Article — From the May 2012 issue

Byzantium

Their ears were uncircumcised

Epiphanius began to interrogate the Blessed One and said: “Tell me, please, how and when the end of this world shall occur? What are the beginnings of the throes? And how will men know that the end is close, at the doors? By what signs will the end be indicated? And whither will pass this city, the New Jerusalem? What will happen to the holy temples standing here, to the venerated icons, the relics of the Saints, and the books?”
Life of Saint Andrew the Simple, tenth century

The Turkish emir Osman I, father of the Ottoman dynasty, had a dream. A tree sprang from his loins, and from its roots flowed the great rivers of the world, and its canopy spread from the Caucasus to the Atlas. In the branches nightingales and parrots cried out. Every leaf was a scimitar. A wind blew up that turned these blades toward the cities that lay beneath the tree; most turned toward Constantinople. That city became the emerald in a ring, and the emir slipped the ring on his finger, and awoke.

The Byzantines had said that when, as at its founding in A.D. 330, they were again ruled by an emperor named Constantine, son of a Helena, Constantinople would fall, which in 1453 they were and it did.

The Muslims foretold that a leader who bore the Prophet’s name would take Constantinople, and in 1453 he did and he did.

When the Turks at last breached Constantinople’s walls it was because someone left the door open. At the moment they entered the great church of Hagia Sophia, the priest conducting the mass disappeared into the walls. They found a golden door high in the wall but their masons could not open it.

No witness was found to the death of Constantine XI Dragases Palaeologus, and it is not possible to say with certainty how he died that day or by whose hand or even whether he died at all.

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  • Hyssop

    This piece is as informative as it is side-splitting. [no one has commented yet?]

    I need to read it again to tease out history from irony and to bask in the pleasure of a superbly written piece.

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