12-13 Ἀπριλίου 1204 / Sack of Constantinople

Μιὰ ξεχασμένη ἑπέτειος, ἡ Ἅλωση τῆς Κωνσταντινούπολης ἀπὸ τοὺς Δυτικούς.

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Βενετία 1204

Ἕνα ἀπὸ τὰ λάφυρα τῆς Ἅλωσης τοῦ 1204, στὴ Βενετία

Ἀπὸ τὴν Ἱστορία τοῦ Νικήτα Χωνιάτη (ἀγγ. μετ. H. Magoulias):

These forerunners of Antichrist [οἱ τοῦ Ἀντιχρίστου πρόδρομοι], chief agents and harbingers of his anticipated ungodly deeds

The report of the impious acts perpetrated in the Great Church [= Ἁγία Σοφία] are unwelcome to the ears. The table of sacrifice, fashioned from every kind of precious material and fused by fire into one whole-blended together into a perfection of one multicolored thing of beauty, truly extraordinary and admired by all nations-was broken into pieces and divided among the despoilers, as was the lot of all the sacred church treasures, countless in number and unsurpassed in beauty. They found it fitting to bring out as so much booty the all-hallowed vessels and furnishings which had been wrought with incomparable elegance and craftsmanship from rare materials. In addition, in order to remove the pure silver which overlay the railing of the bema, the wondrous pulpit and the gates, as well as that which covered a great many other adornments, all of which were plated with gold, they led to the very sanctuary of the temple itself mules and asses with packsaddles; some of these, unable to keep their feet on the smoothly polished marble floors, slipped and were pierced by knives so that the excrement from the bowels and the spilled blood defiled the sacred floor. Moreover, a certain silly woman laden with sins, an attendant of the Erinyes, the handmaid of demons, the workshop of unspeakable spells and reprehensible charms, waxing wanton against Christ,’…sat upon the synthronon’.and intoned a song, and then whirled about and kicked up her heels in dance.

Such then, to make a long story short, were the outrageous crimes committed by the Western armies against the inheritance of Christ. Without showing any feelings of humanity whatsoever, they exacted from all their money and chattel, dwellings and clothing, leaving to them nothing of all their goods. Thus behaved the brazen neck, the haughty spirit, the high brow, the ever-shaved and youthful cheek, the bloodthirsty right hand, the wrathful nostril, the disdainful eye, the insatiable jaw, the hateful heart, the piercing and running speech practically dancing over the lips. More to blame were the learned and wise among men, they who were faithful to their oaths, who loved the truth and hated evil, who were both more pious and just and scrupulous in keeping the commandments of Christ than we «Greeks.» Even more culpable were those who had raised the cross to their shoulders, who had time and again sworn by it and the sayings of the Lord to cross over Christian lands without bloodletting, neither turning aside to the right nor inclining to the left, and to take up arms against the Saracens and to stain red their swords in their blood

[Ταῦτα ὁ χαλκοῦς αὐχήν, ἡ ἀλαζὼν φρήν, ὁ ὀρθὴ ὀφρύς, ἡ ἀεὶ ξυριῶσα καὶ νεανισκευομένη παρειά, ἡ φιλαίματος δεξιά, ἡ ἀκροχολῶσα ῥίν, ὁ μετέωρος ὀφθαλμός, ἡ ἄπληστος γνάθος, ἡ ἄστοργος γνώμη, ἡ τορὴ καὶ τροχαλὴ λαλιὰ καὶ μόνον οὐκ ἐπορχουμένη τοῖς χείλεσι, μᾶλλον δὲ οἱ παρ’ ἑαυτοῖς ἐπιστήμονες καὶ σοφοί, οἱ εὔορκοι καὶ φιλαλήθεις καὶ μοσοπόνηροι καὶ τῶν Γραϊκῶν ἡμῶν εὐσεβέστεροί τε καὶ δικαιότεροι καὶ τῶν Χριστοῦ διαταγμάτων φύλακες ἀκριβέστεροι, τὸ δὲ πλέον, οἱ τὸν σταυρὸν ἐπ’ ὤμων ἀράμενοι καὶ πολλάκις κατὰ τούτου καὶ τῶν θείων λογίων ἐπομοσάμενοι τὰς μὲν τῶν Χριστωνύμων χώρας παρελθεῖν ἀναιμωτί, μὴ προσνεύσαντες ἀριστερά, μηδ’ ἐκκλίναντες δεξιά, μηδ’ ἀνδρίσασθαι γυναιξὶν ἢ καθ’  ὁμιλίαν αὐταῖς συνελθεῖν ἐφ’ ὅσον ἂν χρόνον τὸν σταυρὸν ἐπωμάδιον φέρωσιν]

[…] The sons of Ismael did not behave in this way, for when the Latins overpowered Sion the Latins showed no compassion or kindness to their race. Neither did the Ismaelites neigh after Latin women, nor did they turn the cenotaph of Christ into a common burial place of the fallen, nor did they transform the entranceway of the life-bringing tomb into a passageway leading down into Hades, nor did they replace the Resurrection with the Fall. Rather, they allowed everyone to depart in exchange for the payment of a few gold coins; they took only the ransom money and left to the people all their possessions, even though these numbered more than the grains of sand. Thus the enemies of Christ dealt magnanimously with the Latin infidels, inflicting upon them neither sword, nor fire, nor hunger, nor persecution, nor nakedness, nor bruises, nor constraints. How differently, as we have briefly recounted, the Latins treated us who love Christ and are their fellow believers, guiltless of any wrong against them.

O City, City, eye of all cities, universal boast, supramundane wonder, wet nurse of churches, leader of the faith, guide of Orthodoxy, beloved topic of orations, the abode of every good thing! 0 City, that hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury! 0 City, consumed by a fire far more drastic than the fire which of old fell upon the Pentapolis!» [Ὦ πόλις, πόλεων πασῶν ὀφθαλμέ, ἄκουσμα παγκόσμιον, θέαμα ὑπερκόσμιον, ἐκκλησιῶν γαλουχέ, πίστεως ἀρχηγέ, ὀρθοδοξίας ποδηγέ, λόγων μέλημα, καλοῦ παντὸς ἐνδιαίτημα]

«What shall I testify to thee? What shall I compare to thee? The cup of thy destruction is magnified,» says Jeremias, who was given to tears as he lamented over ancient Sion.’ What malevolent powers have desired to have you and taken you to be sifted?’ What jealous and relentless avenging demons have made a riotous assault upon you in wild revel? If these implacable and crazed suitors neither fashioned a bridal chamber for thee, nor lit a nuptial torch for thee, did they not, however, ignite the   coals of destruction? O prolific City, once garbed in royal silk and purple and now filthy and squalid and heir to many evils, having need of true children! 0 City, formerly enthroned on high, striding far and wide,’ magnificent in comeliness and more becoming in stature ; now thy luxurious garments and elegant royal veils are rent and torn; thy flashing eye has grown dark, and thou art like unto an aged furnace woman  all covered with soot, and thy formerly glistening and delightful countenance is now furrowed by loose wrinkles. I shall forego describing those who set words to the music of the lyre and sang of thy calamities and, drunk with wine, turned thy tragedy into a comedy, making a profession out of the farcical recitation of thine afflictions: blows struck with the fist and the foot, bruises, moreover, and black eyes inflicted upon thee every hour of the day; for by God’s will thou hast provoked to jealousy the foolish nations, or rather, those people who are not truly nations1538 but obscure and scattered tribes, and if thou didst not give birth to the majority of them, thou didst, however, raise them up and provide them with the fat of wheat. «Who shall save thee? Or who shall comfort thee?’ Or who shall turn back to inquire after thy welfare?   Thus spake the much-wailing Jeremias. Who shall dress in thy former raiment? When shall thou hear those divinely inspired words: «Awake, awake, stand up, 0 City, that hast drunk the cup of my fury and the cup of calamity.» Put on thy strength, put on thy glory.»» Shake off the dust and arise. Put off the   band of thy neck. Enlarge the place of thy tent, and of thy curtains.»» Fear not because thou hast been put to shame, neither be confounded because thou wast reproached, and all that go by the way have clapped their hands at thee; they have hissed and shaken their heads and have said, «This is the city, the crown of glory and of joy of all the earth,» and, «How does the city that was filled with people sit as a widow, and how has she, princess among provinces, become tributary?»‘ For thy God has said, «For a little while I left thee, but with great mercy will I have compassion upon thee. In a little wrath I turned away my face, but with everlasting mercy will I have compassion upon thee. Perhaps,thou shalt sing out to God with David, «0 Lord, according to the multitude of my griefs within my heart, thy consolations have gladdened my soul.» Who shall be set over thee as another Moses to renew all things, or who shall restore thee as another Zorobabel? When shall the time come for thee to gather thy children from the four winds to which we have scattered, even as hens which love their chicks gather them under their wings. And now we cannot freely gaze upon thee, face to face, nor joyously cling to thee as to a mother and openly pour out for thee a libation of tears as many as the eyes wish or can, but flying cautiously around thee like sparrows whose mother and source of nourishment has been taken captive and whose nest has been scattered to the winds, we emit piteous and mournful cries; expelled far from thy nesting places, hungry and thirsty, shivering in squalor, often close shorn because of lice, our souls wasting away because of our afflictions, we are no longer able to find the way back to our homes in the City, but roam far and wide like fickle. migratory birds and the planets. In other words, although we are  apart, we are united to thee, and being separated, we are intertwined like those who are joined together in spirit even though removed in body, and suffer, moreover, the same anguish as experienced by some animals when beholding their own kind ensnared by hunters and confined within a glass cage. Those animals, gazing upon the sight of their fellow beast, visible in the clarity and brightness of the vessel, are wholly unable to come into physical contact with it. For this reason they vainly circle the receptacle in dismay, bewildered by the captive beast’s countenance so dramatically altered from its former appearance. And we likewise wish to cast our eyes upon thee and to draw near, for we have been altogether deprived of clasping thee wholeheartedly to our breast and of boldly embracing thee as in former times, kept asunder by the barbarian forces as though by a solid body much more impervious than glass. «Why hast thou smitten us, Lord, and there is no healing for us?» We know, 0 Lord, our sins, and the iniquities of our fathers. Refrain out of mercy, destroy not the throne of thy glory.’ Chasten us, 0 Lord, that our soul may not be removed from thee, but with judgment and not in wrath, lest thou make us few. Pour out thy wrath upon the families that have not called upon thy name. Lord, thou art our Father; we are clay, and thou our potter, and we are all the work of thine hands. Behold, and look on our reproaches. Our inheritance has been turned away to aliens, our houses to strangers.» Turn us, 0 Lord, to thee, and we shall be turned.’ Most useful and timely are these scriptural verses in describing similar calamities. But now even my power of speech fails me, like a body which, united to the soul as her attendant, succumbs and dies together with thee, 0 nurturer of the word! One ought to dedicate to thee copious lamentations with  muted tears and stifled groaning and refrain from continuing the sequence of this history. For in a land long alienated from letters and completely barbarized, who dares sing out the Muses’ melodies? Nor should I be singing out the accomplishments of the barbarians, nor passing on to posterity military actions in which Hellenes were not victorious.

Thus it was that Constantine’s fair city, the common delight and boast of all nations, was laid waste by fire and blackened by soot, taken and emptied of all wealth, public and private, as well as that which was consecrated to God by the scattered nations of the West. Feeble and  unspeakable, these assembled to undertake a voyage of piracy, and their pretext to backwater against us…

As we left the City behind, others returned, thanks to God, and loudly bewailed their misfortunes, but I threw myself, just as I was, on the ground and reproached the walls both because they alone were insensible, neither shedding tears nor lying in ruins upon the earth, and because they still stood upright. «If those things for whose protection you were erected no longer exist, being utterly destroyed by fire and war, for what purpose do you still stand? And what will you protect hereafter unless you strive to bring destruction to the enemy in the day of wrath, when the Lord shall rise up to strike terribly those who have dealt with us in such fashion, riding perhaps on the West, according to David’s prophecy?

«0 imperial City,» I cried out, City fortified, City of the great king,  tabernacle of the most High, praise and song of his servants and beloved refuge for strangers, queen of the queens of cities, song of songs and splendor of splendors, and the rarest vision of the rare wonders of the world,

[βασιλὶς μὲν τῶν βασιλίδων πόλεων, ἆσμα δὲ ἀσμάτων καὶ λαμπρότης λαμπροτήτων καί τῶν σπανίων πανταχοῦ θεαμάτων σπανιώτερον ὅραμα]

who is it that has torn us away from thee like darling children from their adoring mother? What shall become of us? Whither shall we go? What consolation shall we find in our nakedness, torn from thy bosom as from a mother’s womb? When shall we look upon thee, not as thou now art, a plain of desolation  and a valley of weeping,’° trampled by armies and despised and rejected, but exalted and restored, revered by those who humbled thee and provoked thee, and once again sucking the milk of the Gentiles and eating the wealth of kings? When shall we doff these shriveled and tattered rags which, like fig leaves and garments of skins, suffice not to cover the whole body and which the foreigners, as treacherous as the serpent, forced upon us with attendant evils and injuries? Do thou propitiate God, 0 holiest of cities! Bring forward, on thy behalf, the temples, the martyrs’ relics, these debacles, the magnitude of the trials and tribulations suffered by thee in full measure, consigned to the flames by impious men. For he says, «Call upon me in the day of thine afflictions and I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me.» Shall I ever more look upon thee,’ 0 holiest and greatest of all temples, 0 terrestrial heaven, 0 throne of God’s glory,  0 thou chariot of the cherubim,»» 0 thou second firmament proclaiming the work of God’s hands,  a work singular and wondrous and a gladness resounding through the whole earth? And who shall answer but he alone who, having been made trial of in his own Passion, knows how to succor those who are sorely tried, he who delivers the poor man from the hands of his oppressors and the poor man and the needy from his despoilers,»» and as the creator of all things ever changes them for the better?

Ὁ βαθμὸς συνειδητῆς λήθης τῆς ἱστορίας ἐν Ἑλλάδι φαίνεται ἀπὸ τὸ γεγονὸς ὅτι οὔτε ἕνας (1) Νεοέλληνας ζωγράφος δὲν ἀναπαρέστησε τὴν ἅλωση τοῦ 1204. Ξεχνᾶνε, ὅλοι, ὅτι δὲν μπορεῖ νὰ γίνει ἐπιλογὴ μεταξὺ Δύσης καὶ Τούρκων / Ἰσλάμ, ἀλλὰ ὁ ἕνας φέρνει τὸν ἄλλον: Οἱ ἐπιδρομὲς τῶν Δυτικῶν φέρνουν τὴν ἐπέκταση τῶν Τούρκων, καί, μὲ τὴ σειρά της, ἡ ἐπέκταση τῶν Τούρκων καθιστᾶ δῆθεν «ἀναγκαία» τὴν ὑποταγή (καὶ πνευματική, αὐτὴ τὴ φορά) στὴ Δύση. Ἡ ὁποία μᾶς καταστρέφει, ἔτσι, ἀκόμη περισσότερο, ὥστε νὰ μᾶς βροῦν σὲ ἐλεεινὴ κατάσταση ξανὰ οἱ Τοῦρκοι κ.ο.κ.

Ξεχασμένη θὰ παραμένει ἡ ἐπέτειος τῆς Ἅλωσης τοῦ 1204 γιὰ ὅσο καιρὸ θὰ μᾶς πατᾶ ἡ μπότα τους καὶ γιὰ ὅσο καιρὸ δὲν θὰ ἔχουμε τὸ ἠθικὸ ἀνάστημα καὶ τὴν ἀπαιτούμενη αἴσθηση ἀξιοπρέπειας ὥστε νὰ ἀπευθυνθοῦμε σὲ Τούρκους καὶ Δυτικούς (καὶ τοὺς ἐντόπιους ὁπαδούς τους) ἀποκαλώντας τους μὲ τὸ ὄνομά τους, λέγοντάς τους αὐτὸ ἀκριβῶς ποὺ αὐτοί εἶναι: πολιτισμοί-τέρατα, καί -ὅπως γράφει ὁ Νικήτας Χωνιάτης- ξεβράσματα τῆς κόλασης ποὺ ἔπεσαν καταπάνω μας σὲ μιὰ στιγμὴ ἀδυναμίας, ἀπροσεξίας, ἁδράνειας καὶ χαλάρωσης. Ἕνας πολιτισμὸς ποὺ τὶς διακοπές του τὶς ἀποκαλεῖ (μεταξὺ ἄλλων) «κρουαζιέρα», λέξη ὁμόρριζη μὲ τὴ σταυροφορία καὶ ἱστορικῶς προερχόμενη ἀπὸ τὰ γεγονότα τῶν Σταυροφοριῶν.

Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη ὅσων πολέμησαν ἐκεῖνες τὶς ἡμέρες στὰ κάστρα τῆς Κωνσταντινούπολης ὑπερασπιζόμενοι τὸν ἑλληνορωμαϊκὸ πολιτισμὸ καὶ τὸν αὐθεντικὸ Χριστιανισμό.

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