30 May 2006

Convoys, Memorial Day, and Constantinople

OK, what I'm been hinting at recently: I'm no longer at FOB Sykes in Tal Afar. I am 'on the road'. Further I cannot discuss until things are more settled.

Memorial Day: Having had a communications blackout at FOB Sykes on the 29th, and subsequently being on the road, I did not get a chance to make a Memorial Day post. So I offer a belated toast to absent comrades.

Speaking of absent comrades, Memorial Day fell on the 29th this year, which also makes it the anniversary of the death of the last Emperor of the Romans, Konstandinos XI Palaiologos and uncounted martyrs in the sack of Constantinople. The 'Funeral Oration of the Roman Empire' as reported by Leonard of Chios shows how this Emperor prepared to meet his fate.

Gentlemen, illustrious captains of the army, and our most Christian comrades in arms: we now see the hour of battle approaching. I have therefore elected to assemble you here to make it clear that you must stand together with firmer resolution than ever. You have always fought with glory against the enemies of Christ. Now the defence of your fatherland and of the city known the world over, which the infidel and evil Turks have been besieging for two and fifty days, is committed to your lofty spirits.
Be not afraid because its walls have been worn down by the enemy's battering. For your strength lies in the protection of God and you must show it with your arms quivering and your swords brandished against the enemy. I know that this undisciplined mob will, as is their custom, rush upon you with loud cries and ceaseless volleys of arrows. These will do you no bodily harm, for I see that you are well covered in armour. They will strike the walls, our breastplates and our shiellds. So do not imitate the Romans who, when the Carthaginians went into battle against them, allowed their cavalry to be terrified by the fearsome sight and sound of elephants.
In this battle you must stand firm and have no fear, no thought of flight, but be inspired to resist with ever more herculean strength. Animals may run away from animals. But you are men, men of stout heart, and you will hold at bay these dumb brutes, thrusting your spears and swords into them, so that they will know that they are fighting not against their own kind but against the masters of animals.
You are aware that the impious and infidel enemy has disturbed the peace unjustly. He has violated the oath and treaty that he made with us; he has slaughtered our farmers at harvest time; he has erected a fortress on the Propontis as it were to devour the Christians; he has encircled Galata under a pretence of peace.
Now he threatens to capture the city of Constantine the Great, your fatherland, the place of ready refuge for all Christians, the guardian of all Greeks, and to profane its holy shrines of God by turning them into stables for fits horses. Oh my lords, my brothers, my sons, the everlasting honour of Christians is in your hands.
You men of Genoa, men of courage and famous for your infinite victories, you who have always protected this city, your mother, in many a conflict with the Turks, show now your prowess and your aggressive spirit toward them with manly vigour.
You men of Venice, most valiant heroes, whose swords have many a time made Turkish blood to flow and who in our time have sent so many ships, so many infidel souls to the depths under the command of Loredano, the most excellent captain of our fleet, you who have adorned this city as if it were your own with fine, outstanding men, lift high your spirits now for battle.
You, my comrades in arms, obey the commands of your leaders in the knowledge that this is the day of your glory -- a day on which, if you shed but a drop of blood, you will win for yourselves crowns of martyrdom and eternal fame.

With that, the Emperor cast off his regalia and descended to the walls to die, sword in hand. His body was so badly mangled that his corpse was recognized only by the distinctive eagles on his boots.

Eternal fame indeed, though in the West this date is often ignored or remembered poorly.

"Perhaps not. Especially in Europe, a Europe that weeps only for the Muslims, never for the Christians or the Jews or the Buddhists or the Hindus, it would not be Politically Correct to know the details of the fall of Constantinople. Its inhabitants who at daybreak, while Mehmet II is shelling Theodosius’ walls, take refuge in the cathedral of St. Sophia and here start to sing psalms. To invoke divine mercy. The patriarch who by candlelight celebrates his last Mass and in order to lessen the panic thunders: “Fear not, my brothers and sisters! Tomorrow you’ll be in the Kingdom of Heaven and your names will survive till the end of time!”. The children who cry in terror, their mothers who give them heart repeating: “Hush, baby, hush! We die for our faith in Jesus Christ! We die for our Emperor Constantine XI, for our homeland!”. The Ottoman troops who beating their drums step over the breaches in the fallen walls, overwhelm the Genovese and Venetian and Spanish defenders, hack them on to death with scimitars, then burst into the cathedral and behead even newborn babies. They amuse themselves by snuffing out the candles with their little severed heads... It lasted from the dawn to the afternoon that massacre. It abated only when the Grand Vizier mounted the pulpit of St. Sophia and said to the slaughterers: “Rest. Now this temple belongs to Allah” Meanwhile the city burns, the soldiery crucify and hang and impale, the Janissaries rape and butcher the nuns (four thousand in a few hours) or put the survivors in chains to sell them at the market of Ankara. And the servants prepare the Victory Feast. The feast during which (in defiance of the Prophet) Mehmet II got drunk on the wines of Cyprus and, having a soft spot for young boys, sent for the firstborn of the Greek Orthodox Grand Duke Notaras. A fourteen year-old adolescent known for his beauty. In front of everyone he raped him, and after the rape he sent for his family. His parents, his grandparents, his uncles, his aunts and cousins. In front of him he beheaded them. One by one. He also had all the altars destroyed, all the bells melted down, all the churches turned into mosques or bazaars. Oh, yes. That’s how Constantinople became Istanbul. But Doudou of the UN and the teachers in our schools don’t want to hear about it."
-- Oriana Fallaci

The fall is also described here: http://www.greece.org/Romiosini/fall.html

H/T http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2006/05/memorial-day-try-this-one-may-29-1453.html for pointing out the dates and providing the Fallaci quote.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Noah D said...

Greetings from an old fellow GZG list-member - and some belated thanks for very useful SG2 stuff.

More to the point of your post, you should read this, if you haven't already:

http://www.dansimmons.com/news/message/2006_04.htm

8:28 PM  
Blogger Aramis said...

Just this morning I was thinking about the fall of Constantinople; wondering how it happened. Thanks.

4:26 AM  

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