CONSTANTINOPLE

29 May 1453 is the worst day for the Hellenism and also for Europe.

The Greek empire of Byzantium, the ark of Culture for more than 1000 years, collapsed when the turkish hordes assaulted the proud capital.

In her brilliant history, the Greek medieval Empire had a beneficial role for the European civilization:

1.She was the rampant of Europe against the innumerable efforts of Asiatic hordes to infiltrate in the European continent.

2. She was the cultural bridge between the ancient classic Greek culture and the modern westerner culture. It was byzantine intellectuals who in 15th century taught Europeans about Plato, Aristotle etc.

3. She created a brilliant self-luminous culture, the Greek-Orthodox (Romiosine or Romania) Culture of middle ages. When Europeans were dressed in rawhides, Byzantines were dressed in silk costumes and their women wore golden adornments. When Europeans lived in straw huts, Byzantines lived in mansions.

4. She propagated the Christianity and in particular Orthodoxy, which in the Byzantium was shaped in her brilliant Greek form, in a pleiad of pagan nations.

5. She laid the foundations for the humanitarian, social sciences, the law, the systematic study of history, the rise of monasticism and the missionary activity.

6. She created masterpieces in painting, architecture, literature, music etc.

The Fall of Constantinople is disaster but it is also one of the heroic pages of Greek History, where a handful of men were sacrificed for their values and ideas.



The answer of Constantine Palaeologos Constantine Palaeologos: "to deliver the city it is not my own right nor any other person of her residents, because it is our common decision to die all of us and not to spare our life", simply raises the persons from their individual level to their national level. They leave behind their egoistic and individualistic humble instincts, and fight for their religion, their fatherland and their family.

The capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, the city that was identified with the life of Byzantine empire, was founded by the Roman Constantine I, in the place where was the city of Byzantion (built in 657 B.C. by Byzas), and it signaled with her presence, important changes in the Eastern region of Mediterranean. The city was founded on 8 November 324 and it was inaugurated on 11 May 330. The capital was named New Rome Nea Romi and later was renamed Constantinople Konstantinoupolis. The Eastern Roman Empire contained lands such as Pontus, Minor Asia, Macedonia, Thrace, Aegean islands etc, which were inhabited since thousands years before, mainly by greek populations. So it was inevitable that the power of this state would pass one day under the Greek control.

The residents refused to be called Greeks "Hellenes", because Greek meant for them pagan. And while the Europeans used to call the byzantine emperor, "Greek king", the Byzantines used to call him emperor of Romans, because this title meant prestige and glory for their state. During the Ottoman slavery, the Greeks continued to call themselves "Romeos" and it was after the Greek Revolution of 1821, that the name "Hellen" started to replace the name "Romeos".




Konstantinoupolis, the largest city of the middle ages. A city with thousands churches, palaces and monasteries. The orphanages, hospitals and public baths are evidence of the interest for the feeblest members of society. Most houses had tanks with water and all gave big importance in the hygiene. Her population reached more than 1 million the time of prosperity. The main road of the city had orientation from the East to the West and there was the market or "Foros", in the centre of which was placed a pillar from porphyry, in the top of which was placed an oversized statue of the emperor Meghas Konstantinos. The head of statue was turned to the east and from this orientation emanates also his name as "Anthilion".

The emperor Valens "Oualis" adorned the capital with the homonym aqueduct, while Theodosius I added a new forum which brought his name. Often it was called forum Tauri "Tavrou Foros". In the centre of the square it was placed a column, where were recounted the military triumphs of emperor. On the top existed a silver statue of Theodosius. The emperor Arkadios added a new forum that brought his name and was found in the axis of the road that led to the Golden Gate "Chryse Pyle". Near this forum it was the Foros of ox "Vous" that was named after a bronze statue of ox, which had come from Pergamon.

The main road of city was called Medium road "Mesi Odos". It started from Charisius's Gate from the west and terminated to the "Milion" in the east. There was a square that was called "Avgousteonas", which was columned with double order of columns. Round this square existed the Holy Palace "Ieron Palation", the church of "Saint Sofia" and the hippodrome. The road from the Golden gate to the Milion was the "Via Triumphalis".

The Holy Palace was a complicated architectural structure. Every emperor used to make additions. There existed innumerable rooms, temples, kiosks, libraries, barracks, offices, even prisons. All these inside tall walls, were guarded by the imperial guard. Apart from the buildings existed also lakes, gardens with innumerable species of birds. The Ieron Palation was the residence of the ministers and the dignitaries. The Hrysotriklinos was the room where the emperor accepted the envoys. The room had golden mosaics and polychrome paintings. There happened certain things that impressed the visitors. While the visitor approached the emperor, the throne rose little by little and golden lions next to the throne, began to shake their tail and to roar. In this room existed golden and silver trees, and on their branches, golden birds embelished with precious stones, diamonds and sapphires, sang. Other famous palaces were the palace of Vlahernae, that was the residence of emperors during the era of Komninos, and the palace of Voykoyleon, which had a small harbour for the members of the royal family.
Map of Constantinople
Unfortunately today in Istanbul, minimal monuments have survived and their traces are located mainly in the historical sources. The city had big sufficiency of water supplies. The public springs were called "Nymphaea". The most famous open cisterns "Kinsternes" were: Aetioy, Asparos, Aghiou Mokiou, Evdomou and Iereas. The closed cisterns reported are: cistern of Vonoy, Modestoy, Arkadiou, meghiste, the Poylherias, Aghias Sophias, Ierou Palatiou, Sfendonis, the Theodosioy, the Hrysoroi, the Pammakaristoy, the Pantokratoros, the Myrelaioy, in the palace of Votanejati, the Saint Gewrgjoy of Magganwn, in the palace Magganwn, Saint Ioannis of Stoydjoy, the Magnavras etc.

The most impressive of all were the land walls of Polis, which were constructed by Theodosius II, Meghas Theodosius. The length was 7 kilometres. The wall was mainly erected in a height of 9 metres, had width 4.5 metres and was interrupted by 96 square or polygonal towers. The total manufacture constituted by five parts: the ditch, the surrounding ring, the outside wall, second surrounding ring and the internal or big wall. Eight, or eleven big gates led to the city from the side of hinterland. These gates were the Golden gate, the gate of Zwodohoy, the gate of Kalagroy, the gate of Polyandrioy, the gate of Saint Romanos, the Pemptou, the gate of Harjsioy, the gate of Xylokerkoy and the Kerkoporta. From the palace of Vlahernae to the Holy palace, (by Keratius) the sea wall was simple and had height 10 metres. The Gates that existed in this part were 14. From the Holy Palace to the Golden gate (by Sea of Marmara) there were 8 kilometres coastal walls.

The big construction activity in the "Queen of the Cities" "Vasilevousa" continued and in the next years the climax of activity was during the period of Ioustinianos. The general impression which caused the sight of the capital of state was dazzling. According to the description of Steven Runciman, the traveller that came from the sea, first saw the huge palace, with his tiled roofs. Also, the dome of Saint Sofia was distinguished, while extensive gardens reached at the beach and the sea wall. In the beach of the Sea of Marmara was the harbour of the palace and near it the church of Saint Serghios and Vakhos. Behind one could see the valley of Lycos river, in which existed gardens with fruit-bearing trees and fields. Above on the hill dominated the church of Saint Apostles. Outside the walls existed however over-populated suburbs. From the side of Golden Horn or Keratius the aspect of the city was different. There were numerous docks where the thousands small and bigger boats were anchored. Behind were a lot of small gates that led to the commercial districts. There the number of residences was much bigger. On the north it was constructed the palace of Vlahernae and the church of Panaghia ton Vlaxernon.

The Byzantine capital was besieged many times by various enemies, who all wanted to plunder her innumerable treasures. Goths, Persians, Avars, Arabs, Bulgarians, Russians, Normans, Franks, Venetians, Serbs tried to conquer her. In 1204 the Crusaders (French, Germans, Belgians and Germans), entered in the City. The price was very heavy, because the invaders seized and destroyed all the treasures of the City, all the work of art, while at the same time they destroyed a big number of temples, monuments, statues, books and others. The City was thus weakened considerably also even if the Greeks reoccupied their Holy City in 1261 under Michael Palaeologus. They kept her for 200 years, but in 1453 she was conquered this time by a Moggolian tribe, the Ottoman Turks. A lot of historians wrote, that the City would never fall in the hands of Turks, if the Crusaders had not disintegrate the Greek Empire.

Aghia Irene Constantinople was the most over-populated city of the medieval world. The City was divided in 14 districts. It had more than 500 large churches. The most famous were Saint Sofia, the church of Apostles, (Saint Mark of Venice is an exact copy of that church), Aghia Irene, Saints Petros and Mark, Saints Serghios and Vakhos, Pantokrator, Virgin Mary of Moyhliotissa in Phanar and many others. The conquerors however did not respect the byzantine heritage. They stole everything precious and converted most of the churches to mosques, others were used as stables or barracks and the rest were totally demolished. One can see the hatred to the old civilization even today. Even in the year 2004, hundreds of precious byzantine icons were found abandoned and moldy in stores near the church of Saint Sophia and were thrown as rubbish.

On 29 May 1453, Black Tuesday, Constantinople fell. The Emperor Constantine XI Palaeologus died as a hero, refusing treasures and lands offered by the enemy. Constantinos, a national martyr, is the subject of myths by the greek people. Stories have been told of the Marble Emperor where Constantinos is said to have been rescued by an Angel and that he will sleep until he returns to chase the Turks from Constantinople to the Red Apple Tree "Kokkini Milia".

"I sent two birds to the red apple tree, of which the legends speak. One was killed, the other was hurt, and they never came back to me. Of the marble emperor there is no word, no talk. But grandmothers sing about him to the children like a fairy tale. I sent two birds, two house martins, to the red apple tree. But there they stayed and became a dream.. "
Popular Song


"God forbid that I should live an Emperor without an Empire. As my city falls, I will fall with it.
Whoever wished to escape, let him save himself if he can; and whoever is ready to face death, let him follow me!"
The Crescent and the Cross by David Dereksen


"Constantine told his hearers that the great assault was about to begin. To his Greek subjects he said that a man should always be ready to die for his faith or for his country or for his family or for his sovereign. Now his people must be prepared to die for all four causes. He spoke of the glories and the high traditions of the great imperial city. He spoke of the perfidy of the infidel Sultan who had provoked the war in order to destroy the true faith and to put his false prophet in the seat of Christ. He urged them to remember that they were the descendants of the heroes of ancient Greece and Rome and to be worthy of their ancestors. For his part, he said, he was ready to die for his faith, his city, and his people. He then turned to the Italians, thanking them for the great services that they had rendered and telling of his trust in them for the fighting that was to come. He begged them all, Greeks and Italians alike, not to fear the vast numbers of the enemy and the barbarous devices of fires and of noise designed to alarm them. Let their spirits be high; let them be brave and steadfast. With the help of God they would be victorious."
From Steven Runciman's the Fall of Constantinople 1453

The fall of Constantinople has left in the hearts of Greeks bitterness for the betrayal of the Europeans "Latins". Greeks were betrayed in 1204 with the sack of their capital, in 1453 when Europeans refused to help the Orthodox-Christians in their struggle for survival, in 1922 when the genocide of christians took place in Anatolia Mikra Asia, in 1955 when the last Greeks were forced to leave their fatherland. If Vienne had fallen to Ottomans in 16th century, the attitude of Europeans to Turks would be different. If their women were taken in harems, if their children had become jenissars, if they worked as slaves in the fields or were sold in slavebazzars of Anatolia, or their churches were converted to mosques, Europeans would have different policy towards Turkey. Still in the end of 20th century, Turkey has invaded another nation, Cyprus, and caused the death to 20000 humans and the exodus of their homes of 200000 Cypriots. Could anyone imagine France to attack Belgium? Impossible even to think about it. But Turkey, a state that US and England want to be part of Europe, has done.

"Mehmet was said to have sent himself four hundred Greek children as a gift to each of the leading Moslem potentates of the time, the Sultan of Egypt, the King of Tunis, and the King of Grenada. Many Greek families were never to be reunited."
From the Fall of Constantinople 1453 by Steven Runciman
"As soon as the Turks were inside the city, they began to seize and enslave every person who came their way; all those who tried to offer resistance were put to the sword. In many places the ground could not be seen, as it was covered by heaps of corpses. There were unprecedented events; all sorts of lamentations, countless rows of slaves consisting of noble ladies, virgins, and nuns, who were being dragged by the Turks by their headgear, hair, and braids out of the shelter of Churches, to the accompaniment of mourning. There was the crying of children, the looting of our sacred and holy buildings. What horror can such sounds cause!
Our greatest and holiest Church of Saint Sophia, the earthly heaven, the throne of God's glory, the vehicle of the cherubim and second firmament, God's creation, such edifice and monument, the joy of all earth, the beautiful and more beautiful than the beautiful became a place of feasting; its inner sanctum was turned into a dining room, its holy altars supported food and wine, and were also employed in the enactment of their perversions with our women, virgins, and children"
The Fall of the Byzantine Empire, A chronicle by George Sphrantzes translated by Marios Phillipides
"Breaking down the doors with axes, the Turks entered the Church and dragged the fugitives off to slavery. Two by two, the men were tied together with cords, the women with belts, without consideration for age or station. Scenes of indescribable horror ensued. The statues of sainst were shorn of their jewels and smashed. The gold and silver Church vessels were seized, the altar cloths used for caparisons. Topped with a Janissary's cap, the crucifix was paraded in mockery. The conquerors used the altars as tables; when they themselves had finished eating on them, they turned them over to the horses for feed troughs or used them as beds on which to assault boys and girls".
The Turks in Aghia Sophia from Mehmet the Conqueror and his time by Franz Babinger



The first Exodus of Greeks from their Polis happened in 1453 and the second Exodus would take place 500 years later. The Greeks of Constantinople - Romeos had never provoked the Ottoman state. They obeyed the sultan and had never created troubles. Nevertheless, they were considered second class citizens rayas or giaour, and many times during the Ottoman occupation had fallen victims of the brutality of the state. Some examples are the executions in 1554, of the monk Nikolaos who was burnt alive at Constantinople, in 1638 the Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyrillos Loukaris was beheaded by sultan Murat IV. Patriarch Cyrillos Kontares was strangled in 1639. In 1650, Patriarch Parthenios was also strangled. Patriarch Parthenios III was beheaded in 1657. In 1676 the monk Gavriel was beheaded, in 1681 Neomartyr Damaskenos was also beheaded in front of Patriarchate. 1694, monk Romanos from Euvrutania was murdered. In 1720 monk Auxentios was beheaded by the sultan. In 1784, the monk Demetrios was killed at Galata. The most tragic was the execution of thousands Constantinopolitans who were massacred, in 1821. Their Patriarch Gregorius was hung at the middle gate of Patriarchate in Phanari. Since then this gate remains closed. In 1822 a former Patriarch Cyrillos was hung in Adnrianople This brutal attitude continued even in our days, in the end of 20th century.

After the genocide of 1914-1922, and the destruction of Mikra Asia (Minor Asia) Greece and Turkey exchanged their populations and signed, in July 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne. According to the provisions of this treaty, 200 thousands Greeks were recognized as a minority and Turkey should respect their property and their human and religious rights and also their right to stay in their place of birth (Constantinople, Imvros, Tenedos). This was the result not only of the Lausanne Treaty but also of the Greek-Turkish Conventions signed on July and October of 1930. Greece should respect the rights of the 100 thousands muslims of Thrace.

However, Turkey did her best to eradicate the Greek minority of Istanbul. She used all the means for this purpose. During the WWII, Turkey refused to fight for the democratic world, remained neutral and forced all Greeks between 18 and 45 years of age to work in special labor camps in the depths of Anatolia. These men were to be exterminated if the Russians hadn't won the crucial battle of Stalingrad, when the Turks realized that their strong friend Germany was not going to be the winner of the war. Furthermore, in November 1942, Ankara put into force the notorious "Varlik vergisi" Law imposing a wealth tax on property. This law was imposed only to the non-Moslem minorities. As a result, the Greeks were forced to liquidate all their property, but since even so they were not able to meet the imposed obligations, they were uprooted from their homes and put to forced labor. (It should be noted that the Greek minority, although it constituted only 0,5% of the whole Turkish population, contributed 20% of the country's total income emanating from this tax). This measure was the most serious violation of the Lausanne Treaty's dispositions for the protection of minorities.

In September 1955, the turkish mob, under the direction of the Turkish authorities, conducted a vicious pogrom against the Greek Community of Constantinople. The newspaper, ISTANBUL EXPRESS (6 September 1955), had published the news of the bombing of Ataturk's birthplace in Thessaloniki, Hellas. Student protests started the same day. It developed into a nationwide response and within two days, 2600 homes, 4348 shops, 110 hotels, 21 factories, 35 schools, and 73 churches were destroyed, burnt or plundered. "Today your houses tomorrow your heads". This was the threat of the turkish mob. More than 20 people were killed and 200 women were raped. (90 year old monk at the Valoukli Monastery, Chrys. Mantas, was burned alive), and thirty two were severely wounded. Hundreds of Hellenes were tortured. Tombs and thousand year-old temples and monuments were included on their list of destruction. The Patriarchal and other Hellenic cemeteries were desecrated. The dead bodies of Patriarchs were unburied and profaned. Relics of Saints were burned. Later, it was discovered that the events had been planned by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT) and that the bomb had been planted by Oktay Engin, a MIT agent who, in 1992, was Governor of Nevsehir, a Turkish province.

In 1964 Ankara denounced the Greek-Turkish Convention of 1930 on installation, which led nearly 12,600 Greek subjects living in Istanbul to a mass expulsion while, at the same time, their properties in Turkey were frozen. In 1971 Theological Seminary of Halki (a venerated institution serving Orthodox Christianity worldwide) was shut down on arbitrary orders from Turkish authorities and also it was forbidden to Greeks to buy property in Turkey. The terror continued and the next decades when the Greek Minority has been silently witnessing desecration of its cemeteries and its holy grounds, in addition to everything else. On more than one occasions, vandals have broken into Christian cemeteries, unearthed graves and scattered human remains around. These acts of atrocity to the dead took place on specific dates: On August 1993 when many graves were destroyed in the Greek cemetery in Yenikeuy, on March 1, 1998 , 51 graves were destroyed. On July 25 of this year, 20 graves in the Christian Cemetery in Kurtulus (a densely populated central district in Istanbul ) were desecrated. A few days before that, vandals gave the same treatment to a cemetery in Kuzguncuk (a more remote location). Digging up Christian graves seems to be catching as a favorite sport for Turks. And the role of Turkish police? Well, police did not ever apprehend even one vandal -- never!

Yet another fixation of Turkey is how best to eradicate traces of Greek presence from earlier times in what is Turkey today. For example, during guided tours to sites of Classical Antiquity, the Turks have struck the word " Greece " off the dictionary. As for remnants of Byzantium (cultural heritage for the Greek Minority) they are keen on eradicating every such trace from the land. Historic monuments are bulldozed on the pretext of decongesting car traffic! While this is taking place, UNESCO grants its funds to have these monuments preserved.

The children of the Minority apparently are deprived of a fundamental right -- to obtain primary schooling in their mother tongue. In implementation of this, weekly hours for subjects taught in Greek were cut back severely; pupils are matriculated into the next grade even if they scored below the base in Greek-language classes. Apparently the Ministry could not think of anything more disastrous. The Ministry is unfolding a master plan to deprive minority youth from its mother tongue inside school premises. Conclusion: These adventures in educational matters are precisely meant to alienate Greeks from their ethnic identity, especially from their mother tongue. These ethnic cleansing practices are taking place in Europe at the dawn of the 21st. century. But not in Kossovo. The place they are taking place in is called Turkey .

Churches and "holy springs" Aghiasma are condemned and destroyed in order to widen roads or build parkways, cemeteries are vandalised, churches are robbed and many valuable holy items are stolen. An example is the demolition of the holy spring of St. Nicholas, in September 1997 and the setting of the holy spring of St. Therapon on fire with the subsequent murdering of its sexton, in December 1997. Another holy spring of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was confiscated by the authorities, whilst efforts were being made for the demolition of the holy spring of the Birth of Virgin situated in. It should also be noted the fourth breaking into the church of St. Nicholas in the area of district of Phanar, with the result that many holy icons to be stolen and o Gospel, as well. On the 5th of July "anonymous people" threatened the sexton of the holy spring of the Virgin Mary (Vlachernae). He was forced to open them the door of the shrine from where the holy icons were stolen. We should also mention that the Turkish authorities have confiscated the property of the Greek - Orthodox monasteries, which are mainly situated in the Princes Islands. All the above - mentioned events take place on the threshold of the 21st century in a country which wants to be member of the European Union.

Article 40 of the Lausanne Treaty guarantees the Greek minority in Turkey the right to establish, manage and control charitable institutions. The report of CSCE Meeting of Experts on National Minorities in 1991 in Geneva spelled out fundamental rights of minorities, including the right to establish and maintain their own cultural institutions, organisations and associations. In spite of what the international treaties state, Greeks in Istanbul continue to suffer of interventions. Greek charitable institutions have neither the right to freely manage and control their property, nor to own or to sell them.

In 1935 the Turkish State passed a law which decreed that no one could any longer donate property to the charitable institutions. When the law concerning charitable institutions was put into effect, Institutions were asked to declare their properties. Until 1967, the institutions could acquire property from donations. In other words, when someone donates a property to an institution, this is registered in the cadastre, under the name of the specific institution. Since 1967 and afterwards all the property was claimed by the Turkish State. This happens because they make use of the law 106271921 "concerning retaliations". This law presents measures that could be taken by the Turkish Government as retaliation in case that a foreign country, and on the specific occasion Greece, offends or restricts the interests of Turkish citizens. So, in 1970' s, the Turkish Government proceeded to the annulment of testaments, and in this way the authorities, through legal proceedings, started the confiscation of the legacies of the minorities. At the same time, when all the institutions sell out any property legally possessed, the money is blocked in a bank account and the beneficiary receives only the interests.

In 1967 they enacted a "Charitable Foundation Law". Article 74 states that communal property founded by a group and aimed at "the enforcement of a certain race or minority" would no longer be recognised as a charitable foundation. This in fact is a typical discriminatory law and a similar one can not be found elsewhere in Europe. The same year they passed another law decreed a surtax of 5% on the income of all charitable institutions. In 1971 the Turkish Supreme Court confirmed that minorities no longer have the right to acquire new properties.

In 1974, after the judgement of a trial of the Baloukli Hospital Foundation, which is one of the most important charitable institutions of the Greek minority in Istanbul, all the possessed property after 1936, were annulled legally. As a consequence, all the properties possessed by the institutions from 1936 to 1974 were confiscated, most of it without compensation of their real value, and the worst is that compensation is demanded because all of these years this property exploited by the specific institution. The properties confiscated from Baloukli after 1974 until today amount to 132. In this way, from 1974, the declaration of properties submitted by the institutions in 1936, was considered as act of concession. But, because all the properties after 1936 did not have this act of concession started to be claimed by the Authorities. This act is not compatible neither with the law concerning legacies nor with the Civil Code.

In general, it can be claimed that in reality in Turkey there is no law which could forbid the acquisition of properties by the minority charitable institutions. But in this specific country, which desires to become a full member of the European Community, in the 21st century, there is no rule of law. In order to continue their function and maintenance all the charitable institutions, financial funds are required, which are guaranteed by the income of the legacies attached to them. If, therefore the Authorities confiscate the mentioned legacies, the function of all these institutions becomes problematic.

Today only 1000 Greeks "Romeos" live in Istanbul, while the muslim community in Thrace flourishes and counts 200000. The definite end of Greeks in Bosporus, after thousands years of presence is coming. What are doing the "sensitive", "democratic", "non-racist", "civilized","humanitarian" governments of Europe?


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