country, and I believe that I have earned this retirement. I fear that I don’t have long to live, and the letters that I have been writing since I was a twenty three year old soldier end here. To whoever reads this after I am gone, I hope that you found my story enlightening. Perhaps one day, these letters will travel the world, and they will serve as documentary evidence for the greatest era in Ottoman history. It is time for me to leave. I hope that I can have enough strength, that I can get myself to visit my hometown one last time. Goodbye.

 

 

[1]  Franz Babinger, Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time, (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1978), 85

[2] George Finlay, “Mahomet II Takes Constantinople.” 1453

[3] Halil Inalcik. The Ottoman Empire. (New Rochelle, New York: Orpheus Publishing Inc. 1973) 132

[4] Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire, 134

[5] Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire, 135

[6] Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire, 135

[7] Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire, 135

[8] Nicolo Barbaro, “The Siege of Constantinople.” 1453

[9] Barbaro, “The Siege of Constantinople.”

[10] Julius Norwich. A Short History of Byzantium. (London: Viking 1997) 378

[11] Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire, 136

[12] Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire, 135

[13] Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire, 140

[14] Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire, 141

[15] Peter Arnott. The Byzantines and Their World. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 1973) 66

[16] David Nicol, The Last Centuries of the Byzantium, 1261-1453. (Cambridge University Press 1973)  393

[17] Nicol, The Last Centuries of the Byzantium, 1261-1453, 393

[18] Nicol, The Last Centuries of the Byzantium, 1261-1453,  294

[19] Nicol, The Last Centuries of the Byzantium, 1261-1453,  394

…..

Bibliography:

 

Primary Sources:

 

George Finlay, “Mahomet II Takes Constantinople.” 1453

 

Nicolo Barbaro, “The Siege of Constantinople.” 1453

 

Peter Arnott. The Byzantines and Their World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1973

 

 

Secondary Sources:

 

Franz Babinger. Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978

 

Halil Inalcik. The Ottoman Empire. New Rochelle, New York: Orpheus Publishing Inc1973

 

Juius Norwich. A Short History of Byzantium. London: Viking, 1997

 

David Nicol. The Last Centuries of the Byzantium, 1261-1453. Cambridge University Press, 1973

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s