Reuben Pace

Blog 65 - The Knights of St John Part 3

In this article Ms. Pietrazk will cover in brief the history of the knights in the 15th century.

The Tartar despot declared war to Timour who immediately increased the number of defensive towers, even without the help of the Hospitallers. The Tartar enemies poured in countless numbers, forcing back the defenders, entering the city and slaughtering every living being they encountered. Defeated, Timour was forced to leave for Persia by Philibert de Naillac grand master who became recognised as the protector of all the Christian states of the East. In Persia Timour was called by an invasion from India, to reconnoitre the coasts of Caria, with the purpose of establishing a fresh garrison in some fortress of that province. Naillac saved Cyprus from the horror of civil war and had the satisfaction of seeing that unity had been restored to Christian Europe before dying and that in Rhodes the union between Latin and Greek churches was always inviolably observed. During the fifty years that elapsed from the siege of Smyrna to the fall of Constantinople, the war with the Turks continued with unabated vigour, their empire revived after the death of Timour. In 1451 the Ottoman throne became vacant by the death of Amurath II, who was succeeded by a prince destined to be the deadliest enemy whom Christendom had yet beheld. This was Mahomet II, surnamed the Great, who even though he was twenty-one years of age, had acquired a fame for talent, valour and ferocity, which made him the terror of Europe and of the world.

On his accession to the throne his court was filled with ambassadors from all the eastern states, including that of Rhodes, to propose treaties and alliances of peace. Mahomet received them all with the utmost courtesy and swore to establish a universal pacification; meanwhile his emissaries were actively employed in every direction preparing for the conquest of Constantinople; and scarcely had a year elapsed from his elevation to the sovereignty , when he marched upon the Greek capital, proclaiming his intentions in the war-cry which was his manifesto,

“Constantinople --- and then Rhodes”.

The infatuated Greeks refused to cooperate with the Latin auxiliaries and the siege nevertheless lasted forty-two days and the final assault occurred on May, 29th, 1453.  The fall of Constantinople, the last vestige of the Roman empire,  the rempart of Christendom against the rising of Islam became inevitable when the Ottomans crossed the Bosporus and set up their capital close to Constantinople.

As the Turkish power extended itself in Europe, care was taken to recruit the chosen corps from children who were natives of that continent rather than among the Asiatics.

For the six months that followed the fatal triumph of the Ottoman arms, the Greeks endured atrocities and abominations. Now master of the whole Greece, Mahomet was still forced to delay his great expedition against the Knights of Rhodes. He started the expedition by attacking the republic of Venice where he felt the resistance of grand master Orsini and then after Orsini’s death in 1476, his successor d’Aubusson’s resistance.