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Chapter LXVIII: Reign Of Mahomet The Second, Extinction Of Eastern Empire.—Part IV.
While they expected the descent of the tardy angel, the doors were broken with axes; and as the Turks encountered no resistance, their bloodless hands were employed in selecting and securing the multitude of their prisoners. Youth, beauty, and the appearance of wealth, attracted their choice; and the right of property was decided among themselves by a prior seizure, by personal strength, and by the authority of command. In the space of an hour, the male captives were bound with cords, the females with their veils and girdles. The senators were linked with their slaves; the prelates, with the porters of the church; and young men of the plebeian class, with noble maids, whose faces had been invisible to the sun and their nearest kindred. In this common captivity, the ranks of society were confounded; the ties of nature were cut asunder; and the inexorable soldier was careless of the father's groans, the tears of the mother, and the lamentations of the children. The loudest in their wailings were the nuns, who were torn from the altar with naked bosoms, outstretched hands, and dishevelled hair; and we should piously believe that few could be tempted to prefer the vigils of the harem to those of the monastery. Of these unfortunate Greeks, of these domestic animals, whole strings were rudely driven through the streets; and as the conquerors were eager to return for more prey, their trembling pace was quickened with menaces and blows. At the same hour, a similar rapine was exercised in all the churches and monasteries, in all the palaces and habitations, of the capital; nor could any place, however sacred or sequestered, protect the persons or the property of the Greeks. Above sixty thousand of this devoted people were transported from the city to the camp and fleet; exchanged or sold according to the caprice or interest of their masters, and dispersed in remote servitude through the provinces of the Ottoman empire. Among these we may notice some remarkable characters. The historian Phranza, first chamberlain and principal secretary, was involved with his family in the common lot. After suffering four months the hardships of slavery, he recovered his freedom: in the ensuing winter he ventured to Adrianople, and ransomed his wife from the mir bashi, or master of the horse; but his two children, in the flower of youth and beauty, had been seized for the use of Mahomet himself. The daughter of Phranza died in the seraglio, perhaps a virgin: his son, in the fifteenth year of his age, preferred death to infamy, and was stabbed by the hand of the royal lover.81928192 See Phranza, l. iii. c. 20, 21. His expressions are positive: Ameras suâ manû jugulavit.... volebat enim eo turpiter et nefarie abuti. Me miserum et infelicem! Yet he could only learn from report the bloody or impure scenes that were acted in the dark recesses of the seraglio. A deed thus inhuman cannot surely be expiated by the taste and liberality with which he released a Grecian matron and her two daughters, on receiving a Latin doe From ode from Philelphus, who had chosen a wife in that noble family.81938193 See Tiraboschi (tom. vi. P. i. p. 290) and Lancelot, (Mém. de l'Académie des Inscriptions, tom. x. p. 718.) I should be curious to learn how he could praise the public enemy, whom he so often reviles as the most corrupt and inhuman of tyrants. The pride or cruelty of Mahomet would have been most sensibly gratified by the capture of a Roman legate; but the dexterity of Cardinal Isidore eluded the search, and he escaped from Galata in a plebeian habit.81948194 The commentaries of Pius II. suppose that he craftily placed his cardinal's hat on the head of a corpse which was cut off and exposed in triumph, while the legate himself was bought and delivered as a captive of no value. The great Belgic Chronicle adorns his escape with new adventures, which he suppressed (says Spondanus, A.D. 1453, No. 15) in his own letters, lest he should lose the merit and reward of suffering for Christ. * Note: He was sold as a slave in Galata, according to Von Hammer, p. 175. See the somewhat vague and declamatory letter of Cardinal Isidore, in the appendix to Clarke's Travels, vol. ii. p. 653.—M. The chain and entrance of the outward harbor was still occupied by the Italian ships of merchandise and war. They had signalized their valor in the siege: they embraced the moment of retreat, while the Turkish mariners were dissipated in the pillage of the city. When they hoisted sail, the beach was covered with a suppliant and lamentable crowd; but the means of transportation were scanty: the Venetians and Genoese selected their countrymen; and, notwithstanding the fairest promises of the sultan, the inhabitants of Galata evacuated their houses, and embarked with their most precious effects.
In the fall and the sack of great cities, an historian is condemned to repeat the tale of uniform calamity: the same effects must be produced by the same passions; and when those passions may be indulged without control, small, alas! is the difference between civilized and savage man. Amidst the vague exclamations of bigotry and hatred, the Turks are not accused of a wanton or immoderate effusion of Christian blood: but according to their maxims, (the maxims of antiquity,) the lives of the vanquished were forfeited; and the legitimate reward of the conqueror was derived from the service, the sale, or the ransom, of his captives of both sexes.81958195 Busbequius expatiates with pleasure and applause on the rights of war, and the use of slavery, among the ancients and the Turks, (de Legat. Turcicâ, epist. iii. p. 161.) The wealth of Constantinople had been granted by the sultan to his victorious troops; and the rapine of an hour is more productive than the industry of years. But as no regular division was attempted of the spoil, the respective shares were not determined by merit; and the rewards of valor were stolen away by the followers of the camp, who had declined the toil and danger of the battle. The narrative of their depredations could not afford either amusement or instruction: the total amount, in the last poverty of the empire, has been valued at four millions of ducats;81968196 This sum is specified in a marginal note of Leunclavius, (Chalcondyles, l. viii. p. 211,) but in the distribution to Venice, Genoa, Florence, and Ancona, of 50, 20, and 15,000 ducats, I suspect that a figure has been dropped. Even with the restitution, the foreign property would scarcely exceed one fourth. and of this sum a small part was the property of the Venetians, the Genoese, the Florentines, and the merchants of Ancona. Of these foreigners, the stock was improved in quick and perpetual circulation: but the riches of the Greeks were displayed in the idle ostentation of palaces and wardrobes, or deeply buried in treasures of ingots and old coin, lest it should be demanded at their hands for the defence of their country. The profanation and plunder of the monasteries and churches excited the most tragic complaints. The dome of St. Sophia itself, the earthly heaven, the second firmament, the vehicle of the cherubim, the throne of the glory of God,81978197 See the enthusiastic praises and lamentations of Phranza, (l. iii. c. 17.) was despoiled of the oblation of ages; and the gold and silver, the pearls and jewels, the vases and sacerdotal ornaments, were most wickedly converted to the service of mankind. After the divine images had been stripped of all that could be valuable to a profane eye, the canvas, or the wood, was torn, or broken, or burnt, or trod under foot, or applied, in the stables or the kitchen, to the vilest uses. The example of sacrilege was imitated, however, from the Latin conquerors of Constantinople; and the treatment which Christ, the Virgin, and the saints, had sustained from the guilty Catholic, might be inflicted by the zealous Mussulman on the monuments of idolatry. Perhaps, instead of joining the public clamor, a philosopher will observe, that in the decline of the arts the workmanship could not be more valuable than the work, and that a fresh supply of visions and miracles would speedily be renewed by the craft of the priests and the credulity of the people. He will more seriously deplore the loss of the Byzantine libraries, which were destroyed or scattered in the general confusion: one hundred and twenty thousand manuscripts are said to have disappeared;81988198 See Ducas, (c. 43,) and an epistle, July 15th, 1453, from Laurus Quirinus to Pope Nicholas V., (Hody de Græcis, p. 192, from a MS. in the Cotton library.) ten volumes might be purchased for a single ducat; and the same ignominious price, too high perhaps for a shelf of theology, included the whole works of Aristotle and Homer, the noblest productions of the science and literature of ancient Greece. We may reflect with pleasure that an inestimable portion of our classic treasures was safely deposited in Italy; and that the mechanics of a German town had invented an art which derides the havoc of time and barbarism.
From the first hour81998199 The Julian Calendar, which reckons the days and hours from midnight, was used at Constantinople. But Ducas seems to understand the natural hours from sunrise. of the memorable twenty-ninth of May, disorder and rapine prevailed in Constantinople, till the eighth hour of the same day; when the sultan himself passed in triumph through the gate of St. Romanus. He was attended by his viziers, bashaws, and guards, each of whom (says a Byzantine historian) was robust as Hercules, dexterous as Apollo, and equal in battle to any ten of the race of ordinary mortals. The conqueror82008200 See the Turkish Annals, p. 329, and the Pandects of Leunclavius, p. 448. gazed with satisfaction and wonder on the strange, though splendid, appearance of the domes and palaces, so dissimilar from the style of Oriental architecture. In the hippodrome, or atmeidan, his eye was attracted by the twisted column of the three serpents; and, as a trial of his strength, he shattered with his iron mace or battle-axe the under jaw of one of these monsters,82018201 I have had occasion (vol. ii. p. 100) to mention this curious relic of Grecian antiquity. which in the eyes of the Turks were the idols or talismans of the city.82028202 Von Hammer passes over this circumstance, which is treated by Dr. Clarke (Travels, vol. ii. p. 58, 4to. edit,) as a fiction of Thevenot. Chishull states that the monument was broken by some attendants of the Polish ambassador.—M. At the principal door of St. Sophia, he 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. By his command the metropolis of the Eastern church was transformed into a mosque: the rich and portable instruments of superstition had been removed; the crosses were thrown down; and the walls, which were covered with images and mosaics, were washed and purified, and restored to a state of naked simplicity. On the same day, or on the ensuing Friday, the muezin, or crier, ascended the most lofty turret, and proclaimed the ezan, or public invitation in the name of God and his prophet; the imam preached; and Mahomet and Second performed the namaz of prayer and thanksgiving on the great altar, where the Christian mysteries had so lately been celebrated before the last of the Cæsars.82038203 We are obliged to Cantemir (p. 102) for the Turkish account of the conversion of St. Sophia, so bitterly deplored by Phranza and Ducas. It is amusing enough to observe, in what opposite lights the same object appears to a Mussulman and a Christian eye. From St. Sophia he proceeded to the august, but desolate mansion of a hundred successors of the great Constantine, but which in a few hours had been stripped of the pomp of royalty. A melancholy reflection on the vicissitudes of human greatness forced itself on his mind; and he repeated an elegant distich of Persian poetry: "The spider has wove his web in the Imperial palace; and the owl hath sung her watch-song on the towers of Afrasiab."82048204 This distich, which Cantemir gives in the original, derives new beauties from the application. It was thus that Scipio repeated, in the sack of Carthage, the famous prophecy of Homer. The same generous feeling carried the mind of the conqueror to the past or the future.
Yet his mind was not satisfied, nor did the victory seem complete, till he was informed of the fate of Constantine; whether he had escaped, or been made prisoner, or had fallen in the battle. Two Janizaries claimed the honor and reward of his death: the body, under a heap of slain, was discovered by the golden eagles embroidered on his shoes; the Greeks acknowledged, with tears, the head of their late emperor; and, after exposing the bloody trophy,82058205 I cannot believe with Ducas (see Spondanus, A.D. 1453, No. 13) that Mahomet sent round Persia, Arabia, &c., the head of the Greek emperor: he would surely content himself with a trophy less inhuman. Mahomet bestowed on his rival the honors of a decent funeral. After his decease, Lucas Notaras, great duke,82068206 Phranza was the personal enemy of the great duke; nor could time, or death, or his own retreat to a monastery, extort a feeling of sympathy or forgiveness. Ducas is inclined to praise and pity the martyr; Chalcondyles is neuter, but we are indebted to him for the hint of the Greek conspiracy. and first minister of the empire, was the most important prisoner. When he offered his person and his treasures at the foot of the throne, "And why," said the indignant sultan, "did you not employ these treasures in the defence of your prince and country?"—"They were yours," answered the slave; "God had reserved them for your hands."—"If he reserved them for me," replied the despot, "how have you presumed to withhold them so long by a fruitless and fatal resistance?" The great duke alleged the obstinacy of the strangers, and some secret encouragement from the Turkish vizier; and from this perilous interview he was at length dismissed with the assurance of pardon and protection. Mahomet condescended to visit his wife, a venerable princess oppressed with sickness and grief; and his consolation for her misfortunes was in the most tender strain of humanity and filial reverence. A similar clemency was extended to the principal officers of state, of whom several were ransomed at his expense; and during some days he declared himself the friend and father of the vanquished people. But the scene was soon changed; and before his departure, the hippodrome streamed with the blood of his noblest captives. His perfidious cruelty is execrated by the Christians: they adorn with the colors of heroic martyrdom the execution of the great duke and his two sons; and his death is ascribed to the generous refusal of delivering his children to the tyrant's lust.82078207 Von Hammer relates this undoubtingly, apparently on good authority, p. 559.—M. Yet a Byzantine historian has dropped an unguarded word of conspiracy, deliverance, and Italian succor: such treason may be glorious; but the rebel who bravely ventures, has justly forfeited his life; nor should we blame a conqueror for destroying the enemies whom he can no longer trust. On the eighteenth of June the victorious sultan returned to Adrianople; and smiled at the base and hollow embassies of the Christian princes, who viewed their approaching ruin in the fall of the Eastern empire.
Constantinople had been left naked and desolate, without a prince or a people. But she could not be despoiled of the incomparable situation which marks her for the metropolis of a great empire; and the genius of the place will ever triumph over the accidents of time and fortune. Boursa and Adrianople, the ancient seats of the Ottomans, sunk into provincial towns; and Mahomet the Second established his own residence, and that of his successors, on the same commanding spot which had been chosen by Constantine.82088208 For the restitution of Constantinople and the Turkish foundations, see Cantemir, (p. 102—109,) Ducas, (c. 42,) with Thevenot, Tournefort, and the rest of our modern travellers. From a gigantic picture of the greatness, population, &c., of Constantinople and the Ottoman empire, (Abrégé de l'Histoire Ottomane, tom. i. p. 16—21,) we may learn, that in the year 1586 the Moslems were less numerous in the capital than the Christians, or even the Jews. The fortifications of Galata, which might afford a shelter to the Latins, were prudently destroyed; but the damage of the Turkish cannon was soon repaired; and before the month of August, great quantities of lime had been burnt for the restoration of the walls of the capital. As the entire property of the soil and buildings, whether public or private, or profane or sacred, was now transferred to the conqueror, he first separated a space of eight furlongs from the point of the triangle for the establishment of his seraglio or palace. It is here, in the bosom of luxury, that the Grand Signor (as he has been emphatically named by the Italians) appears to reign over Europe and Asia; but his person on the shores of the Bosphorus may not always be secure from the insults of a hostile navy. In the new character of a mosque, the cathedral of St. Sophia was endowed with an ample revenue, crowned with lofty minarets, and surrounded with groves and fountains, for the devotion and refreshment of the Moslems. The same model was imitated in the jami, or royal mosques; and the first of these was built, by Mahomet himself, on the ruins of the church of the holy apostles, and the tombs of the Greek emperors. On the third day after the conquest, the grave of Abu Ayub, or Job, who had fallen in the first siege of the Arabs, was revealed in a vision; and it is before the sepulchre of the martyr that the new sultans are girded with the sword of empire.82098209 The Turbé, or sepulchral monument of Abu Ayub, is described and engraved in the Tableau Générale de l'Empire Ottoman, (Paris 1787, in large folio,) a work of less use, perhaps, than magnificence, (tom. i. p. 305, 306.) Constantinople no longer appertains to the Roman historian; nor shall I enumerate the civil and religious edifices that were profaned or erected by its Turkish masters: the population was speedily renewed; and before the end of September, five thousand families of Anatolia and Romania had obeyed the royal mandate, which enjoined them, under pain of death, to occupy their new habitations in the capital. The throne of Mahomet was guarded by the numbers and fidelity of his Moslem subjects: but his rational policy aspired to collect the remnant of the Greeks; and they returned in crowds, as soon as they were assured of their lives, their liberties, and the free exercise of their religion. In the election and investiture of a patriarch, the ceremonial of the Byzantine court was revived and imitated. With a mixture of satisfaction and horror, they beheld the sultan on his throne; who delivered into the hands of Gennadius the crosier or pastoral staff, the symbol of his ecclesiastical office; who conducted the patriarch to the gate of the seraglio, presented him with a horse richly caparisoned, and directed the viziers and bashaws to lead him to the palace which had been allotted for his residence.82108210 Phranza (l. iii. c. 19) relates the ceremony, which has possibly been adorned in the Greek reports to each other, and to the Latins. The fact is confirmed by Emanuel Malaxus, who wrote, in vulgar Greek, the History of the Patriarchs after the taking of Constantinople, inserted in the Turco-Græcia of Crusius, (l. v. p. 106—184.) But the most patient reader will not believe that Mahomet adopted the Catholic form, "Sancta Trinitas quæ mihi donavit imperium te in patriarcham novæ Romæ deligit." The churches of Constantinople were shared between the two religions: their limits were marked; and, till it was infringed by Selim, the grandson of Mahomet, the Greeks82118211 From the Turco-Græcia of Crusius, &c. Spondanus (A.D. 1453, No. 21, 1458, No. 16) describes the slavery and domestic quarrels of the Greek church. The patriarch who succeeded Gennadius threw himself in despair into a well. enjoyed above sixty years the benefit of this equal partition. Encouraged by the ministers of the divan, who wished to elude the fanaticism of the sultan, the Christian advocates presumed to allege that this division had been an act, not of generosity, but of justice; not a concession, but a compact; and that if one half of the city had been taken by storm, the other moiety had surrendered on the faith of a sacred capitulation. The original grant had indeed been consumed by fire: but the loss was supplied by the testimony of three aged Janizaries who remembered the transaction; and their venal oaths are of more weight in the opinion of Cantemir, than the positive and unanimous consent of the history of the times.82128212 Cantemir (p. 101—105) insists on the unanimous consent of the Turkish historians, ancient as well as modern, and argues, that they would not have violated the truth to diminish their national glory, since it is esteemed more honorable to take a city by force than by composition. But, 1. I doubt this consent, since he quotes no particular historian, and the Turkish Annals of Leunclavius affirm, without exception, that Mahomet took Constantinople per vim, (p. 329.) 2 The same argument may be turned in favor of the Greeks of the times, who would not have forgotten this honorable and salutary treaty. Voltaire, as usual, prefers the Turks to the Christians.
The remaining fragments of the Greek kingdom in Europe and Asia I shall abandon to the Turkish arms; but the final extinction of the two last dynasties82138213 For the genealogy and fall of the Comneni of Trebizond, see Ducange, (Fam. Byzant. p. 195;) for the last Palæologi, the same accurate antiquarian, (p. 244, 247, 248.) The Palæologi of Montferrat were not extinct till the next century; but they had forgotten their Greek origin and kindred. which have reigned in Constantinople should terminate the decline and fall of the Roman empire in the East. The despots of the Morea, Demetrius and Thomas,82148214 In the worthless story of the disputes and misfortunes of the two brothers, Phranza (l. iii. c. 21—30) is too partial on the side of Thomas Ducas (c. 44, 45) is too brief, and Chalcondyles (l. viii. ix. x.) too diffuse and digressive. the two surviving brothers of the name of Palæologus, were astonished by the death of the emperor Constantine, and the ruin of the monarchy. Hopeless of defence, they prepared, with the noble Greeks who adhered to their fortune, to seek a refuge in Italy, beyond the reach of the Ottoman thunder. Their first apprehensions were dispelled by the victorious sultan, who contented himself with a tribute of twelve thousand ducats; and while his ambition explored the continent and the islands, in search of prey, he indulged the Morea in a respite of seven years. But this respite was a period of grief, discord, and misery. The hexamilion, the rampart of the Isthmus, so often raised and so often subverted, could not long be defended by three hundred Italian archers: the keys of Corinth were seized by the Turks: they returned from their summer excursions with a train of captives and spoil; and the complaints of the injured Greeks were heard with indifference and disdain. The Albanians, a vagrant tribe of shepherds and robbers, filled the peninsula with rapine and murder: the two despots implored the dangerous and humiliating aid of a neighboring bashaw; and when he had quelled the revolt, his lessons inculcated the rule of their future conduct. Neither the ties of blood, nor the oaths which they repeatedly pledged in the communion and before the altar, nor the stronger pressure of necessity, could reconcile or suspend their domestic quarrels. They ravaged each other's patrimony with fire and sword: the alms and succors of the West were consumed in civil hostility; and their power was only exerted in savage and arbitrary executions. The distress and revenge of the weaker rival invoked their supreme lord; and, in the season of maturity and revenge, Mahomet declared himself the friend of Demetrius, and marched into the Morea with an irresistible force. When he had taken possession of Sparta, "You are too weak," said the sultan, "to control this turbulent province: I will take your daughter to my bed; and you shall pass the remainder of your life in security and honor." Demetrius sighed and obeyed; surrendered his daughter and his castles; followed to Adrianople his sovereign and his son; and received for his own maintenance, and that of his followers, a city in Thrace and the adjacent isles of Imbros, Lemnos, and Samothrace. He was joined the next year by a companion82158215 Kalo-Johannes, the predecessor of David his brother, the last emperor of Trebizond, had attempted to organize a confederacy against Mahomet it comprehended Hassan Bei, sultan of Mesopotamia, the Christian princes of Georgia and Iberia, the emir of Sinope, and the sultan of Caramania. The negotiations were interrupted by his sudden death, A.D. 1458. Fallmerayer, p. 257—260.—M. of misfortune, the last of the Comnenian race, who, after the taking of Constantinople by the Latins, had founded a new empire on the coast of the Black Sea.82168216 See the loss or conquest of Trebizond in Chalcondyles, (l. ix. p. 263—266,) Ducas, (c. 45,) Phranza, (l. iii. c. 27,) and Cantemir, (p. 107.) In the progress of his Anatolian conquest, Mahomet invested with a fleet and army the capital of David, who presumed to style himself emperor of Trebizond;82178217 Though Tournefort (tom. iii. lettre xvii. p. 179) speaks of Trebizond as mal peuplée, Peysonnel, the latest and most accurate observer, can find 100,000 inhabitants, (Commerce de la Mer Noire, tom. ii. p. 72, and for the province, p. 53—90.) Its prosperity and trade are perpetually disturbed by the factious quarrels of two odas of Janizaries, in one which 30,000 Lazi are commonly enrolled, (Mémoires de Tott, tom. iii. p. 16, 17.) and the negotiation was comprised in a short and peremptory question, "Will you secure your life and treasures by resigning your kingdom? or had you rather forfeit your kingdom, your treasures, and your life?" The feeble Comnenus was subdued by his own fears,82188218 According to the Georgian account of these transactions, (translated by M. Brosset, additions to Le Beau, vol. xxi. p. 325,) the emperor of Trebizond humbly entreated the sultan to have the goodness to marry one of his daughters.—M. and the example of a Mussulman neighbor, the prince of Sinope,82198219 Ismael Beg, prince of Sinope or Sinople, was possessed (chiefly from his copper mines) of a revenue of 200,000 ducats, (Chalcond. l. ix. p. 258, 259.) Peysonnel (Commerce de la Mer Noire, tom. ii. p. 100) ascribes to the modern city 60,000 inhabitants. This account seems enormous; yet it is by trading with people that we become acquainted with their wealth and numbers. who, on a similar summons, had yielded a fortified city, with four hundred cannon and ten or twelve thousand soldiers. The capitulation of Trebizond was faithfully performed:82208220 M. Boissonade has published, in the fifth volume of his Anecdota Græca (p. 387, 401.) a very interesting letter from George Amiroutzes, protovestiarius of Trebizond, to Bessarion, describing the surrender of Trebizond, and the fate of its chief inhabitants.—M. and the emperor, with his family, was transported to a castle in Romania; but on a slight suspicion of corresponding with the Persian king, David, and the whole Comnenian race, were sacrificed to the jealousy or avarice of the conqueror.82218221 See in Von Hammer, vol. ii. p. 60, the striking account of the mother, the empress Helena the Cantacuzene, who, in defiance of the edict, like that of Creon in the Greek tragedy, dug the grave for her murdered children with her own hand, and sank into it herself.—M. Nor could the name of father long protect the unfortunate Demetrius from exile and confiscation; his abject submission moved the pity and contempt of the sultan; his followers were transplanted to Constantinople; and his poverty was alleviated by a pension of fifty thousand aspers, till a monastic habit and a tardy death released Palæologus from an earthly master. It is not easy to pronounce whether the servitude of Demetrius, or the exile of his brother Thomas,82228222 Spondanus (from Gobelin Comment. Pii II. l. v.) relates the arrival and reception of the despot Thomas at Rome,. (A.D. 1461 No. NO. 3.) be the most inglorious. On the conquest of the Morea, the despot escaped to Corfu, and from thence to Italy, with some naked adherents: his name, his sufferings, and the head of the apostle St. Andrew, entitled him to the hospitality of the Vatican; and his misery was prolonged by a pension of six thousand ducats from the pope and cardinals. His two sons, Andrew and Manuel, were educated in Italy; but the eldest, contemptible to his enemies and burdensome to his friends, was degraded by the baseness of his life and marriage. A title was his sole inheritance; and that inheritance he successively sold to the kings of France and Arragon.82238223 By an act dated A.D. 1494, Sept. 6, and lately transmitted from the archives of the Capitol to the royal library of Paris, the despot Andrew Palæologus, reserving the Morea, and stipulating some private advantages, conveys to Charles VIII., king of France, the empires of Constantinople and Trebizond, (Spondanus, A.D. 1495, No. 2.) M. D. Foncemagne (Mém. de l'Académie des Inscriptions, tom. xvii. p. 539—578) has bestowed a dissertation on his national title, of which he had obtained a copy from Rome. During his transient prosperity, Charles the Eighth was ambitious of joining the empire of the East with the kingdom of Naples: in a public festival, he assumed the appellation and the purple of Augustus: the Greeks rejoiced and the Ottoman already trembled, at the approach of the French chivalry.82248224 See Philippe de Comines, (l. vii. c. 14,) who reckons with pleasure the number of Greeks who were prepared to rise, 60 miles of an easy navigation, eighteen days' journey from Valona to Constantinople, &c. On this occasion the Turkish empire was saved by the policy of Venice. Manuel Palæologus, the second son, was tempted to revisit his native country: his return might be grateful, and could not be dangerous, to the Porte: he was maintained at Constantinople in safety and ease; and an honorable train of Christians and Moslems attended him to the grave. If there be some animals of so generous a nature that they refuse to propagate in a domestic state, the last of the Imperial race must be ascribed to an inferior kind: he accepted from the sultan's liberality two beautiful females; and his surviving son was lost in the habit and religion of a Turkish slave.
The importance of Constantinople was felt and magnified in its loss: the pontificate of Nicholas the Fifth, however peaceful and prosperous, was dishonored by the fall of the Eastern empire; and the grief and terror of the Latins revived, or seemed to revive, the old enthusiasm of the crusades. In one of the most distant countries of the West, Philip duke of Burgundy entertained, at Lisle in Flanders, an assembly of his nobles; and the pompous pageants of the feast were skilfully adapted to their fancy and feelings.82258225 See the original feast in Olivier de la Marche, (Mémoires, P. i. c. 29, 30,) with the abstract and observations of M. de Ste. Palaye, (Mémoires sur la Chevalerie, tom. i. P. iii. p. 182—185.) The peacock and the pheasant were distinguished as royal birds. In the midst of the banquet a gigantic Saracen entered the hall, leading a fictitious elephant with a castle on his back: a matron in a mourning robe, the symbol of religion, was seen to issue from the castle: she deplored her oppression, and accused the slowness of her champions: the principal herald of the golden fleece advanced, bearing on his fist a live pheasant, which, according to the rites of chivalry, he presented to the duke. At this extraordinary summons, Philip, a wise and aged prince, engaged his person and powers in the holy war against the Turks: his example was imitated by the barons and knights of the assembly: they swore to God, the Virgin, the ladies and the pheasant; and their particular vows were not less extravagant than the general sanction of their oath. But the performance was made to depend on some future and foreign contingency; and during twelve years, till the last hour of his life, the duke of Burgundy might be scrupulously, and perhaps sincerely, on the eve of his departure. Had every breast glowed with the same ardor; had the union of the Christians corresponded with their bravery; had every country, from Sweden82268226 It was found by an actual enumeration, that Sweden, Gothland, and Finland, contained 1,800,000 fighting men, and consequently were far more populous than at present. to Naples, supplied a just proportion of cavalry and infantry, of men and money, it is indeed probable that Constantinople would have been delivered, and that the Turks might have been chased beyond the Hellespont or the Euphrates. But the secretary of the emperor, who composed every epistle, and attended every meeting, Æneas Sylvius,82278227 In the year 1454, Spondanus has given, from Æneas Sylvius, a view of the state of Europe, enriched with his own observations. That valuable annalist, and the Italian Muratori, will continue the series of events from the year 1453 to 1481, the end of Mahomet's life, and of this chapter. a statesman and orator, describes from his own experience the repugnant state and spirit of Christendom. "It is a body," says he, "without a head; a republic without laws or magistrates. The pope and the emperor may shine as lofty titles, as splendid images; but they are unable to command, and none are willing to obey: every state has a separate prince, and every prince has a separate interest. What eloquence could unite so many discordant and hostile powers under the same standard? Could they be assembled in arms, who would dare to assume the office of general? What order could be maintained?—what military discipline? Who would undertake to feed such an enormous multitude? Who would understand their various languages, or direct their stranger and incompatible manners? What mortal could reconcile the English with the French, Genoa with Arragon the Germans with the natives of Hungary and Bohemia? If a small number enlisted in the holy war, they must be overthrown by the infidels; if many, by their own weight and confusion." Yet the same Æneas, when he was raised to the papal throne, under the name of Pius the Second, devoted his life to the prosecution of the Turkish war. In the council of Mantua he excited some sparks of a false or feeble enthusiasm; but when the pontiff appeared at Ancona, to embark in person with the troops, engagements vanished in excuses; a precise day was adjourned to an indefinite term; and his effective army consisted of some German pilgrims, whom he was obliged to disband with indulgences and arms. Regardless of futurity, his successors and the powers of Italy were involved in the schemes of present and domestic ambition; and the distance or proximity of each object determined in their eyes its apparent magnitude. A more enlarged view of their interest would have taught them to maintain a defensive and naval war against the common enemy; and the support of Scanderbeg and his brave Albanians might have prevented the subsequent invasion of the kingdom of Naples. The siege and sack of Otranto by the Turks diffused a general consternation; and Pope Sixtus was preparing to fly beyond the Alps, when the storm was instantly dispelled by the death of Mahomet the Second, in the fifty-first year of his age.82288228 Besides the two annalists, the reader may consult Giannone (Istoria Civile, tom. iii. p. 449—455) for the Turkish invasion of the kingdom of Naples. For the reign and conquests of Mahomet II., I have occasionally used the Memorie Istoriche de Monarchi Ottomanni di Giovanni Sagredo, (Venezia, 1677, in 4to.) In peace and war, the Turks have ever engaged the attention of the republic of Venice. All her despatches and archives were open to a procurator of St. Mark, and Sagredo is not contemptible either in sense or style. Yet he too bitterly hates the infidels: he is ignorant of their language and manners; and his narrative, which allows only 70 pages to Mahomet II., (p. 69—140,) becomes more copious and authentic as he approaches the years 1640 and 1644, the term of the historic labors of John Sagredo. His lofty genius aspired to the conquest of Italy: he was possessed of a strong city and a capacious harbor; and the same reign might have been decorated with the trophies of the New and the Ancient Rome.82298229 As I am now taking an everlasting farewell of the Greek empire, I shall briefly mention the great collection of Byzantine writers whose names and testimonies have been successively repeated in this work. The Greeks presses of Aldus and the Italians were confined to the classics of a better age; and the first rude editions of Procopius, Agathias, Cedrenus, Zonaras, &c., were published by the learned diligence of the Germans. The whole Byzantine series (xxxvi. volumes in folio) has gradually issued (A.D. 1648, &c.) from the royal press of the Louvre, with some collateral aid from Rome and Leipsic; but the Venetian edition, (A.D. 1729,) though cheaper and more copious, is not less inferior in correctness than in magnificence to that of Paris. The merits of the French editors are various; but the value of Anna Comnena, Cinnamus, Villehardouin, &c., is enhanced by the historical notes of Charles de Fresne du Cange. His supplemental works, the Greek Glossary, the Constantinopolis Christiana, the Familiæ Byzantinæ, diffuse a steady light over the darkness of the Lower Empire. * Note: The new edition of the Byzantines, projected by Niebuhr, and continued under the patronage of the Prussian government, is the most convenient in size, and contains some authors (Leo Diaconus, Johannes Lydus, Corippus, the new fragment of Dexippus, Eunapius, &c., discovered by Mai) which could not be comprised in the former collections; but the names of such editors as Bekker, the Dindorfs, &c., raised hopes of something more than the mere republication of the text, and the notes of former editors. Little, I regret to say, has been added of annotation, and in some cases, the old incorrect versions have been retained.—M.
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