Page images
[ocr errors]

“city into your hands, I submit without a mur

to “mur to his holy will. But until the Judge of the

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

“earth shall pronounce between us, it is my duty
“to live and die in the defence of my people.”
The Sultan’s answer was hostile and decisive; his
fortifications were completed; and before his de-
parture for Adrianople, he stationed a vigilant Aga
and four hundred Janizaries, to levy a tribute of
the ships of every nation that should pass within
the reach of their cannon. A Venetian vessel, re-
fusing obedience to the new lords of the Bosphorus,
was sunk with a single bullet. The master and
thirty sailors escaped in the boat; but they were
dragged in chains to the Porte; the chief was im-
palled; his companions were beheaded; and the
historian Ducas * beheld, at Demotica, their bodies
exposed to the wild beasts. The siege of Constan-
tinople was deferred till the ensuing spring; but an
Ottoman army marched into the Morea to divert
the force of the brothers of Constantine. At this
aera of calamity, one of these princes, the despot
Thomas, was blessed or afflicted with the birth of a
son, “the last heir,” says the plaintive Phranza,

“ of the last spark of the Roman empiret.”
The Greeks and the Turks passed an anxious
and sleepless winter; the former were kept awake
by their fears, the latter by their hopes; both by

* Ducas, c. 35. Phranza (l. iii. c. 3.), who had sailed in his vessel, commemorates the Venetian pilot as a martyr.

+Auctum est Palaeologorum genus, et Imperii successor, parvaeque Romanorum scintillae haeres natus, Andreas, &c. (Phranza, l. iii. c. 7.). The strong expression was inspired by his feelings.

the preparations of defence and attack; and the two Emperors, who had the most to lose or to gain, were the most deeply affected by the national sentiment. In Mahomet, that sentiment was inflamed by the ardour of his youth and temper; he amused his leisure with building at Adrianople" the lofty palace of Jehan Numa (the watch-tower of the world); but his serious thoughts were irrevocably bent on the conquest of the city of Caesar. At the dead of night, about the second watch, he started from his bed, and commanded the instant attendance of his prime vizir. The message, the hour, the prince, and his own situation, alarmed the guilty conscience of Calil Basha, who had possessed the confidence, and advised the restoration of Amurath. On the accession of the son, the vizir was confirmed in his office, and the appearances of favour; but the veteran statesman was not insensible that he trode on a thin and slippery ice, which might break under his footsteps, and plunge him in the abyss. His friendship for the Christians, which might be innocent under the late reign, had stigmatized him with the name of Gabour Ortachi, or foster brother of the infidels f ; and his avarice entertained a venal and treasonable correspondence, which was detected and punished after the con

O 2 clusion

* Cantemir, p. 97.98. The Sultan was either doubtful of his conquest, or ignorant of the superior merits of Constantinople. A city or a kingdom may sometimes be ruined by the Imperial fortune of their sovereign.

+ xurrgspot, by the president Cousin, is translated pere nourricier, most correctly indeed from the Latin version ; but in his haste, he has overlooked the note by which Ismael Boillaud (ad Ducam, c. 35.) acknowledges and rectifies his own error.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

clusion of the war. On receiving the royal mandate, he embraced, perhaps for the last time, his wife and children; filled up a cup with pieces of gold, hastened to the palace, adored the Sultan, and offered, according to the Oriental custom, the slight tribute of his duty and gratitude”. “It is “not my wish,” said Mahomet, “to resume my “gifts, but rather to heap and multiply them on “thy head. In my turn, I ask a present far more “valuable and important, Constantinople.” As soon as the vizir had recovered from his surprise, “the same God,” said he, “who has already given “thee so large a portion of the Roman empire, will “not deny the remnant, and the capital. His pro“vidence and thy power assure thy success; and “myself, with the rest of thy faithful slaves, will “sacrifice our lives and fortunes.” “ Lalaf,” (or preceptor,) continued the Sultan, “do you see “this pillow ; all the night, in my agitation, I have

“pulled it on one side and the other; I have risen

“from my bed, again have I lain down; yet sleep “has not visited these weary eyes. Beware of the “gold and silver of the Romans; in arms we are


* The Oriental custom of never appearing without gifts before a sovereign or a superior, is of high antiquity, and seems analogous with the idea of sacrifice, still more ancient and universal. , See the examples of such Persian gifts, AFlian, Hist. Var. l. i. c. 31–33.

+ The Lala of the Turks (Cantemir, p. 34.), and the Tata of the Greeks (Ducas, c. 35.), are derived from the natural language of children; and it may be observed, that all such primitive words which denote their parents, are the simple repetition of one syllable, composed of a labial, or dental consonant, and an open vowel, (des Brosses, Mechanisme des Langues, tom. i. p. 231–247.).

“superior; and with the aid of God, and the “prayers of the prophet, we shall speedily become “masters of Constantinople.” To sound the dis

position of his soldiers, he often wandered through

the streets alone, and in disguise; and it was fatal to discover the Sultan, when he wished to escape from the vulgar eye. His hours were spent in delineating the plan of the hostile city; in debating with his generals and engineers, on what spot he should erect his batteries; on which side he should assault the walls; where he should spring his mines; to what place he should apply his scaling

ladders; and the exercises of the day repeated and

proved the lucubrations of the night.
Among the implements of destruction, he studied
with peculiar care the recent and tremendous dis-
covery of the Latins; and his artillery surpassed
whatever had yet appeared in the world. A founder
of cannon, a Dane or Hungarian, who had been al-
most starved in the Greek service, deserted to the
Moslems, and was liberally entertained by the
Turkish Sultan. Mahomet was satisfied with the
answer to his first question, which he eagerly
pressed on the artist. “Am I able to cast a cannon

“capable of throwing a ball, or stone of sufficient

“size, to batter the walls of Constantinople * “I am not ignorant of their strength, but were “they more solid than those of Babylon, I could “oppose an engine of superior power; the posi“tion and management of that engine must be left “to your engineers.” On this assurance, a foundery was established at Adrianople; the metal was prepared; and, at the end of three months, Urban

Q 3 produced

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

produced a piece of brass ordnance of stupendous, and almost incredible magnitude; a measure of twelve palms is assigned to the bore; and the stone bullet weighed above six hundred pounds ". A yacant place before the new palace was chosen for the first experiment; but to prevent the sudden and mischievous effects of astonishment and fear, a proclamation was issued, that the cannon would be discharged the ensuing day. The explosion was felt or heard in the circuit of a hundred furlongs; the ball, by the force of gunpowder, was driven above a mile; and on the spot where it fell, it buried itself a fathom deep in the ground. For the conveyance of this destructive engine, a frame or carriage of thirty waggons was linked together and drawn along by a team of sixty oxen; two hundred men on both sides were stationed to poise and support the rolling weight; two hundred and fifty workmen marched before to smooth the way and repair the bridges; and near two months were employed in a laborious journey of one hundred and fifty miles. A lively f philosopher derides, on this occasion, the credulity of the Greeks, and observes, with much reason, that we should always distrust


[ocr errors]

* The Attic talent weighed about sixty minae, or averdupois pounds, (see Hooper on Ancient Weights, Measures, &c.); but among the modern Greeks, that classic appellation was extended to a weight of one hundred, or one hundred and twenty-five pounds, (Ducange, raxarre"). Leonardus Chiensis measured the ball or stone of the second cannon : Lapidem, qui palmis undecim ex meisambibat in gyro.

+ See Voltaire, (Hist. Generale, c. xci. p. 294, 295.). He was ambitious of universal monarchy; and the poet frequently aspires to the name and style of an astronomer, a chemist, &c.

« PreviousContinue »