Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Srdja Trifkovic: A Dark Day in History

A Dark Day in History

The Massacre at Chios by Eugene Delacroix

On May 29, 1453, the city of Constantinople fell to the Muslims. It was a dark day for Christendom and for all civilized humanity. His pleas ignored in the West, his supplies running out after six weeks’ siege, his soldiers outnumbered 15 to one, Emperor Constantine XI Dragas knew that his cause was hopeless. Like Prince Lazar at Kosovo 64 years earlier, he chose martyrdom.

On May 22 the moon, symbol of Constantinople since its founding, rose in dark eclipse, fulfilling an old prophecy on the city’s demise. Four days later the Bosphorus was shrouded by thick fog, a phenomenon unknown in eastern Mediterranean in late spring. When the final assault started on the 29th and the walls of the city were shattered, the Emperor discarded his purple cloak and led the last defenders to charge into the breach. The Turks were never able to identify his body; the last Roman Emperor was buried in a mass grave along with his soldiers.

When it was all over, bands of Turks went on a rampage. Pillaging and killing went on for three days. The blood ran down the steep streets from the heights of Petra toward the Golden Horn. All the treasures of the Imperial Palace were promptly removed. Books and icons were burnt on the spot, once the jeweled covers and frames had been wrenched off. In the monastery of the Holy Savior, the invaders first destroyed the icon of the Mother of God, the Hodigitria, the holiest icon in all Byzantium, painted—so men said—by Saint Luke himself. When the Turks burst into the Hagia Sophia, Sir Steven Runciman tells us in his Fall of Constantinople,

The worshippers were trapped. A few of the ancient and infirm were killed on the spot; but most of them were tied or chained together. Many of the lovelier maidens and youths and many of the richer-clad nobles were almost torn to death as their captors quarreled over them. The priests went on chanting at the altar till they too were taken . . . The inhabitants were carried off along with their possessions. Anyone who collapsed from frailty was slaughtered, together with a number of infants who were held to be of no value . . . [The city] was now half in ruins, emptied and deserted and blackened as though by fire, and strangely silent. Wherever the soldiers had been there was desolation. Churches had been desecrated and stripped; houses were no longer habitable and shops and stores battered and bare.

Sultan Mehmed II is said to have been shaken by the spectacle as he rode through the burning streets, but the same carnage and bestiality was to be repeated, in one form or another, dozens of times over hundreds of years. Eugene Delacroix’s depiction of The Massacre at Chios: Greek families awaiting death or slavery is a masterpiece of horror depicting the systematic extermination of the entire population of an Aegean island. It graphically illustrated how being a Greek, Armenian, Serb, or indeed any other Christian, in the Ottoman Empire meant living in daily fear of murder, rape, torture, kidnap of one’s children, slavery, and genocide. Indeed, the last century of Ottoman rule—from the defeat of Napoleon until the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War—witnessed a more thorough and tragic destruction of the Christian communities in the Middle East, Asia Minor, the Caucasus, and the Balkans, than at any prior period.

The tragedy of Christian communities under Turkish rule, as Gladstone rightly pointed out, was not “a question of Mohammedanism simply, but of Mohammedanism compounded with the peculiar character of a race.” The Turks, in his view, “were, upon the whole, from the black day when they first entered Europe, the one great anti-human specimen of humanity. Wherever they went, a broad line of blood marked the track behind them, and, as far as their dominion reached, civilization disappeared from view. They represented everywhere government by force as opposed to government by law.”

The Ottoman Empire gave up the ghost right after the Great War, but long before that it had little interesting to say, or do, at least measured against the enormous cultural melting pot it had inherited and its splendid opportunities between East and West. Not even a prime location at the crossroads of the world could prompt creativity that was not there.

A century later the Turkish Republic is a populous, relatively prosperous and self-assertive nation-state. The Turkish nation has developed a culture based on a blend of European-style nationalism, which is very un-Ottoman, and an underlying Islamic ethos inherited from the Empire. Kemal Ataturk hoped to impose a strictly secular concept of nationhood, but political Islam has reasserted itself. Popular Islamic political movements of the past three decades have produced a Turkish-Islamic synthesis whose “post-Islamist” upholders are firmly in power in Ankara. Their success is due to the fact that most Turks remain Muslim in their beliefs, values, and world outlook. The Kemalist dream of secularism has never penetrated beyond the military and a narrow stratum of urban elite centered in Istanbul, and today it is in retreat. The Kemalist edifice, uneasily perched atop the simmering Islamic volcano, will remain tentative at best.
The re-emergence of an empire centered on the Bosphorus is unlikely, for now, but less so than the integration into the European Union of a democratic, secular and stable Turkey.

The freeing of Hagia Sophia from the four ugly bars imprisoning her is even less likely, for now; but miracles do happen, and therefore this one can happen. On this melancholy anniversary let us pray that it will happen.

Srdja Trifkovic :: May.29.2007 :: News & Views :: 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “A Dark Day in History”
on 29 May 2007 at 6:01 pm

1 Ira Nayus

What you fail to point out is the fact that Constantinople fell six months or so after an attempted illegitimate unia with the Latins. Thanks to St. Mark of Ephesus, the unia did not take place. Of course, the fall of Constantinople was a blow not to “Christendom” — some ecumenical notion embraced by those who have to rely on traffic with Latins for their pay — but a blow to the one, holy Catholic Orthodox Church — not Rome. Why is it that you as a Serb continue to play step-and-fetch-it to Rome? Why do you continue to ignore the countless outrages of Rome against Orthodoxy — never mind the actions of Croatian Latins during WWII, the sacking of Constantinople, or the Uniates in the Ukraine. Constantinople fell in no small part because Rome wanted to capitalize on the vulnerable state of Byzantium, ever looking to “convert” the Orthodox to their heresies and innovations. And why all of this non-sense about Islam? I don’t see any Muslim names heading up media outlets that pump pornographic entertainment into our homes every night of the week through the television and radio. I don’t see any Muslim names heading up organizations demanding the removal of any and everything associated with Christianity from the public square. I didn’t hear any Muslims calling for a new Pearl harbor event. For whom do ye not speak for fear of?

on 29 May 2007 at 6:13 pm

2 George Ajjan

There is another icon of Mary in Sednaya, Syria - also reportedly painted by St. Luke. Very popular local and regional attraction - even Gulf tourists, who are Muslims, regularly pray there.
on 29 May 2007 at 6:35 pm

3 Trifkovic

Re Union etc, cf. my “1204 AND ALL THAT”:
on 29 May 2007 at 6:40 pm

4 A J Pestronic

Mr. “Nayus” is misguided on his history. The Council of Florence took place in 1439 — roughly 13 years before the fall of Constantinople. However, it is interesting to point out that Emperor Constantine XI was, for all practical purposes, a Uniate: he attempted to force a union with Rome. In fact, he was not crowned in Constantinople because of the fierce opposition to his uniate views. In December of 1452, he allowed a uniate liturgy to be served in the Hagia Sophia in which the Pope was commemorated. Then, six months later, Constantinople fell. The spiritual import of this will, one supposes, divide Orthodox and Catholic alike. However, Emperor Constantine XI’s uniate sympathies cannot be denied nor can Rome’s attempt to capitalize on them.

on 29 May 2007 at 10:24 pm

5 S.

So much for “Ottoman tolerance”! Much to often we hear European bureaucrats and western elite talk of Ottoman Empire’s kind treatment of non-Muslims ! This excellent column might make them reshape their enthusiasm for Muslim open-mindedness.
on 29 May 2007 at 11:32 pm

6 Eunomia · Aiei Mnisomen

[…] Second Update: Dr. Trifkovic also has a very good piece on the Fall of Constantinople. […]
on 30 May 2007 at 2:50 am

7 Darcy

I cannot help but read of the fall of Constantinople without getting the shivers. Glorious, doomed Constantinople. Yet I think you protest too loudly about the Evil Turk of Ottoman times. For all their (correct) complaints about being treated as second-class citizens, all the Balkan nationalities managed to preserve their language and msot their religion under the Ottomans. Not a feat that would have been repeated had, say, Serbia been annexed in the 15th century by the Austrians. And the killing, well, yeah, it was hardly confined to the Ottomans.

So boo. The Ottomans were hardly tolerant by today’s standards, but until the 19th century, it would have been more pleasant living as a minority in Ottoman lands than, say, Spain or France. With the probable exceptions of Poland-Lithuania and the Dutch Netherlands.

As for today, your comment “The Kemalist dream of secularism has never penetrated beyond the military and a narrow stratum of urban elite centered in Istanbul, and today it is in retreat.” is way off. In many respects, Istanbul is the most conservative of Turkey’s larger cities. And if the recent series of massive demonstrations against the Government do not convince you that Ataturk’s reforms took hold, then I suppose you also believe in Creationism?

As for your final statement: “The freeing of Hagia Sophia from the four ugly bars imprisoning her is even less likely, for now; but miracles do happen, and therefore this one can happen. On this melancholy anniversary let us pray that it will happen.” This is childish melancholy.

Turkey is hardly a model country, but I see an energy and a will to betterment here that is missing anywhere else in Europe or the Middle East. Next time you visit the Balkans, travel a little further afield to Turkey. Not just to Babylon-on-the-Bosphorus. Go into the heartland of Anatolia and speak with the peasant farmers and the grocers, the taxi drivers and the professors. It will prove enlightening.

on 30 May 2007 at 3:40 am

8 Alistair

“I didn’t hear any Muslims calling for a new Pearl harbor event.” Ira, prhaps you’ve heard of: Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Hassan Nasrallah (just for starters), who have all called for the destruction of the U.S.? Or have you been in a cave the past 28 years?

It’s a shame to see people of the West still harboring ancient grudges that prevent them from uniting against a common foe, who is only too glad to stoke those fires of division.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

READ THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES FROM THE BIBLE AS IT HAS IMPLICATIONS ON THE WAR AGAINST TERROR/ISLAM and the claim of Israel that god gave them the land. If the child is an infant than the Judeo-Christian version becomes null and void and we are wasting our time and resources i.e. we could save trillions of dollars and create a more peaceful world rather than fighting against Islam the religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).


Please note this is not a competition between faiths but an attempt to decipher fact from fiction.

Genesis 21:14 Contemporary English version se below link;&version=46;

Early the next morning Abraham gave Hagar an animal skin full of water and some bread. Then he put the boy on her shoulder and sent them away.

And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ish’mael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ish’mael to Abram.

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

At Genesis 22 Abraham had only 2 sons others came later. The Quran mentions that it was Ishmael that was sacrificed hence the reference in genesis 22:2 your only son can only mean someone has substituted Ishmael names for Isaac!!

NOT ROMAN NUMERALS (I, II, III,IV,V,VI,VII,VIII,IX,X) NB no concept of zero in roman numerals.

100 years old – 86 years old = 14 ADD 3 YEARS FOR ISSAC’S WEANING


Carefully read several times the above passage and then tell me the mental picture you get between the mother child interactions what is the age of the child. If the mental picture is that of a 17 year old child being carried on the shoulder of his mother, being physically placed in the bush, crying like a baby, mother having to give him water to drink, than the Islamic viewpoint is null and void. Why is there no verbal communications between mother and (17 YEAR OLD) child?

GENESIS: 21:14 - 21
So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the (17 YEAR OLD) child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the (17 YEAR OLD) child under one of the bushes. Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not look upon the death of the (17 YEAR OLD) child.” And as she sat over against him, the (17 YEAR OLD) child lifted up his voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad where he is. Arise, lift up the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the (17 YEAR OLD) lad a drink. And God was with the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

The age of Ishmael at this stage is crucial to the Abrahamic faiths. If he is 17 than the JUDEO/CHRISTIAN point of view about the Abrahamic covenant is correct. This has devastating theological consequences of unimaginable proportions.

This makes the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac and there descendants a work of fiction. I would strongly suggest it is clear cut case of racial discrimination and nothing to do with god almighty. The scribes have deliberately tried to make Isaac the only son and legitimate heir to the throne of Abraham??

Please can you rationally explain this anomaly?

I have asked many persons including my nephews and nieces - unbiased minds with no religious backgrounds but with reasonable command of the English language about this passage and they all agree that the child in the passage is an infant.

For background info on the future religion of mankind see the following websites:





HOLY QURAN CHAPTER 37 verses 101 - 122

101. So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.

102. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: "O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!"

103. So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah., and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),

104. We called out to him "O Abraham!

105. "Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!" - thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

106. For this was obviously a trial-

107. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:

108. And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times:

109. "Peace and salutation to Abraham!"

110. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

111. For he was one of our believing Servants.

112. And We gave him the good news of Isaac - a prophet,- one of the Righteous.

113. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.

114. Again (of old) We bestowed Our favour on Moses and Aaron,

115. And We delivered them and their people from (their) Great Calamity;

116. And We helped them, so they overcame (their troubles);

117. And We gave them the Book which helps to make things clear;

118. And We guided them to the Straight Way.

119. And We left (this blessing) for them among generations (to come) in later times:

120. "Peace and salutation to Moses and Aaron!"

121. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

122. For they were two of our believing Servants.

Therefore the claim that god gave the land to Israel is destroyed without the need of any WMD’s.

Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583:

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka'ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ishmael's mother followed him saying, "O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?" She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered you to do so?" He said, "Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect us," and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka'ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:
'O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Kaba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.' (14.37) Ishmael's mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had).
When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times."
The Prophet said, "This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, 'O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?" And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam-zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it."
The Prophet added, "May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael's mother! Had she let the Zam-zam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zam-zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth." The Prophet further added, "Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her, 'Don't be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.' The House (i.e. Kaba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada'. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, 'This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.' They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water)." The Prophet added, "Ishmael's mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, 'Do you allow us to stay with you?" She replied, 'Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.' They agreed to that." The Prophet further said, "Ishmael's mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learnt Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them.