History of Mehmed the Conqueror by Kritovoulos
HISTORY OF MEHMED THE CONQUEROR
To the Supreme Emperor, setting forth the purpose of the book, and the events in brief which are therein recorded, and showing the reason for the composition.
To the Supreme Emperor, King of Kings, Mehmed, the fortunate, the victor, the winner of trophies, the triumphant, the invincible, Lord of land and sea, by the will of God, Kritovoulos the Islander, servant of thy servants.
Seeing that you are the author of many great deeds, O most mighty Emperor, and in the belief that the many great achievements of generals and kings of old, nor merely of Persians and Greeks, are not worthy to be compared in glory and bravery and martial valor with yours, I do not think it just that they and their deeds and accomplishments, as set forth in the Greek historians and their writings from contemporary times and up to the present, should be celebrated and admired by all, and that these should enjoy everlasting remembrance, while you, so great and powerful a man, possessing almost all the lands under the sun, and glorious in your great and brilliant exploits, should have no witness, for the future, of your valor and the greatest and best of your deeds, like one of the unknown and inglorious ones who are till now unworthy of any memorial or record in Greek; or that the deeds of others, petty as they are in comparison to yours, should be better known and more famed before men because done by Greeks and in Greek history, while your accomplishments, vast as they are, and in no way inferior to those of Alexander the Macedonian, or of the generals and kings of his rank, should not be set forth in Greek to the Greeks, nor passed on to posterity for the undying praise and glory of your deeds.
Indeed, you are the only one of kings, or at any rate one of a very few, who have united deeds with words and wisdom and majesty; for you are both a good king and a mighty warrior. So I have deemed it fitting and right, trusting in your favor, to undertake the present effort and commit to
writing in Greek, as best I may, your merits and accomplishments, which far exceed in number and greatness those of any other.
Perhaps many of the honorable Arabs and Persians [Ottomans] may record these better and hand them on to our successors, for they know them well and have studied the facts; but nothing of this kind will take the place of a treatise in the Greek language, which has very great renown in all parts. For such writings will become known only among Arabs and Persians [Ottomans] and those who are familiar with their language. But these things will thus become the common pride and wonder, not of Greeks alone, but of all western nations, indeed those beyond the Pillars [of Hercules] and those who inhabit the British Isles, and many more, when they are translated into the language of those peoples who are Philhellenes and are learned in such matters. This also has roused me still more to this task, for I believe there will be many to judge and bear witness to my history.
Therefore, O mighty Emperor, I have already labored hard, for I was not myself a witness of the events, to know the exact truth about these things. In writing the history I have at the same time inquired of those who knew, and have examined carefully into how it all happened; and so I have composed this book in five divisions, beginning my story at the time when you commenced your reign, when, first you crossed from Asia into Europe, as the successor of your father.
It contains also the war with the Romans [the Byzantines] and the capture of the City; the events in Enos, and against the Phoceans and the Triballi [the Serbs], as they occurred, and the complete defeat and enslavement of these peoples; further, the first and second invasion of the Peloponnesus by the Sultan, and how he subjugated it all and got possession of the cities therein, some by surrender, others by fighting, very strong as they were, and noteworthy—I refer to Corinth and Sparta and Tegea and Patras in Achaia. And he destroyed many strong fortresses, and compelled the whole of the Peloponnesus to pay tribute. Also his first expedition into Illyria [Albania], and his devastation of that land, and his
further advance clear to its limits. Besides this, the campaign against Sinope and Trebizond, great and flourishing royal cities, and how he overcame them, as is well known, and conquered all their outlying territory.
Also, the revolt of Drakoulis, and the insurrection of the Getae [Wallachians], and the invasion of their land by the Sultan, and the overthrow and enslavement of both, and of how Rados was made ruler of them by the Sultan after the flight of his brother Drakoulis; and the capture of Mitylene and the whole of Lesbos, one of the greatest islands and one of the most famous and best known for its glory and size and power and riches; also the first and second expeditions into Dalmatia and against the Bostroi [Bosnians] and Paeonians [Hungarians], and how all the territory of these peoples was conquered and devastated; and of how he took fortified cities and fortresses, nearly three hundred of them, and their princes as well. Also the first and second expeditions against the Illyrians [Albanians] in the Ionic Gulf, and their destruction; and the five-years' war with the Venetians and their first and second defeats in the Peloponnesus by the governors, and how the Sultan quieted the feelings of these men.
Besides, it tells of the splendid and costly buildings he made in the city, of temples and arsenals and palaces and markets and porches and baths, also the walling and manning of very useful and necessary fortresses and colonies, both when he crossed the Hellespont and the Chersonese and when he crossed the Bosporus, and not a few other such things. And further, speeches of the greatest importance, of the times of the Sultan and of the people among whom these things occurred during seventeen years.
So, having written all these things and related them in this book, I now send it to your Royal attention and wisdom, to be examined and judged. And if the bravery recorded in it be in accord with the fact, and comparable to your pets, and it be attested by the Royal approval, I shall acknowledge my gratitude to God, and to you, O Sultan, for providing such material for me by the best of deeds for description by my words. And so I shall be encouraged to prepare for
the coming effort, and joyfully give myself to the remaining part of the work which, under God, I shall undertake for you, simply trying to ascertain many of the imperatively needed facts now unknown to me—which is the reason for the delay until now of this whole manuscript.
And if my words seem far inferior to your deeds, so that they do not attain to the greatness of those acts—as indeed must be the case—let the book be condemned as useless, while I myself, reverencing you at a distance in silent awe, yield in the matter of historical record to others who in such things are far more competent than I.
The Castle of Rumeli Hisari built by Mehmed the Conqueror in 1452
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