The Guns that Brought Down Constantinople,
By the mid 15th Century, the might Eastern Roman Empire had suffered under centuries of conquest by Arab and Turkish invaders, resulting in the empire stretching no father than the ancient capitol of Constantinople itself. The great city was no better off than the empire as a whole, its population reduced from a million inhabitants to less than 50,000, while the Byzantine Army could muster little more than 7,000 men. In contrast the Ottoman Empire completely surrounded the city, and was amassing a force of 50,000 - 80,000 men to complete the final conquest of Byzantium.
The last hope of the Byzantines were a series of large walls and fortresses which had successfully defended Constantinople since ancient times. The city walls had fended off many invaders in the past, and Constantinople was considered the most heavily fortified city in Europe at the time. Storming Constantinople would certainly not be easy, however the Ottomans had an ace up their sleeves.
In 1452 a Hungarian military engineer named Urban offered his services as a cannon maker to the Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI. The Emperor had neither the money to pay Urban, nor the resources to craft the cannon which Urban offered. As a result, Urban went to the Emperor’s rival, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, who certainly could pay Urban and had the technology and resources to produce his cannons.
To bring down the walls of Constantinople Urban directed the casting of several large bronze siege guns. The largest was a massive cannon that fired massive 25 inch stone balls. Weighing 19 tons, it took 2-3 hours to load and had to be transported by a team of 60 mules.
The Siege of Constantinople began on the 6th of April 1453. Over the next 53 days, the Ottomans pounded the city walls with Urban’s guns. After nearly two months of constant bombardment, the walls of Constantinople could no longer hold out against the attack resulting in several breeches. On May 28th, the Ottoman Army stormed the city, easily overwhelming the outnumbered Byzantine defenders.
With the exception of the short lived Empire of the Trebizond, the Ancient Roman State had fallen for good. Mehmed II made Constantinople the new capitol and quickly sought to take on the mantle as emperor of a new Roman Empire, declaring himself Kayser-i Rum (Caesar of Rome), and declaring the Ottoman Empire as the “Third Roman Empire”.