Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Mighty Pontiff of Pontification has spoken 

His Holy Roman Swellness has recently:
... quoted from a book recounting a conversation between 14th-century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and a Persian scholar on the truths of Christianity and Islam.

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," Benedict said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"


And speaking of Popes and Byzantine emperors and such: Who the hell is this Manuel II dood anyway. I don't suppose anyone's thought to ask. Or maybe they did? I dunno. But, in any case: I don't suppose it might interest Pope Benedict to also remember that Greek Orthodox Byzantine emperor John Paleologos V, after traveling to Rome in 1369, seeking aid and assistance from Pope Urban V (Guillaume de Grimoard - or Old Grim as i like to imagine they called him) in order to help defend Constantiople (today's Istanbul) from the advance of the Turks, was, as a condition to receive such aid and assistance, forced to renounce before the altar of St. Peter his Byzantine realms loyalties to the Greek Orthodox (Christian) Church. JPV never did receive the aid promised and was instead taken hostage in the city of Venice where he was held in exchange for payment of previous unpaid debts.

His son, Manuel Paleologos II (the inquiring fella Pope Benedict cites above), was then deployed to the scene of the caper to deliver the appropriate ransom (arrears due) on behalf of dear old dad's redemption. Thereby securing his father's release from the enterprising wops. What's more, to make matters worse as they say, the denizens of Constantinople were not too happy to later learn - upon JVP's return - that their trusty emperor had, in the process, abjured under oath - on behalf of the realm - their Greek Orthodox Church loyalties. That one went over like a horse stabled at the altar of St. Peter. What's a Paleologos to do? On one flank you got yerself a browbeating Popetator demanding submission to Roman Catholic Church supremacy and on the other flank the Ottoman Muslim throngs. Being a Byzantine bigshot back then was no jolly stroll through a marble quarry. No siree bub.

Why, it was only a little over sixty years earlier that Pope Clement V had got himself all worked up into a regular bug in the bonny clabber froth over the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church's indisposition to full recognition of the Roman Catholic Church as the "one true church." For this indignity Pope Clement V decided to orchestrate a intrigue to overthrow Constantinople - nolens volens - among a long line of intrigues. Popes and other high bishops of Christendom took their nose-thumbing seriously back then and so Clem 5 rounded up some tough guys from Venice and Naples and France set about to some serious intriguing. The plan didn't work out however, was foiled as they say, and the heretical nose-thumbing resumed on both sides as usual. To make a long story short: the Roman Catholic Church didn't much like the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church and mutual snickers were returned in kind. It was a fued dont'cha know that went-a-way back. Way way back. Like centuries way back. In any event, misgivings continued long enough for the Ottoman Turks to make the best of a bickering situation.

Forward: After repeated attempts to secure aid and assistance from his fellow Christians to the west JVP relented to the advances of Sultan Murad I and the Ottoman bloom. In order to spare his Byzantium empire from Ottoman control JVP agreed to provide military aid to the Sultan Murad in return for relative peace and quiet and the general mutual interests of both parties. JVP, agreeing as well, to fork over heir Manuel II as a token of the Byzantine committment to the so described arrangements.

Meanwhile, Pope Urban V, not liking the looks of all this unraveling Ottoman funny business, calls for another Christian crusade to put an end to the expanding Ottoman power which had by now turned its attentions to the conquest of the Balkans. In 1370, Urban dies and Gregory XI gets the green light to hang his red hat on the golden papal hat-rack. In 1371, an assembled army of crusaders - summoned earlier under Gregory XI - are ambushed; killed, drowned, and run off by the Turks along the Marista River in Bulgaria. So much for the redeeming glory of the arm and sword of the Roman Catholic Christian lord at least in that particular god blessed case.

By 1389 Murad's Ottoman army (which was composed of both Christian and Moslem conscripts at the time) moves into Kosovo where it is opposed by a coalition of Serbs, Poles, Bosnians, and Albanians among others. A Serbian named Milosh Kobilich (also spelled Milos Obilic), "the son of a Mare", (whatever the hell that means - see: World without End: The Saga of Southeastern Europe Book by Stoyan Pribichevich; Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939). Where was I? Oh yeah, Milosh Kobilich posing as an informer, infliltrates Murad's inner circle and assasinates the Sultan Murad. Murad's son, Bajazet (also spelled Bayezid), upon the death of his father, takes control of the Ottoman army and defeats the Serbian coalition foes in the Battle of Kosovo Polje, June 28, 1389.

This was the celebrated Kosovo battleground known as the "Field of Blackbirds" so often noted in recent years with respect to the war in the former Yugoslavia. The Ottoman victory at the Field of Blackbirds in Kosovo in 1389 secured Serbian alligience to the Ottoman empire as well as establishing family ties between the Serbs and Turks by uniting Serbian King Lazar I's daughter Olivera and Sultan Bayezid in some, i'll surmise, variety of holy matrimonial multi-harmony orgy or another. Four months later, In October of 1389, Pope Gregory XI will be recalled to the Home Office - if ya know what I mean - and Urban VI will take over the reigns of Christendom on behalf of God and Kings and Holy Roman Catholic western so called civilization until 1394 when Urban VI - too - ultimatly succumbs to the mortal ravages of time.

Meanwhile, Sultan Bajazet is busy whooping it up in the Balkans and goes on a murderous hellbent tear through Bulgaria eventually capturing the capital city of Trnovo in 1393. Pope Urban VI appeals to the King of Hungary for help in stopping the Ottoman marauders. A large force is assembled under the control of King Sigismund of Hungary. French, English and Bavarian knights, cavaliers, sirs, baronets, esquires and assorted other true believers answer the callup. Sixty thousand, thereabouts, marched east to lay siege to the Turkish held garrison city of Nicopolis (Bulgarian city on the Danube. Called Nikopol today). Bajazet responds in turn and makes haste westward to rescue Nicopolis from the European thrust. First by sending forth a first wave of fifteen thousand Janissaries and Turkish cavalry to meet the tresspasing knights on the battlefield. The year was 1396. The French and English fought their way through the inital wave of enemy Ottoman opposition only to crest a blood bathed bee-swept hillock, exhausted and presuming victory, where they were surprised by the full body of Bajazet's army, some forty thousand strong, lances glittering in the sun, laying in slaughterous wait.

The Europeans and allies were henceforth routed and the German and Hungarian troops also laying seige to Nicopolis were eventually overcome by an army of five thousand Serbian Christians loyal to Bajazet; ultimately winning the fight for the Ottomans. Following the entire murderous mele Bajazet ordered ten thousand Christian prisoners executed in cold blood. Bulgaria remained under Ottoman thumb - for the next four hundred and eighty two years - until 1878.

Meanwhile, back in Constantiople: (Remember Manuel II and his pa John V?) Anyway, the powers that were, at the time, including the current Eastern Roman Emperor John Paleologos VII (John V died in 1376), largely remained aloof - for the most part - from the homicidal entanglements and shifting allegiances and general derring-do that had ensued (above) in the Balkans and elsewhere. All things considered, as I mentioned earlier, that might not be very surprising considering the Greek Orthodox Church and the Church in Rome were not exactly on the best of terms. (See the earlier murderous Venetian/Latin Fourth Crusade circa 1204 etc...)

The Romans for instance, fond of bullying - and murdering - those who refused to bow to the power and glory of the Holy Roman Catholic supremacist jihad, the "one true church," as they liked to fancy themeselves back in the day, had (circa 1350) supported and condoned the massacre of Greek Orthodox Catholics on the island of Crete for their obstinate unwillingness to fall upon bended knee and leave a big wet slobbering kiss upon the papal ring of the Roman operation. That kind of thing didn't make Rome many friends in Constantiople or the greater Greek archipelago.

I don't suppose it should come as any surprise that Pope Benedict, hey I'm on the radio!, XVI should have forgotten to mention that little slice of "evil and inhuman" history. As things go these days, and in days bygone, if the shoe fits... well, the shoe fits.

As Will Durant notes and quotes in his Story of Western Civilization; Part VI The Reformation:
The populace and lower clergy of Byzantium repudiated all attempts to reunite Greek with Latin Christianity; and a Byzantine noble declared that he would rather see the Turkish turban at Constantinople than the red hat of a Roman cardinal."

Bajazet, eventually turned his attentions to the seige of Constantiople (1402) but was soon (luckily for Constantiople) distracted by the Tartar invasion under the leadership of Tamerlane the Great who defeated the Turks at Ankara and took Bajazet prisoner. Alas, Manuel II's Constantiople had been accidentally saved from Bajazet's Ottoman seige by Muslim Tartar invaders from the east. Hows that for irony?

1425: Manuel II dies.


In May of 1453, nearly seventy four years after the battle of Kosovo at the Field of Blackbirds, Mohammed II (The Conqueror) would lead the Ottomans against Emperor Constantine XI Palaeologus, the Byzantine throne, and the ancient walls of the city of Constaninople. Constantine XI had made the mistake of attempting to pull a fast one on Mohammed II by forcing Mohammed's nephew Orkhan (raised at the Byzantine court) to the front of the Ottoman line of successors. Uncle Mohammed II, busy at the time rumbling with competing Muslim troublemakers, took note of the attempted usurpation intrigue (again with the intrigue) and called off the hostilities underway elsewhere (from Venice to Wallachia) and returned to the Bosporous (Istanbul Bogazi) to lower the boom on the overreaching Constantine and his comparitvely helpless Constantinople.

A fortress was erected outside Constaninople and Mohammed contracted Christian engineers to construct a cannon (the largest the world had ever seen) which would heave six hundred pound stone shot at the walls of Contantinople. He amassed an army of one hundred and forty thousand men in the cause and in May of 1453 the walls of Constaninople fell. A terrible murderous slaughter and plunder and pillage ensued and Constanine himself vanished never to be seen again. One thousand years of Byzantium culture had come to an end.

Rome took a big sloppy gulp from the chalice and kicked a small dog in the ass. Allah had arrived at Christendom's gate.

[on fortune] "...perverse nature and unacountable will. But these things, I believe, have never been comprehensible to man, nor will they ever be. Nevertheless there is always much talk on these subjects, and opinions are always being bandied about... as each of us seeks comfort for his ignorance.... I consider it insane folly to investigate the nature of God...." ~ Procopius (Byzantine historian circa AD 500-565)


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