More cheers accompanied Zaganos’s response, although Mehmet noticed these came almost exclusively from his Christian/convert faction.
Halil now came forward to speak, first bowing before the Sultan.
“My dear Sultan, and assembled council. I humbly speak as Grand Vizier. I appreciate our Sultan’s enthusiasm for this project, but I must respectfully disagree.
“I certainly agree that capturing the city would do wonders for our empire, for our people, for our faith. However, our Sultan tells us these things without addressing the obvious problem: how to accomplish the task?
I would point out that it is not the will of his ancestors that prevented the capture of the city. Certainly it was not the will of Murad who desired this above all things. It is the city itself that prevents this.
How is the city to be captured? Is not Constantinople surrounded on three sides by water? We have no fleet to speak of my Sultan. We have difficulty enough ferrying a few troops back and forth across the narrow waters of the straights without interference from the Greeks. And the Greeks possess their Greek fire, the terrible weapon they use to burn our ships and kill our sailors. The only time the city has ever fallen is by sea, and then only to the Venetians and other Latins, who did possess a great fleet.
Should we defeat the city by land? We outnumber the foolish infidel Greeks ten or twenty to one. But they have the walls. As you know my Sultan, the city is only exposed by land on one side. A triple network with a moat protects the land approach to Constantinople, with two huge walls surmounted by scores of defensive towers. The city can be defended against our hundreds of thousands by a tenth of that amount. The walls have not been breached in a thousand years.
And that is just to speak of the Greeks. What of the rest of the West? Time and again our attacks on the city have served as a lightning rod for the Pope and the kings of Europe to rise against us. We have fought battle after battle to preserve our territory in Europe. When will we prod this hornet’s nest too greatly? Our strength is in the petty squabbling of the Christian kingdoms. Can we afford to unite them? We may lose more than Constantinople; we may lose Europe in the bargain. Think of John Hunyadi my Sultan. He is perhaps the greatest Christian warlord we have faced. We have a truce with him now, but if we attack the city? With our forces diverted to the center, what will stop him from attacking the north? We could lose everything gained in the last hundred years in a single winter.
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Genre – Historical Fiction
Rating – PG