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Constantinople, The First Siege of 

The city of Constantinople was built on the shores of the Bosphorus so the enemies of the Byzantine Empire would have a hard time invading it. Many of those enemies tried to invade the city over the years, but none succeeded. It was only breached by the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. It was then ruled by western Europeans for more than fifty years. The Byzantines took back Constantinople in 1261. Another powerful threat lurked in the horizon: the Ottomans. They expanded their territory in Anatolia near the end of the thirteenth century and launched the first siege of Constantinople in 1422 where it is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time.

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Constantinople: The Jewel of the Eastern Roman Empire

On the 11th of May 330, Emperor Constantine founded a new city on the European shore of the Bosphorus. He called it Constantinople, and it became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire for the next 1,100 years. During the Medieval Period, Avars, Persians, Arabs, Bulgarians, and Russians all tried to conquer the great city but none of them succeeded. It endured for hundreds of years. However, the Byzantines never expected that it would fall to the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade in 1204.

“Map of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), designed in 1422 by Florentine cartographer Cristoforo Buondelmonti. This is the oldest surviving map of the city, and the only surviving map which predates the Turkish conquest of 1453. The Bosphorus is visible along the right hand side of the map, wrapping vertically around the historic city.”

The Byzantine rulers took it back from the Latin Empire in 1261, but the rise of the Ottomans became a potent threat to the city. Bayezid, the great Turkish sultan, started the plans to conquer it in 1396. He was captured by the Timur-e Lang (Tamerlane) in 1402. Bayezid’s sons Mehmed I, Suleyman, and Isa all escaped captivity during the Battle of Ankara in 1402. Another son called Musa, however, was taken to Timur’s capital of Samarkand with his father. Their loss threw the Ottoman Empire into a brief period of decline (1402-1413). It was followed by a civil war when his heirs fought against each other for domination of the Ottoman throne.

Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos seized the opportunity to weaken the Ottoman Empire by using the Turkish princes against each other. In 1413, Mehmed I finally succeeded in getting rid of his brothers to claim the title of Ottoman Sultan. Mehmed I died in 1421 after a riding accident but not before reviving the glory days of the Ottoman Empire. His successor, Murad II, immediately besieged Constantinople in 1422 after he was declared the new Sultan. The defenders of Constantinople successfully defended it. This failure did not deter the Ottomans. They tried to besiege the city again more than thirty years later. Constantinople finally fell to them in 1453.

Picture By Cristoforo Buondelmonti – Liber insularum Archipelagi (1824), version available at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, Public Domain, Link
Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. New York: Basic Books, 2006.
Mikaberidze, Alexander. Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO Interactive, 2011.
Turnbull, Stephen R. The Walls of Constantinople: AD 324-1453. Oxford: Osprey, 2004.
Uyar, Mesut, and Edward J. Erickson. A Military History of the Ottomans: From Osman to Atatürk. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International/ABC-CLIO, 2009.
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