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The Sack of Constantinople


"Because they were in want of money (for the barbarians are unable to sate their love of riches), they covetously eyed the bronze statues and consigned these to the flames....These barbarians, haters of the beautiful, did not allow the statues standing in the Hippodrome and other marvelous works of art to escape destruction, but all were made into coins. Thus great things were exchanged for small ones, those works fashioned at hugh expense were converted into worthlesss copper coins."

Nicetas Choniates, Annals (648-649)


   Now planted with market gardens, the walls of Constantinople...

Only the four gilded bronze horses, which had stood above the carceres of the Hippodrome survived, having been shipped to Venice, where they were placed high above the entrance to San Marco.

On May 29, 1453, after fifty-three days of siege and bombardment, the Ottoman Turks breeched the walls of Constantinople to loot whatever remained from the pillaging of the Crusaders 250 years before. Because the city had not voluntarily negotiated a surrender, it was, in accordance with Islamic law, to be given over to the soldiers for three days of plunder. Hagia Sophia was stripped of it treasures, both the vessels of gold and silver and the cowering men and women who had taken refuge there. The tomb of Enrico Dandolo (in the south gallery), the Doge of Venice who had diverted the Fourth Crusade to Constantinople, was smashed open and his bones thrown to the dogs. So relentless had been the plundering after only the first day that Mehmet, upon entering the city, ordered it to stop to prevent any further destruction of what he intended to be his future capital.

References: The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople (1997) by Donald E. Queller and Thomas F. Madden; The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople (2004) by Jonathan Phillips; O City of Byzantium: Annals of Niketas Choniates (1984) translated by Harry I. Magoulias; Robert de Clari: La Conquête de Constantinople (2005) translated by Peter Noble; Robert of Clari: The Conquest of Constantinople (1936) translated by Edgar Holmes McNeal; (1995) translated by Brian Croke. 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West (2005) by Roger Crowley.

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