Thursday, November 30, 2006

Turkish entry into Europe


" I
T WAS EARLY MORNING, with the waning moon high in the sky. The walls were strewn with the dead and dying; but of living defenders there was scarcely a trace. The surviving Greeks had hurried home to their families, hoping to save them from the rape and pillage that had already begun; the Venetians were making for the harbour, the Genoese for the comparative security of Galata. They found the Horn surprisingly quiet: most of the Turkish sailors had already gone ashore, lest the army beat them to the women and the plunder. The Venetian commander encountered no resistance when he set his sailors to break down the boom; his little fleet, accompanied by seven Genoese vessels and half a dozen Byzantine galleys, all packed to the gunwales with refugees, swung out into the Marmara and down the Hellespont to the open sea.

By noon the streets were running with blood. Houses were ransacked, women and children raped or impaled, churches razed, icons wrenched from their frames, books ripped from their bindings. The Imperial Palace at Blachernae was left an empty shell, the Empire's holiest icon, the Virgin Hodegetria, hacked into four pieces and destroyed. The most hideous scenes of all, however, were enacted in St Sophia. Matins were already in progress when the berserk conquerors were heard approaching. Immediately the great bronze doors were closed; but the Turks soon smashed their way in. The poorer and less attractive of the congregation were massacred on the spot; the remainder were led off to the Turkish camps to await their fate. The priests continued with the Mass until they were killed at the altar; but there are among the faithful those who still believe that one or two of them gathered up the patens and chalices and mysteriously disappeared into the southern wall of the sanctuary. There they will remain until Constantinople becomes once again a Christian city, when they will resume the service at the point at which it was interrupted.

Sultan Mehmet had promised his men the three traditional days of looting; but there were no protests when he brought it to a dose the same evening. By then there was little left to plunder, and his soldiers were fully occupied sharing out the loot and enjoying their captives. In the late afternoon, accompanied by his chief ministers, his imams and his bodyguard of janissaries, he rode slowly to St Sophia. Dismounting outside the central doors, he picked up a handful of earth which, in a gesture of humility, he sprinkled over his turban; then he entered the Great Church. As he walked towards the altar, he stopped one of his soldiers whom he saw hacking at the marble pavement looting, he told him, did not include the destruction of public buildings. At his command the senior imam mounted the pulpit and proclaimed the name of Allah, the All-Merciful and Compassionate: there was no God but God and Mohammed was his Prophet. The Sultan touched his turbaned head to the ground in prayer and thanksgiving St Sophia was now a mosque."

John Julius Norwich - A Short History of Byzantium pp. 380-1

12 comments:

hilary said...

So, um...

is there some point you are trying to make?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we should never forgive the Turks for what they did. After all, it's not like Christians have ever done anything similar to Muslims in the name of Christ. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure Jesus said, "Blessed are the grudge-keepers, for theirs is the kingdom of God." Yeah, that's in the Bible somewhere...

hilary said...

I'm guessing it was more in the line of a warning. Don't let these people, who have never repudiated or corrected the attitudes that created this atrocity, past the gates again.

When they have been civilized, when they are not proving themselves every day to still be the same pack of howling, blood thirsty savages they've always been, they can give us a call.

but that's just a guess.

Moretben said...

anonymous

Every day we read the Martyrology - not as an exercise in stirring up bad feeling - but to commemorate those who shed their blood for Christ, to keep faith with them and to ask for their intercession. Nevertheless there is, as Hilary anticipates, another point to this post. Today, somewhere else, I read this, written by a Christian:

the Church in the Middle east was sown on poor soil and was not able to be sustained. Haghia Sofia is nothing more than an empty shell, similar to a dead body, cold and useless. Why should Christendom wish it returned?

This is illustrative of the received opinion, even among Christians in the West: that North Africa, the Middle and Near East unaccountably "became" Moslem, Islam being in some mysterious way somehow "natural" to populations who shrugged off a Christianity that had struck no deep roots. Of course this is the very opposite of the truth. The North African province was the glory of the Roman Church; a thousand years of Eastern Christianity and the civilisation it raised up in the Middle and Near East does not indicate unsustainable rootlessness; both were, of course, extinguished over centuries by sustained, violent assault, while the West remained largely indifferent (when not actively implicated).

This indifference continues today. The successor state to the Ottoman Empire has, throughout the last one hundred years, waged campaigns of atrocity and genocide against its own Christian populations - Armenian, Assyrian and Greek. To this day it refuses to acknowledge these crimes. To this day, in Constantinople – a European city - it continues to pressurise, harrass and apply crippling legal disabilities to Christians and their ancient institutions in an effort to stamp out what remains of their culture and their religious identity. This is the state which is presently negotiating to join the European Union. If it succeeds in gaining admittance without any acknowledgement of these bloody atrocities, continuing into recent decades, or any repudiation and reversal of its policy of ethnic cleansing, we will have sold out the victims all over again.

Moretben said...

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2006/11/real-turkish-interests.html

Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

moretben,

Could you please send me a private e-mail. My address is vasqart3@yahoo.com.

Anonymous said...

And yet, and yet ...

without disagreeing with any of your facts, I can't help remembering that I have never met an ill-mannered Turk, nor yet a dishonest one or a hostile one. All the Turks I have met have been gentlemen (except for the females who were ladies). I have only visited Ankara and Istanbul, and a couple of villages on the plain outside Ankara, but my overwhelming impression is that I have felt happier and safer in Turkey than in any other foreign country where I don't speak the language.

I'm not defending the Sack of Constantinople or the current Government's anti-religious agenda. But I would find it deeply ironic if the current French Administration (for example) were to stop Turkish admission to the EU because of Turkey's lack of acceptance of "European values".

Moretben said...

I can't help remembering that I have never met an ill-mannered Turk, nor yet a dishonest one or a hostile one. All the Turks I have met have been gentlemen

You're absolutely right about that. Every Turk I've ever met has been delightful. It's a paradox - but the Turkish state is a menace - ultra-nationalist, racist, anti-Christian. Did you read that appalling interview on Rorate Caeli? 9o years ago, but nothing much has changed.

Anonymous said...

I will venture a guess that the people venting here about "blood thirsty savages" have not been to Turkey. Armchair criticism is easy.

Anonymous said...

Ttony--you are right about the Turks. I've been there for 3 extended visits--from Istanbul to the Iranian border, and from the Syrian border to the Black Sea. I love Turkey, count many Turks as friends, and will return there in the near future. And yet, Turkish nationalism and xenophobia--even among the well-educated--remains disturbing. I find them often in deep, deep denial about their history--and just about the Armenian genocide, but their past and ongoing treatment of the Greek minorities, the Suriani Christians, the Cyprus situation, etc. as well. I touched on this Turkocentric view of the world in a recent post. https://beta.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=18762198&postID=116017965510561533

Anonymous said...

Messed-up the link. Go here http://notesfromacommonplacebook.blogspot.com/ and then scroll down to entry for October 6, 2006: "Staring Down History."

Anonymous said...

It's hard for me to argue with TTony's subjective experience. But a quick remedy would be the shortest of visits to a European metropole such as the one where I live: the Turkish youth are rabidly nationalist, violent, loud, poorly educated, and prone to marry their immediate cousins. Turks in Turkey might be a different story. But in Eurabia, they spell bad news. Try being the one Native on a bus full of Mohamedan youth.