Tag Archives: Ottoman Empire

The Fall of Constantinople

On the 29th May 1453 the troops of the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Mehmed II successfully took control of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The capture of the city effectively brought the Roman Empire to an end and, for many historians, also marks the end of the medieval period.

The Ottomans began their siege of the city on the 6th April, but their enormous cannon was unable to break the walls and their ships were unable to cross the defensive chain that protected the Golden Horn. Even attempts to dig tunnels and lay mines to blow up the walls failed, because the Byzantines intercepted the tunnels before they were completed.

Despite these setbacks for the Ottomans, the continuing siege slowly weakened the resolve of Constantinople’s inhabitants. A Greek legend even says that on the 26th May, as the Ottomans began to plan their final offensive, the Holy Spirit left the Hagia Sophia under cover of a strange fog that had descended on the city.

Around midnight on the night of the 28th to 29th May, the first Ottoman troops attacked the city. Three waves of increasingly experienced troops made only limited progress but when Giustiniani, the commander of the Byzantine troops, was mortally wounded the city’s defence quickly began to collapse. When a Turkish flag was raised over the northern Kerkoporta Gate, the defence crumbled.

Three days of looting followed, although some Greeks managed to leave the city and move west. The knowledge and ancient documents they brought with them helped to fuel the Renaissance.

Arab Revolt

The Battle of Mecca and the start of the Arab Revolt

The Arab Revolt began fully on June 10th 1916 when Grand Sharif Hussein bin Ali, the guardian of the holy city of Mecca, ordered his troops to attack the Ottoman Caliphate’s garrison in the city.

Hussein’s troops, drawn from his tribe, significantly outnumbered the Ottoman soldiers but were considerably less well equipped. Consequently, despite impressive initial gains, Hussein’s troops were unable to win the battle until Egyptian troops sent by the British arrived to provide artillery support.

Through correspondence with Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner of Egypt at the time, Hussein had become convinced that the Revolt would be rewarded with an independent Arabian empire stretching through the Middle East. The British supported the Revolt as it distracted tens of thousands of Ottoman troops from joining other fronts in the First World War.

Captain T. E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia for his involvement in the Revolt, did not join with the Arab forces until October 1916. Although he was just one of many British and French officers who worked closely with the Arabs during the Revolt, newspaper reports of his guerrilla tactics and close relationship with Hussein’s sons Faisal and Abdullah earned him fame.

The Revolt was an enormous success, but the outcome was not what was agreed in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence. The British and French instead divided the land according to the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement that they had negotiated between themselves in 1916. Hussein was given the Hejaz region in the Arabian Peninsula, but was defeated in 1925 by Ibn Saud.