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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

XVIII: The Aftermath of the Crusades,   pp. [unnumbered]-666 PDF (7.8 MB)

Page 658

Hisar) on the European shore and at the narrowest point of the Bosporus facing
an older one (Anadolu Hisar) previously founded by sultan Bayazid. Then he
concentrated on investing the city with all his might. It is difficult to
estimate with precision the number of his forces marshaled outside the walls,
given as 160,000 or more men; we must assume that reinforcements continued
to pour in from Anatolia to replace the dead and the wounded after the beginning
of fighting. The sultan was conscious that nothing could be done without
a maritime blockade to complete the siege circle from the sea. For this purpose,
he collected 140 ships including twelve great galleys. But we must not exaggerate
the strength of the nascent Turkish sea power, and we must remember that
that fleet was shut out of the Golden Horn by the famous chain until a late
stage in the ensuing assaults. Still more important was Mehmed's stress on
the importance of the artillery and the use of gunpowder. He hired Christian
renegades to manufacture the finest cannon of the age for him. One of them,
a Hungarian named Urban, foundered seventy pieces including a giant super-bombard
capable of casting balls of stone weighing 800 pounds. It was drawn from
Adrianople to the siege by sixty oxen in forty-two days. However, it turned
out to be a failure as it exploded and killed its maker when it was fired.
Other more successful pieces comprised eleven cannon casting 500-pound stone
balls, and over fifty of smaller caliber casting 200-pound stone balls. Undoubtedly,
Ottoman artillery was a decisive factor in paving the way for storming the
city of Constantine. 
In Europe, two propagandists spoke out for a passagium generale, with little
or no effect. John Germain, on behalf of the duke of Burgundy, read his famous
"Discourse on the Crusade" to Charles VII in 1452, and Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini,
then bishop of Siena, representing emperor Frederick III, delivered an eloquent
oration on the same subject before the pope and the cardinals. Both were
dismissed with only promises. This was time not for negotiations, but for
immediate action. When six Venetian merchant galleys arrived in the Bosporus
from Candia, they were requisitioned for the defense, and the republic of
St. Mark could but register its approval. Gabriel Trevisan, the Venetian
commander, and his mariners were thus employed by the Byzantine emperor,
and this represents the only real contribution from Venice. When the commune
received the still more alarming news of the position in the east during
February 1453, the senate issued orders to James Loredan to lead five more
galleys for the relief of the city. The fleet arrived in the waters of Negroponte
one day after the fall of Constantinople. Perhaps the 

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