560 years ago today (May 29th, 1453), Mehmed II or Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, a Sultan of Greek descent, liberated Istanbul from the tyrannical Byzantine Empire. Byzantium (Istanbul) and the whole Roman Empire had fallen a long time ago, mainly due to bad choices concerning the army, the trade and the command.
The Massacre of the Latins, a large-scale massacre of the Roman Catholic or "Latin" inhabitants of Istanbul, by the Eastern Orthodox population of the city in May 1182 had a dramatic effect on the schism between the Western and Eastern Christian churches. The massacre also further worsened the image of the Byzantines in the eyes of the Western powers, and although regular trade agreements were soon resumed between Byzantium and Latin states, the underlying hostility would remain leaving many westerners seeking some form of revenge. The Siege of Constantinople occurred in 1204; it destroyed parts of the capital of the Byzantine Empire as the city was captured by Western European and Venetian Crusaders. After the capture the Latin Empire was founded and actually, only one city (Constantinople) was named “Empire”.
The Byzantine Empire
A little while before the liberation of Istanbul, the people of the city where divided, rioting and fighting each other. Many said the famous phrase “It’s better to wear the Turkish fez, than the latin hat. It’s better to stay as we are than to live on the loans of the Latins.” Not many people were fond of Constantine XI Palaiologos either, because he was expecting help from the “West”. The Byzantines not Greeks, they had every culture and every population under the Roman Empire. The “Romans” were of course more, and the name stayed in Greece even until the earlier years as “Romios”.
Mehmed II was born at March 30th, 1432 in Adrianoupolis, then capital of the Ottoman Nation. He was the third son of Sultan Murat II and a Greek Christian slave. He belonged to the royal house of Osmanides (later “Osman”). Since he rose to the throne he decided to liberate Istanbul and the remains of the Byzantine Empire. First he managed to make peace treaties with all the enemies of the Ottoman Empire, thus leaving Byzantium on its own. Then the Byzantines tried to blackmail him using an Ottoman Prince which they held hostage in exchange for money. Mehmet quickly reached Bosporus and constructed a castle (Rumeli Hisar) thus closing Bosporus for hostile ships. He constructed many cannons in order to destroy the walls of Istanbul. During April 1453, he arrived in front of Istanbul with an army of over 100.000 soldiers. After a short but fierce battle the city fell at May 29th, 1453. Quickly after the fall, Mehmet starting moving population from other cities to Istanbul and reconstructing the city, in order to make it the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Later on he started a series of conquests that led to the destruction of the Ducat (Duchy) of Athens, the Despotate of the Mystra, the Empire of Trebizond and the other Latin hegemonies of the Aegean. Until 1461 all this geographical space which was the core of the Byzantine Empire, was reunited in a new nation.