Alternative History
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Sack of Constantinople (1468)

Sack of Constantinople
Part of Imperial Campaign of Egypt
Date December 1468 - January 1469
Location Constantinople, Roman Empire
41°00′50″N 28°57′20″E
Result Decisive Mamluk victory:
  • Constantinople sacked and ruined
  • Death of members of Imperial Family
  • Morale boost for Mamluks

Roman pyrrhic victory:

  • Mamluks killed
  • Imperial Arsenal of Constantinople defended
Belligerents
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Roman Empire Mamluk Flag.png Mamluk Sultanate
Commanders and leaders
Prince Arcadius (commander) †
Prince Theodoric †
Istvar (Varangian Guard) †
Legate Lucius Salla †
Legate Gordian †
Governor-Consul Marcianus †

Legate Julius Agrippa (reinforcements)

Admiral Aylan †
Prince Qauitbay †
Units involved
Varangian Guard
City Guard
Constantinople Arsenal Fleet
Aylan Fleet
Strength
800 Varangians, 5,000 city garrison troops, 150 artillery, 50 warships
25,000 infantry and cavalry (reinforcements)
400 warships, 14,000 troops and sailors
Casualties and losses
All killed or wounded All killed or executed
45,000 killed or raped civilians

Background

During Imperial Campaign of Egypt, Emperor Tiberius and his younger sons, as well as most profound military commanders and most of imperial armed forces were not present in Constantinople and in core territories. This allowed suitable conditions for at first not intended Sack of Constantinople.

Siege and Sack

When 100 Mamluk ships defended Alexandria against new landing and Mamluk Army was encirceled on Sinai, Aylan Fleet arrived near Constantinople. Among his crew was prince Qauitbay, talented sailor, experienced veteran and son of Sultan Sayf ad-Din.

During their move to Constantinople, Aylan Fleet destroyed 45 tradeposts, 16 port towns, 4 shipyards and Smyrna shipyard.

On December 1, 1468, Aylan Fleet reached Constantinople, to much surprise and shock of city garrison and local population. Imperial family was in city and crown prince Arcadius immediately took leadership in defense of imperial metropole. Constantinople defence was much improved since last Sack of Constantinople, strenghtened by artillery, but most of artillery was directed toward lands, not toward sea, as it was expected that Imperial Fleet will prevent enemy forces from reaching city by sea.

Arcadius summoned Imperial Family in to Palace and also all capable commanders and organized defense to prevent Mamluk landing, or at least minimize damages and casualties. His efforts to use artillery were futile, as artillery was installed to different sides of Romanos and Theodosian Walls and had not enough long range to destroy Mamluk Fleet.

Governor-Consul Marcianus presuaded Prince that it is absolutly necessary to prevent destruction of Imperial Arsenal of Constantinople, because of it crucial importance for imperial fleet. Prince agreed and sent best armed units to defend industrial complex against Mamluks, include remnants of Imperial Fleet in Constantinople.

However, this prevented to use navy to defend Galata, where were Mamluks landed and conquered Galata in bloody and fierce fights. Despite defenders efforts, they captured bridges and repel all counterattacks. Prince Arcadius ordered destruction of bridges, but it was too late and 8,000 Mamluk troops and sailors fortified on Galata and were soon reinforced by another 6,000 sailors. 14,000 troops besieged Constantinople and bombarded city by artillery.

In December 4, Neorion and Phosporion Harbours were destroyed by Mamluk artillery and on December 5, Mamluks set fire in former Genoese and Venetian (now Templar) quarters and killed 4,000 civilians and 800 imperial troops. Until December 20, Mamluks in fiercy raid captured everything from northern parts of Theodosian Walls to Palace of Botaneiates, where was killed prince Theodoric during defence. This palace was only two kilometers from Imperial Palace of Constantinople and kilometer from Hippodrome.

On December 22, large counter-assault of Constantinople defenders started. Prince Guard, Varangians, armed citizens, local garrison and gladiators attacked Mamluk forces gathering near Botaneiates. In this surprise attack, Empire lost 168 troops, while Mamluks lost 1,487 troops and sailors. Aylan reorganized his warriors and led direct strike against Imperial Palace of Constantinople. On December 27, Palace was conquered, but it was pyrrhic victory for Mamluks. Theodoric died at Botaneiates, Arcadius fought and died in Imperial Palace of Constantinople, Anna was raped, Imperial Regalia were with Emperor Tiberius, as well as his two younger sons Basil and Romanos. Mamluks were able only to capture Emperor wife, three members of Imperial Government and dozens senators and pillage Imperial Palace of Constantinople. Their efforts in attacks against fortified and well defended Imperial Arsenal of Constantinople, were futile.

Instead of that, Imperial Arsenal of Constantinople was main source of weapons and ammunition for defenders counter-attacks and caused casualties for raiders.

When informations about Sack of Constantinople get to Mamluk Sultan, he sent this message to Emperor Tiberius and demanded peace negotiations, or he will destroy Constantinople and gave order to execute Tiberius wife. Response was surprise:"Constantinople is not Empire, Empire is not Constantinople. Constantina is Empress, she lived as slave, she will now die as free person," and refused any peace negotiations.

Mamluks continued in destruction and sacking of Constantinople, until January 17, when imperial reinforcements from Bulgaria and Asia Minor, finally arrived and encirceled Mamluks in Constantinople. All remaining enemies, include admiral Aylan Gecut, were killed, or enslaved. However, Empress Constantina was executed by Aylan and half of Imperial Palace of Constantinople, was burned down.

Among fallen Mamluks was Qauitbay, whos body was torn apart and thrown in to sea.

Aftermath

Despite "victory" over Mamluks in Constantinople, it was not end of suffering, as very soon local population, supported by senators and dissatisfied military commanders and troops, rioted and declared "Republic of Constantinople" with support of some senatorial and military opposition within Empire. Rebels persuaded many Agrippa troops to defection and other forced to flee.

Short-lived "Republic" was eliminated by Imperial Army returned with new Emperor Basil III who restored law and order in Constantinople.

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