Byzantines before the conquest! - ABDULLAH MURADOĞLU

Byzantines before the conquest!

When Istanbul was surrounded by Conqueror Fatih Sultan Mehmet's army in the beginning of April 1453, there were two political parties among the Byzantines. One was the “Turkish” party, and the other was “Rome-Latin-European” party. According to the information provided by the Greek historian Yannis Kordatos, the class in power wanted the “Rome” administration, while the vast majority of the public and low-level ecclesiastics wanted the “Turkish” administration. For the Turkish party, “Rome” was equal to slavery, abasement, poverty and annihilation. During the “Crusades”, the Byzantine public witnessed how covetous and pillaging Europeans were. They looted, ravaged, fouled sanctuaries and raped the priestesses. They also forced Orthodox Christians to become Catholics.

While the “Ottoman System” was decorating the dreams of the Byzantine public, the “Byzantine regime” lost the trust and respect of the public. Due to increasing taxes and feudal lords' oppression, villagers became poor and the trades became dull. That being the case, the “Palace” was living in luxury and wasting money. On the other hand, the villagers under the Ottoman rule were becoming rich. In his book entitled “The Fall of Constantine”, Prof. Steven Runciman was stating that Fatih Sultan Mehmet's father, Murad II, won the admiration of the Greeks, and was saying that, “From the point of the Greeks, living under the organized and fair administration of Sultan Murad was way easier than living the uncertain and boring life style of the old Christian empire.”

As Prof. Zachariae von Lingenthall stated, the Byzantine villagers pinned their hopes on Ottomans rather than fearing them. In his book entitled “Last days of Byzantine”, while stating that the Turks did not touch monasteries, churches and priests, nor, seized the properties of anyone, Yannis Kordatos says, “Their only condition was the delivery of the keys to the castles and nationality.” According to the information from Prof. Runciman, some Byzantine statesmen were thinking as follows; “The union of Orthodox and Greek communities might be possible by accepting the Turkish sovereignty. The Greeks' integrity could be better protected if they were under the Islam sovereignty rather than seeking shelter in a corner of the Western world.”

Emperor Constantine, who was hoping for the “Vatican's” help against the Ottomans, accepted the union of Rome and Byzantine churches. The vast majority of the public reacted heavily against this union. On December 12, 1452, the Pope's envoy Cardinal İsidoros came to Istanbul and supervised the “union” ritual in the Aghia Sophia Cathedral (Greek name), also known as the Hagia Sophia. The community protested the ritual and did not lay foot in the Hagia Sophia until May 28th. One of the prominent ecclesiastics among the Byzantines, Gennadios, and Lukas Notaras, from the nobles, were the prominent names of the “Turkish” party. Gennadios protested the “union” agreement and he locked himself inside the monastery. Gennadios, who was known as a virtuous man, wanted to keep the community in the mood of a passive devotion and make it easier for Turks to conquer Istanbul. Lukas Notaras' “I would prefer seeing the Turkish turban rather than seeing the Latin cone in Byzantine” words were stirring the streets.

Before the conquest, Byzantine historian Dukas couldn't hide his surprise against seeing the Byzantine priests and priestesses become Muslims, and said; “I've witnessed a priestess, who grew up in a monastery and assimilated all the values of Christianity, carry the crest of the barbarians and change her religion.” Ottomans conquered the hearts of the people before conquering the castles and cities. As we are realizing the 562nd anniversary of Istanbul's Conquest, we need to seriously think about how “a new dream” can be established for Turkey, the region and all humanity.

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