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mournful assembly. They wept, they embraced ; regardless of their families and fortunes, they devoted their lives ; and each commander, departing to his station, maintained all night a vigilant and anxious watch on the rampart. The emperor and some faithful companions entered the dome of St. Sophia which in a few hours was to be converted into a mosque ; and devoutly received, with tears and prayers, the sacrament of the Holy Communion. He reposed some moments in the palace, which resounded with cries and lamentations; solicited the pardon of all whom he might have injured ; and mounted on horseback to visit the guards, and explore the motions of the enemy. The distress and fall of the last Constantine are more glorious than the long prosperity of the Byzantine Cæsars.
In the confusion of darkness an assailant may sometimes succeed; but in this great and general attack, the military judgment and astrological knowledge of Mahomet advised him to expect the morning, the memorable 29th of May, in the fourteen hundred and fifty-third year of the Christian era. The preceding night had been strenuously employed : the troops, the cannon, and the fascines, were advanced to the edge of the ditch, which in many parts presented a smooth and level passage to the breach ; and his fourscore galleys almost touched, with the prows and their scaling ladders, the less defensible walls of the harbour. Under pain of death, silence was enjoined ; but the physical laws of motion and sound are not obedient to discipline or fear ; each individual might suppress his voice and measure his footsteps ; but the march and labour of thousands must inevitably produce a strange confusion of dissonant clamours, which reached the ears of the watchmen of the towers.
At daybreak, without the customary signal of the morning gun, the Turks assaulted the city by sea and land ; and the similitude of a twined or twisted thread has been applied to the closeness and continuity of their line of attack. The foremost ranks consisted of the refuse of the host, a voluntary crowd who fought without order or command ; of the feebleness of age or childhood, of peasants and vagrants, and of all who had joined the camp in the blind hope of plunder and martyrdom. The common impulse drove them onwards to the wall; the most audacious to climb were instantly precipitated; and not a dart, not a bullet, of the Christians, was idly wasted on the accumulated throng. But their strength and ammunition were exhausted in this laborious defence : the ditch was filled with the bodies of the slain ;. they supported the footsteps of their companions; and of this devoted vanguard the death was more serviceable than the life. Under their respective bashaws and sanjaks, the troops of Anatolia and Romania were successively led to the charge. Their progress was various and doubtful ; but, after a conflict of two hours, the Greeks still maintained and improved their advantage ; and the voice of the emperor was heard, encouraging his soldiers to achieve, by a last effort, the deliverance of their country.
In that fatal moment the Janizaries arose, fresh, vigorous, and invincible. The Sultan himself, on horseback, with an iron mace in his hand, was the spectator and judge of their valour ; he was surrounded by ten thousand of his domestic troops, whom he reserved for the decisive occasion ; and the tide of battle was directed and impelled by his voice and eye. His numerous ministers of justice were posted behind the line, to urge, to restrain, and to punish ; and if danger was in the front, shame and inevitable death were in the rear, of the fugitives. The cries of fear and of pain were drowned in the martial music of drums, trumpets, and attaballs ; and experience has proved that the mechanical operation of sounds, by quickening the circulation of the blood and spirits, will act on the human machine more forcibly than the eloquence of reason and honour. From the lines, the galleys, and the bridge, the Ottoman artillery thundered on all sides ; and the camp
and city, the Greeks and the Turks, were involved in a cloud of
smoke, which could only be dispelled by the final deliverance or destruction of the Roman Empire. The single combats of the heroes of history or fable amuse our fancy and engage our affections: the skilful evolutions of war may inform the mind, and improve a necessary, though pernicious, science. But in the uniform and odious pictures of a general assault, all is blood, and horror, and onfusion ; nor shall I strive, at the distance of three centuries and a thousand miles, to delineate a scene of which there could be no spectators, and of which the actors themselves were incapable of forming any just or adequate idea.
The immediate loss of Constantinople may be ascribed to the bullet, or arrow, which pierced the gauntlet of John Justiniani. The sight of his blood, and the exquisite pain, appalled the courage of the chief, whose arms and counsels were the firmest rampart of the city. As he withdrew from his station in quest of a surgeon, his flight was perceived and stopped by the indefatigable emperor.
'Your wound,' exclaimed Palæologus, 'is slight; the danger is pressing; and whither will you retire ?'
'I will retire,' said the trembling Genoese,' by the same road which God has opened to the Turks ;' and at these words he hastily passed through one of the breaches of the inner wall. By this pusillanimous act he stained the honours of a military life; and the few days which he survived in Galata, or the Isle of Chios, were embittered by his own and the public reproach. His example was imitated by the greatest part of the Latin auxiliaries, and the defence began to slacken when the attack was pressed with redoubled vigour. The number of the Ottomans was fifty, perhaps a hundred, times superior to that of the Christians; the double walls were reduced by the cannon to a heap of ruins : in a circuit of several miles some places must be found more easy of access, or more feebly guarded ; and if the besiegers could penetrate in a single point, the whole city was irrecoverably lost. The first who deserved the Sultan's reward was Hassan
the Janizary, of gigantic stature and strength. With his scimitar in one hand and his buckler in the other, he ascended the outward fortification : of the thirty Janizaries who were emulous of his valour, eighteen perished in the bold adventure. Hassan and his twelve companions had reached the summit: the giant was precipitated from the rampart : he rose on one knee, and was again oppressed by a shower of darts and stones. But his success had proved that the achievement was possible : the walls and towers were instantly covered with a swarm of Turks ; and the Greeks, now driven from the vantage-ground, were overwhelmed by increasing multitudes.
Amidst these multitudes, the emperor, who accomplished all the duties of a general and a soldier, was long seen and finally lost.
The nobles who fought round his person sustained till their last breath, the honourable nam of Palæologus and Cantacuzene : his mournful exclamation was heard, 'Cannot there be found a Christian to cut off my head ?' and his last fear was that of falling alive into the hands of the infidels. The prudent despair of Constantine cast away the purple ; amidst the tumult he fell by an unknown hand, and his body was buried under a mountain of the slain. After his death, resistance and order were no more: the Greeks fled towards the city; and many were pressed and stifled in the narrow pass of the gate of St. Romanus. The victorious Turks rushed through the breaches of the inner wall; and as they advanced into the streets, they were soon joined by their brethren, who had forced the gate Phenar on the side of the harbour. In the first heat of the pursuit about two thousand Christians were put to the sword; but avarice soon prevailed over cruelty; and the victors acknowledged that they should immediately have given quarter, if the valour of the emperor and his chosen bands had not prepared them for a similar opposition in every part of the capital. It was thus, after a siege of fifty-three days, that Constantinople, which had defied the power of Chosroes, the Chagan, and the caliphs, was irretrievably subdued by the arms of Mahomet the Second. Her empire only had been subverted by the Latins ; her religion was trampled in the dust by the Moslem conquerors.