Printing did not reach Scotland till 1507, and then but imperfectly, and Ireland not till 1551, owing, it is said, to the jealousy with which it was regarded by the priesthood.
We will now take a rapid survey of the vast strides printing has made of late years in England, and therewith close. The principal movements have been in stereotyping, electrotyping, the improvement of presses, and the application of steam power. Stereotyping is the transfer of pages of movable type into solid metal plates, by the medium of moulds formed of plaster of Paris, papier-mache, gutta-percha, or other substances. This art is supposed to have been invented, in or about 1725, by William Ged, a goldsmith of Edinburgh. A small capitalist, who had engaged to embark with him, withdrawing from the speculation in alarm, he accepted overtures from a Mr. William Fenner, and in 1729 came to London. Here he obtained three partners, in conjunction with whom he entered into a contract with the University of Cambridge for stereotyping Bibles and prayer-books. But the workmen, fearing that stereotyping would eventually ruin their trade, purposely made errors, and, when their masters were absent, battered the type, so that the only two prayer-books completed were suppressed by authority, and the plates destroyed. Upon this the art got into disrepute, and Ged, after much ill-treatment, returned to Edinburgh, impoverished and disheartened. Here his friends, desirous that a memorial of his art should be published, entered into a subscription to defray the expense; and a Sallust, printed in 1736, and composed and cast in the night-time to avoid the jealous opposition of the workmen, is now the principal evidence of his claim to the invention.
But the time had not come; for without a very large demand, such as could not exist in those days, stereotyping would be of no advantage. Books which sell by hundreds of thousands, and are constantly reprinting, such as Bibles, prayer-books, school-books, Shakespeares, Bunyans, Robinson Crusoes, Uncle Toms, and very popular authors and editions, will pay for stereotyping; but for small numbers it is a loss. After the invention had been neglected long enough to be forgotten, Earl Stanhope, who had for several years devoted himself earnestly to the subject, and made many experiments, resuscitated it, in a very perfect manner, in 1803; and his printer, Mr. Wilson, sold the secret to both universities and to most of the leading printers. To the art of stereotyping the public is mainly indebted for cheap literature, for when the plates are once produced the chief expense is disposed of.
Something akin to stereotyping is another method of printing, called logography, invented by John Walter of the London Times, in 1783, and for which he took out a patent. This means a system of printing from type cast in words instead of single letters, which it was thought would save time and corrections when applied to newspapers, but it was not found to answer. A joke of the time was a supposed order to the type-founder for some words of frequent occurrence, which ran thus: "Please send me a hundredweight, sorted, of murder, fire, dreadful robbery, atrocious outrage, fearful calamity, alarming explosion, melancholy accident; an assortment of honourable member, whig, tory, hot, cold, wet, dry; half a hundred weight, made up in pounds, of butter, cheese, beef, mutton, tripe, mustard, soap, rain, etc., and a few devils, angels, women, groans, hisses, etc." This method of printing did not succeed; for if twenty-four letters will give six hundred sextillions of combinations, no printing-office could keep a sufficient assortment of even popular words.
[Footnote 1: See Vol 1, 8]
[Footnote 2: See accompanying fac-simile of a page of the English edition—a reproduction as faithful as possible in text, color, texture of paper, etc.]
JOHN HUNYADY REPULSES THE TURKS
From the time (1354) when the Turks took Gallipoli and secured their first dominion in Europe, the Ottoman power on that side of the Hellespont was gradually increased. In 1360 Amurath I crossed from Asia Minor, ravaged an extensive district, and took Adrianople, which he made the first seat of his royalty and the first shrine of Mahometanism in Europe. He next turned toward Bulgaria and Servia, where in the warlike Slavonic tribes he found far stronger foes than the Greek victims of earlier Turkish conquests.
Pope Urban V preached a crusade against the Turks; and Servia, Hungary, Bosnia, and Wallachia leagued themselves to drive the Ottomans out of Europe. Amurath defeated them and added new territory to his previous acquisitions. A peace was made in 1376, but a new though fruitless attempt of the Slavonic peoples against him gave Amurath a pretext for further assault upon southeastern Europe. In 1389 he conquered and annexed Bulgaria and subjugated the Servians. In the same year Amurath was assassinated.
Bajazet I, the son and successor of Amurath, still further extended the Turkish conquests. Under Bajazet's son, Mahomet I (1413-1421), comparative peace prevailed; but his son, Amurath II, rekindled the flames of war. A strong combination, including, with other peoples, the Hungarians and Poles, was made against him. In the struggle that followed, and which for a time promised the complete expulsion of the Turks from Europe, the great leader was the Hungarian, John Hunyady, born in 1388. According to some writers, he was a Wallach and the son of a common soldier. Creasy calls him "the illegitimate son of Sigismund, King of Hungary, and the fair Elizabeth Morsiney." With him appeared a new spirit, such as the Ottomans up to that time could not have expected to encounter in that part of Europe. In Vambery's narrative we have the authority of Hungary's greatest historian for the leading events in the life of her greatest hero.
In Europe a new power pulsating with youthful life had arrived from somewhere in the interior of Asia with the intention of conquering the world. This power was the Turk—not merely a single nation, but a whole group of peoples clustered round a nation, inspired by one single idea which urged them ever forward—"There is no god but God, and Mahomet is the apostle of God."
The Mahometan flood already beat upon the bounds of Catholic Christendom, in the forefront of which stood Hungary. Hungary's King, Sigismund, was able for a moment in 1396 to unite the nations of Europe against the common danger, but the proud array of mail-clad knights were swept away like chaff before the steady ranks of the janizaries.
And herewith began the long series of desolating inroads into Hungary, for the Turks were wont to suck the blood of the nation they had marked down as their prey. They took the country by surprise, secretly, suddenly, like a summer storm, appearing in overwhelming numbers, burning, murdering, robbing, especially men in the hopes of a rich ransom, or children whom they might bring up as Mahometans and janizaries. This body, the flower of the Turkish armies, owed its origin for the most part to the Christian children thus stolen from their parents and their country. This infantry of the janizaries was the first standing army in Europe. Living constantly together under a common discipline, like the inmates of a cloister, they rushed blindly forward to the cry of "God and his Prophet!" like some splendid, powerful wild beast eager for prey. The Turkish sultans published the proud order: "Forward! Let us conquer the whole world; wheresoever we tie up our horses' heads, that land is our own."
To resist such a nation, that would not listen to negotiation, but only thirsted for war and conquest, seemed already an impossibility. Europe trembled with fear at the reports of the formidable attacks designed against her, and listened anxiously for news from distant Hungary, which lay, so to say, in the lion's very mouth.
Against such an enemy a soldier of the modern type was useless, one who slays only in defence of his own life and at the word of command, whose force consists in the high development of the military art and the murderous instruments of modern technical science. What was wanted was a heroic soul, inspired by a burning faith like to that which impelled the Mahometan soldier. This heroic soul, this burning faith, united to the tenacious energy of youth, were all found united in John Hunyady, accompanied withal by a singular talent for leadership in war. He could not rely for support upon the haughty magnates who could trace their descent back for centuries and despised the parvenu with a shorter pedigree and a smaller estate. He was consequently obliged to cast in his lot with the mass of the lesser nobility, individually weaker, it is true, but not deficient in spirit and a consciousness of their own worth. Of this class he soon became the idolized leader. Around him gathered the hitherto latent forces of Hungarian society, especially from Transylvania and South Hungary and the Great Hungarian Plain, which suffered most from the incursions of the Turks, and were therefore most impressed with the necessity of organizing a system of defence. It was these who were the first to be inspired by Hurvyady's heroic spirit.
Before commencing his career as independent commander he, following his father's example, attached himself to the court of Sigismund, the Emperor-king, in whose train he visited the countries of Western Europe, Germany, England, and Italy, till he at length returned home, his mind enriched by experience but with the fervor of his first faith unchilled.
When over fifty years old, he repaired at his sovereign's command to the south of Hungary to organize the resistance to the Turks. At first he was appointed ban of Severin, and as such had the chief command of the fortified places built by the Hungarians for the defence of the Lower Danube. After that he became waywode of Transylvania, the civil and military governor of the southeastern corner of the Hungarian kingdom.
Before, however, he had reached these dignities he had fought a succession of battles and skirmishes with such success that for the fanatical Turkish soldiery his form, nay, his very name, was an object of terror. It was Hunyady alone whom they sought to slay on the field of battle, well persuaded that, he once slain, they would easily deal with the rest of Hungary. Thus in 1442 a Turkish leader, named Mezid Bey, burst into Transylvania at the head of eighty thousand men in pursuance of the Sultan's commands, with no other aim than to take Hunyady dead or alive.
Nor, indeed, did Hunyady keep them waiting for him. He hurried at the head of his troops to attack the Turkish leader, who was laying siege to Hermannstadt. Upon this, Mezid Bey, calling his bravest soldiers around him, described to them once more Hunyady's appearance, his arms, his dress, his stature, and his horse, that they might certainly recognize him. "Slay him only," he exclaimed, "and we shall easily deal with the rest of them; we shall drive them like a flock of sheep into the presence of our august master."
On that occasion was seen with what self-sacrificing enthusiasm his soldiers loved their heroic leader. When they learned from their spies the purpose of the Turks, they took all possible measures to secure his precious life. One of their number, Simon Kemeny, who bore a striking resemblance to Hunyady, determined to sacrifice himself for his leader. He announced that he would put on Hunyady's clothes and armor. The Turks would then attack him under the belief that he was the celebrated chief, and while they were thus engaged the real Hunyady would fall upon them unexpectedly and put them to flight. At first Hunyady would by no means consent to this plan, as he did not wish to expose Kemeny to such mortal danger; but at last, seeing the great military advantages likely to accrue from it, he consented.
And so, indeed, it fell out. As soon as the battle began, the Turks, perceiving Simon Kemeny in the garb of Hunyady, directed all their force against him. Kemeny, after a stout defence, fell, together with a great number of his followers, and the Turks, seeing him fall, set up a general cry of triumph and exultation. Just at this critical moment they were hotly attacked in the flank by the genuine Hunyady. Thus attacked in the very moment when they imagined that they had already gained the day, the Turks were thrown into confusion and took wildly to flight. Twenty thousand corpses were left on the battlefield; among them lay Mezid Bey himself, together with his sons.
Fearful was the rage of the Turkish Sultan when he heard of the defeat and death of Mezid Bey, and he at once despatched another army against Hunyady, which like the first numbered eighty thousand men. This time, however, Hunyady did not let them enter Transylvania, but waited for them at the pass known as the Iron Gate, among the high mountains on the southern boundary of Hungary.
The Hungarian army was not more than fifteen thousand men, so that the Turks were at least five times as strong. But the military genius of Hunyady made up for the small number of his followers. He posted them in a strong position in the rough pass, and attacked the enemy in places where it was impossible for him to make use of his strength. Thus more than half the Turkish army perished miserably in the battle. Again their commander-in-chief fell on the field, together with six subordinate commanders, while two hundred horse-tail standards fell into Hunyady's hands as trophies of his victory.
These two splendid victories filled all Europe with joy and admiration. Christendom again breathed freely; for she felt that a champion sent by a special providence had appeared, who had both the courage and the ability to meet and to repel the haughty and formidable foe. But Hunyady was not content with doing so much. He thought that by this time he might carry the war into the enemy's country. The plan of operations was exceptionally daring, yet Hunyady had not resolved on it without careful consideration. In the mean time, through Hunyady's exertions, Wladislaw III, the young King of Poland, had been elected king of Hungary. Hunyady gained the new King over to his plans, and by this means secured the cooeperation of the higher aristocracy and the armed bands which they were bound to lead into the field at the King's summons. Hunyady counted besides on the assistance of Europe; in the first place on the popes, who were zealous advocates of the war against the Mahometans; next on Venice, which, as the first commercial city and state at that time, had suffered severe losses owing to the spread of Turkish dominions; on the gallant Poles, whose King now wore the Hungarian crown; and lastly upon the peoples of Christendom in general, whose enthusiasm for a war against the infidels had been quickened by the report of Hunyady's victories. And, indeed, at his request the Pope sent some small sums of money, the Poles furnished an auxiliary force, while numerous volunteers from the rest of Europe flocked to serve under his banner.
Although the assistance thus furnished was comparatively unimportant, it nevertheless served to increase his zeal for the daring undertaking. He and his heroic companions were not only proud of defending their own native country, but felt that they were the champions of all Christendom against Ottoman aggression, and their religious enthusiasm kept pace with their patriotism. If they did not get regiments sent to their aid, they felt that the eyes of all Europe were upon them, ready to grieve at their possible ill-success, while their victories would be celebrated with the Te Deum in the cathedrals of every capital in Europe.
The aggressive campaign was commenced without delay; Hunyady's resolves were at once translated into fact; he would not allow the beaten foe time to recover breath. His plan was to cross the Danube, and penetrate through the passes of the Balkan to Philippopolis, at that time the capital of the Sultan's dominions, where he kept the main body of his army. About Christmas, a season in which the Turk does not like to fight, amid heavy snow and severe cold, the Hungarian army of about thirty thousand men pressed forward. Hunyady marched in advance with the vanguard of twelve thousand picked men; after him the King and the Pope's legate, with the rest of the army. The Sultan, however, with a large body of men had occupied the passes of the Balkans and prevented their further advance. This impediment, coupled with the cold and severe weather, depressed the spirits of the troops, worn out with fatigue. Hunyady, however, raised their spirits by gaining a victory; lighting one night upon a body of the enemy, twenty thousand in number, he attacked them at once and after a few hours' struggle succeeded in dispersing them.
Later on he took two large towns with their citadels, and in three engagements triumphed over three separate divisions of the enemy. Learning that a still larger body of Turks was attempting to cut off his communications with the King's army, he attacked that also and put it to flight. After that he joined his corps with the main army under the King, and, indeed, none too soon. Sultan Amurath suddenly arrived with the main body of his forces, which he strongly intrenched in the narrowest passes of the Balkans. Hunyady saw that these intrenchments could not be forced, and did all he could to entice his enemy down into the plain. This he succeeded in doing. In the battle that ensued the King, too, played a conspicuous part and received a wound. In the end, however, the Hungarians gained the victory, and the younger brother of the Grand Vizier was taken prisoner. So much success was sufficient for Hunyady for the time, especially as the natural obstacles had proved insurmountable. The Hungarian army returned home in good order, and the young King made a triumphal entry into his capital, preceded by a crowd of Turkish prisoners and captured Turkish ensigns. These last trophies of victory were deposited in the Coronation Church in the fortress of Buda.
And now something happened which had hitherto been deemed incredible: the Sultan sued for peace—a true believer and a sovereign, from an "unbelieving giaour." The peace was concluded, and Hungary again became possessed of those dependent (South Slavonic) provinces which lay between the territories of the Sultan and the kingdom of Hungary in the narrower sense of the word. In three short years Hunyady had undone the work of years on the part of the Turks. The Sultan, however, soon repented of what he had done, and continually delayed the fulfilment of his promise to evacuate certain frontier fortresses. For this cause the young King, especially incited thereto by the Pope, determined to renew the war. Hunyady at first opposed the King's resolution, and wished to wait; later on he was gained over to the King's view, and took up the matter with his whole soul. The opportunity was inviting, for the Sultan with his main army was engaged somewhere in Asia, and the Venetians promised to prevent with their fleet his return to Europe across the narrow seas in the neighborhood of Constantinople.
The Hungarian army, indeed, set out (1444) on its expedition, and, continually expecting the arrival of the troops of their allies—the Emperor of Constantinople and the princes of Albania—penetrated ever farther and farther into the hostile territory. They were to be joined by their allies at the town of Varna on the shores of the Black Sea. When, however, the Hungarians had arrived at that town, they found no trace of their expected allies, but on the contrary learned with certainty that the Sultan had succeeded in eluding the vigilance of the Venetians, had brought his army in small boats over into Europe, and was now following fast on their track.
Thus all hope of aid from allies was at an end; the brave general and his small Hungarian force had to rely on their own resources, separated as they were by some weeks' journey from their own country, while the enemy would be soon upon them in numbers five times their own. Yet, even so, Hunyady's faith and courage did not desert him. The proverb says, "If thy sword be short, lengthen it by a step forward." And Hunyady boldly, but yet with the caution that behooved a careful general, took up his position before the Sultan's army. Both he and his Hungarians fought with dauntless courage, availing themselves of every advantage and beating back every assault. Already victory seemed to be assured. A few hours after the battle had begun both the Turkish wings had been broken, and even the Sultan and the brave janizaries were thinking of flight, when the young King, the Pole Wladislaw, whom Hunyady had adjured by God to remain in a place of safety until the combat should be decided, was persuaded by his Polish suite to fling himself, with the small band in immediate attendance upon him, right on the centre of the janizaries, so that he too might have a share in the victory and not leave it all to Hunyady. The janizaries wavered for a moment under this new and unexpected attack, but, soon perceiving that they had to do with the King of Hungary, they closed round his band, which had penetrated far into their ranks. The King's horse was first hamstrung, and, as it fell, the King's head was severed from his body, stuck upon the point of a spear, and exposed to the view of both armies. The Hungarians, shocked at the unexpected sight, wavered, and, feeling themselves lost, began to fly. All the entreaties and exhortations of Hunyady were in vain. Such was the confusion that he could be neither seen nor heard, and in a few minutes the whole Hungarian army was in headlong flight.
Hunyady, left to himself, had also to seek safety in flight. Alone, deserted by all, he had to make his way from one place of concealment to another, till after some weeks' wandering he arrived in Hungary. The bad news had preceded him, and in consequence everything was in confusion. Again arose that difficult question: Who should be the new king under such difficult circumstances? The Sultan's army had, however, suffered so much in the battle of Varna that for the time he left the Hungarians unmolested.
The nation was disposed to choose for its king the child Ladislaus, son of King Albert, the predecessor of Wladislaw. The child, however, was in the power of the neighboring Prince, Frederick, the Archduke of Austria, who was not disposed to let him go out of his hands without a heavy ransom. In these circumstances the more powerful nobles in Hungary took advantage of the confusion to strengthen each his own position at the expense of the nation. At first the government of the country was intrusted to a number of captains, but this proved so evidently disastrous that the better sort of people succeeded in having them abolished and Hunyady established as sole governor. For all that, however, Hunyady had a good deal of trouble with the chief aristocrats, Garay, Czillei, Ujlaki, who, envying the parvenu his sudden promotion and despising his obscure origin, took up arms to resist his authority. Thus Hunyady, instead of blunting the edge of his sword upon foreign foes, had to bridle the insubordination of his own countrymen. Luckily it did not take long to force the discontented to own the weight of his arm and his superiority as a military leader.
Order being thus to some extent reestablished at home, Hunyady was again able to turn his attention to the Turks. He felt that he had in fact gained the battle of Varna, which was only lost through the jealous humor of a youthful king; that it behooved him not to stop half way; that it was his duty to continue offensive operations. But in so doing he had to rely upon his own proper forces. It is true that he was governor of the country, but for the purpose of offensive warfare beyond the frontier he could not gain the consent of the great nobles.
Luckily his private property had enormously increased by this time. The Hungarian constitution required the King to bestow the estates of such noblemen as died without male heirs, or had been condemned for any offence, on such noblemen as had approved themselves valiant defenders of the country. Now where could be found a more worthy recipient of such estates than Hunyady, to whom the public treasury was besides a debtor on account of the sums he disbursed for the constant warfare he maintained against the Turks? Especially in the south of Hungary a whole series of lordly estates, many of them belonging to the crown, had come into Hunyady's hands, either as pledges for the repayment of the money he had paid his soldiers, or as his own private property.
The yearly revenue arising from these vast estates was employed by Hunyady, not in personal expenditure, but in the defence of his country. He himself lived as simply as any of his soldiers, and recognized no other use of money than as a weapon for the defence of Christendom against Islam. In the early morning, while all his suite slept, he passed hours in prayer before the altar in the dimly lighted church, imploring the help of the Almighty for the attainment of his sole object in life—the destruction of the Turkish power. At last, 1448, he set out against the Sultan with an army of twenty-four thousand of his most trusty soldiers.
This time it was on the frontier of Servia, on the "Field of Blackbirds," that Hunyady encountered Sultan Amurath, who had an army of one hundred and fifty thousand men—again more than five times the number of the Christians. Hunyady at first withdrew himself into his intrenched camp, but in a few days felt himself strong enough to engage with the enemy on the open field. The battle lasted without interruption for two days and a night. Hunyady himself was several times in deadly peril. Once his horse was shot under him. He was to be found wherever assistance, support, encouragement, were needed. At last, on the morning of the third day, as the Turks, who had received reinforcements, were about to renew the attack, the Waywode of Wallachia passed over to the side of the Turks. The Waywode belonged to the Orthodox Eastern Church. He had joined Hunyady on the way, and his desertion transferred six thousand men from one side to the other, and decided the battle in favor of the Turks. The Hungarians, worn out by fatigue, fell into a discouragement, while Hunyady had no fresh troops to bring up to their support. The battle came to a sudden end. Seventeen thousand Hungarian corpses strewed the field, but the loss of the Turks was more than thirty thousand men.
Hunyady, again left to himself, had again to make his escape. At first he only dismissed his military suite; afterward he separated from his faithful servant in the hope that separately they might more easily baffle their pursuers. Next he had to turn his horse adrift, as the poor animal was incapable of continuing his journey. Thus he made his way alone and on foot toward the frontiers of his native land. After a while, looking down from the top of a piece of elevated ground, he perceived a large body of Turks, from whom he hid himself in a neighboring lake. He thus escaped this danger, but only to encounter another. At a turn of the road he came so suddenly upon a party of Turkish plunderers as to be unable to escape from them, and thus became their prisoner. But the Turks did not recognize him, and, leaving him in the hands of two of their number, the rest went on in search of more prey. His two guards soon came to blows with one another about a heavy gold cross which they had found on the person of their captive, and, while they were thus quarrelling, Hunyady suddenly wrenched a sword out of the hand of one of the two Turks and cut off his head, upon which the other took to flight, and Hunyady was again free.
In the mean time, however, George, the Prince of Servia, who took part with the aristocratic malcontents, and who, although a Christian, out of pure hatred to Hunyady had gone over to the side of the Turks, had given strict orders that all Hungarian stragglers were to be apprehended and brought before him. In this way Hunyady fell into the hands of some Servian peasants, who delivered him to their Prince. Nor did he regain his liberty without the payment of a heavy ransom, leaving his son Ladislaus as hostage in his stead.
He thus returned home amid a thousand perils, and with the painful experience that Europe left him to his own resources to fight as best he could against the ever-advancing Turks. The dependencies of the Hungarian crown, Servia and Wallachia—on whose recovery he had spent so much blood and treasure—instead of supporting him, as might be expected of Christian countries, threw themselves in a suicidal manner into the arms of the Turks. They hoped by their ready submission to find favor in the eyes of the irresistible conquerors, by whom, however, they were a little later devoured.
After these events Hunyady continued to act as governor or regent of Hungary for five years more, by which time the young Ladislaus, son of King Albert, attained his majority. In 1453 Hunyady finally laid down his dignity as governor, and gave over the power into the hands of the young King, Ladislaus V, whom Hunyady had first to liberate by force of arms from his uncle, Frederick of Austria, before he could set him on the throne of Hungary. The young King, of German origin, had hardly become emancipated from his guardian when he fell under the influence of his other uncle, Ulric Czillei. This Czillei was a great nobleman of Styria, but was withal possessed of large estates in Hungary. As a foreigner and as a relative of King Sigismund, he had long viewed with an evil eye Hunyady's elevation. On one occasion Hunyady had to inflict punishment on him. He consequently now did everything he could to induce the young King, his nephew, to hate the great captain as he himself did. He sought to infuse jealousy into his mind and to lead him to believe that Hunyady aimed at the crown. His slanders found the readier credence in the mind of the youthful sovereign as he was completely stupefied by an uninterrupted course of debauchery. At last the King was brought to agree to a plan for ensnaring the great man who so often jeoparded his life and his substance in the defence of his country and religion. They summoned him in the King's name to Vienna, where Ladislaus, as an Austrian prince, was then staying, with the intention of waylaying and murdering him. But Hunyady got wind of the whole plot, and when he arrived at the place of ambush it was at the head of two thousand picked Hungarian warriors. Thus it was Czillei who fell into the snare. "Wretched creature!" exclaimed Hunyady; "thou hast fallen into the pit thou diggedst for me; were it not that I regard the dignity of the King and my own humanity, thou shouldst suffer a punishment proportioned to thy crime. As it is, I let thee off this time, but come no more into my sight, or thou shalt pay for it with thy life."
Such magnanimity, however, did not disarm the hostility of those who surrounded the King. On the pretence of treason against the King, Hunyady was deprived of all his offices and all his estates. The document is still to be seen in the Hungarian state archives, in which the King, led astray by the jealousies that prevailed among his councillors, represents every virtue of the hero as a crime, and condemns him to exile.
Fortunately Czillei himself soon fell into disfavor; the Germans themselves overthrew him; and the King, now better informed, replaced Hunyady in the post of captain-general of the kingdom.
Hunyady, who meanwhile had been living retired in one of his castles, now complied with the King's wish without difficulty or hesitation, and again assumed the highest military command. Instead of seeking how to revenge himself after the manner of ordinary men, he only thought of the great enemy of his country, the Turk. And indeed, as it was, threatening clouds hung over the horizon in the southeast.
A new sultan had come to the throne, Mahomet II, one of the greatest sovereigns of the house of Othman. He began his reign with the occupation of Constantinople, 1453, and thus destroyed the last refuge of the Byzantine empire. At the news of this event all Europe burst into a chorus of lamentation. The whole importance of the Eastern question at once presented itself before the nations of Christendom. It was at once understood that the new conqueror would not remain idle within the crumbling walls of Constantinople.
And, indeed, in no long time was published the proud mot d'ordre, "As there is but one God in heaven, so there shall be but one master upon earth."
Hunyady looked toward Constantinople with heavy heart. He foresaw the outburst of the storm which would in the first place fall upon his own country, threatening it with utter ruin. Hunyady, so it seemed, was again left alone in the defence of Christendom.
The approaching danger was delayed for a few years, but in 1456 Mahomet, having finally established himself in Constantinople, set out with the intention of striking a fatal blow against Hungary. On the borders of that country, on the bank of the Danube, on what was, properly speaking, Servian territory, stood the fortress of Belgrad. When the danger from the Turks became imminent, the kings of Hungary purchased the place from the despots of Servia, giving them in exchange several extensive estates in Hungary, and had at great expense turned it into a vast fortress, at that time supposed to be impregnable.
Mahomet determined to take the place, and to this end made the most extensive preparations. He led to the walls of Belgrad an army of not less than one hundred and fifty thousand men. The approach of this immense host so terrified the young King that he left Hungary and took refuge in Vienna along with his uncle and counsellor, Czillei.
Hunyady alone remained at his post, resolute like a lion attacked. The energy of the old leader—he was now nearly sixty-eight—was only steeled by the greatness of the danger; his forethought and his mental resources were but increased. As he saw that it would be impossible to do anything with a small army, he sent his friend, John Capistran, an Italian Franciscan, a man animated by a burning zeal akin to his own, to preach a crusade against the enemies of Christendom through the towns and villages of the Great Hungarian Plain. This the friar did to such effect that in a few weeks he had collected sixty thousand men, ready to fight in defence of the cross. This army of crusaders—the last in the history of the nations—had for its gathering cry the bells of the churches; for its arms, scythes and axes; Christ for its leader, and John Hunyady and John Capistran for his lieutenants.
The two greatest leaders in war of that day contended for the possession of Belgrad. The same army now surrounded that fortress which a few years before had stormed Constantinople, reputed impregnable. The same hero defended it who had so often in the course of a single decade defeated the Turkish foe in an offensive war, and who now, regardless of danger, with a small but faithful band of followers, was prepared to do all that courage, resolution, and prudence might effect.
Many hundred large cannon began to break down the stone ramparts; many hundred boats forming a river flotilla covered the Danube, so as to cut off all communication between the fortress and Hungary. During this time Hunyady's son Ladislaus and his brother-in-law Michael Szilagyi were in command in the fortress. Hunyady's first daring plan was to force his way through the blockading flotilla, and enter Belgrad before the eyes of the whole Turkish army, taking with him his own soldiers and Capistran's crusaders. The plan completely succeeded. With his own flotilla of boats he broke through that of the Turks and made his entrance into the fortress in triumph. After this the struggle was continued with equal resolution and ability on both sides; such advantage as the Christians derived from the protection afforded by the fortifications being fully compensated by the enormous superiority in numbers both of men and cannon on the part of the Turks.
Without example in the history of the storming of fortresses was the stratagem practised by Hunyady when he permitted the picked troops of the enemy, the janizaries, to penetrate within the fortification, and there destroyed them in the place they thought they had taken. Ten thousand janizaries had already swarmed into the town, and were preparing to attack the bridges and gates of the citadel, when Hunyady ordered lighted fagots, soaked in pitch and sulphur and other combustibles, to be flung from the ramparts into the midst of the crowded ranks of the janizaries. The fire seized on their loose garments, and in a short time the whole body was a sea of fire. Everyone sought to fly. Then it was that Hunyady sallied out with his picked band, while Capistran, with a tall cross in his hand and the cry of "Jesus" on his lips, followed with his crowd of fanatics, the cannon of the fortress played upon the Turkish camp, the Sultan himself was wounded and swept along by the stream of fugitives. Forty thousand Turks were left dead upon the field, four thousand were taken prisoners, and three thousand cannon were captured.
According to the opinion of Hunyady himself, the Turks had never suffered such a severe defeat. Its value as far as the Hungarians were concerned was heightened by the fact that the ambitious Sultan was personally humiliated. There was now great joy in Europe. At the news of the brilliant victory the Te Deum was sung in all the more important cities throughout Europe, and the Pope wished to compliment Hunyady with a crown.
A crown of another character awaited him—that of his Redeemer, in whose name he lived, fought, and fell. The exhalations from the vast number of unburied or imperfectly buried bodies, festering in the heat of summer, gave rise to an epidemic in the Christian camp, and to this the great leader fell a victim. Hunyady died August 11, 1456, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. He died amid the intoxication of his greatest victory, idolized by his followers, having once more preserved his country from imminent ruin. Could he have desired a more glorious death?
He went to his last rest with the consciousness that he had fulfilled his mission, having designed great things and having accomplished them. And the result of his lifelong efforts survived him. His great enemy, the Turk, for the next half-century could only harass the frontier of his native land; and his country, a few years after his death, placed on the royal throne his son Matthias.
[Footnote 1: By permission of Selmar Hess.]
REBUILDING OF ROME BY NICHOLAS V, THE "BUILDER-POPE"
MRS. MARGARET OLIPHANT
Of those pontiffs who are called the pride of modern Rome—through whom the city "rose most gloriously from her ashes"—Nicholas V (Tommaso Parentucelli) was the first. He was born at Sarzana, in the republic of Genoa, about 1398, was ordained priest at the age of twenty-five, became Archbishop of Bologna, and in 1447 was elevated to the papal chair. His election was largely due to the influential part he had taken at the councils of Basel, 1431-1449, and Ferrara-Florence, 1438-1445. In 1449, by prevailing upon the Antipope, Felix V, to abdicate, he restored the peace of the Church. He endeavored, but in vain, to arouse Europe to its duty of succoring the Greek empire.
Although the coming Reformation was already casting its shadow before, Nicholas stood calm in face of the inevitable event, devoting himself to the spiritual welfare of the Church and to the interests of learning and the arts. But he is chiefly remembered as the first pope to conceive a systematic plan for the reconstruction and permanent restoration of Rome. He died before that purpose could be executed in accordance with his great designs; but others, entering into his labors, carried his work to a fuller accomplishment.
It was to the centre of ecclesiastical Rome, the shrine of the apostles, the chief church of Christendom and its adjacent buildings, that the care of the Builder-pope was first directed. The Leonine City of Borgo, as it is more familiarly called, is that portion of Rome which lies on the right side of the Tiber, and which extends from the castle of St. Angelo to the boundary of the Vatican gardens—enclosing the Church of St. Peter, the Vatican palace with all its wealth, and the great Hospital of Santo Spirito, surrounded and intersected by many little streets, and joining to the other portions of the city by the bridge of St. Angelo.
Behind the mass of picture-galleries, museums, and collections of all kinds, which now fill up the endless halls and corridors of the papal palace, comes a sweep of noble gardens full of shade and shelter from the Roman sun, such a resort for the
"learned leisure Which in trim gardens takes its pleasure"
as it would be difficult to surpass. In this fine extent of wood and verdure the Pope's villa or casino, now the only summer palace which the existing Pontiff chooses to permit himself, stands as in a domain, small yet perfect. Almost everything within these walls has been built or completely transformed since the days of Nicholas. But, then as now, here was the heart and centre of Christendom, the supreme shrine of the Catholic faith, the home of the spiritual ruler whose sway reaches over the whole earth. When Nicholas began his reign, the old Church of St. Peter was the church of the Western world, then, as now, classical in form, a stately basilica without the picturesqueness and romantic variety, and also, as we think, without the majesty and grandeur, of a Gothic cathedral, yet more picturesque if less stupendous in size and construction, than the present great edifice, so majestic in its own grave and splendid way, with which, through all the agitations of the recent centuries, the name of St. Peter has been identified. The earlier church was full of riches and of great associations, to which the wonderful St. Peter's we all know can lay claim only as its successor and supplanter. With its flight of broad steps, its portico and colonnaded facade crowned with a great tower, it dominated the square, open and glowing in the sun, without the shelter of the great existing colonnades or the sparkle of the fountains.
Behind was the little palace begun by Innocent III, to afford a shelter for the popes in dangerous times, or on occasion to receive the foreign guests whose object was to visit the shrine of the apostles. Almost all the buildings then standing have been replaced by greater, yet the position is the same, the shrine unchanged, though everything else then existing has faded away, except some portion of the old wall which enclosed this sacred place in a special sanctity and security, which was not, however, always respected. The Borgo was the holiest portion of all the sacred city. It was there that the blood of the martyrs had been shed, and where from the earliest age of Christianity their memory and tradition had been preserved. It was not necessary for us to enter into the question whether St. Peter ever was in Rome, which many writers have laboriously contested. So far as the record of the Acts of the Apostles is concerned, there is no evidence at all for or against, but tradition is all on the side of those who assert it. The position taken by Signor Lanciani on this point seems to us a very sensible one. "I write about the monuments of ancient Rome," he says, "from a strictly archaeological point of view, avoiding questions which pertain, or are supposed to pertain, to religious controversy.
"For the archaeologist the presence and execution of SS. Peter and Paul in Rome are facts established beyond a shadow of doubt by purely monumental evidence. There was a time when persons belonging to different creeds made it almost a case of conscience to affirm or deny a priori those facts, according to their acceptance or rejection of the tradition of any particular church. This state of feeling is a matter of the past, at least for those who have followed the progress of recent discoveries and of critical literature. There is no event of the Imperial age and of Imperial Rome which is attested by so many noble structures, all of which point to the same conclusion—the presence and execution of the apostles in the capital of the Empire. When Constantine raised the monumental basilicas over their tombs on the Via Cornelia and the Via Ostiensis; when Eudoxia built the Church ad Vincula; when Damascus put a memorial tablet in the Platonia and Catacombos; when the houses of Pudens and Aquila and Prisca were turned into oratories; when the name of Nymphae Sancti Petri was given to the springs in the catacombs of the Via Nomentana; when the 29th of June was accepted as the anniversary of St. Peter's execution; when sculptors, painters, medallists, goldsmiths, workers in glass and enamel, and engravers of precious stones all began to reproduce in Rome the likeness of the apostle at the beginning of the second century, and continued to do so till the fall of the Empire—must we consider them as laboring under a delusion, or conspiring in the commission of a gigantic fraud? Why were such proceedings accepted without protest from whatever city, whatever community—if there were any other—which claimed to own the genuine tombs of SS. Peter and Paul? These arguments gain more value from the fact that the evidence on the other side is purely negative."
This is one of those practical arguments which are always more interesting than those which depend upon theories and opinions. However, there are many books on both sides of the question which may be consulted. We are content to follow Signor Lanciani. The special sanctity and importance of Il Borgo originated in this belief. The shrine of the apostle was its centre and glory. It was this that brought pilgrims from the far corners of the earth before there was any masterpiece of art to visit, or any of those priceless collections which now form the glory of the Vatican. The spot of the apostles' execution was indicated "by immemorial tradition" as between the two goals (inter duas metas) of Nero's Circus, which spot Signor Lanciani tells us is exactly the site of the obelisk now standing in the piazza of St. Peter. A little chapel, called the Chapel of the Crucifixion, stood there in the early ages, before any great basilica or splendid shrine was possible.
This sacred spot, and the church built to commemorate it, were naturally the centre of all those religious traditions which separate Rome from every other city. It was to preserve them from assault, "in order that it should be less easy for the enemy to make depredations and burn the Church of St. Peter, as they have heretofore done," that Leo IV, the first pope whom we find engaged in any real work of construction, built a wall round the mound of the Vatican, and Colle Vaticano—"little hill," not so high as the seven hills of Rome—where against the strong wall of Nero's Circus Constantine had built his great basilica. At that period—in the middle of the ninth century—there was nothing but the church and shrine—no palace and no hospital. The existing houses were given to the Corsi, a family which had been driven out of their island, according to Platina, by the Saracens, who shortly before had made an incursion up to the very walls of Rome, whither the peoples of the coast (luoghi maritimi del Mar Terreno) from Naples northward had apparently pursued the corsairs, and helped the Romans to beat them back. One other humble building of some sort, "called Burgus Saxonum, Vicus Saxonum, Schola Saxonum, and simply Saxia or Sassia," it is interesting to know, existed close to the sacred centre of the place, a lodging built for himself by Ina, King of Wessex, in 727. Thus the English have a national association of their own with the central shrine of Christianity.
There was also a Schola Francorum in the Borgo. The pilgrims must have built their huts and set up some sort of little oratory—favored, as was the case even in Pope Nicholas' day, by the excellent quarry of the Circus close at hand—as near as possible to the great shrine and basilica which they had come so far to say their prayers in, and attracted, too, no doubt, by the freedom of the lonely suburb between the green hill and the flowing river. Leo IV built his wall round this little city, and fortified it by towers. "In every part he put sculptors of marble and wrote a prayer," says Platina. One of these gates led to St. Pellegrino, another was close to the castle of St. Angelo, and was "the gate by which one goes forth to the open country." The third led to the School of the Saxons; and over each was a prayer inscribed. These three prayers were all to the same effect—"that God would defend this new city which the Pope had enclosed with walls and called by his own name, the Leonine City, from all assaults of the enemy, either by fraud or by force."
The greatest, however, of all the conceptions of Pope Nicholas, the very centre of his great plan, was the library of the Vatican, which he began to build and to which he left all the collections of his life. Vespasian gives us a list of the principal among these five thousand volumes, the things which he prized most, which the Pope bequeathed to the Church and to Rome. These cherished rolls of parchment, many of them translations made under his own eyes, were enclosed in elaborate bindings ornamented with gold and silver. We are not, however, informed whether any of the great treasures of the Vatican library came from his hands—the good Vespasian taking more interest in the work of his scribes than in codexes. He tells us of five hundred scudi given to Lorenzo Valle with a pretty speech that the price was below his merits, but that eventually he should have more liberal pay; of fifteen hundred scudi given to Guerroni for a translation of the Iliad, and so forth. It is like a bookseller of the present day vaunting his new editions to a collector in search of the earliest known. But Pope Nicholas, like most other patrons of his time, knew no Greek, nor probably ever expected that it would become a usual subject of study, so that his translations were precious to him, the chief way of making his treasures of any practical use.
The greater part, alas! of all his splendor has passed away. One pure and perfect glory, the little Chapel of San Lorenzo, painted by the tender hand of Fra Angelico, remains unharmed, the only work of that grand painter to be found in Rome. If one could have chosen a monument for the good Pope, the patron and friend of art in every form, there could not have been a better than this. Fra Angelico seems to have been brought to Rome by Pope Eugenius, but it was under Nicholas, in two or three years of gentle labor, that the work was done. It is, however, impossible to enumerate all the undertakings of Pope Nicholas. He did something to reestablish or decorate almost all the great basilicas. It is feared—but here our later historians speak with bated breath, not liking to bring such an accusation against the kind Pope, who loved men of letters—that the destruction of St. Peter's, afterward ruthlessly carried out by succeeding popes, was in his plan, on the pretext, so constantly employed, and possibly believed in, of the instability of the ancient building. But there is no absolute certainty of evidence, and at all events he might have repented, for he certainly did not do that deed. He began the tribune, however, in the ancient church, which may have been a preparation for the entire renewal of the edifice; and he did much toward the decoration of another round church, that of the Madonna delle Febbre, an ill-omened name, attached to the Vatican. He also built the Belvedere in the gardens, and surrounded the whole with strong walls and towers (round), one of which, according to Nibby, still remained fifty years ago, which very little of Nicholas' building has done. His great sin was one which he shared with all his brother-popes, that he boldly treated the antique ruins of the city as quarries for his new buildings, not without protest and remonstrance from many, yet with the calm of a mind preoccupied and seeing nothing so great and important as the work upon which his own heart was set.
This excellent Pope died in 1455, soon after having received the news of the downfall of Constantinople, which is said to have broken his heart. He had many ailments, and was always a small and spare man of little strength of constitution; "but nothing transfixed his heart so much as to hear that the Turks had taken Constantinople and killed the Europeans, with many thousands of Christians, among them that same 'Imperadore de Gostantinopli' whom he had seen seated in state at the Council of Ferrara, listening to his own and other arguments, only a few years before—as well as the greater part, no doubt, of his own clerical opponents there. When he was dying, 'being not the less of a strong spirit,' he called the cardinals round his bed, and many prelates with them, and made them a last address. His pontificate had lasted a little more than eight years, and to have carried out so little of his great plan must have been heavy on his heart; but his dying words are those of one to whom the holiness and unity of the Church came before all. No doubt the fear that the victorious Turks might spread ruin over the whole of Christendom was first in his mind at that solemn hour.
"'Knowing, my dearest brethren, that I am approaching the hour of my death, I would, for the great dignity and authority of the apostolic see, make a serious and important testimony before you, not committed to the memory of letters, not written, neither on a tablet nor on parchment, but given by my living voice, that it may have more authority. Listen, I pray you, while your little Pope Nicholas, in the very instant of dying, makes his last will before you. In the first place I render thanks to the Highest God for the measureless benefits which, beginning from the day of my birth until the present day, I have received of his infinite mercy. And now I recommend to you this beautiful Spouse of Christ, whom, so far as I was able, I have exalted and magnified, as each of you is well aware; knowing this to be the honor of God, for the great dignity that is in her, and the great privileges that she possesses, and so worthy, and formed by so worthy an Author, who is the Creator of the universe. Being of sane mind and intellect, and having done that which every Christian is called to do, and specially the Pastor of the Church, I have received the most sacred body of Christ with penitence, taking it from his table with my two hands, and praying the Omnipotent God that he would pardon my sins. Having had these sacraments I have also received the extreme unction, which is the last sacrament for the redeeming of my soul. Again I recommend to you, as long as I am able, the Roman Church, notwithstanding that I have already done so; for this is the most important duty you have to fufil in the sight of God and men. This is the true Spouse of Christ which he bought with his blood. This is the robe without seam, which the impious Jews would have torn, but could not. This is that ship of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, agitated and tossed by varied fortunes of the winds, but sustained by the Omnipotent God, so that she could never be submerged or shipwrecked. With all the strength of your souls sustain her and rule her: she has need of your good works, and you should show a good example by your lives. If you with all your strength care for her and love her, God will reward you, both in this present life and in the future with life eternal; and to do this with all the strength we have, we pray you, do it diligently, dearest brethren.'
"Having said this he raised his hands to heaven and said: 'Omnipotent God, grant to the holy Church, and to these fathers, a pastor who will preserve her and increase her; give to them a good pastor who will rule and govern thy flock the most maturely that one can rule and govern. And I pray for you and comfort you as much as I know and can. Pray for me to God in your prayers.' When he had ended these words he raised his right arm and, with a generous soul, gave the benediction,' Benedict vos Deus, Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus'—speaking with a raised voice and solemnly, in modo pontificate"
These tremulous words, broken and confused by the weakness of his last hours, were taken down by the favorite scribe, Giannozzo Manetti, in the chamber of the dying Pope; with much more of the most serious matter to the Church and to Rome. His eager desire to soften all possible controversies and produce in the minds of the conclave about his bed, so full of ambition and the force of life, the softened heart which would dispose them to a peaceful and conscientious election of his successor, is very touching, coming out of the fogs and mists of approaching death.
In the very age that produced the Borgias, and himself the head of that band of elegant scholars and connoisseurs, everything but Christian, to whom Rome owes so much of her external beauty and splendor, it is pathetic to stand by this kind and gentle spirit as he pauses on the threshold of a higher life, subduing the astute and worldly minded churchmen around him with the tender appeal of the dying father, their Papa Niccolato, familiar and persuasive—beseeching them to be of one accord without so much as saying it, turning his own weakness to account to touch their hearts, for the honor of the Church and the welfare of the flock.
MAHOMET II TAKES CONSTANTINOPLE.
END OF THE EASTERN EMPIRE
By the greater number of historians the fall of Constantinople under the Moslem power is considered as the decisive event which separates the modern from the mediaeval period. From the same event dates the final establishment of the Ottoman empire both in Asia Minor and in Europe. At that moment, when the Moorish power in Spain had been almost destroyed, Christian Europe was threatened for the second time with Mahometan conquest.
From 1354, when Suleiman crossed the Hellespont and captured Gallipoli, the Turks from Asia Minor had kept their foothold on European soil. Under Amurath I (1359-1389), Bajazet I (1389-1403), Mahomet I and Amurath II (1404-1451)—the last of whom, in 1422, unsuccessfully besieged Constantinople—the Ottoman dominions in Europe were much extended. When Mahomet II, son of Amurath II, became Sultan (1451), the Turks were so strongly established, and the Eastern Empire was so much weakened, that he was prepared to finish the work of his predecessors and make the Ottoman power in Europe what it has ever since been.
Mahomet "the Conqueror"—such was his surname—had for his adversary Constantine XIII, the last of the Greek emperors, who was proclaimed in 1448, with the consent of Amurath II, whose power is thus attested. The Empire was torn by the quarrels of political factions and by theological dissensions. When Mahomet succeeded to the sultanate he was but twenty-one years old, but had already given proof of great talents, learning, and ambition, all guided by a judgment of remarkable maturity.
The first object of Mahomet's ambition was the conquest of Constantinople, the natural capital of his dominions. As long as it was held by Eastern Christians the Ottoman empire was open to invasion by those of the West. The first threatening act of Mahomet was the construction of a fortress on Constantine's territory, at the narrowest part of the Bosporus, and within five miles of Constantinople. Constantine was too weak to resent the menace with vigor, and Mahomet treated his mild protest with contempt, denying the right of a vassal of the Porte to dispute the Sultan's will. A feeble resistance by some of the Greeks only gave Mahomet pretexts for further aggression, soon followed by his formal declaration of war.
Both parties began to prepare for the mortal contest. The siege of Constantinople was to be the great event of the coming year. The Sultan, in order to prevent the Emperor's brothers in the Peloponnesus from sending any succors to the capital, ordered Turakhan, the Pacha of Thessaly, to invade the peninsula. He himself took up his residence at Adrianople, to collect warlike stores and siege artillery. Constantine, on his part, made every preparation in his power for a vigorous defence. He formed large magazines of provisions, collected military stores, and enrolled all the soldiers he could muster among the Greek population of Constantinople. But the inhabitants of that city were either unable or unwilling to furnish recruits in proportion to their numbers. Bred up in peaceful occupation, they probably possessed neither the activity nor the habitual exercise which was required to move with ease under the weight of armor then in use. So few were found disposed to fight for their country that not more than six thousand Greek troops appeared under arms during the whole siege.
The numerical weakness of the Greek army rendered it incapable of defending so large a city as Constantinople, even with all the advantage to be derived from strong fortifications. The Emperor was therefore anxious to obtain the assistance of the warlike citizens of the Italian republics, where good officers and experienced troops were then numerous. As he had no money to engage mercenaries, he could only hope to succeed by papal influence. An embassy was sent to Pope Nicholas V, begging immediate aid, and declaring the Emperor's readiness to complete the union of the churches in any way the Pope should direct. Nicholas despatched Cardinal Isidore, the Metropolitan of Kiev, who had joined the Latin Church, as his legate. Isidore had represented the Russian Church at the Council of Florence; but on his return to Russia he was imprisoned as an apostate, and with difficulty escaped to Italy. He was by birth a Greek; and being a man of learning and conciliatory manners, it was expected that he would be favorably received at Constantinople.
The Cardinal arrived at Constantinople in November, 1452. He was accompanied by a small body of chosen troops, and brought some pecuniary aid, which he employed in repairing the most dilapidated part of the fortifications. Both the Emperor and the Cardinal deceived themselves in supposing that the dangers to which the Greek nation and the Christian Church were exposed would induce the orthodox to yield something of their ecclesiastical forms and phrases. It was evident that foreign aid could alone save Constantinople, and it was absurd to imagine that the Latins would fight for those who treated them as heretics and who would not fight for themselves. The crisis therefore compelled the Greeks to choose between union with the Church of Rome or submission to the Ottoman power. They had to decide whether the preservation of the Greek empire was worth the ecclesiastical sacrifices they were called upon to make in order to preserve their national independence.
In the mean time the emperor Constantine celebrated his union with the papal Church, in the Cathedral of St. Sophia, on December 12, 1452. The court and the great body of the dignified clergy ratified the act by their presence; but the monks and the people repudiated the connection. In their opinion, the Church of St. Sophia was polluted by the ceremony, and from that day it was deserted by the orthodox. The historian Ducas declares that they looked upon it as a haunt of demons, and no better than a pagan shrine. The monks, the nuns, and the populace publicly proclaimed their detestation of the union; and their opposition was inflamed by the bigotry of an ambitious pedant, who, under the name of Georgius Scholarius, acted as a warm partisan of the union at the Council of Florence, and under the ecclesiastical name of Gennadius is known in history as the subservient patriarch of Sultan Mahomet II. On returning from Italy, he made a great parade of his repentance for complying with the unionists at Florence. He shut himself up in the monastery of Pantokrator, where he assumed the monastic habit and the name of Gennadius, under which he consummated the union between the Greek Church and the Ottoman administration.
At the present crisis he stepped forward as the leader of the most bigoted party, and excited his followers to the most furious opposition to measures which he had once advocated as salutary for the Church, and indispensable to the preservation of the State. The unionists were now accused of sacrificing true religion to the delusion of human policy, of insulting God to serve the Pope, and of preferring the interests of their bodies to the care of their souls. In place of exhorting their countrymen to aid the Emperor, who was straining every nerve to defend their country—in place of infusing into their minds the spirit of patriotism and religion, these teachers of the people were incessantly inveighing against the wickedness of the unionists and the apostasy of the Emperor. So completely did their bigotry extinguish every feeling of patriotism that the grand duke Notaras declared he would rather see Constantinople subjected to the turban of the Sultan than to the tiara of the Pope.
His wish was gratified; but, in dying, he must have felt how fearfully he had erred in comparing the effects of papal arrogance with the cruelty of Mahometan tyranny. The Emperor Constantine, who felt the importance of the approaching contest, showed great prudence and moderation in his difficult position. The spirit of Christian charity calmed his temper, and his determination not to survive the empire gave a deliberate coolness to his military conduct. Though his Greek subjects often raised seditions, and reviled him in the streets, the Emperor took no notice of their behavior. To induce the orthodox to fight for their country, by having a leader of their own party, he left the grand duke Notaras in office; yet he well knew that this bigot would never act cordially with the Latin auxiliaries, who were the best troops in the city; and the Emperor had some reason to distrust the patriotism of Notaras, seeing that he hoarded his immense wealth, instead of expending a portion of it for his country.
The fortifications were not found to be in a good state of repair. Two monks who had been intrusted with a large sum for the purpose of repairing them had executed their duty in an insufficient and it was generally said in a fraudulent manner. The extreme dishonesty that prevailed among the Greek officials explains the selection of monks as treasurers for military objects; and it must lessen our surprise at finding men of their religious professions sharing in the general avarice, or tolerating the habitual peculations of others.
Cannon were beginning to be used in sieges, but stone balls were used in the larger pieces of artillery; and the larger the gun, the greater was the effect it was expected to produce. Even in Constantinople there was some artillery too large to be of much use, as the land wall had not been constructed to admit of their recoil, and the ramparts were so weak as to be shaken by their concussion. Constantine had also only a moderate supply of gunpowder. The machines of a past epoch in military science, but to the use of which the Greeks adhered with their conservative prejudices, were brought from the storehouses, and planted on the walls beside the modern artillery. Johann Grant, a German officer, was the most experienced artilleryman and military engineer in the place.
A considerable number of Italians hastened to Constantinople as soon as they heard of its danger, eager to defend so important a depot of Eastern commerce. The spirit of enterprise and the love of military renown had become as much a characteristic of the merchant nobles of the commercial republics as they had been, in a preceding age, distinctions of the barons in feudal monarchies. All the nations who then traded with Constantinople furnished contingents to defend its walls. A short time before the siege commenced, John Justiniani arrived with two Genoese galleys and three hundred chosen troops, and the Emperor valued his services so highly that he was appointed general of the guard. The resident bailo of the Venetians furnished three large galeases and a body of troops for the defence of the port. The consul of Catalans, with his countrymen and the Aragonese, undertook the defence of the great palace of Bukoleon and the port of Kontoskalion. Cardinal Isidore, with the papal troops, defended the Kynegesion, and the angle of the city at the head of the port down to St. Demetrius. The importance of the aid which was afforded by the Latins is proved by the fact that of twelve military divisions, into which Constantine divided the fortifications, the commands of only two were intrusted to the exclusive direction of Greek officers. In the others, Greeks shared the command with foreigners, or aliens alone conducted the defence.
When all Constantine's preparations for defence were completed, he found himself obliged to man a line of wall on the land side of about five miles in length, every point of which was exposed to a direct attack. The remainder of the wall toward the port and the Propontis exceeded nine miles in extent, and his whole garrison hardly amounted to nine thousand men. His fleet consisted of only twenty galleys and three Venetian galeases, but the entry of the port was closed by a chain, the end of which, on the side of Galata, was secured in a strong fort of which the Greeks kept possession. During the winter the Emperor sent out his fleet to ravage the coast of the Propontis as far as Cyzicus, and the spirit of the Greeks was roused by the booty they made in these expeditions.
Mahomet II spent the winter at Adrianople, preparing everything necessary for commencing the siege with vigor. His whole mind was absorbed by the glory of conquering the Roman Empire and gaining possession of Constantinople, which for more than eleven hundred fifty years had been the capital of the East. While the fever of ambition inflamed his soul, his cooler judgment also warned him that the Ottoman power rested on a perilous basis as long as Constantinople, the true capital of his empire, remained in the hands of others. Mahomet could easily assemble a sufficient number of troops for his enterprise, but it required all his activity and power to collect the requisite supplies of provisions and stores for the immense military and naval force he had ordered to assemble, and to prepare the artillery and ammunition necessary to insure success.
Early and late, in his court and in his cabinet, the young Sultan could talk of nothing but the approaching siege. With the writing-reed and a scroll of paper in his hand he was often seen tracing plans of the fortifications of Constantinople, and marking out positions for his own batteries. Every question relating to the extent and locality of the various magazines to be constructed in order to maintain the troops was discussed in his presence; he himself distributed the troops in their respective divisions and regulated the order of their march; he issued the orders relating to the equipment of the fleet, and discussed the various methods proposed for breaching, mining, and scaling the walls. His enthusiasm was the impulse of a hero, but the immense superiority of his force would have secured him the victory with any ordinary degree of perseverance.
The Ottomans were already familiar with the use of cannon. Amurath II had employed them when he besieged Constantinople in 1422; but Mahomet now resolved on forming a more powerful battering-train than had previously existed. Neither the Greeks nor Turks possessed the art of casting large guns. Both were obliged to employ foreigners. An experienced artilleryman and founder named Urban, by birth a Wallachian, carried into execution the Sultan's wishes. He had passed some time in the Greek service; but, even the moderate pay he was allowed by the Emperor having fallen in arrear, he resigned his place and transferred his services to the Sultan, who knew better how to value warlike knowledge. He now gave Mahomet proof of his skill by casting the largest cannon which had ever been fabricated. He had already placed one of extraordinary size in the new castle of the Bosporus, which carried across the straits. The gun destined for the siege of Constantinople far exceeded in size this monster, and the diameter of its mouth must have been nearly two feet and a half. Other cannon of great size, whose balls of stone weighed one hundred fifty pounds, were also cast, as well as many guns of smaller calibre. All these, together with a number of ballistae and other ancient engines still employed in sieges, were mounted on carriages in order to transport them to Constantinople. The conveyance of this formidable train of artillery, and of the immense quantity of ammunition required for its service, was by no means a trifling operation.
The first division of the Ottoman army moved from Adrianople in February, 1453. In the mean time a numerous corps of pioneers worked constantly at the road, in order to prepare it for the passage of the long train of artillery and baggage wagons. Temporary bridges, capable of being taken to pieces, were erected by the engineers over every ravine and water-course, and the materials for every siege advanced steadily, though slowly, to their destination. The extreme difficulty of moving the monster cannon with its immense balls retarded the Sultan's progress, and it was the beginning of April before the whole battering-train reached Constantinople, though the distance from Adrianople is barely a hundred miles. The division of the army under Karadja Pacha had already reduced Mesembria and the castle of St. Stephanus. Selymbria alone defended itself, and the fortifications were so strong that Mahomet ordered it to be closely blockaded, and left its fate to be determined by that of the capital.
On April 6th Sultan Mahomet II encamped on the slope of the hill facing the quarter of Blachern, a little beyond the ground occupied by the crusaders in 1203, and immediately ordered the construction of lines extending from the head of the port to the shore of the Propontis. These lines were formed of a mound of earth, and they served both to restrain the sorties of the besieged and to cover the troops from the fire of the enemy's artillery and missiles. The batteries were then formed; the principal were erected against the gate of Charsias, in the quarter of Blachern, and against the gate of St. Romanus, near the centre of the city wall. It was against this last gate that the fire of the monster gun was directed and the chief attack was made.
The land forces of the Turks probably amounted to about seventy thousand men of all arms and qualities; but the real strength of the army lay in the corps of janizaries, then the best infantry in Europe, and their number did not exceed twelve thousand. At the same time, twenty thousand cavalry, mounted on the finest horses of the Turkoman breed, and hardened by long service, were ready to fight either on horseback or on foot, under the eye of their young Sultan. The fleet which had been collected along the Asiatic coast, from the ports of the Black Sea to those of the Aegean, brought additional supplies of men, provisions, and military stores. It consisted of three hundred twenty vessels of various sizes and forms. The greater part were only half-decked coasters, and even the largest were far inferior in size to the galleys and galeases of the Greeks and Italians.
The fortifications of Constantinople toward the land side vary so little from a straight line that they afford great facilities for attack. The defences had been originally constructed on a magnificent scale and with great skill, according to the ancient art of war. Even though they were partly ruined by time and weakened by careless reparations, they still offered a formidable obstacle to the imperfect science of the engineers in Mahomet's army. Two lines of wall, each flanked with its own towers, rose one above the other, overlooking a broad and deep ditch. The interval between these walls enabled the defenders to form in perfect security, and facilitated their operations in clearing the ditch and retarding the preparation for assault. The actual appearance of the low walls of Constantinople, with the ditch more than half filled up, gives only an incorrect picture of their former state.
Mahomet had made his preparations for the siege with so much skill that his preliminary works advanced with unexpected rapidity. The numerical superiority of his army, and the precautions he had adopted for strengthening his lines, rendered the sorties of the garrison useless. The ultimate success of the defence depended on the arrival of assistance from abroad; but the numbers of the Ottoman fleet seemed to render even this hope almost desperate. An incident occurred that showed the immense advantage conferred by skill, when united with courage, over an apparently irresistible superiority of force in naval warfare. Four large ships, laden with grain and stores, one of which bore the Greek and the other the Genoese flag, had remained for some time wind-bound at Chios, and were anxiously expected at Constantinople. At daybreak these ships were perceived by the Turkish watchmen steering for Constantinople, with a strong breeze in their favor. The war-galleys of the Sultan immediately got under way to capture them. The Sultan himself rode down to the point of Tophane to witness a triumph which he considered certain and which he thought would reduce his enemy to despair. The Greeks crowded the walls of the city, offering up prayers for their friends and trembling for their safety in the desperate struggle that awaited them. The Christians had several advantages which their nautical experience enabled them to turn to good account. The good size of their ships, the strength of their construction, their weight, and their high bulwarks were all powerful means of defence when aided by a stiff breeze blowing directly in the teeth of their opponents. The Turks were compelled to row their galleys against this wind and the heavy sea it raised. In vain they attacked the Christians with reckless valor, fighting under the eye of their fiery sovereign. The skill of their enemy rendered all their attacks abortive. In vain one squadron attempted to impede the progress of the Christians, while another endeavored to run alongside and carry them by boarding. Every Turkish galley that opposed their progress was crushed under the weight of their heavy hulls, while those that endeavored to board had their oars shivered in the shock, and drifted helpless far astern. The few that succeeded for a moment in retaining their place alongside were either sunk by immense angular blocks of stone that were dropped on their frail timbers, or were filled with flames and smoke by the Greek fire that was poured upon them. The rapidity with which the best galleys were sunk or disabled appalled the bravest; and at last the Turks shrank from close combat on an element where they saw that valor without experience was of no avail. The Christian ships, in the mean time, held steadily on their course, under all the canvas their masts could carry, until they rounded the point of St. Demetrius and entered the port, where the chain was joyfully lowered to admit them.
The young Sultan, on seeing the defeat of his galleys, lost all command over his temper. He could hardly be restrained from urging his horse into the sea, and in his frantic passion heaped every term of abuse and insult on his naval officers. He even talked of ordering his admiral, Baltaoghlu, to be impaled on the spot; but the janizaries present compelled even Mahomet to restrain his vengeance. This check revealed to Mahomet the extent of the danger to which his naval force was exposed should either the Genoese or Venetians send a powerful fleet to the assistance of the emperor Constantine.
This naval discomfiture was also attended by some disasters on shore. The monster cannon burst before it had produced any serious impression on the walls. Its loss, however, was soon replaced; but the Ottoman army was repulsed in a general attack. An immense tower of timber, mounted on many wheels, and constructed on the model used in sieges from the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, was dragged up to the edge of the ditch. Under its cover, workmen were incessantly employed throwing materials into the ditch to enable the tower itself to approach the walls, while the fire of several guns and the operations of a corps of miners ruined the opposite tower of the city. The progress of the besiegers induced them to risk an assault, in which they were repulsed, after a hard-fought struggle: and during the following night John Justiniani made a great sortie, during which his workmen cleared the ditch, and his soldiers filled the tower with combustible materials and burned it to the ground. Its exterior, having been protected by a triple covering of buffalo-hides, was found to be impervious even to Greek fire.
In order to counteract the effect of these defeats, which had depressed the courage of the Ottomans and raised the spirits of the Greeks, the Sultan resolved to adopt measures for placing his fleet in security, and facilitating the communication between the army before Constantinople and the naval camp on the Bosporus. The Venetians had recently transported a number of their galleys from the river Adige overland to the lake of Garda. This exploit, which had been loudly celebrated at the time, suggested to the Sultan the idea of transporting a number of vessels from the Bosporus into the port of Constantinople, where the smooth water and the command of the shore would secure to his ships the mastery of the upper half of that extensive harbor. The distance over which it was necessary to transport the galleys was only five miles, but a steep hill presented a formidable obstacle to the undertaking. Mahomet, nevertheless, having witnessed the transport of his monster cannon over rivers and hills, was persuaded that his engineers would find no difficulty in moving his ships overland. A road was accordingly made, and laid with strong planks and wooden rails, which were plastered over with tallow. It extended from the station occupied by the fleet at Dolma Baktshe to the summit of the ridge near the Cemetery of Pera. On this inclined plane, with the assistance of windlasses and numerous yokes of oxen, the vessels were hauled up one after the other to the summit of the hill, from whence they descended with difficulty to the point beyond the present arsenal, where they were launched into the port under the protection of batteries prepared for their defence. Historians, wishing to give a dramatic character to their pages, have attributed marvellous difficulties to this daring exploit. It was a well-conceived and well-executed undertaking, for a division of the Ottoman fleet was conveyed into the port in a single night, where the Greeks, at the dawn of day, were amazed at beholding the hostile ships safe under the protection of inexpugnable batteries.
To establish an easy and rapid communication between the naval camp on the Bosporus and the army before Constantinople, Mahomet ordered a floating bridge to be constructed across the port, from the point near the old foundry, on the side of Galata, to that near the angle of the city walls, near Haivan Serai, the ancient amphitheatre. The roadway of this bridge was supported on the enormous jars used for storing oil and wine, numbers of which were easily collected in the suburbs of Galata. These jars, when bound together with their mouth inverted in the water, formed admirable pontoons. Artillery was mounted on this bridge and the galleys were brought up to the city walls, which were now assailed from a quarter hitherto safe from attack. The Genoese under Justiniani on one occasion, and the Venetians on another, were defeated in their attempts to burn the Turkish fleet and destroy the bridge. The fire of the artillery rendered the attacks of the Italians abortive, and their failure afforded a decisive proof that the defence of the city was becoming desperate. To avoid the admission of their inferiority in force, the defeated parties threw the blame on one another, and their dissensions became so violent that the Emperor could hardly appease the quarrel.