The Ottoman Empire Episode 7 Urdu | The last Battle of Constantinople 1453 | فتح قسطنطنیہ کی ناقابل فراموش سچی داستان
Like one in Urdu, a Turkish metaphor goes that the Red Apple cannot escape the stone. But the Romans had never thought 600 kilograms heavy stone would be hitting the Red Apple. And made of granite, these stones would turn the walls of Constantinople into rubble. In 1453 the Ottoman army had pelted that heavy stones on Constantinople in a bid to get the Rad Apple. But the tables turned on all of a sudden. The Super Gun of the Ottomans broke down.
A ship from Italy totally disarrayed the Ottomans and they took a step that brought them near destruction. I will show this complete story in the Ottoman Empire series by ‘Dekho, Suno, Jano.’ The four kilometers long Defence wall of Constantinople had four parts. Sultan Mehmed had accordingly arrayed the Ottoman army around that wall. The middle part of the wall called, ‘Likes Valley’, was the most important. In fact this was the part where the wall was the weakest. This part had gates on both sides. The gate in front of the camp of the Sultan called St. Romulus Gate and the other one was Hadrianople.
The Sultan had deployed 50,000 soldiers against the wall of Likes Valley in front of his camp. Among them 12,000 were the Janissaries. Another 50,000 were positioned ahead of St. Romulus Gate at the coast of Marmara. These soldiers were Muslims who had come from Anatolia on foot. These soldiers were well trained and well equipped. On the left of the Sultan from Hadrianople Gate to the Golden Horn around 100,000 troops were deployed. They very disorganized and less trained soldiers and were callded, ‘Bashi Bazouks.’ The Christian troops from Europe were also included in that army.
The Turks engineers had dug out a trench in front of the Ottoman army and 250 meters away from the City wall. This trench went through the whole defence wall of the Constantinople city. Behind the trench a small wall was erected to cover the guns installed in the pits. The Super Gun was installed right in front of the Sultan’s camp to easily target the weakest part of the wall. Emperor Constantine spread his total 9000 troops to the four kms City Wall to face the Ottomans. The Romans had only 15 cannons against 70 of the Ottomans. When walls of the City were also dilapidated.
So the walls were vulnerable to collapse by the jerks of the gunfire. Therefore the guns were fitted on the wall as a decoration piece. The 5 kms long City wall on the side Sea of Marmara was less open to attack by the Ottomans. Therefore some troops at a distance and few guns were installed there to serve only as guards. Now it was the third wall on the side of the Golden Horn of the City. This part had already been secured by a chain-barrier to stop advancement of the Ottomans. Therefore, no deployment was made on that side.
After ground position, let’s also see the naval position of both the armies. From 140 or 180 ships of the Ottomans were patrolling from the Sea of Marmara to the Strait of Bosphorus. The Ottomans ships were unable to enter the Golden Horn due to this chain. Up to 30 ships were included in the Constantinople fleet that was stationed safe at the coast of the Golden Horn. It was the test time for the Romans as the Turk army equipped with strong war machinery had besieged them. Sporadic clashes between the two forces also took place but they were just warm-up.
On the night of April 12, 1453, Sultan Mehmed came to the site where the Super Gan was fitted. And some moments after the Gun fired the first cannonball that rocked the walls of Constantinople City. Along with the guns, heavy stones were pelted through catapults inside the City. A number of stones landed at the Royal Palace. As many as 120 shells were fired daily on Constantinople. The earth shocked in miles when up to 600 kgs heavy shells landed in the City of Constantinople. The Romans deployed on the wall, also decided to fire guns to counter the Ottomans’ attack.
But their largest cannon exploded as it fired the shell. The Romans did not have expert gun operators as well as quality explosives for their cannons. Despite all that the Romans had to defend the City anyway. For that they tried to bolster strength of the City wall by pouring down a mixture of bricks and charcoal on it. The citizens took out cotton from their quilts and beds and wrapped it around the long wooden sheets. They hung sheets on the City wall to cushion it against the thrust of the cannonballs. But these crude methods were not working against the advanced and heavy gunfire of the Ottomans.
After a week these cannonballs pulled down a large part of the outer wall but here the Ottomans faced a problem. The Super Gun of the Ottomans was fast getting cold after fire whereof its barrel developed cracks. And to protect the barrel against cracks, the Ottomans poured boiling hot oil on it. The Super Gun was fired only seven times a day due this problem. Somewhat the same problem was with other cannons also. So this problem repeatedly interrupted firing of the guns. And this time gap in firing was a big blessing for the people of Constantinople.
In that interval thousands of Romans joined to get the wall repaired. They repaired the broken wall on the side of St. Romulus Gate by fencing it with rocks and bricks. The used clay and sand to repair the wall at some other points. On April 18, the Ottomans tried to enter the City breaking a weak spot on the wall. But the rain made this muddy part of the wall slippery. So the Ottomans failed to mount the wall and enter the City. Moreover, the Romans were also shooting arrows, rocks and bullets on the Ottomans to check their way. So the Ottomans were to draw back.
As many as 200 Ottoman soldiers lost their life in this attack. When the Ottoman troops could not open the gate and enter the City, at the same time… they also came across another tragedy. It were the initial days of the battle when the center of all hopes of the Sultan, the Super Gun, exploded. The Super Gun blast also killed its operators and the soldiers around it. The pioneer of the Gun, Engineer Orban was also killed in this incident. This was a major and irretrievable loss to the Ottomans. They did not have time to prepare a new Super Gun.
So the solution was found in repairing barrel of the broken Gun by means of putting iron rings on it. This method temporarily worked and after some fires, the Gun broke down again. The Sultan was highly angered but it was quite useless against the broken barrel of the Gun. The Sultan was to use the sense. He and his companions did much brainstorming to enable the Super Gun work for some time. Hold on, another ‘super shock’ was yet in the waiting. The Sultan had reached peace and trade agreements with European powers including Hungary and Venice.
At the time the Sultan had besieged Constantinople unconcerned of the European powers… Hungary broke the peace agreement all of a sudden. Now Hungary was no more neutral rather it could come to the aid of Constantinople. Hungary at that time was a major European power. On the other, another European state, Geneva also asked its citizens to help Constantinople. These incidents pressed the Sutlan to conquer the City as early as possible or go back to save his Sultanate. But surprisingly in the meantime, the Ottomans received enormous help from an enemy.
The Hungarian ambassador who came to annul the agreement, gave a very useful information to the Sultan. The Ambassador laughed at the inexperience of the Ottomans towards firing the cannons. He pinpointed folly to the Turks about repeatedly firing the same point on the wall. He suggested for firing the City wall in a triangle in three shots to loosen its strength. So the Turks came by the formula to break the wall. So they followed this method that stepped up the process of demolishing the wall. At the same time, Constantinople had also received help from the seas.
The marine battle had also picked up momentum along with encounter on the ground. Under the command of Admiral Salman Baltaoglu the Turkish fleet launched first attack on the Golden Horn. The Ottomans first hit the ships deputed to guard the Chain and then tried to capture them. But the Constantinople ships were much huge in size. The Ottomans’ shelling failed to cast any significant effect on the Roman Ships. The ship guards repulsed the Ottomans showering arrows on them. Two days latter three ships from Geneva confronted the Ottoman fleet at the Sea of Marmara.
These ships were sent by Pope Nicholas V. These ships were carrying troops, arms and food for Constantinople. They were also accompanied by a trade ship of Constantinople. Sultan Mehmed at that moment was present two miles away from the coast in his camp. He took a horse and rushed to the coast as soon as he heard about the rival ships. He strictly ordered commander of his fleet to “capture these ships or do not come before him alive. The Sultan was so anxious and passionate that he repeatedly drove his horse into the water. He was boosting up morale of his soldiers by speaking loudly.
But the same problem erupted once again. That the rival ships much larger than the Ottomans’ in size. The bombardment and the rain of arrows were not affecting them at all. After three hours’ fight and suffering a heavy loss, the Ottoman fleet was forced to draw back. The Romans temporarily removed the Chain at the Golden Horn to let these ships enter Constantinople. We have already told you that time was the most important weapon with the Romans. So aid from Geneva added to their most vital asset, time. Now Constantinople had got the capacity to withstand the siege by the Ottomans for a longer time.
It was a situation wherein the Ottoman Sultan was tremendously enraged. The Sultan reached the headquarters of his fleet along with 10,000 troops. Under his order Admiral Salman Baltaoglu was hit 100 lashes and his property was attached. Salman was removed and Hamza Bey was appointed Admiral in his stead. Now it was necessary for the Ottoman fleet to reach the Golden Horn if the Turks had to win the battle. Sultan Mehmed had very deeply studied the war history. He knew many historical occasions when the ships were hauled on the ground tracks.
Sultan Saladin Ayyubi had done all that only 250 years ago. Saladin had set the precedent by shifting the boats from the Nile to the Red Sea dragging them on the ground. According to history, the Romans and Vykings had also practiced this mode. Therefore the Sultan also decided to put his ships into the Golden Horn carrying them through the land. He constructed 1.5 miles long wooden track from Galata to the Golden Horn. A 200 feet high mountain also came in the way of this path. Wooden wheels, lubricated with the animal fats, were put on this road.
Pulleys were used to lift the small ships from the sea like a crane and they were put on the wheels. Hundreds of oxen and men pulled these ships and put them into the Golden Horn bypassing the chain. Constantinople had lost a strong support. It was a hue and cry all over Constantinople after the Ottoman ships crossed the Golden Horn. Hundreds of Roman soldiers and archers were sent to the Golden Horn from the Western wall of the City. This transportation of the force, further weakened the already weak defence on the Western side.
The Constantinople guards saw safety of the City in removing the Ottoman fleet from the Golden Horn. With this aim, 5 large size ships and vessels of Constantinople attacked the Ottoman fleets on April 28. The Romans tried to burn the Ottoman ships by Greek fire. But this attack failed. The Romans had one of their vessels totally destroyed while the other unworkable. The Ottomans also had a vessel destroyed yet their fleet remained safe. The intense marine battle, also stepped up fight on the ground fronts. The Ottomans had made two major attacks on the wall of the City by May 7.
But still it was not possible for the Ottomans to scale the wall. The Ottomans also used the tall wooden towers to take the troops to the wall but it also failed. The Romans burned these towers with Greek fire. Moreover, the Romans released water to the ditches the Ottomans had dug to lay down the mines. It meant another loss to the Ottomans. The Ottoman once again began to feel dejected. On it a ship from Venice was also coming to Constantinople. The ship reached Constantinople on May 30 and changed the whole complexion of war.
This ship in fact had to came to Constantinople to tell the emperor about no assistance to him from Europe. The Ottomans and the Europeans had no more agreements so the Romans took it a help from Hungary. The Ottomans heard that the Crusade army led by a Hungarian general had reached Therasay through land. And the Crusade army was going to target the Ottoman capital, Adirne. The Turks thought the ship from Venice a part of that very Crusade army. This rumour was enough to give sleepless nights to the Ottomans holding siege of the City.
The heads of different troops who had joined the Ottoman army also became despondent on this rumour. The Sultan rose like a great leader in this situation to boost morale of his army. He gathered all his ministers and commanders and put a Red Apple in the middle of them on a carpet. Then he asked them to pick up the Apple without putting foot on the carpet. All kept quiet and no-one came forward. Then the Sultan came forward and began to roll up the carpet. The Sultan picked up the Apple when he came close to it. Then he again rolled out the carpet. But his gesture,
the Sultan conveyed them that the conquest of the City was not far off now. So the Sultan and his advisers decided to make a last forceful attack on the City. They decided to lift the siege in case the Ottomans failed to conquer the City. Sultan Mehmed employed a psychological trick before launching the last attack on May 26, 1453. He ordered his soldiers to have two big campfires every night. He also wanted his soldiers to beat the drums till midnight and chant loud slogans. As the campfire was alighted first night it illuminated every object around.
The army band was played to such a loud sound that it scared the Roman guards in Constantinople. This practice was maintained for three nights from 26 to 28 May. On May 27 some Christian soldiers in the Turkish army secretly warned the Romans of the imminent attack. They shot arrows to Constantinople on which messages were wrapped to forewarn the Romans. The messages conveyed the Romans about the decisive attack on them by the Ottomans so get on their guard. From 26 to 28 May the Ottomans carried out unprecedented bombardment on the City wall.
Besides Super Gun other cannons also fired shells that tore the wall to pieces at many places. The Sultan remained among his soldiers during these three days. He pronounced rewards for the bravery and punishment for the timidity of his soldiers. The Western writers say Sultan Mehmed had sworn before the Turkish nobles and chiefs that… in case of victory, his soldiers would be allowed 3 days’ plundering and getting maids and slaves as per tradition.
He also told his nobles that they would own the City wealth, beautiful women, mansions and the orchards However, the Muslim writers did not subscribe to this view and denied any such words uttered by the Sultan. However, on May 28 all Muslims in the Army fasted and spent time in worship to seek Divine help. The priests also held a procession in Constantinople carrying the Cross and the holy Relics. The priests also met the guards at the City wall and predicted their victory and sprinkled holy water on them. By that time, the Ottomans had fired 5000 shells on the walls of Constantinople.
The countdown for war had begun but the Ottomans got a bad news that of a heavy rain. The Sultan ordered his army and the fleet to make a powerful attack on the City at a time. But in fact, this all was a showpiece in order to distract the mind of the Constantinople guards. The Ottomans were to actually attack the Center of the Western wall that had mostly been demolished. It the was the side of the St. Romulus Gate that was fenced only by a heap of clay and rocks. The Sultan was standing nearby the St. Romulus Gate.
After midnight Sultan Mehmed ordered his ‘unorganized’ army to attack this wall. Thousands of Ottomans crossed the trench and attacked the weakly fenced wall. The Romans valiantly fought to defend the wall under the command of Justiniani. They attacked the Ottomans with rocks, Greek fires and arrows and killed a number of them. A fierce battle continued for two hours. The Sultan had deployed Military Police behind these soldiers and the Janissaries behind all of them. Any soldier retreating from the war was thrashed and pushed back into the field.
The Janissaries would kill a soldier if he succeeded in breaking the Police cordon while fleeing the battlefield. So these ‘unorganized’ Ottoman troops fought to the last taking every risk. After two hours of pitched battle when the City guards had also completely exhausted… the Sultan withdrew the irregular army and ordered the fresh Anatolian Infantry to attack. The Anatolian Infantry was confronted by a rain of arrows and rocks as it advanced behind the shields. Then they City guards hurled Greek fires to burn soldiers of the Anatolian Infantry to death.
The Roman guards also opened fires from the small cannons. Hundreds of Infantry soldiers lost their lives. Now the Sultan had no option except to retaliate the Roman guards with cannon fires. Although fires from the Ottoman guns might also put lives of the Turk soldiers in the battlefield at stake. But Sultan Mehmed was compelled to take this risk. So he ordered his artillery to launch a forceful offensive on the fenced wall. Now an intense bombardment on the fence had begun. This strategy worked. A big shell torn apart a major part of the fence.
This created a cleavage that enabled 300 Ottoman Infantry men to enter the City. But the Roman guards were also at a high alert. They did not allow the 300 Ottoman soldiers to advance much and repulsed them out of the City. Here the deadly battle continued for two hours. During the fight, the Ottoman Infantry failed to achieve success. The Sultan also called the Infantry back at around half past five in the morning. The Ottoman army had become highly exhausted in these attacks. Now the Sultan had left with only 12000 Janissaries and 5000 other soldiers.
Which meant, the Sultan had a total of 17000 fresh troops after the rest were bone-tired in the night attacks. The Sultan did not want to give a respite to the Roman guards. So he ordered the last section of his army to attack the Romans immediately. The Sultan was mindful that his order of attack to the last part of his army was a big gamble he had played. Sultan’s victory in the war solely depended on this final assault otherwise he had no option but to go back. The Janissaries were leading this final attack. They made a very forceful attack on the Romans.
But the Roman guards despite tired, faced the Janissaries bravely. Apparently victory to the Ottomans was still obscure. This historic war was at its peak when the Ottomans received an unexpected success. That was a secret door called ‘Circus Door’ in the basement of the Western wall of the City. The Roman guards used this door to conduct raids on the Ottomans’ camps. On May 28, the Roman soldiers forgot to shut this door after conducting raids on the Turkish camps. A Turkish soldier saw the door open.
Then 50 Turk soldiers went up the City wall through this door and raised the Ottoman flag tearing the Romans’. On it Commander of the Western Wall, Justiniani who had clad after the legendary hero, Achilles,… sustained serious injuries. Due to deep wounds he was not able to lead the Roman army. The condition of Justiniani was so serious that Emperor Constantine asked him to flee through the secret door. But as soon as some soldiers carried the Commander Justiniani to the door… hundreds of other Roman soldiers followed him and it left the wall undefended.
At the same time, Janassary Agha Hassan mounted the fence along with 30 others and raised the Ottoman flag. Although Hassan and 30 others laid down their live yet they… succeeded in showing the Turk soldiers and the Romans the Ottoman flag raised on the wall. It was early morning of May 29 when the Ottomans had conquered Constantinople after 1000 years. The Red Apple fell in their lap. The Janissaries had entered the City. The exhausted Ottoman army renewed its spirit at the sight of the Janissaries inside the City. They also entered the City following the Janissaries.
Within 10 minutes, 30000 soldiers had reached the internal wall and were opening the doors to the City. The City guards were running for the safety of their life. Now the 700-year long wait of the Ottomans was over. Now the difficult task of keeping the city peaceful and safe lay ahead. But the fact of the matter is, the conquerors of the City were to fight among themselves in the time to come. What was that story? Why a section of Christians still hopes of conquering the Constantinople? Who stay alive in the walls of Constantinople?
What happened to Roman Emperor, Constantine XI? What treasure was discovered from the basement of the Church of Hagia Sophia? We will show you all this but in the next episode of the Ottoman Empire. Next season of the Ottoman Empire pertains to the downfall of the Ottomans from the peak. If you have any question regarding this episode, please put it on #Ask-DSJ in the comments section.
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