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Medieval and Byzantine History Medieval and Byzantine History Forum - Period of History between classical antiquity and modern times, roughly the 5th through 16th Centuries


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Old November 8th, 2016, 02:17 AM   #51
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Originally Posted by Obey Bayezid View Post
One can also wonder as to the quality of these troops. Consider that the Empire had the following problems and/or conditions:
1) Dysfunctional economy and shortage of money.
2) Need to mask defensive measures from the sultan, so it's doubtful as to the amount of training that could be supplied to these troops.
3) Dire poverty, which led to nutrition deficiencies and epidemics that would periodically ravage the population. Would the final Byzantine army also have been physically weaker than the force arrayed against it?

If we consider the above, what was the likely condition of this final army? Consider, too, that the sea walls needed to be manned by monks and not soldiers.

I don't remember who said this, but I think it's been written that in the end, the entire event was decided by cannon.

While I am making guesses about the state of the final army, wouldn't it be a reasonable guess that the supposed heroic defense was really closer to hoping that the walls would hold out until relief appeared?

Any thoughts?
I doubt the cannon was really that important in the end. By the time the walls were breached half the defenders were dead. The morale of the defenders depended on Giovanni Giustiniani and once he was wounded, the leaderless defense collapsed.
Ultimately it was a game of numbers and attrition.
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Old November 9th, 2016, 07:41 PM   #52
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I doubt the cannon was really that important in the end.
A number of English-language books recognize the importance of cannon. Ostrogorsky also cites Critobulus.
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Old November 13th, 2016, 06:48 AM   #53
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A number of English-language books recognize the importance of cannon. Ostrogorsky also cites Critobulus.
I'm sure the cannon helped the Ottomans but I'm not sure it was necessary for victory in the end- they probably would have won anyway, even with higher losses.
Or they would have kept the city under a complete trade and economic blockade until it was starved into submission.

By that time the Turks had already bypassed the chain blocking the Golden Horn so the city was entirely encircled.
There was no help coming from any European states, half the defenders were dead and Giovanni Giustiniani was wounded in a critical fight.

And didn't someone leave a door open that allowed the Turks access into the city?
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Old November 13th, 2016, 10:18 AM   #54
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I'm sure the cannon helped the Ottomans but I'm not sure it was necessary for victory in the end- they probably would have won anyway, even with higher losses.
Or they would have kept the city under a complete trade and economic blockade until it was starved into submission.
You bring up some interesting points. Would the Turks have won without cannon? Possibly, yes. It's been said that Bayezid, half a century earlier, would have starved the city into submission if not for Timur. But in 1453, even if the city survived and the Ottomans didn't continue their blockade, what are the prospects for Contantinople to have indefinitely continued as an independent state without a hinterland?
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Old November 14th, 2016, 08:05 AM   #55

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You bring up some interesting points. Would the Turks have won without cannon? Possibly, yes. It's been said that Bayezid, half a century earlier, would have starved the city into submission if not for Timur. But in 1453, even if the city survived and the Ottomans didn't continue their blockade, what are the prospects for Contantinople to have indefinitely continued as an independent state without a hinterland?
Not much, Constantinople was basically economically a dependency of the Italians while politically a client of Ottomans so it was just the final vestiges of independence that was lost in 1453, Byzantine Empire was already dead with only a handful of very small territories outside of the city mostly ports that supplied Italian traders.
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Old November 14th, 2016, 10:55 AM   #56
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Ichon, Yes, you're right. Constantinople was economically dependent on the Italians while being a client of the sultan. So, this a quite different situation than let's say, the Bithynian cities or Thesaloniki losing their hinterlands.

But, can we also argue that it was really over during John V's reign? that Angora was merely a lucky break?
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Old November 14th, 2016, 11:40 PM   #57

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Ichon, Yes, you're right. Constantinople was economically dependent on the Italians while being a client of the sultan. So, this a quite different situation than let's say, the Bithynian cities or Thesaloniki losing their hinterlands.

But, can we also argue that it was really over during John V's reign? that Angora was merely a lucky break?
Nicopolis was the decisive battle that confirmed the fall of not only Byzantines but also Serbia and Bulgaria with Ottomans firmly in control of those territories.

Although the loyalty of Serbian vassals and many of the Greek and Bulgarian soldiers who fought for Ottomans demonstrates it wasn't lack of men or valor that led to Byzantines fall but a problem of leadership. Ironically most of the early Ottoman Empire was carved out of the other principalities by mostly Christian vassals and mercenaries where the Ottoman army was relatively small with such additions and ghazis being the main fighters.
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Old November 15th, 2016, 04:38 AM   #58
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most of the early Ottoman Empire was carved out of the other principalities by mostly Christian vassals and mercenaries where the Ottoman army was relatively small with such additions and ghazis being the main fighters.
Could you share more? Are you referring to Bythinia? By "early", what time period are you referring to, etc?

I was also thinking about an earlier comment. Could you elaborate on "economically dependent"? I had first thought you meant that the Byzantines had lost control of trade, which had happened a few centuries earlier. That's one part of the story. But, economic dependence could be a much bigger picture, right? If we consider localized trading operations between people, urban and other peoples probably had certain economic dependencies, there were economic dependencies between various countries, even if the trade wasn't conducted officially on the government level. So, there were economic dependencies between the Byzantines and Turks because various people conducted trade with each other. And, there was trade between Byzantines and Turks, so presumably, there was an economic dependence between the two peoples, right? And, we can then probably argue that there was an economic dependence between people at one end of the silk route and people at the other end of it, even if they were not aware of other, right? And, if we consider that the Byzantines, at certain times, were permitted by the Turks to collect the "haradj" on Ottoman subjects in formerly Byzantine lands, would it be more accurate to say that the Byzantines were actually economically dependent, in those specific times, on the Turks? Because, by granting the Byzantines the right to collect "haradj", the Byzantines were essentially receiving foreign aid?
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Old November 15th, 2016, 04:56 PM   #59
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Keep in mind that the 4th crusaders had been able to scale the sea walls of the city so the city had been captured before.

For the empire to survive in 1453 and recover I'd say it is within the realms of possibility but would require a LOT of luck

1) Bubonic plague to ravage the Ottoman army outside the walls and force them to cancel the siege.
2) Help from European nations and slavic revolts that would overthrow the Ottoman administration
3) If these things happened - namely a plague wiping out the Ottoman army coupled with a revolt from the christians in the Balkans with armies from western europe intervening then Mehmet 2 might be forced to retreat across the Bosphorus and leave Europe.
4) The emperor in Constantinople might have been able to requisition the wealth and materials left behind by the Ottomans and used that to fill the imperial coffers. Perhaps some diplomatic marriages with local slavic leaders could mean the reconsolidation of a Byzantine state that might encompass the lower Balkans, Thrace, Macedonia and Greece.
5) If such a dynasty was capable of gaining some control over its trade routes it might be able to generate enough wealth to finance a navy and professional army. Under some solid leadership the Empire might be able to liberate its cities on the Anatolian coast.

So its possible I'd say but completely dependent on an event like a plague that would knock the Ottoman army out and possibly kill Mehmet 2. If I'm not mistaken one of the arab sieges on constantinople was defeated by starvation and plague

Last edited by Redaxe; November 15th, 2016 at 05:00 PM.
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Old November 18th, 2016, 06:06 PM   #60
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Keep in mind that the 4th crusaders had been able to scale the sea walls of the city so the city had been captured before.

Yes. Still, the Ottomans didn't really do more than diversionary tactics with their harbor-based naval operations. Presumably, a credible naval threat would have been able to dispose of the monks that were defending the sea walls, right? Of course, this is assuming that the monks were not professional soldiers.

I would like to propose that Constantinople could not have held out forever in the condition that it was in. It was a dying city. 600 years later, Constantinople might have made a comeback as a tourist attraction.
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