XIV HISTORICAL SKETCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE.
resolved to possess himself of the Christian capital of the East. To this end he
advanced against Constantinople, and for ten years pressed it with a close siege.
Its fate, however, was yet delayed by the sudden appearance of another extraordinary
power, which, having subdued the remote parts of the East, and left nothing there
unconquered, in the restlessness of ambition turned itself to the west in search of new
enemies. This was the power of the Tartars, led on by Demur beg, or " the Iron
Prince." * To oppose this new enemy, the siege of Constantinople was raised, and its
fate suspended while the legions of barbarians encountered one another, and the Thunderbolt was to resist the Man of Iron. The battle was fought on the plain of Angora,
where Pompey had defeated Mithridates. After a conflict of two days, the Turks were
totally routed. Bajazet fell into the hands of the conqueror, and the treatment he
experienced was such as one execrable tyrant might expect, or a still more execrable
might inflict. He whose custom it was to celebrate his massacres by pyramids of human
heads, erected at the gates of every city he conquered, would not hesitate to treat the
rival whom he hated, and had subdued, without pity or remorse. He enclosed his
captive in a cage, like a wild beast exposed to public view, and, as he was lame, made
him and his cage a footstool to mount his horse. The end of Bajazet corresponded with
his life; impatient of control, and stung with desperation, he beat out his brains against
the bars of his prison. Tamerlane possessed one redeeming quality, which distinguished
him, in some measure, from his fellow-barbarians. He entertained no hostility to
Christianity: on the contrary, he allowed a temple, dedicated to its worship, to be
erected in Samarcand, his capital. He did not follow up his conquest by renewing the
siege of Constantinople; so that this Christian capital, by his interference, was spared
for half a century longer.
But the time at length arrived, when the man was born who was permitted by
Providence to inflict this destruction. This was Mahomet II., endued with such
opposite and contradictory qualities, that he may be esteemed a monster in the human
race. He was the second son of Amurath II., by a Christian princess; his father had
imbibed so deep an enmity to Christianity, that he brought his son, like Hannibal's, to the
altar, and made him vow eternal hostility to its professors. He succeeded to the throne at
the age of twenty-one, and his first acts were to strangle all his brothers, to the number
of twenty-two, and to cast into the sea all the wives of his father who might be likely
to give birth to posthumous offspring. The progress of his reign was in conformity
to this commencement. His fixed and never interrupted intention was, to possess
himself of Constantinople, and to convert the great capital of the Christian world into
the chief seat of Islamism, and there was no effort of force or fraud which he did not use
to accomplish it.
He is represented, by historians, as starting from his sleep, excited by dreams of
conquering the city, and as passing his days in devising means for its accomplishment Among others, he caused to be cast, at Adrianople, those enormous pieces of
* He was lame of one leg, and hence called Demur lenk, which we have corrupted into Tamerlane.