567 years have passed since the Fall of Constantinople on 29 May 1453, the day which
marked the essential dissolution of the Byzantine Empire by the Ottoman Turks.
This traditional song of Pontos proclaims the taking of the second last bastion before the 1461 fall of Trapezounta, the final breath of the Byzantine Empire.
Έναν πουλίν, καλόν πουλίν εβγαίν’ από την Πόλην
ουδέ στ’ αμπέλια κόνεψεν ουδέ στα περιβόλια,
επήγεν και-ν εκόνεψεν α σου Ηλί’ τον κάστρον.
Εσείξεν τ’ έναν το φτερόν σο αίμα βουτεμένον,
εσείξεν τ’ άλλο το φτερόν, χαρτίν έχει γραμμένον,
Ατό κανείς κι ανέγνωσεν, ουδ’ ο μητροπολίτης°
έναν παιδίν, καλόν παιδίν, έρχεται κι αναγνώθει.
Σίτ’ αναγνώθ’ σίτε κλαίγει, σίτε κρούει την καρδίαν.
“Αϊλί εμάς και βάι εμάς, πάρθεν η Ρωμανία!”
Μοιρολογούν τα εκκλησιάς, κλαίγνε τα μοναστήρια
κι ο Γιάννες ο Χρυσόστομον κλαίει, δερνοκοπιέται,
-Μη κλαίς, μη κλαίς Αϊ-Γιάννε μου, και δερνοκοπισκάσαι
The remaining medieval Hellenic empire consisted of the ‘Queen of Cities’, with a
population of less than 100,000 people, a few neighbouring cities in Thrace with a few islands in the Aegean Sea and the region of Peloponnesos, which was shared between two lords who wasted their time trying to conquer each other. The Byzantine Empire had endured repeated assaults and sieges from the western Crusaders, from the Arabs and from the Ottoman Turks.
Piece by piece, the Empire was dismantled over a period of centuries.
With the death of Emperor John VIII Palaiologos in October 1448, following his wishes,
the 45-year-old heir to the throne was crowned “Constantine XI Emperor of the Romans” on 6 January 1449.
By the beginning of 1453, Sultan Mehmet, based at Adrianople in Thrace, had commenced
preparations for another siege. He assembled 150,000 men and a fleet of 400 vessels. On 7 April, Sultan Mehmet officially announced another siege of the City. The Ottoman Turkish force faced an army of 7,000 men, of whom 2,000 were mercenaries. The City may have had imposing double walls; these were pounded by the daily bombardment of the Ottoman artillery.
The walls held and the City continued to be supplied from the Golden Horn harbour. The
Sultan turned his attention there and attempted to cut the supply lines, building a causeway and transporting approximately 70 vessels into the Golden Horn. This caused consternation amongst the defenders as the walls there were not strong and forces were diverted from the central walls.
On the morning of 29 May 1453, the hordes of Mehmet attacked the weakened city and
captured it. The Emperor, having rejected three offers to surrender, fell heroically in battle. The Ottoman forces proceeded with frightful looting and slaughter of the now defenceless inhabitants.
That evening, Mehmet, now Fatih (the Conqueror) entered the City in triumph and prayed to Allah “atop the altar” of the Orthodox Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, as was recorded by chroniclers of the time.
Folkloric tradition produced the legend of the “Petrified King,” the man who became
marble. According to folklore, “an angel of the Lord” seized the king and took him to a cave deep underground, close to the Golden Gate. There remains the king and waits for the angel to descend again into the cave, to de-petrify him.
The last words of the traditional song of Pontos say:
The Empire has passed, the Empire has been taken.
The Empire may have passed, but it blooms and brings another.
The member-associations of the Federation of Pontian Associations of Australia mark this sad anniversary and draw upon the lessons of our past. Our members – of all ages – are the blooms of which the song speaks. It is up to us add our own stories to the never-ending story of Pontos and Pontian Hellenism, here in Australia.
FEDERATION OF PONTIAN ASSOCIATIONS OF AUSTRALIA
ΟΜΟΣΠΟΝΔΙΑ ΠΟΝΤΙΑΚΩΝ ΣΩΜΑΤΕΙΩΝ ΑΥΣΤΡΑΛΙΑΣ