V. THE TIDE AT FULL: 1453–81

The Turks now resumed the conquest of the Balkans. Serbia finally succumbed in 1459, and remained a Turkish province till 1804. Mohammed II took Corinth by siege, and Athens without raising a lance (1458). The conqueror, like Caesar, gave the Athenians easy terms out of respect for their ancestors, and displayed a cultivated interest in the classical monuments. He could well be genial, having avenged not only the Crusades but Marathon. Bosnia, whose port and capital, Ragusa, had by some veneer of culture received the title of the South Slavonic Athens, accepted Turkish rule in 1463, and adopted the Moslem faith with an ease that startled the West.

The most valiant opponent of the Turks in the second half of the fifteenth century was Scanderbeg of Albania. His real name was George of Castriota, and he was probably of modest Slavonian lineage; but legends precious to his people endow him with royal Epirote blood and an adventurous youth. In his boyhood, we are told, he was given as hostage to Murad II, and was brought up at the Adrianople court of the Ottomans. The Sultan so liked his courage and bearing that he treated him as a son and made him an officerin the Turkish army. Converted to Mohammedanism, George received the mighty name of Iskender Bey—i.e., Alexander the Prince—which busy time shortened to Scanderbeg. After leading the Turks in many battles against the Christians, he repented his apostasy, and plotted escape. He renounced Islam, seized the Albanian capital Kruja from its Turkish governor, and proclaimed revolt (1442). Mohammed II sent army after army to chasten him; Scanderbeg defeated them all by the rapidity of his military movements and the genius of his elusive strategy; finally Mohammed, distracted by larger wars, gave him a ten-year armistice (1461). But the Venetian Senate and Pope Pius II persuaded Scanderbeg to break the truce and renew the war (1463). Mohammed, denouncing the Christians as literally faithless infidels, returned to the siege of Kruja. Scanderbeg defended it so tenaciously that the Sultan again raised the siege; but amid the debris of victory Scanderbeg died (1468). Kruja surrendered in 1479, and Albania became a province of Turkey.

Meanwhile the insatiable Mohammed absorbed the Morea, Trebizond, Lesbos, Negroponte (the old Euboea), and the Crimea. In 1477 one of his armies crossed the Isonzo, ravaged northeastern Italy to within twenty-two miles of Venice, and then, laden with booty, returned into Serbia. Frightened Venice, which had fought long and tenaciously for its possessions in the Aegean and the Adriatic, yielded all claim to Kruja and Scutari, and paid an indemnity of 10,000 ducats. Western Europe, which had failed to help Venice, denounced her for making and keeping peace with the infidel.17 The Turks had now reached the Adriatic, and only the waters that Caesar had crossed in a rowboat separated them from Italy, Rome, and the Vatican. In 1480 Mohammed sent an army across these waters to attack the Kingdom of Naples. It took Otranto with ease, massacred half the 22,000 inhabitants, enslaved the rest, and cut an archbishop in two.18 The fate of Christianity and monogamy teetered in the scales. Ferrante of Naples ended his war with Florence, and sent his best forces to recapture Otranto. Mohammed had entangled himself in besieging Rhodes; amid that enterprise he died; Rhodes remained Christian till Suleiman; the Turks left Otranto, and retired into Albania (1481). The Ottoman tide for a moment ceased to flow.

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