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and urged the labours which involved the safety of
* It is singular that the Greeks should not agree in the number of these illustrious vessels; the five of Ducas, the four of Phranza and Leonardus, and the two of Chalcondyles, must be extended to the smaller, or confined to larger size. Voltaire, in giving one of these ships to Frederic III. confounds the Emperors of the East and West.
+ In bold defiance, or rather in gross ignorance of language and geography, the president Cousin detains them at Chios with a south, and wafts them to Constantinople with a north
After a tedious delay, a gentle breeze, and, on g H.A.P.
the second day, a strong gale from the south,
carried them through the Hellespont and the Pro
pontis; but the city was already invested by sea
and land; and the Turkish fleet, at the entrance of the Bosphorus, was stretched from shore to
shore, in the form of a crescent, to intercept, or at least to repel, these bold auxiliaries. The reader
who has present to his mind the geographical pic
ture of Constantinople, will conceive and admire
the greatness of the spectacle. The five Christian ships continued to advance with joyful shouts, and
a full press both of sails and oars, against an hostile
fleet of three hundred vessels; and the rampart,
the camp, the coasts of Europe and Asia, were
lined with innumerable spectators, who anxiously
awaited the event of this momentous succour. At
the first view, that event could not appear doubtful; the superiority of the Moslems was beyond
all measure or account; and, in a calm, their
numbers and valour must inevitably have prevailed. But their hasty and imperfect navy had been crea
ted, not by the genius of the people, but by the
will of the Sultan. In the height of their prosperity, the Turks have acknowledged, that if God
had given them the earth, he had left the sea to
the infidels"; and a series of defeats, a rapid pro
gress of decay, has established the truth of their P 4. modest
* The perpetual decay and weakness of the Turkish navy, may be observed in Rycaut (State of the Ottoman Empire, p. 37.2–378.), Thevenot (Voyages, p. i. p. 229–242.), and Tott (Memoires, tom. iii.); the last of whom is always solicitous to amuse and amaze his reader.
modest confession. Except eighteen gallies of some force, the rest of their fleet consisted of open boats, rudely constructed, and awkwardly managed, crowded with troops, and destitute of cannon; and, since courage arises in a great measure from the consciousness of strength, the bravest of the Janizaries might tremble on a new element. In the Christian squadron, five stout and lofty ships were guided by skilful pilots, and manned with the veterans of Italy and Greece, long practised in the arts and perils of the sea. Their weight was directed to sink or scatter the weak obstacles that impeded their passage; their artillery swept the waters; their liquid fire was poured on the heads of the adversaries, who, with the design of boarding, presumed to approach them; and the winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators. In this conflict, the Imperial vessel, which had been almost overpowered, was rescued by the Genoese; but the Turks, in a distant and closer attack, were twice repulsed with considerable loss. Mahomet himself sat on horseback on the beach, to encourage their valour by his voice and presence, by the promise of reward, and by fear, more potent than the fear of the enemy. The passions of his soul, and even the gestures of his body", seemed to imitate the actions of the combatants; and, as if he had been the lord of nature, he spurred his horse with a fearless and impotent effort into the * I must confess, that I have before my eyes the living picture which Thucydides (l, vii. c. 71.) has drawn of the
passions and gestures of the Athenians in a naval engagement in the great harbour of Syracuse.
the sea. His loud reproaches, and the clamours of c H A p.
the camp, urged the Ottomans to a third attack, more fatal and bloody than the two former; and I must repeat, though I cannot credit, the evidence of Phranza, who affirms from their own mouth, that they lost above twelve thousand men in the slaughter of the day. They fled in disorder to the shores of Europe and Asia, while the Christian squadron, triumphant and unhurt, steered along the Bosphorus, and securely anchored within the chain of the harbour. In the confidence of victory, they boasted that the whole Turkish power must have yielded to their arms; but the admiral, or captain-bashaw, found some consolation for a painful wound in his eye, by representing that accident as the cause of his defeat. Baltha Ogli was a renegade of the race of the Bulgarian princes; his military character was tainted with the unpopular vice of avarice; and under the despotism of the Prince or people, misfortune is a sufficient evidence of guilt. His rank and services were annihilated by the displeasure of Mahomet. In the royal presence, the captain-bashaw was extended on the ground by four slaves, and received one hundred strokes with a golden rod"; his death had been pronounced; and he adored the clemency of the Sultan, who was satisfied with the milder punishment of confiscation and exile. The introduction of this supply revived
* According to the exaggerations or corrupt text of Ducas, (c. 38.), this golden bar was of the enormous and incredible weight of 5co librae, or pounds. Bouillaud's reading of Soo drachms, or five pounds, is sufficient to exercise the arm of Mahomet, and bruise the back of his admiral.
Mahomet transports his navy over land.
the hopes of the Greeks, and accused the supineness of their Western allies. Amidst the desarts of Anatolia and the rocks of Palestine, the millions of the crusades had buried themselves in a voluntary and inevitable grave; but the situation of the Imperial city was strong against her enemies, and accessible to her friends; and a rational and moderate armament of the maritime states might have saved the relics of the Roman name, and maintained a Christian fortress in the heart of the Ottoman empire. Yet this was the sole and feeble attempt for the deliverance of Constantinople; the more distant powers were insensible of its danger; and the ambassador of Hungary, or at least of Huniades, resided in the Turkish camp, to remove the fears, and to direct the operations, of the Sultan *.
It was difficult for the Greeks to penetrate the secret of the divan; yet the Greeks are persuaded, that a resistance, so obstinate and surprising, had fatigued the perseverance of Mahomet. He began to meditate a retreat, and the siege would have been speedily raised, if the ambition and jealousy of the second vizir had not opposed the perfidious advice of Calil Bashaw, who still maintained a secret correspondence with the Byzantine court. The reduction of the city appeared to be hopeless, unless a double attack could be made from the harbour as well as from the land; but the harbour
* Ducas, who confesses himself ill informed of the affairs of Hungary, assigns a motive of superstition, a fatal belief that Constantinople would be the term of the Turkish conquests. Sce Phranza (l, iii. c. 20.) and Spondanus.