History of Mehmed the Conqueror by Kritovoulos





Including the war with the Venetians and the second expedition of the Sultan against the Bostrians; also the first and second expeditions of the Sultan against the Illyrians, and how he subdued their country and fortified a city in it. Period covered: four years [a.d. 1464-1467].


[Of Mahmud's arrival] 195
Clash of Mahmud with the Venetians on the Isthmus; defeat of the Venetians and their flight and slaughter 195
Plunder of the Venetian camp 196
Surrender of Argos to Mahmud, and transfer of the Argives to Byzantium, and destruction of Argos 197
How the forts at the Hellespont were completed by Yakub, and armed well, and the straits closed 197
How the King of the Paeonians attacked Yaitsa after the Sultan's departure, and captured it by treachery.. 198
Second expedition of the Sultan against Paeonia and the Bostrians 199
Second Siege of Yaitsa 199
First attack of the Sultan on Yaitsa, and its failure 200
Second unsuccessful attack 200
Noting the severe battle 201
March of the Paeonian [Hungarian] King against the Sultan 202
Retreat of the Paeonian King, and disorderly and disgraceful rout, with Mahmud in pursuit 203
Expeditions of the Venetians against Lesbos, with seventy ships 204
Sailing of the Sultan's fleet against that of the Venetians' at Lesbos 205
Capture of two scouting ships of the Venetians at Tenedos 205
Precipitate flight of the Venetian fleet from Lesbos on hearing of the approach of the Sultan's fleet against them 206
A Fearful Event 206
How the Sultan's Palace was completed 207
How the Sultan gave many kinds of presents to the army 208
How, at the command of the Sultan, the philosopher George combined into one chart all the description of the earth in the outlines of Ptolemy 209
Causes which led the Sultan to undertake a campaign against the Illyrians [Albanians] 210
Start of the Sultan against the Illyrians 211
Attack of the Sultan on the passes; the battle and the victory, and the holding of the passes 211
Overrunning of the entire Illyrian country, and its total devastation 212
The attack by the army, the fight, and the climbing of the mountains 212
The Massacre of the Illyrians 213
Abandoning the Attack on Kroues 214
Walling in of a new fortress among the Illyrians by the Sultan 214
How the Venetians made an incursion against Old Patras 215
How Omer attacked the Venetians, set an ambush against them.. 216
A Strange Portent 217
Second expedition of the Sultan against the Illyrians 218
Telling of the beginning of the pestilential disease, and whence it came 219
Showing the great and terrible suffering 220
As to the nature of the disease 221



[Of Mahmud's arrival]


§ 1. On his arrival in the Peloponnesus, Mahmud encamped on the outer side of the Isthmus on the slopes of Mount Kithaeron. And, sending a secret messenger, he communicated to Omer the news of his arrival with an army. He asked for information as to all the affairs at the Isthmus and all about the enemy. And the/ti, having agreed as to the attack to be launched on a given day, they rested.


§ 2. The Venetians, in great haste and zeal, and by employing a large force of men for the work on the wall, completed it quickly. Indeed, they had already finished the whole wall except for three or four stadia, though they had not raised it as high as was desired, but merely enough to defend themselves safely.



Clash of Mahmud with the Venetians on the Isthmus; defeat of the Venetians and their flight and slaughter


§ 3. At this time Omer, watching for the moment to attack, gave the signal to Mahmud and with perfect timing they both rushed in and attacked the enemy's camp, the one from the inner side and the other from without, with a shout and a loud noise made by the soldiers shouting their battlecries.


§ 4. Then there was great struggling and pushing and a fierce hand-to-hand battle and much slaughter. For a short time, on receiving the onslaught of the heavy infantry, the Venetians resisted. But then they broke and fled precipitately in disorder and with no discipline.


§ 5. The heavy infantry followed on, killing them mercilessly or taking them prisoner, till they reached the sea and their ships. There, by great effort, the Venetians managed to board their ships and put off a little from the shore, getting





a breathing space when out of range of the arrows. Then they took on board those that had swum out to them, for many had been so hard pressed by their attackers that they threw away their arms and cast themselves into the sea. Others swam off carrying their arms, and some reached the ships while others were drowned under the weight of their weapons.



Plunder of the Venetian camp


§ 6. There fell in the battle a large number of the Venetians, both of the men of the city and foreigners. Among them was the general himself, who was a noble man. A little less than three hundred were taken prisoner. The soldiers plundered the whole camp, where they found much money plus furnishings and drinking-cups besides many supplies and other necessary things. Many weapons were also captured, some of them stripped from the slain, and others in warehouses. There were also many cannon of all sorts, and other such things.


§ 7. After this, Mahmud resumed his march. He went into the interior of the Peloponnesus, with Omer, against the fortresses that were resisting and against the rest of the Peloponnesians that had revolted. Within a few days they captured the fortresses and all other places, some by assault, while others were persuaded to surrender.


§ 8. After that he reached Argos, a town of the Venetians, and encamped before the city. He addressed the inhabitants, advising them to surrender themselves and the town. Thereupon the Argives, seeing the great size of the army surrounding the city, and knowing that their wall was weak and quite vulnerable and that there was no rescue from anywhere, nor even a hope of any, and also fearing lest in the event of an attack they might be overcome by military force and be destroyed, surrendered themselves and their city to Mahmud without a fight, after being given pledges.





Surrender of Argos to Mahmud, and transfer of the Argives to Byzantium, and destruction of Argos


§ 9. He colonized all of them in Byzantium, with their wives and children and all their belongings, safe and unhurt, but the city he razed to the ground. Then he arranged everything in the Peloponnesus in good shape, according to his plan. He left guards in every fortress, the most warlike of the men of the royal guard, and he put in good order everything that had been disarranged by the uprising. Then he turned over everything to Omer while he himself took with him the men. captured on the Isthmus and those Venetians whom he had found in the fortresses. He also took those of the Peloponnesians who had revolted and a small amount of booty, and returned to Constantinople, for it was already midwinter.


§ 10. The Sultan settled all the Argives in the monastery of Peribleptos, giving them also houses and vineyards and fields. But he killed all the Venetian prisoners, whom I mentioned as taken in the fortresses, and also the Peloponnesians who had revolted.



How the forts at the Hellespont were completed by Yakub, and armed well, and the straits closed


§11. During that same period the Governor of Gallipoli, Yakub, completed the forts at the Hellespont and placed a garrison in them, brought in a great quantity of arms, and set up stone-shooting cannon and crossbows, with the intention of stopping the ingress and egress of ships sailing up or down, whenever and however he chose. He also carried out all the other orders of the Sultan.


§ 12. Thus was brought to completion a great and complicated task, worthy of all praise and admiration, a task which no one of the ancient Greeks nor of the great kings and generals of old—that is, among Romans and Persians—had ever thought of or could have thought of: namely, to separate the upper sea [Black] from the lower [Aegean], and to prevent completely and make entirely impossible the navigation up or down for any who might wish it, except for those whom





he himself was willing to allow to pass. He did this by placing the fortresses like gates on either side and by planting stoneshooting cannon. For fear of these triremes and the largest galleons alike kept at a respectful distance, as did everything else, even large or small rowboats. For as soon as ships approached they were immediately sunk and demolished by the immense stone balls fired from the cannon, as if they were caught between Scylla and Charybdis.


§ 13. Xerxes, it is true, of old had bridged this Hellespont by rafts and a wooden bridge. But this could not stand long against the assaults of wind and wave, nor did it stand, in fact. This was because a hostile power coming against it could easily break it up by force.


§ 14. But in the present case, nothing of that sort is happening or can happen. Neither the assaults and blows of the sea, nor the winds, nor the attacks of enemy armies can totally destroy this, or force it in any way, so impregnable and strong is this new fetter and obstacle.



How the King of the Paeonians attacked Yaitsa after the Sultan's departure, and captured it by treachery, the inhabitants surrendering it, and how he took some other forts in the same way


§ 15. During the same winter the King of the Paeonians and Dacians [33] attacked Dalmatia and the country of the Bostrians, which formerly the Sultan had held, to see if possibly he might capture it and hold the fortresses there, especially Yaitsa, after driving out the Sultan's garrison. He considered it the worst possible thing, a very great detriment and an evident threat of destruction to his own country, that this region and the forts in it should be held by the Sultan, since it was advantageously situated against him. It bordered on the territory of the Paeonians all the way, and was suitable for incursions into that country.


§ 16. So he attacked it with a large and well equipped army, and quickly captured most of the forts from the Sultan,



33. Mathias Corvinus of Hungary.





some on terms of surrender, others by terrorism and threats, and a few by armed force. Then he came to Yaitsa and took it without a struggle, for rebellion broke out inside and the garrison slew one another. Hence the survivors willingly surrendered.


§ 17. After spending a few days there, he left a strong garrison of well-armed and warlike men in the city and in the other fortresses, supplying them with large quantities of arms and troops and provisions, and then left for home.


§ 18. When the Sultan learned this, he was deeply moved by what he heard, and immediately prepared to set out against the region with a large and powerful army, not only against the country of the Bostrians and the surrendered fortresses, but also to invade the land of the Paeonians. So he raised a very large army of both cavalry and infantry, and gathered many weapons and stone-shooting cannon and crossbows. He also made careful preparation along all lines throughout the winter. And on the arrival of spring he set out against them.



Second expedition of the Sultan against Paeonia and the Bostrians


§ 19. Leaving Adrianople with all his army, horse and foot, and taking along with him the cannon and a great quan- tity of copper and iron, he went against the country of the Bostrians. On reaching there he realized he must first go against Yaitsa and capture it if he could, either by persuasion or by armed force, and then go for other places.



Second Siege of Yaitsa


§ 20. So he marched against it and pitched his camp before the city. First he made overtures to the forces inside, to surrender themselves and the city, he giving them guarantees. But as they did not accept, he first devastated and burned the whole region around it. Then he dug a trench before the city, surrounded it with his army, set up the cannon, and laid siege. And for a few days he battered the wall with his cannon and made breaches in it.





First attack of the Sultan on Yaitsa, and its failure


§ 21. As soon as he thought a wide enough breach had been made, he prepared to attack the wall with his full force and might. Therefore he arranged and armed the soldiers, and attacked from all sides. He himself took command at the point where the wall had been destroyed, and with him his bodyguard and the very pick of the army, including heavy infantry, bowmen, slingers, and especially musketeers. As soon as they heard the signal, the soldiers gave a mighty and terrifying shout, and with a strong and swift assault made their way against the wrecked part of the wall and tried to climb it by force.


§ 22. But the Paeonians responded very bravely and stoutly, with an outlandish hue and cry. There followed a fierce hand-to-hand battle and a great struggle, much charging and mingled shouting on both sides, and swearing and no little slaughter of brave men. Those on the one side were trying to force their way through and capture the town; those on the other to repulse them and to guard their possessions, that is, their children and wives and their most valuable goods. Sometimes the heavy infantry would force the Paeonians back, and win out and scale the wall. At other, they would again be driven back by the Paeonians and repulsed by superior force, and many of them would fall fighting, and die.


§ 23. This went on for quite a long time, both sides fighting bravely. Then the Paeonians proved much more successful; and the heavy infantry were pressed back and suffered terribly, many fine brave men among them falling there. So the Sultan was very much troubled at seeing his men so terribly battered and destroyed, and he gave the signal for retreat, and ordered them out of bowshot. And they withdrew.



Second unsuccessful attack


§ 24. Again not many days after this, after resting his army and rearming and rearranging it in good order, he made a vigorous assault on the town, he himself being at the very





front. And he offered rewards, and added to these very many and very large sums, with many honors and privileges, to those who would first scale the walls. He also gave permission to plunder and rob all the people in the city.


§ 25. The soldiers, with a great and fearful battle-cry, immediately flew at the wall like birds of prey, with great force and rush, but in disorder and without keeping ranks or discipline, and tried to climb it. Some placed ladders against it, others suspended ropes, others fastened stakes or pegs in the wall, while still others tried in every possible way to break through. For the Sultan was present and watched the feats and the onslaught and zeal and bravery and energy and discipline of each one, and they had the greatest expectation of prizes, hoping to receive no small reward. Each one wanted to be the first to climb the wall, or to kill a Paeonian, or to plant the standard on the wall or battlements.



Noting the severe battle


§ 26. The Paeonians replied most energetically, and with very great daring and elan and swiftness, with a great shout, and met their enemy bravely and stoutly. A fierce and terrible battle took place there, such as no one ever saw or heard of in a fight at the walls; especially around the point at which the wall had been breached. For, drunken with battle, they yielded entirely to anger and wrath, well-nigh ignoring nature itself. They slaughtered each other and mercilessly cut each other to pieces, charging and being charged, wounding and being wounded, killing and being killed, shouting, blaspheming, swearing, hardly conscious of anything that was happening or of what they were doing, just like madmen.


§ 27. Thus many fine heroes fell, of the heavy infantry and especially of those in the royal guard, prodigal of themselves, and ashamed to do any less while before the very eyes of the Sultan, for he was fighting by their side. But the Paeonians prevailed generally everywhere, for they were fighting from higher ground and attacking from a vantage-point and were stronger in their efforts. For they were all fine warriors, selected for their valor.





§ 28. The Sultan saw that his men were being sadly depleted, and that the struggle was not going well anywhere, but that it had been proven well-nigh impossible to capture the city by assault, and also that this could be done only by starving them out by means of a long siege. Accordingly he gave the order to move back, and the army withdrew out of range of the arrows.


§ 29. Withdrawing, then, to the camp, the Sultan arranged to leave behind at the city a considerable army to besiege it and prevent any from escaping from within or entering from without. He, himself, with the balance of the army, went into the rest of the country, against the revolted fortresses, but especially against the Paeonians.



March of the Paeonian [Hungarian] King against the Sultan


§ 30. Just at this moment came news to the effect that the king of the Paeonians had raised an unprecedentedly large army and was marching against him. For this king, as soon as he knew that the Sultan had invaded the Bostrian country, and learned about the siege of the city of Yaitsa, collected a large army, prepared great quantities of whatever he could get, and started out against the Sultan, thinking that thus he would either raise the siege of the city by turning the Sultan and his army against himself, or else he would split the army into two forces, one for the fighting and the other for the siege, and so would have the advantage of a fight with a weakened Sultan, But he was mistaken in his idea.


§ 31. For the Sultan, when he learned this, felt he must remain at Yaitsa and continue the siege, and not leave the place. But he sent off Mahmud against the king of the Paeonians, giving him a considerable force of foot and horse, and no small portion of his own bodyguard.


§ 32. He did not believe he ought to go in person to fight against this man. Therefore Mahmud took the army and went by forced marches. When he had come very near the enemy, he encamped there. Between the two camps not over twenty-five stadia intervened at most, so that they could see





each other. The Erygon River ran between, dividing them from each other, a stream called in the local language Vrynos. Here, on the far side of the river, the king of the Paeonians had encamped.


§ 33. Now Mahmud was planning to cross the river and attack the Paeonians. But the Sultan sent and stopped him, saying there was no need, for the present at least, of crossing the river, but it was enough to stay right there and watch the movements of the enemy. Mahmud remained there and rested, and kept watch on the enemy.


§ 34. The leader of the Paeonians, when he learned that the Sultan was still besieging the city and had no idea of abandoning it, and that Mahmud with a big army was waiting for him, gave up all hope of being able effectively to help the city, and secretly sent a messenger to tell those inside the city to resist, and never to surrender. He added that the Sultan would so on be withdrawing again, and that he himself would not lose sight of him, but that when the occasion called for it and an urgent need arose, he would help them all he could, since he would be close at hand.



Retreat of the Paeonian King, and disorderly and disgraceful rout, with Mahmud in pursuit


§ 35. Then he burned his camp by night, and went off in haste with his army. As soon as Mahmud learned this, he swiftly crossed the river, and marched in hot pursuit. Catching up with them, he fell upon the rearguard, a fairly large body detailed to guard the baggage train, and drove them back on to the main army.


§ 36. So they came on them suddenly, and set both army and king in confusion. Thereby the flight became a rout, all fleeing together in disorder, with no semblance of keeping ranks or of plan.


§ 37. Mahmud followed on, killing and slaughtering them mercilessly. And after driving them a long way, and making a great slaughter, and capturing many alive, he returned and came to the Sultan, bringing all their equipment, carts, arms,





horses, and the baggage-carriers themselves. Very many of the enemy were killed. Those captured alive were a little short of two hundred. Later the Sultan brought them to Byzantium and executed them all.


§ 38. After continuing the siege a few days and unsuccessfully trying several methods for capturing the town, he abandoned the attempt and withdrew his army. Instead he turned to the other fortified places, and in a short time had secured possession of them. In some of them he placed strong garrisons, where it seemed best to him, while others he demolished, killing the men and enslaving the women and children. He also pillaged most of the rest of the country, and also no small part of that of the Paeonians. Carrying off for himself an enormous amount of booty, and distributing part of his army, he left a governor in charge of the region. Then, since the summer was now ending, he went back to Constantinople and disbanded his army.



Expeditions of the Venetians against Lesbos, with seventy ships


§ 39. That same summer the Venetians made an expedition against Lesbos and Mitylene in seventy triremes and large galleons and with three thousand heavy infantry whom they had on the decks. They also carried in the galleons many weapons, and stone-hurling cannon and crossbows and scaling-ladders, and all other equipment for fighting against walls. On arriving at Lesbos, they anchored in the harbor of Mitylene, landed and pitched camp before the city, and opened negotiations with the citizens as to surrendering themselves and their city. But these rejected the proposal, for there were in the town four hundred picked men from the Sultan's bodyguard, heavily armored.


§ 40. Then first the Venetians stripped only a part of the land, for they did not want to devastate it all, as they hoped to get possession of it. After this they surrounded the entire city, on the land side by their army and by sea with the ships. They set up the cannon and began the siege, and they damaged a small part of the wall in a few days with their cannon,





and knocked it down. But the men in the city repaired it again by night, bringing up stones and wood and earth. Besides this, they brought great beams and made palisades about the wall, and some of the beams they suspended with chains, thus breaking the force of the stone cannon-balls or else deflecting them, so that these stones did no great damage.


§ 41. There were skirmishes and sorties every day, and the imperial troops sallied forth against the Venetians. However, none were killed, only they wounded many of them. The besiegers also dug under the wall, making mines toward the city. They also brought up ladders, and used all sorts of siege engines.


§ 42. Two of the other towns also surrendered to them, so that they had the highest hopes of capturing Mitylene and of overcoming and conquering the whole of Lesbos.



Sailing of the Sultan's fleet against that of the Venetians' at Lesbos


§ 43. This was the situation. Then the Sultan, hearing of the attack of the Venetian fleet against Mitylene, and of its siege, and how it was in danger of being taken by the Venetians unless relieved immediately, armed one hundred and ten triremes right off, quicker than you could say so, and put aboard a very large number of heavy infantry and all sorts of powerful weapons and all necessary things. Having equipped them well, he confided the fleet to Mahmud Pasha, ordering him to sail at top speed and attack the enemy's ships wherever they happened to be.



Capture of two scouting ships of the Venetians at Tenedos


§ 44. So Mahmud set sail from Byzantium and made for the Hellespont, and reached Gallipoli the second day after. Here he learned that four enemy scout triremes were anchored in Tenedos harbor, that they had sailed up as far as the mouth of the Straits to explore, and had gone back again. Without delay he sailed immediately by night from Gallipoli





with the entire fleet, so that he might not be seen or suspected. Taking advantage of favorable winds, he reached Tenedos at daybreak, and surprised the triremes anchored in the harbor. Two of them he captured with all their men, at the entrance of the harbor, for they did not succeed in eluding him-



Precipitate flight of the Venetian fleet from Lesbos on hearing of the approach of the Sultan's fleet against them


§ 45. The other two had sailed earlier. They barely escaped, for they were the fastest sort of sailers and, making all speed, they reached Mitylene and announced to the generals the coming of the Sultan's fleet and the capture of the two ships. On hearing this, they were thunderstruck at the news. Leaving behind everything—cannon and arms and all their other equipment—they embarked in disorder on the triremes without any plan or regularity, taking with them the men, women and children of the fortresses that had surrendered to them, and they got away to sea before the Sultan's fleet could reach Mitylene, by the space, it is stated of about eight hours.


§ 46. On his arrival at Mitylene, Mahmud learned that they had sailed a short time before. He swiftly gave chase, but gained the open sea barely in time to see them making all sail for Lemnos. So he gave up the pursuit and went back to Mitylene, where he spent four days. He arranged everything in good order, and left a sufficient garrison, with weapons and much food and other provisions for the needs of the city, and returned to Byzantium, for the autumn was already passing. And there he disbanded the fleet. So ended the 6972nd year in all, being the fourteenth year of the reign of the Sultan [A.D. 1464].



A Fearful Event


§ 47. During those days a marvelous prodigy appeared. The sun, at high noon, while shining brilliantly and unclouded, was all at once changed, darkened, and obscured,





Its appearance was like dark copper, and it became all dusky and black, but not like its usual appearance in times of eclipse, for there was no eclipse then, but this happened in some different and very new way, as if a mist or a dark foggy cloud had rolled over and covered it up. This lasted three whole days and nights, so that it was observed by everybody. This great and God-given sign showed to everyone that great disasters were to happen in the near future. And these, in point of fact, followed shortly after.



How the Sultan's Palace was completed


§ 48. The Sultan spent the winter in Byzantium. Among other things he attended to the populating and rebuilding and beautifying of the whole City. In particular he completed the palace—a very beautiful structure. Both as to view and as to enjoyment as well' as in its construction and its charm, it was in no respect lacking as compared with the famous and magnificent old buildings and sights.


§ 49. In it he had towers built of unusual height and beauty and grandeur, and apartments for men and others for women, and bedrooms and lounging-rooms and sleeping quarters, and very many other fine rooms. There were also various out-buildings and vestibules and halls and porticoes and gateways and porches, and bakeshops and baths of notable design.


§ 50. There was a grand enclosure containing all this. They were all built, as I said, with a view to variety, beauty, size, and magnificence, shining and scintillating with an abundance of gold and silver, within and without and with precious stones and marbles, with various ornaments and colors, all applied with a brilliance and smoothness and lightness most attractive and worked out with the finest and most complete skill, most ambitiously. Both in sculpture and in plastic work, as well as in painting, they were the finest and best of all. Moreover, all parts were most carefully covered and roofed over with a great quantity of very thick lead roofing. And the whole was beautified and adorned with myriads of other brilliant and graceful articles.





§ 51. Not only this, but around the palace were constructed very large and lovely gardens abounding in various sorts of plants and trees, producing beautiful fruit. And there were abundant supplies of water flowing everywhere, cold and clear and drinkable, and conspicuous and beautiful groves and meadows. Besides that, there were flocks of birds, both domesticated fowls and song-birds, twittering and chattering all around, and many sorts of animals, tame and wild, feeding there/Also there were many other fine ornaments and embellishments of various sorts, such as he thought would bring beauty and pleasure and happiness and enjoyment. The Sultan worked all this out with magnificence and profusion.


§ 52. So then, after spending the winter in this palace, when spring began to appear the Sultan resolved on an expedition and made preparations for it. But, as he perceived that the soldiers, even including his own bodyguard, were complaining, and felt abused and annoyed, especially because of the frequent long journeys and expeditions and because they were constantly kept on troublesome trips abroad, and since they said that they had lost everything, both their physical health and their money, their horses and donkeys, and were ruined and suffering in every way, he postponed the start.



How the Sultan gave many kinds of presents to the army


§ 53. Besides, the Sultan himself was greatly exhausted and worn out in body and mind by his continuous and unremitting planning and care and indefatigable labors and dangers and trials, and he needed a time of respite and recuperation. For this reason he knew he ought to remain at home and rest himself and his army during the approaching summer, so that he could have his troops fresher and more enthusiastic for the other undertakings which were ahead. Since he felt so, he disbanded most of the army, giving them presents of many sorts: to some, horses, to others, garments, to others, money, and to still others, other kinds of presents.





§ 54. But the men of his own bodyguard, whom he knew to be diligent, fond of danger, eager and useful in every way, and brave men, he honored with appropriate honors and positions and magnificent gifts, and many other fine things, advancing them and promoting them in rank for their valor.


§ 55. So, having honored them thus, and given them many gifts, as I have indicated, he then disbanded them. He himself spent the summer in Byzantium; but, as his custom was, he did not neglect his efforts for the City, that is, for its populace, giving diligent care to buildings and improvements. He also occupied himself with philosophy, such as that of the Arabs and Persians and Greeks, especially that translated into Arabic. He associated daily with the leaders and teachers among these, and had not a few of them around him and conversed with them. He held philosophical discussions with them about the principles of philosophy, particularly those of the Peripatetics and the Stoics.



How, at the command of the Sultan, the philosopher George combined into one chart all the description of the earth in the outlines of Ptolemy


§ 56. He also ran across, somewhere, the charts of Ptolemy, in which he set forth scientifically and philosophically the entire description and outline of the earth. But he wanted to have these, scattered as they were in the various parts of the work, and for that reason hard to understand, brought together into one united whole as a single picture or representation, and thus made clearer and more comprehensible, so as to be more easily understood by the mind, and grasped and well apprehended, for this lesson seemed to him very necessary and most important.


§ 57. So he called for the philosopher George, [34] and put before him the burden of this plan, with the promise of royal reward and honor. And this man gladly agreed to do the work, and carried out with enthusiasm the proposal and command of the Sultan. He took the book in hand with joy, and read it and studied it all summer. By considerable investigation



34. George Amiroukis. See above, Part IV, section 54.





and by analyzing its wisdom, he wrote out most satisfactorily and skillfully the whole story of the inhabited earth in one representation as a connected whole—of the land and sea, the rivers, harbors, islands, mountains, cities and all, in plain language, giving in this the rules as to measurements of distances and all other essential things. He instructed the Sultan in the method most necessary and suitable for students and those fond of investigation and of what is useful.


§ 58. He also put down on the chart the names of the countries and places and cities, writing them in Arabic, using as an interpreter his son, who was expert in the languages of the Arabs and of the Greeks. The Sultan was much delighted with this work, and admired the wisdom and ingenuity of Ptolemy, and still more that of the man who had so well exhibited this to him. He rewarded him in many ways and with many honors.


§ 59. He also ordered him to issue the entire book in Arabic, and promised him large pay and gifts for this work.


§ 60. While the Sultan busied himself and was occupied with this and similar studies, the whole summer passed, and the autumn; and so was ended the 6973rd year in all, being the fifteenth of the Sultan's reign [a.d. 1465].



Causes which led the Sultan to undertake a campaign against the Illyrians [Albanians]


§ 61. During the whole of that current year the Sultan and his troops had a good rest; and he was getting ready all winter for an early start in spring on a campaign against the Illyrian country. For the Illyrians, as I have previously said, lived by the Ionian Sea, and for ages had dwelt in great and very lofty mountains, and had strongly fortified and impregnable fortresses, both inland and on the coast, and places that were difficult of access in very broken country, and fortified on all sides and very safe. Trusting to these, they were determined to be autonomous and free in every way, and were unwilling to pay a yearly tax, as did all their neighbors, or to furnish troops for expeditions, either to the





Sultan's father or to this Sultan himself, or to obey him at all.


§ 62. Not only this, but they often impudently crossed their frontiers, with their ruler, and recklessly overran and pillaged the neighboring domains of the Sultan.


§ 63. Both the Sultan himself and his father before him had indeed made expeditions previously against this people, and had overrun their whole country, and devastated it and plundered it and destroyed fortresses, and had taken away many flocks and slaves and very great booty. And at the time, seeing their land devastated and ruined by such incursion, they had yielded and made a treaty for the time being. But after a while they again shamelessly robbed the Sultan's territory and did mischief. They did so because they had the mountains and the inaccessible parts of the country as a refuge and a protection.


§ 64. Inasmuch as there were but one or two passes through the mountains into the country, they guarded these with strong garrisons, and kept their land inviolate from their enemies, and free from injury, unless a large force should invade it and forcibly occupy the mountains and the passes, and so open a door into the whole country. And this was just what the Sultan intended to do, and he did it well.



Start of the Sultan against the Illyrians


§ 65. So, having, as I said, prepared all winter, as he would have to, when spring came he started out against them with a large force, an army of horse and foot, taking along also cannon and arms. He also prepared for building, by taking masons and carpenters, and tools for both those trades, and much iron and copper, and many such things for making walls and fortifications.



Attack of the Sultan on the passes; the battle and the victory, and the holding of the passes


§ 66. So he set out from Adrianople with his entire army of cavalry and infantry, and went swiftly through his own





territory. After crossing it at top speed, he arrived at the frontiers of the Illyrians. Here he encamped one day. The next day at dawn he took the light troops,, the bowmen and slingers and spearmen, and those with light shields, and attacked the passes which were strongly guarded by the Illyrians. There followed a great hand-to-hand battle, with attack and counter-attack, a terrible struggle, for the Illyrians resisted stoutly and fought bravely. But he routed them and took the passes by force, and drove them out with great slaughter.


§ 67. After that he placed strong guards at the passes, so that those who passed in and out should not be injured by the Illyrian plunderers. Then he ordered the woodcutters and part of the infantry to go in and fell trees and clear away the bushes and thickets and impenetrable tangles, and to level and repair the rough and uneven and altogether impassable roads, and make them wide and smooth for the whole army, horse and foot, and for the pack animals and wagons and other means of transport.



Overrunning of the entire Illyrian country, and its total devastation


§ 68. He himself with the whole army moved in first into their lower lands, the plains, where cavalry could act. This region he entirely overran and plundered. After that he pitched camp at successive points, and advanced, devastating the country, burning the crops or else gathering them in for himself, and destroying and annihilating.


§ 69. And the Illyrians took their children, wives, flocks, and every other movable up into the high and inaccessible, mountain fastnesses. They had their arms also, and they settled down to defend themselves in those difficult strongholds and passes against any attackers.



The attack by the army, the fight, and the climbing of the mountains


§ 70. When the Sultan had pillaged and devastated all





their lowlands, he made careful preparations, and after putting the whole army in first-rate condition, moved against the mountains and their passes, and the fortifications in the hills, against the Illyrians and their children and wives and all their belongings. He placed in the van the bowmen and musketeers and slingers, telling them to shoot and fire their arrows and sling their stones against the Illyrians and drive them as far away as possible, and get rid of them by firing at the heights.


§ 71. Behind them he ordered the light infantry, the spearmen, and those with the small shields to go up, and, following them, all the heavy-armed units. These went up slowly and in irregular ranks, up to a certain point, gradually pushing the Illyrians up to the heights. Then with a mighty shout, the light infantry, the heavy infantry, and the spearmen charged the Illyrians, and having put them to flight, they pursued with all their might, and overtook and killed them. And some they captured alive. But some of them, hard pressed by the heavy infantry, hurled themselves from the precipices and crags, and were destroyed.



The Massacre of the Illyrians


§ 72. The heavy and light infantry, and in fact the whole army, scattering over the mountains and the rough country and the ravines, hunted out and made prisoners of the children and women of the Illyrians, and plundered all their belongings. Not only this, but they carried off a very large number of flocks and herds. They scpured thoroughly the whole mountain, and hunted out and secured a very enormous booty of prisoners and cattle and other things, and brought it all down to the camp.


§ 73. A very great number of the Illyrians lost their lives, some in the fighting, and others were executed after being captured, for so the Sultan ordered. And there were captured in those mountains about twenty thousand children, and women, and men.


§ 74. Of the rest of the Illyrians, some were in the fortresses,





and some in other mountain ranges where they had fled with their leader, Alexander. [35]


§ 75. There was a fortress there belonging to the Illyrians, in every respect impregnable and very strong, called Kroues [Kroja], which served as an acropolis and guard-house for the whole region. The Sultan's father had previously tried in many ways to capture this, by muskets and stone-throwing cannon, and by a long siege, but he had not succeeded in taking it, so impregnable was it.



Abandoning the Attack on Kroues


§ 76. So then, the Sultan, on reaching there and seeing the wild and almost impregnable character of the place, and that it was exceedingly hard to attack, did not believe he ought to try it, or work hard for no result, or make his army struggle in vain and wear itself out by encamping around it and besieging it for a long time, and waste human lives and money in vain. He thought of another possibility of mastering the town and the region without such pains and dangers.


§ 77. For this purpose he thought he had better built a fortress with a strong wall, in the midst of the district, and leave a considerable army there which should constantly ravage and plunder, and never allow the Illyrians to leave their city or come down from the mountains during the winter to till the land or to pasture or care for their flocks, or do anything else. Thus, as they would be continuously so confined and undergoing hardships, they would some day be compelled to submit to the Sultan.



Walling in of a new fortress among the Illyrians by the Sultan


§ 78. So he went through the region looking for a suitable position to fortify. He found traces and foundations of an ancient city in a favorable position, and clearly most desirable and well located in ancient times. This he decided



35. George Castriota, Scanderbeg.





to fortify. He began work at the commencement of summer, with a large force and with energy and considerable expense, through his zeal and by royal oversight—for he was himself present everywhere in the work, directing everything and encouraging all the men, some by kind words, others by gifts of money, and so making them more zealous for the work. He built the fortress, a worthy and admirable piece of work. He then peopled it well, collecting very many colonists from the countryside and from the surrounding towns and cities.


§ 79. He also brought into it a great abundance of the necessities, of suitable food and of things for their service, and every other suitable and necessary thing in great abundance. He also brought in many weapons and stone-hurling cannon and crossbows and immense quantities of other materials and war supplies.


§ 80. And he fitted it out well in every particular, and made it an inhabited town, just as it had been many years before, abounding in every needful and desirable thing. He left in the fortress a considerable garrison, four hundred men from his own bodyguard, of the best fighters and the most healthy men.


§ 81. He appointed as governor of the region and commander of this large force, one of the best men of his suite, a good strategist, who was to overrun and ravage all the territory of the Illyrians systematically and unceasingly, and to besiege the town of Kroues.


§ 82. Having done this, the Sultan returned in the fall to Byzantium, taking along a very large number of slaves and animals both for himself and for distribution to the army. So closed the year 6974 in all, which was the sixteenth of the reign of the Sultan [a.d. 1466],



How the Venetians made an incursion against Old Patras


§ 63. At the very beginning of that same autumn the Venetians made an expedition against Old Patras with forty ships and 2,000 heavy infantry. They landed and besieged





the city, blockading it with their army and setting up stonethrowing cannon against it. They had as allies some of the Peloponnesians who had recently revolted against the Sultan and who now joined them. And they besieged it many days, surrounding it and smashing the wall by their cannon.



How Omer attacked the Venetians, set an ambush against them, defeated them, and drove them as far as the sea, killing many and capturing many alive


§ 84. But Omer, governor-general of the Peloponnesus, with a small army, observed them from afar, setting ambushes and waiting for a favorable moment to deliver an unexpected attack. He also had some spies posted on Ox Mountain, watching everything that went on in the camp and informing him of it. So he waited for the right moment, and suddenly attacked, throwing them into confusion by the audacity of his onslaught. He turned and pursued them as far as the sea, unmercifully killing and capturing them clear to the ships and the sea itself, while they fled in disorder without any discipline. He had crushed their undertaking at the beginning.


§ 85. There perished, it was reported, about six hundred, and a little more than a hundred were captured alive. But quite a few others were drowned for, pursued by the heavy infantry and attacked on all sides, they rushed into the sea with their arms, in an attempt to swim to the ships, but being weighted down by their arms, they were pulled under.


§ 86. Omer stripped the dead and sacked the camp, securing much money for himself and his army, besides arms and equipment and all sorts of supplies. Then he put the city in good condition with the means at his command, and returned to Corinth with the captives and the booty.


§ 87. After that, with his booty and his prisoners, he went to Byzantium to the Sultan, who received him cordially and gave him rich rewards, and honored him fittingly. All the men captives he killed.





A Strange Portent


§ 88. During those same days, a wonderful light was seen in the sky, a remarkable and absolutely new sight. About the first hour of the night, which was a moonless night, there suddenly shone from the north, from the polar regions, a great fiery light, as if it came from some star. It shone all around, and lit things up like the sun. Then, spreading on from there, it went as if toward the south, in an oblique direction, like a burning pillar, remaining entire, and seemingly undiminished, but rather growing brighter and spreading. Then, stopping its progress, it kept on shining for the space of a whole hour. After that, splitting into parts and decreasing somewhat, it disappeared. Thus this portent appeared in the sky. I know not whether it was a comet, or a star, or a meteor, or some other burning object, but it certainly meant a calamity and a disaster and a very great destruction of men. And this followed in a short time, as will be clear from what follows.


§ 89. The Sultan spent the winter in Byzantium, resting from his lengthy toils, and setting things in order in the City as he saw best for the future, and erecting the mosque for himself which demanded all his care. He urged on the workmen, and ordered the architects and experts that all should be done grandly and magnificently. He himself did not spare any cost or expenditure to this end, nor show any lack of zeal. Indeed, everything possible was done for its beauty and symmetry, its surroundings, embellishment, and grandeur.


§ 90. That same winter there arrived an embassy from the Venetians, asking for a settlement of their differences, and that a treaty be made on terms of absolute equality, each party to retain what it possessed. But the Sultan would not agree to a treaty on these terms, but sent them away, saying: "Go away and prepare better terms, if you want to enjoy peace and make a treaty with me." For he demanded from them the islands of Imbros and Lemnos which they had captured, and also demanded that they pay an annual tribute.


§ 91. With things in this shape, the Sultan was informed





that Alexander, Prince of the Illyrians, had asked and secured an alliance with the Paeonians [Hungarians], that he had roused his compatriots and secretly laid an ambush, and that wholly without the knowledge of the Sultan's governor, Balaban by name (whom the Sultan had left to blockade and besiege the town of Kroues), he had astounded him by the suddenness of his attack and had put him to flight, and then killed many of his troops, including that Governor himself. But Balaban had put up a stiff fight.


§ 92. The Sultan heard that now Alexander had brought into the city huge quantities of wheat, and of arms, and of all sorts of other necessities, and that he had placed there a stronger garrison, as was necessary for a longer siege. It was also reported that he had gone out and taken possession of the whole region outside, and that the new fortress was besieged, with the soldiers inside.



Second expedition of the Sultan against the Illyrians


§ 93. On hearing this news, the Sultan was very angry. He paid no attention to anything else, but raised a very large army of horse and foot and, after making thorough preparations—for it was already near the end of winter—as soon as spring set in, he marched against him. On arriving in the country of the Illyrians, he ravaged the whole of it rapidly, and subdued its revolted people, killing many of them. He destroyed and plundered whatever he could get hold of, burning, devastating, ruining, and annihilating.


§ 94. He also pursued their prince, Alexander, who took refuge in the inaccessible fortresses of the mountains, in his customary retreats and abodes in the hills, not even daring to behold the army, as if it were a Gorgon.


§ 95. The Sultan gave his soldiers permission to plunder and to slaughter all the prisoners, and he sent up into the mountains the largest and most warlike part of the army, under Mahmud. He himself, with the rest of the army, went on ravaging the remainder of the country, proceeding by stages and encamping at times.





How the soldiers searched out every cranny of the mountains, and secured much booty


§ 96. And the soldiers, heavy infantry and bowmen and slingers and spearmen, on getting the signal from the Sultan, immediately charged, climbing up the highest and most rugged and inaccessible peaks of the mountains, like birds, with their weapons. They overran all parts as easily as horsemen on a plain, encountering no opposition. They searched carefully everywhere, even more so than Datis is said to have searched the region of Eretria, mountains, ravines, crevasses, precipices, caves, valleys, defiles, dens, and all holes in the ground—nothing of the kind remained hidden or escaped them, even in the most inaccessible or distant or wild or impassable sections. Not only did they capture every fortress and all who had fled into them, but they overran every place and took it, and made slaves and destroyed, for a space of fifteen days.


§ 97. They took as booty a very large number of slaves, men, women, and children, also herds of all kinds and all sorts of furnishings, and they brought them down from the mountains into the camp.


§ 98. But the prince of the Illyrians, Alexander, when he learned that the mountains had been captured by the army, hastily fled, nor have I learned whither. And the Sultan, after plundering and ravaging the countryside, marched again to Kroues. On reaching there, he encamped before it, dug a trench, and completely surrounded the town with his army, placed his cannon in position, and besieged it.



Telling of the beginning of the pestilential disease, and whence it came


§ 99. During those days, in the middle of the summer, a contagious disease struck the whole region of Thrace and Macedonia, beginning from Thessaly and its adjacent regions. I do not know how it first got to Thrace, but it spread and contaminated all the cities and districts in the interior and the coasts. Crossing also into Asia, it attacked and devastated





the shores of the Hellespont and the Propontis [Marmara], and it went up into the interior, to the Brousa [Bursa] region and all around there, and as far as Galatia, and it even wasted and killed people in Galatia itself.



Showing the great and terrible suffering


§ 100. It was also introduced into the great City of Constantinople, and I hardly need to say what incredible suffering it wrought there, utterly unheard-of and unbearable. More than six hundred deaths a day occurred, a multitude greater than men could bury, for there were not men enough. For some, fearing the plague, fled and never came back, not even to care for their nearest relatives, but even turned away from them, although they often appealed to them with pitiful lamentation, yet they abandoned the sick uncared-for and the dead unburied.


§ 101. Others were themselves stricken with the plague, and having a hard struggle with death, and could not help themselves. There were also some who shut themselves up in their rooms and would allow no one to come near them. Many of these died, and remained unburied for two or three days, often with nobody knowing of them. There were often two or three dead, or even more, buried in a single coffin, the only one available. And the one who today buried another, would himself be buried the next day by someone else.


§ 102. There were not enough presbyters, or acolytes, or priests for the funerals and burials or the funeral chants and prayers, nor could the dead be properly interred, for the workers gave out in the process. They had to go through the long summer days without eating or drinking, and they simply could not stand it.


§ 103. People died, some on the third day, some on the fourth, and some even on the seventh. And the terrible fact was that each day the disease grew worse, spreading among all ages, and being increasingly widespread. The City was emptied of its inhabitants, both citizens and foreigners. It had the appearance of a town devoid of all human beings,





some of them dead or dying of the disease, others, as I have said, leaving their homes and fleeing, while still others shut themselves into their homes as if condemned to die. And there was great hopelessness and unbearable grief, wailing and lamentation everywhere. Despair and hopelessness dominated the spirits of all. Belief in Providence vanished altogether. People thought they must simply bear whatever happened, as though no one were presiding over events. So did the mystery of the disease perplex everyone.



As to the nature of the disease


§ 104. I shall here describe the nature of the disease. At first the malady would gain lodgement somehow in the groins, and the symptoms would appear there, more or less strong. Then it vigorously attacked the head, bringing on a high fever there, and swellings near the convolutions and membranes of the brain, and inflammation and reddening of the face. As a result of this, in some it brought unconsciousness and deep sleep and diarrhea, while in others on the contrary it brought on delirium and madness and sleeplessness.


§ 105. Then the whole pain and terrible condition would go to the heart, with a burning fever, inflaming and burning up the inner parts, and bringing on most fearful swellings, and contamination of all the blood, and its ruin. And in consequence of this, severe pains and terrible aches, and the cries of the dying, continuous sharp convulsions, hard breathing, bad odors, fearful terror, chills, insensibility of the extremities, and finally death. Such was the nature of the disease, as it appeared to me, leaving out many of the symptoms.


§ 106. The Sultan laid siege to Kroues, but not for many days, because he realized that it would be impossible to take it by assault or by force of arms, because the city was very strongly fortified and impregnable on all sides. Nor could he succeed by persuasion. So he knew he must leave a large army there with a general, to carry on a long siege, while he himself returned to Byzantium, and that he must not force himself and his army to vain attempts and struggles, when





it was possible to overcome the city by starvation and by a long siege.


§ 107. So then, being of this opinion, he left a general there with a fairly large army of both seasoned and raw troops, so as to besiege the city and hold the entire region. Then he distributed all the plunder and the slaves to the entire army, and disbanded the troops and left with the royal court for Byzantium.


§ 108. But since he learned on the way that the whole region of Thrace and Macedonia and the cities in it through which he had planned to travel were in the grip of the plague and were badly devastated, and that even the great City itself was completely under the terror and destruction of it, he suddenly changed his mind, and went to the region of the Haemon and upper Moesia, for he found out that this region and all the region beyond the Haemon was free of the plague.


§ 109. As he found that the country around Nikopolis and Vidin was healthful and had a good climate, he spent the entire autumn there. But after a short time he learned that the disease was diminishing and that the City was free of it, for he had frequent couriers, nearly every day, traveling by swift relays, and reporting on conditions in the City. So at the beginning of winter he went to Byzantium. So closed the 6975th year in all [a.d. 1467], which was the seventeenth year of the reign of the Sultan.



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