Page images
PDF
EPUB

c H. A. P. don in the Morea; ascended the throne of Conw tov: stantinople; and dismissed his blind competitor to an easy exile in the isle of Lesbos. The ambassadors of the son of Bajazet were soon introduced to his presence; but their pride was fallen, their tone was modest; they were awed by the just apprehension, lest the Greeks should open to the Moguls the gates of Europe. Soliman saluted the Emperor by the name of father; solicited at his hands the government or gift of Romania; and promised to deserve his favour by inviolable friendship, and the restitution of Thessalonica, with the most important places along the Strymon, the Propontis, and the Black Sea. The alliance of Soliman exposed the Emperor to the enmity and revenge of Mousa. The Turks appeared in arms before the gates of Constantinople; but they were repulsed by sea and land; and, unless the city was guarded by some foreign mercenaries, the Greeks must have wondered at their own triumph. But, instead of prolonging the division of the Ottoman powers, the policy or passion of Manuel was tempted to assist the most formidable of the sons of Bajazet. IIe concluded a treaty with Mahomet, whose progress was checked by the insuperable barrier of Gallipoli. The Sultan and his troops were transported over the Bosphorus; he was hospitably entertained in the capital; and his successful sally was the first step to the conquest of Romania. The ruin was suspended by the prudence and moderation of the conqueror; he faithfully discharged his own obligations, and thcse of Soliman; respected the laws of gratitude and peace; and left the Em

peror peror guardian of his two younger sons, in the vain c H. A. P.

hope of saving them from the jealous cruelty of their brother Amurath. But the execution of his last testament would have offended the national honour and religion; and the divan unanimously pronounced, that the royal youths should never be abandoned to the custody and education of a Christian dog. On this refusal, the Byzantine councils were divided; but the age and caution of Manuel yielded to the presumption of his son John ; and they unsheathed a dangerous weapon of revenge, by dismissing the true or false Mustapha, who had long been detained as a captive and hostage, and for whose maintenance they received an annual pension of three hundred thousand aspers *. At the door of his prison, Mustapha subscribed to every proposal; and the keys of Gallipoli, or rather of Europe, were stipulated as the price of his deliverance. But no sooner was he seated on the throne of Romania, than he dismissed the Greek ambassadors with a smile of contempt, declaring, in a pious tone, that, at the day of judgement, he would rather answer for the violation of an oath, than for the surrender of a Mussulman city into the hands of the infidels. The Emperor was at once the enemy of the two rivals; from whom he had sustained, and to whom he had offered, an inE 4 jury; * The Turkish asper (from the Greek agree;) is, or was, a piece of white or silver money, at present much debased, but which was formerly equivalent to the 54th part, at least, of a Venetian ducat, or sequin; and the 3oo, occ aspers, a princely

allowance or royal tribute, may be computed at 25-cl. Sterling, (Leunclav. Pandect. Turc. p. 496–408.).

[ocr errors]

o P. jury; and the victory of Amurath was followed, -- in the ensuing spring, by the siege of Constantinople *. Siege of The religious merit of subduing the city of the so Caesars, attracted from Asia a crowd of volunteers, Amurath who aspired to the crown of martyrdom. Their it, D. military ardour was inflamed by the promise of rich wo- spoils and beautiful females; and the Sultan’s amAugust 14, bition was consecrated by the presence and prediction of Seid Bechar, a descendant of the prophet f, who arrived in the camp, on a mule, with a venerable train of five hundred disciples. But he might blush, if a fanatic could blush, at the failure of his assurances. The strength of the walls resisted an army of two hundred thousand Turks; their assaults were repelled by the sallies of the Greeks and their foreign mercenaries; the old resources of defence were opposed to the new engines of attack; and the enthusiasm of the dervish, who was snatched to heaven in visionary converse with Mahomet, was answered by the credulity of the Christians, who behcli the Virgin Mary, in a violet garment, walking on the rampart, and animating their courage i. After a siege of two months, Amurath was recalled to Boursa by a domestic revolt, - which * For the siege in Constantinople in 1422, see the particular and contemporary na; rative of John Canadus, published by Leo Allatius, at the end of his edition of Acropolita, (p. 188–199.).

+ Cantemir, p. 82. Cananus, who describes Seid Bechar, without naming him, supposes that the friend of Mahomet assurred, in his amours, the privilege of a prophet, and that the fai, est of the Greek nuns were promised to the saint and his disciples.

f For this miraculous apparition, Cananus appeals to the Mussulman saint , but who will bear testimony for Seid Bechar *

which had been kindled by Greek treachery, and
was soon extinguished by the death of a guiltless
brother. While he led his Janizaries to new con-
quests in Europe and Asia, the Byzantine empire
was indulged in a servile and precarious respite of
thirty years. Manuel sunk into the grave; and
John Palaeologus was permitted to reign, for an
annual tribute of three hundred thousand aspers,
and the dereliction of almost all that he held be-

yond the suburbs of Constantinople.
In the establishment and restoration of the Turk-
ish empire, the first merit must doubtless be as-
signed to the personal qualities of the Sultans;
since, in human life, the most important scenes will
depend on the character of a single actor. By some
shades of wisdom and virtue, they may be discri-
minated from each other; but, except in a single
instance, a period of nine reigns and two hundred
and sixty-five years is occupied from the elevation
of Othman to the death of Soliman, by a rare se-
ries of warlike and active princes, who impressed
their subjects with obedience, and their enemies
with terror. Instead of the slothful luxury of the
seraglio, the heirs of royalty were educated in the
council and the field : from early youth they were
entrusted by their fathers with the command of pro-
vinces and armies; and this manly institution, which
was often productive of civil war, must have essen-
tially contributed to the discipline and vigour of
the monarchy. The Ottomans cannot style them-
selves, like the Arabian Caliphs, the descendants
or succesors of the apostle of God; and the
kindred

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

kindred which they claim with the Tartar Khans
of the house of Zingis, appears to be founded in
flattery rather than in truth". Their origin is ob-
scure; but their sacred and indefeasible right, which
no time can erase, and no violence can infringe,
was soon and unalterably implanted in the minds of
their subjects. A weak or vicious Sultan may be
deposed and strangled; but his inheritance devolves
to an infant or an ideot; nor has the most daring
rebel presumed to ascend the throne of his lawful
sovereign ". While the transient dynasties of Asia
have been continually subverted by a crafty vizir
in the palace, or a victorious general in the camp,
the Ottoman succession has been confirmed by the
practice of five centuries, and is now incorporated
with the vital principle of the Turkish nation.
To the spirit and constitution of that nation, a
strong and singular influence may, however, be
ascribed. The primitive subjects of Othman were
the four hundred families of wandering Turkmans,
who had followed his ancestors from the Oxus
to the Sangar; and the plains of Anatolia are
still covered with the white and black tents of
their rustic brethren. But this original drop was
dissolved
* See Rycaut, (l. i. c. 13.). The Turkish Sultans assume

the title of Khan. Yet Abulghazi is ignorant of his Ottoman cousins.

+ The third grand vizir of the name of Kiuperli, who was slain at the battle of Salankanen in 1691, (Cantemir, p. 382.), presumed to say, that all the succesors of Soliman had been fools or tyrants, and that it was time to abolish the race, (Marsigli Stato Militare. &c. p. 28.). This political heretic was a good whig, and justified, against the French ambassador, the revolution of England, (Mignot, Hist. Ottomans, tom. iii. p. 434). His presumption condemns the singular exception of continuing offices in the same family.

« PreviousContinue »