capture_of_constantinople

capture_of_constantinople - FROM‘ 7“ emu/Lg of...

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Unformatted text preview: FROM‘ 7“ » emu/Lg of: ewsmm-woag’ 94. Chapter 13 So now, therefore, do you wantonly flee, showing your backside? Defeated only by panic resulting from first battle, In the first battle terrified by scarcely a blow, You are disgracefiilly defeated, and you shamelessly flee a rejected throne, Which you purchased for yourself at the price of such loathsome wickedness. ”9 1 3. Consequently, the citizens of this magnificent city were ter- rified at the flight of their king, even though most had hardly been partial to him earlier because of the crimes he had perpetrated, and at the same time they were assailed by messengers with repeated promises and entreaties from Alexius the Younger.150 Also, to their despair, our people were threatening destruction of the city unless they accepted him, the legal heir to the kingdom,‘as king. So they opened the gates and peacefully admitted him, along with the en- tire army, within the walls. Furthermore, this youth, bedecked in royal apparel and, as was proper, placed on the royal throne with- out delay,15‘ kindly and freely ordered one-half of the promised money paid out to our leaders, while expressing the hope that he would be paying the remainder in a very short while.152 Therefore our people tarried in that city for several days ‘53 and used restraint in availing themselves of the services of both the new king and the citizens, being exceedingly careful not to appear burdensome guests to him. However, because that city, albeit gragd and splen- did, ‘54 could not meet thepeeds of such a large contingent of men and horseslgndvgivggthattheseflwere two people of such diverse language and customs who $9.29.? have much love for one‘an- @Mjfifisfia;m leavinglthen "city, to. relocate themselves on a wideexpanse Qf,flat_land.‘56 Here they pitched camp and politely awaited fulfillment of the king’s pledges. After they had left the city, a secret citizens’ rebellion began to take root against the king; most were grumbling that he showed inordinate affection for people who were pilgrims and strangers to their customs, had already handed over to them, without cause, almost all the wealth of Greece, and proposed to lavish yet as much Chapter 13 95 or perhaps even more on them, although his kingdom was already despoiled.157 Since virtually everyone deplored this state of affairs, they even dared to censure the king himself openly, telling him publicly not to despoil his kingdom in order to reward foreigners and not to turn the profit of others into their own impoverish- ment. Rather, he should, along with them, attack and destroy those strangers, as though they were invaders greedy for the poss— essions of others.”8 This rebellion of theirs deeply frightened the new king, partly because of the faithlessness of these citizens who had accepted him under compulsion, partly because of the affection he had for our people, and partly because of the oath to discharge payment which he had assumed in good faith. You could see him severely dis— turbed, as though torn between the wickedness of his people and the love of ours and the favor of King Philip, whom he feared he would severely offend should he cheat or injure our people.159 Because he could not easily be goaded into such villainy, Midflo, whom we mentioned above,160 through whose advice his father had been blinded and he himself put away in jail, strangled him with his own hands, ”’1 stating: “It is a lesser evil for this one man to‘be‘removed from this life than for the riches of all of Greece to be handed over to baseborn persons because of his stupidity.” Once Alexius had been put out of the way,~Mmci.flo crowned himself with the diadem, as though he were a man of royal lineage and even related by blood.162 Occupying the royal throne with both audacity and insolence, he began to deliberate mercilessly on the affairs of the kingdom and the destruction of our people. We, greatly repelled by the impiety of his deed, are thus compelled to cry out: Oh, crime! Oh, madness! Oh, fraud! A tyranny to be feared! Oh, new barbarism, unknown in earlier years! What race, what land, what age has known the equal of that Which God and reason have far removed from piety? What raging beast could be believed to dare such against other beasts: To have killed one of its own kind, and without cause? ,.,..Tm.. ... ~—-— .. «waxing-ovwmv-mzo—W . V" " “‘ ‘ A A U A ,M gnaw-gm: . i 96 Chapter 14. No brute would do to his own what the Achaean ”’3 has done, A man noxious and harmful to innocent kings. By his cunning, 1“ the father was unjustly robbed of his sight And the son killed, although he was so very close to both. But he will pay, and soon he will suffer what he has earned by his services. Savage and cruel, he will experience whatever he himself has done. Dishonorably driven from royal power, he will forsake ill- gotten gains. Hated by all, no one will draw close to him in spirit. An exile, indigent, soon he will flee, blind in each eye. He will become the laughingstock of our people and his. Sad and tormented, a criminal to his associates and vile to us, On this side he will suffer blows, on that side abuse, insults, jeers. Thus attacked from every side, he will be led to a height; From here he will be hurled headlong, and will leap through the air. The birds will feed on his body; and it will pollute the wastelands with its rot, And he will pay bitter penalties for so great a crime. 14. After the vicious parricide had fallen upon and usurped the kingdom by strangling the young man, he ordained that, for the time being, word of his crime be suppressed and kept secret,165 lest, immediately making its way into the encampment, it reach the ears of our people before he could try out the master strokes of deceit he had devised. So without delay he sent messengers in the name of Alexius the Younger, summoning the leaders of our army from the camp and into his presence under the pretext that they would receive the promised money and even greater tokens of royal generosity.“’° When this message was communicated to them, they suspected no deceit in it, since they were men of Chris- tian simplicity,”7 and they hastened to enter the city. Naturally, they feared nothing so remote as the new king, whom they them- Chapter 14. 97 selves had created, being put out of the way in such a short space of time. There was, however, a certain, especially prudent man there, namely the doge ofVenice.1“ He was, to be sure, sightless of eye “’9 but most perceptive of mind and compensated for physical blind- ness with a lively intellect and, best of all, foresight. In the case of matters that were unclear, the others always took every care to seek his advice, and they usually followed his lead in public affairs.17° Consequently, when the others, as they were accustomed to do, asked how the matter appeared to him, he argued that they should not expose themselves to Greek trickery out of a love of money. He said he feared the very thing which had taken place, namely that the young Alexius either had been killed by his own people or, just like a Greek by nature, had been corrupted by them and was conspiring to destroy our people. While the leaders discussed this matter at length and the mes- sengers prodded them insistently, word of the murder burst out from the midst of the city171 and filled the whole army with deep fear. For they saw themselves confined in a hostile land, in the midst of the wickedest race of people, with that man killed whom they had imposed as king on these people by means of force and terror. Had he, at least, lived, he might have been able to curb their folly, give substantial comfort to our people, and send them out of his kingdom safe and well-provisioned for the completion of their pilgrimage journey. Deep down inside they knew they had now been cheated of all these things, to the extent that they could, most certainly, expect nothing but death from the new king and the inhabitants of the city. For what could the pilgrims do, or what hope could they have at such a moment, trapped as they were, with no secure haven in which for even an hour they could catch their breath from enemy attack? Should they declare war on those whom they knew to be their enemies and who previously had been secretly 50, thereby inciting them to open attack? Yet the number of Greeks was endless ‘72 and grew daily through reinforcements.173 Moreover, they were in their own country, where everything was available to them in great quantity. On the other hand, our people 98 Chapter 14. were few,“ and impoverished, in the midst of enemies from whom they could hope for nothing other than whatever, as the saying goes, they might be able to cut away from them with their swords. It also tremendously disturbed them that they had been cheated of a large part of the promised money, in expectation of which they had prolonged their journey and had spent their pil- grimage travel funds in foreign ventures. They elected as the best policy in such a situation to conceal their fear (which, surely, they could not possibly be without), to threaten menacingly the besieging enemy and, in revenge for the strangled king whom they had installed, to exact a penalty from the whole city, along with its citizens and that execrable parricide: ' for the city, destruction; for the Greeks, the sure penalty of death. In acting so offensively against these Greeks, our people incited such terror in them that they scarcely dared venture outside their hiding places.175 Most of all, however, it was because of our cross- bows. Insofar as the Greeks use them less frequently, they deem them more terrifying and dangerous.”6 Meanwhile our people, strengthened in spirit, were prepared for either eventuality: to re- treat, if an honorable and practical opportunity presented itself, {77 or to strike at the enemy and court death from and with them, if the Greeks should dare to burst forth from their walls to fight. For no hope could smile upon our people when it came either to gain- ing victory over such a multitude or storming the city, since it was extremely well fortified and its countless number of defenders was increasing daily. Yet with an eagerness equal to our army’s desire to close and die with the enemy, the Greeks avoided pairing vic- tory over our people with their own deaths, for they saw them suffering from deprivation ‘78 in a hostile land, while they were at home, enjoying every sort of commodity in profusion. Learn now of novel deeds and wondrous phenomena, Such as the monuments of ancient days do not record. Who remembers a multitude, well-supported, shut up behind walls By a few, unharmed but shamefully hiding? Chapter 15 99 Here a few brave men oppose a thousand cohorts, Partners in bloodshed, whom they choose to join in death. They prefer a natural death and, mixing blood with blood, choose To give their breasts to a victor rather than their backs to fear. If Greek blood pours out equally with their own, They deem the deadly square more decorous. They stand, well united for battle, and threaten a sluggish people With destruction of their walls, since now they are certain of death. They stand with eager countenance and soberly amid reverberating clamor, But with a secret throbbing and pounding of heart. It becomes the brave and self-possessed to disguise fear, To feign a happy countenance, to keep the secret. As often happens, when hope is totally unreasonable And fate uncertain, joyful prayers come to mind. Indeed, for those inwardly despairing and prepared for death Total success became their lot through a change of fate. 1 5. So our army had taken up a position before the royal city, as was said, but without any hope of taking it by storm, because it overflowed not only with an innumerable mass of citizens but with every sort of commodity, and had been fortified with such care that it could be defended against innumerable enemies by a small body of men. For the city is triangular (so those who have seen it say), extending on any one side a generous mile or more. On that side touching land it is triply enclosed by an enormous rampart and an especially strong wall.”9 It has lofty, strong towers all along its circumference, so close to one another that a seven-year-old boy could toss an apple from one turret to the next.1230 Moreover, one can hardly describe the type of buildings within the body of the city, namely its churches, towers, and the homes of its great people, or believe a description of them, unless he came to learn of them through sharp-eyed faith!“ On the side on which the 100 Chapter 15 Hellespont, which separates Asia from Europe, washes against the city, it is so narrow in some places that one can see from one con- tinent to the other. Because it is not possible to have a rampart “‘2 on that side, due to the traffic of an extremely secure and heavily used harbor, there are high walls of astonishing thickness, with towers close together and raised to such a height that anyone would shudder in horror at directing a gaze at their summit.183 Yet the great strength and beauty which it now has it did not possess at its first foundation. For once, long ago, it was like any other city and was called by the Greek name Byzantion, and for that reason the gold coins that had been customarily minted in that city are called byzant: by modern people‘s" Only later, be- cause of a certain king’s vision, about which we are going to say a few words, was it raised to that splendor and magnificence which it now has. Although this vision appeared “‘5 to be brief and insig- nificant, its subsequent effect showed it to have been the omen of a great event. Just as far lesser elements are sometimes represented by a vision of great phenomena (as in Joseph’s dream when his father, mother, and eleven brothers were represented by the sun, moon, and eleven stars), 1“ so occasionally the great and honored are symbolized by the trivial (as in the vision of Daniel, where we find the most powerful kingdoms symbolized by certain beasts).187 For this reason they who think there is no basis for distinguishing among the things they imagine while sleeping, but believe all dreams are illusory and contain absolutely no hidden truth, are simply mistaken. Let no one think that absolutely no truth is to be discerned In the forms which you, 0 man, perceive while asleep in body. Truths appear in sleep; we are not led astray by every image Which we sense while we submit to sleep. Behold Joseph as proof!” His clothing, smeared with blood, Along with the deceit of fraternal words, invented a death Under the fangs of a wild beast, but the dreams were true. I offer as proof him who, because of a seven-fold symbol, Chapter 16 101 3 ’ . Foresaw a time of bounty and the ruin of famine; And him, 189 who gave his dreams for interpretation to his servant Daniel, ‘ Who had already professed the God of heaven, whom this i insolent man had scorned. 2‘ i Insofar as he believes them valid signs of his ruin, l He will also be a truthful witness. Many an image comes to us in the course of the night, , At the time when we take in dreams with full intensity. 3 Some are fantasies, called in Greek fantasmam; If a dream betokens reality or indisputable events to any extent, It is usually accorded one of two names: vision or prophetic dream. I believe the vision that, I have often read, was seen by the king Was such an image of the city’s promised splendor. 16. That vision of which we speak, which served as the occa- sion for that city’s considerable beauty and glory, was a dream of this sort. The story goes as follows: In the wake of that famous donation,’90 by which Constantine, emperor of the Greeks and Romans, his good health restored to him and cured of leprosy by a heavenly miracle, regally honored Christ, the Author of his de- liverance, the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, who had been His messengers, Pope Sylvester, “’1 who had become His minister, and, in fact, the entire Church of Christ, that same Constantine handed over to blessed Peter the dignity of the royal throne, which he had held in Rome, and traveled to Greece. And he chose, in pref- erence to all other places, to live in that city which was then called Bimncion. There one night he lay down on the royal bed, rested, and fell asleep. It seemed to him that he saw a little old woman, quite aged and dead, and the blessed Pope Sylvester (who also appeared to be there in person) said she would be resuscitated by Constantine. When the emperor reawakened her by his prayer, she had been transformed into a very beautiful maiden, who excited a 102 Chapter 16 chaste love in his eyes. He adorned her with a royal cape and, when he had placed his diadem on her head, his mother Helena192 ap- peared to say to him: “Son, until the end of time you will have this wife, who will remain this beautiful forever.” When he had related this vision to many people and one interpreted it this way and an— other that, the king resolved to fast without break until Christ pro- vided him with an interpretation of his vision through His servant Sylvester. When he had fasted for seven days, the blessed Sylvester appeared to him in a vision on that seventh night and said to him: “That hag whom you saw is this city, which is presently almost dead from neglect and old age. Through you it is to be renovated to such a state of beauty that it will be called queen among all the cities of Greece.” The king was not so much terrified as delighted by this vision. After carpenters and masons had been gathered from the entire region, he ordered the city enlarged, fortified with walls and towers, and adorned with churches and other buildings until, growing into that refined beauty which it now has, it came to resemble, as they say, a copy of Rome. For this reason that city is sometimes called the Second Rome, and the land adjoining it is fi'equently called today Romania. And lest any vestige of its past survive, he suppressed the former name, which could remind people of its youthfiil abjection, and he ordered it called Commu- tinople, a composite of his name and the Greek palis, which is translated as “city.” Therefore, as was said, ”’3 our people besieged this city from the land side, 19" more out of disgust with their situation, because (for reasons given earlier) they did not dare do anything else, than out of any hope of gaining victory, since it seemed impregnable. However, after they had made little or no progress on this side, ‘95 they decided, in the face of their considerable danger, to test, on the other side hemmed in by the sea, not so much fortune as the efficacy of divine power, without which, they knew, entrance could in no way be effected. And so, to the enemy’s horror, they jumped into their ships, as though in a hostile frenzy, and crossed the sea, 19" which is narrow there. On the shore opposite the city they manfully pitched camp and, in a change of strategy, began to Chapter I7 103 deliberate with greater shrewdness on how to bring this business to term in either death or victory. But what should they do.> What plan or resolute action Might they find? By what force, hope, even accident might they succeed? They are a band small in number, a weak pilgrim army. The majority are footsoldiers; a cohort unprotected By breastplates, helmets, shields-usefiil items for those Attacking a city, by which to withstand the blows of stones falling from above And missiles forcefully hurled by strong arms. They ward off as many deaths as the missiles they deflect. Opposite them they discern, on a well—protected shore, innumerable ships Filled with courageous soldiers and Greek militia, Who threaten naval attack. In the lofty towers and high along the crest of the wall Citizens stand packed together, prepared in soul and hand To hurl rocks, pikes, spears, javelins, and arrows And to destroy the enemy along with their ships. And in the face of so many morta...
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