The World from 1450 to 1700

By John E. Wills Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Islam and a Wider World,
1450–1490

Haya ‘alas Salat … Haya ‘alal-Falah. Allahu Akbar. La ilaha illa Allah … Come to prayer … Come to prayer … God is Great … There is no God but God. For weeks in the spring of 1453 the Christian soldiers, Greeks, and their allies who were manning the great double walls of Constantinople had heard at dawn the Muslim call to prayer from the siege lines of the Ottoman Turkish armies that faced them. The Ottoman forces outnumbered the defenders at least four to one, perhaps ten to one, and were far better organized. They had brought in materials by ship and built in a few weeks a strong stone fortress at the narrowest point of the Bosporus, the key strait between Constantinople and the Black Sea. They had built a wooden slipway and moved small ships overland into an inner harbor, bypassing a great chain protecting it. Their cannon were bigger and more intelligently used than anything inside the city. Several times the cannon had shattered a piece of the great walls, but each time the defenders had managed to repair the breach, which must have given the defenders some hope that God was on their side after all. In the city, religious services and processions, with the glorious singing of the Greek Orthodox tradition and the glowing colors of the icons, the sacred images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the saints, never stopped.

But on May 12 the holiest icon slipped from its platform during a procession, and the next day was full of fog and strange light around the great Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom. The Ottomans said it was the true light of Islam that soon would shine there and eventually decided on a final massive attack. An Italian eyewitness, Giacomo Tedaldi, wrote: “After the Sultan had decided to make this further assault, he gave orders three days before the attack that there should be a solemn fast through the whole of his camp to honor and show reverence for the great God of Heaven, whom they worship alone. So he and his men fasted for three consecutive days, eating nothing throughout the day, but only at night time, under penalty of death. And by night they made lights with candles and wood, which were left to burn on land and on

-7-

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The World from 1450 to 1700
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Editors’ Preface xi
  • Prologue- Texas - And the World 1
  • Chapter 1 - Islam and a Wider World, 1450–1490 7
  • Chapter 2 - Columbian Exchanges, 1490–1530 26
  • Chapter 3 - Old Ways Made New, 1530–1570 49
  • Chapter 4 - New Shapes of Power, 1570–1610 72
  • Chapter 5 - Settlers and Diasporas, 1610–1640 96
  • Chapter 6 - Time of Troubles, 1640–1670 119
  • Chapter 7 - Toward an Early Modern World, 1670–1700 140
  • Chronology 155
  • Notes 157
  • Further Reading 160
  • Web Sites 164
  • Acknowledgments 166
  • Index 168
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