The Byzantine Empire considered itself to be the caretaker of the Christian religion. The emperor was chosen by God and God had chosen the empire as the wheel to spread Christianity. Christianity was the people’s core, which meant that being Roman was being Christian. Just like the Byzantine Empire was God’s own chosen empire, possession of the empire’s capital city for hundreds of years, Constantinople, was considered as a symbol of immortality for the Byzantines.The city was known as ‘The Queen of Cities’ and the Great Church of St Sophia was probably the greatest treasure the empire had. The empire had been dismantled by the Crusaders in 1204, as soon as they ransacked and took the city of Constantinople, and its power had been restored when the city was recovered. The Byzantines, although they had played a part in somewhat de-stabilising the Ottomans, were not at all as strong as a few hundred years before and their only and final existing hold was their possession of Constantinople. The Ottomans, on the other hand, had their own reasons to desire the city. The Muslims’ prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had once praised the leader who would conquer Constantinople, calling him a “wonderful leader” and his army a “wonderful army”. A victory at Constantinople was considered as a final victory for Islam. Additionally, Constantinople lied in the center of an enormous region (most of it under Ottoman influence) and had extremely convenient access to sea trade. The Ottomans had also been through a tough period for the first half of the 15th Century, during which there were several internal civil wars and political tensions. Sultan Mehmed II (1451 – 1481) inherited the throne from Sultan Murad II (1446 – 1451) at the young age of 21. Well trained in philosophy, sciences and languages, Mehmed was set-up as the most primed and fit emperor to lead the superpower of the era. More importantly, he had inherited a thriving empire, complete but for the city of Constantinople. As soon as he came into power, he prepared to conquer all European land south of the Danube, and all lands in Asia west of the Euphrates. But his first target was capturing the city of Constantinople. Taking Constantinople was the key to gaining all that he wanted. It would be the greatest possible recovery for his empire and his name would go on to be remembered forever for this tremendous achievement. He would become the “wonderful leader” that Prophet Muhammad had prophesised. After the conquest, Mehmed II was named ‘Mehmed the Conqueror’. He now sat on the throne of the ‘Caesars’ It is safe to say that the Byzantines could not have been in a worse position than they were at the time of the event. The Orthodox church of Constantinople was completely isolated from the west due to a strong and long-lasting enmity with the Catholic church of the West. Other than the fact that both churches disagreed on core principles of Christianity, the fourth Crusade of the 13th Century, that had started with the intent of the Western Europeans of defeating the Muslims but ended up with them sacking Constantinople, was the prime cause for the increased tension between the two churches. The only major city the Byzantines held was Constantinople, and losing the city meant the unequivocal end of the empire. Constantinople was known as the world’s most impregnable city at that time. Surrounded by layers and layers of thick walls on the land side, and the Bosporus river and Sea of Marmaraon the coastal side, the city had the strongest fortifications of the Middle Ages.It had seen its fair share of sieges and attacks but had survived the better part of them. But this time, the Byzantines were about to face the most relentless and determined opposition under Sultan Mehmed II. The siege of Constantinople lasted fifty-four days.The Turks brought the largest cannon that the world had yet seen, from Adrianople.They built a fortress outside the city which was a logistical base and served to cut off supplies for the Byzantines. On May 29, after persistent cannoning of the strong fortifications of the city, the Ottomans succeeded to break through one of the walls and entered the city through one of the gates.The Ottoman capital was shifted from Adrianople to Constantinople. This conquest opened up several more expeditions for Mehmed in the coming years, and it also set up a grand precedent for the several great Ottoman emperors to come. For the Christians of that era and several Western historians, this event has been named “The Fall of Constantinople”. Constantinople had been the Christian capital of the East for a millennium, and losing the capital, not just to another Christian empire but to the Muslims, was heartbreaking and unfortunate. Letters written to various Christian cities and several manuscripts recorded after the collapse of Constantinople, illustrate the emotions and sorrow of the whole Christian community. For instance, a reaction from the island of Crete describes how there was “great sorrow and much weeping on Crete”. It also says how nothing worse had “ever” happened or would. The Byzantine king is said to have made inspirational speeches to the citizens before the fall, encouraging them to be steadfast and prepared in the coming hours of “trial”. Therefore, to Byzantines, as the walls and structures of their beloved city were destroyed by the Muslims, this occasion outlined the “fall” of Constantinople to their enemies. On the other hand, for the Ottomans this event was none less than their greatest ever achievement and hence, from the Muslim perspective, this event has been titled the “Conquest of Constantinople”. As of the actual taking of Constantinople, the Byzantine or the “fall” perspective has a strong tone of violence and barbarity, when describing the Ottomans’ behavior. The pillage of the city (by the Ottomans) can be considered as the most controversial aspect of the event. About the fact whether the pillage was either carried out for one or three days, there are various opinions. Several historians have noted that Mehmed II regretted the plunder and is said to have stopped it after one day. Whereas, one detailed account of the taking of Constantinople, by Thomas the Eparch and Joshua Diplovatatzes, states that the sacking went on for three days. The Muslim or “conquest” viewpoint, obviously, takes a different approach. As described before, this was a historical occasion – not only for Ottomans – but for all Muslims, born proceeding to it and for generations to come. Therefore, most accounts and descriptions from the Muslim side, consider the emotional factors of the incident as more relevant. After the conquest, Mehmed II was named “Mehmed the Conqueror”. He now sat on the throne of the “Caesars”. To the Muslims, this was a heartening and blissful occasion. The soldiers were not average humans; they were like agents of God claiming the city that their beloved prophet had promised them. Although this difference in viewpoints may have troubled historians in considering what the actual occurrences were, one must acknowledge it, as this occasion affected two major and vastly separated communities of that time. The two communities were separated by religion which was the major driving factor for both empires. Hence, the differences in how the story was told were likely, with the westerners relating negative traits to the Ottomans so that their generations would look at the event, placing the Ottomans as the vile attackers who destroyed a “jewel”, and the Byzantines as the courageous defenders. Likewise, the Muslim accounts would put the emotional aspects in the light, making sure that their generations would remember the victorious army as the “Champions of Islam”and Mehmed II as “the Conqueror” who fulfilled the dream of the Prophet. The defenders were mere “infidels” and their conditions were less important than the achievement of the Turks. Empires have generally patronised art because their desire of maintaining their grandeur and imperialism is inherently competitive. Constantinople had been an example of such art because it contained several symbolic and religious monuments; each having some spiritual and emotional significance to the Byzantine culture. The statue of Emperor Justinian on horseback (with a golden orb in his hand) outside the Hagia Sophia represented the Byzantines’ power; they believed that when the statue would go down, so would the empire. The Hagia Sophia had been the empire’s imperial church. It was the heart of Constantinople. All imperial decisions, Christian (Orthodox) traditions and formal processions were directed from the great church. Its structure rose over the city, which made it the primary symbol of Constantinople. Hence, as soon as the city was taken over, the church was converted and redesigned into a mosque. Many of the Christian symbols, like crosses and bells, were removed from the building and replaced with Muslim prayer furniture. Within three years, Justinian’s statue was removed entailing that there be no return of Byzantine power.Such changes represented the future of Constantinople and its surrounding region. The Ottomans were descendants of the Seljuk Turks. Therefore, as they had retained some aspects of their culture of origin after converting to Islam, they had formed their own unique culture. The Byzantines had their separate cultural representation based on Orthodox Christianity. They called themselves Roman and therefore, formed a Roman lifestyle. So, when these two completely unique cultures met, there was a major social-cultural fusion in the region. The Ottomans, being the rulers over the remaining residents of the city, tried to ‘Turkicise’ the thoroughly Romanesque city as much as possible, without removing all traces of its old culture. An example of this is in the changes made to the Hagia Sophia and the conversion of several other churches into mosques as well. Instead of demolishing the city’s culture, the Ottomans merely modified it to align it with their own. Perhaps the best way of looking at this historical event is to perceive it as an interaction of Western and Eastern cultures beyond the religious connotations. The only positive aspect of an inter-ethnicities and religions war is the cultural globalisation it brings along. The city, later named Istanbul, retains its identity of bridge between the East and the West. The writer is a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Published in Daily Times, January 5th 2019.