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Saturday, November 3, 2007

On May 29th, 1453, A Christian Empire Fell

Constantine the Great, 274 - 337 AD, Founder of New Rome, Now Istanbul, Turkey

On May 29th a Christian Empire Fell

Most people do not recognize May 29th as a special day in history. Everyone in Eastern Orthodoxy (Greek, Russian, Romanian, Serbian Orthodox) mourns the day. May 29, 1453 is when the last remnant of an 1100-year-old empire fell with the loss of Constantinople, the greatest and richest city of the world at one time.

During this Memorial Day weekend we should remember what it meant to those Christians who fought against 10-1 odds as the Ottoman Muslim attacked them without cause. The Ottoman Empire had grown at the expense of the Byzantine Christian Empire, but the Byzantines kept them at bay for centuries. During that time, Europe was reasonably safe from invasion, although Italy suffered many naval attacks.

The last emperor of Constantinople had the same name as the first emperor – Constantine. He died fighting on the city walls, his ranks given away by his purple buskins, which only the emperor wore. He gave a speech to his people the day before the city fell, the day before he died:

He spoke first to his Greek subjects, telling them that there were four great causes for which a man should be ready to die: his faith, his country, his family and his sovereign. They must now be prepared to give their lives for all four. He for his part would willingly sacrifice his own for his faith, his city and his people. They were a great and noble people, the descendents of the heroes of ancient Greece and Rome, and he had no doubt that they would prove themselves worthy of their forefathers in the defense of their city, in which the infidel Sultan wished to seat his false prophet on the throne of Jesus Christ. Turning to the Italians, he thanked them for all that they had done and assured them of his love and trust in the dangers that lay ahead. They and the Greeks were now one people, united in God; with his help they would be victorious. Finally he walked slowly round the room, speaking to each man in turn and begging forgiveness if he ever caused him any offense. Source:The American Spectator

I find it very troubling that people gnash their teeth over the fact that soldiers sacrifice their lives fighting for America. People have forgotten what Jefferson wrote: “The tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots. It is its natural manure.” The nobility of fighting for our country is being forgotten.

When students talk about our loss of lives in Iraq, I ask them how many lives are lost to traffic accidents in Arizona. The figure is about 1,000 per year, the same as our losses in Iraq and other places. I do not have the exact figures, but I know we lose soldiers in similar numbers annually from training and traffic accidents.

I often teach in Yuma, where we have a Marine air station for Harriers, a city that features an air show every day. Helicopters practice their maneuvers over the city. One road is marked because of parachuting soldiers landing there. The Yuma Proving Grounds are using for training in desert warfare. Yuma is hotter than Phoenix.

Many of my students in Yuma are Marines, but some have come from other service branches. Some are just back from Iraq. Some are headed there next. I often think of them when the statistics are announced over TV. I am sorry they have to do their jobs with such wavering and manipulative support from the politicians. Nevertheless, they show us time and again that they are the bravest, best-equipped, and most compassionate military force in history. They stand between us and slavery.

When Constantinople was conquered by Islam, the attractive women, girls, and boys were rounded up for Muslim harems. The strongest boys were put in the elite fighting group, the Janissaries, made up of captured Christians. The rest were slaughtered or sold into slavery.

The year 1453 is significant. The Ottoman Empire began to march against Europe. They were partially successful. The biggest efforts came against Vienna. In 1683 a certain victory for the Ottoman Empire was turned into a rout by a decisive attack. Coffee beans were captured as booty; the coffee house was born in Vienna.

Europe remained free because highly trained soldiers were able to defeat a Muslim army glorying in its past victories.

Our military people, past and present, living and dead, deserve our respect and gratitude.

The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. Douglas MacArthur

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