Another threat to the position of the Orthodox Church came from the increasingly powerful Ottoman religious establishment ('ulema). This came to a head at the beginning of the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent (152066). Ottoman theologians contended that, because Constantinople had not surrendered peacefully, but had resisted and had been conquered by force, its Orthodox inhabitants were not entitled, under Islamic holy law, to the rights that they enjoyed. Properly speaking, they and their children should have been reduced to slavery and their churches turned into mosques.49
A high official passed on details of the theologians' decisions and plans to the patriarch Theoleptos I, who immediately appealed to the grand vizier, whom he knew fairly well, imploring him to intervene in favour of the Orthodox community. News of the affair spread, causing consternation among the Greek community of the capital. The patriarch and the grand vizier met in secret to coordinate their efforts. Having distributed lavish presents to many high officials of the Ottoman administration, the patriarch appeared in person before the divan, accompanied by two archontes. Following the advice of the grand vizier he explained that the Byzantine capital had surrendered on terms to Sultan Mehmed, who for this reason granted special privileges to its inhabitants. Then he was asked to present witnesses who would confirm his words. The patriarch invited two witnesses living in Adrianople, who volunteered to join him in Istanbul and testify. They were supposed to be two janissaries, both 102 years old, who had served in the sultan's army besieging the Byzantine capital. The patriarch again appeared before the divan, this time accompanied by the two venerable old men, who promptly confirmed that the Byzantine capital had peacefully capitulated. Hearing this, the sultan refused to countenance the proposals of his theologians and proceeded to renew the old privileges enjoyed by the Orthodox Church and community.50
This account may not be the whole truth, but it includes a kernel of truth. It was natural for Muslim theologians to re-examine the question of why the Ottoman capital, taken by force seventy years ago, now included a prosperous Greek population, which had at its disposal a number of churches. This
49 Historiapolitica etpatriarcha, 158-69.
50 C. G. Patrineles, 'The exact time of the first attempt of the Turks to seize the churches and convert the Christian people of Constantinople to Islam', in Actes du 1er Congres international des etudes balkaniques et sud-est européennes (Sofia: Editions de l'Academie bulgare des sciences, 1969), iii, 567-72; E. A. Zachariadou, 'La chute de Constantinople et la mythologie posterieure', in Turcica et Islamica: studi in memoria di Aldo Gal-lotta, ed. U. Marazzi (Naples: Universita degli studi di Napoli 'L'Orientale', 2003), ii, 1022-31.
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