Sunday, May 29, 2016

Today in History

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The Byzantine Empire Dies

Today in 1453, Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, fell to the Ottomans after a 53 day siege. Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos was defeated by the army led by 21 year old Sultan Mehmed II. It marked the final death of the 1500 year old Roman Empire, and was a crushing defeat of Christendom by Islam. Mehmed made Constantinople his new capital, and from there access to western Europe was clear.

Mehmed renamed the city Islambol ("where Islam abounds") and also styled himself Kayser-i Rum ("Caesar of Rome"). The common name for a couple of centuries had already been "Istanbul", from the Greek "eis tin polin" (εἰς τὴν πόλιν) meaning to/in the city. It was officially named Istanbul in 1930.

The Ottoman Empire, with its seat in Islambol, became a global power, and more significantly to modern times, a claimant to the Caliphate. The Ottomans continued to hold Istanbul until World War I, when it was dissolved and replaced by Turkey.

Constantinople had been the repository of ancient Greek and Roman texts, and a place where Western scholarship continued to thrive. With the fall of Constantinople, many refugees fled to Europe, bringing with them learning and copies of these invaluable manuscripts. This influx of knowledge inspired a new interest in the Classics and helped fuel the Renaissance.

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