Civil Wars: A Chapter From the Book of History

Translated by Captain Ahab


Ahmed Dashan

By the end of the year 312 AD the Roman General Constantine had achieved a massive victory against the Roman emperor Maxentius, entering Rome with his army which was largely Christian. And so the General turned Emperor, and started the work of uniting the empire which had been engulfed by civil war.

His first step to sow the seeds of peace was to sign the edict of Milan in 313 AD, which gave religious freedoms to Christians, i.e. the right to worship. Then he moved the capital from Rome, which had a majority of pagan worshippers, to Constantinople 330 AD (The New Rome, or Byzantium) and thus it became the city which was purely Christian.

The great schism within Christianity happened in 1054 AD and hence forth we will have a Catholic Latin church in the West and an Eastern Orthodox branch in the East. The feud between both churches continued between the Greek Orthodox in Constantinople and Latin Catholics in Rome while the Turks expanded their territories.

On the 29th of May 1453 the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the second entered the city of Constantinople as a conqueror, during the siege Rome did not lend any significant support to their Orthodox brethren. What occupied the minds of decision makers in Rome as Constantinople fell and Hagia Sophia turned into a mosque was how to convert the Greek Orthodox to Catholics.

Pope Pius II sent letters to all Orthodox princes and Kings warning them of the Ottoman danger and the need for them to convert to Catholicism in order that he be able to protect them. The Orthodox church sensed a greater danger on their Dogma emanating from Rome more than that coming from the Ottomans, and so they concluded to a peace treaty with Mehmet II and Georgios Scholarius was appointed as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch.

Pius raged against Georgios for preferring to be ruled by a Muslim rather than the office of the Papacy. The Patriarch in turn began a campaign against the attempts to convert Orthodox peoples to Catholicism, with the tacit support of the Sultan of course. After failing to convert all the Orthodox nations, with the exception of Hungary, the Pope sent a letter to Mehmet of 100 pages in which he says: “You are the ruler of the second Rome, I of the first Rome, why should we war against each other, where instead I could make the Lord of this Earth”. The letter called upon Mehmet to convert to Catholicism and to subsequently subdue and convert Eastern Europe to the Catholicism as well.

Mehmet responded by saying: “I will cross the small pond (Mediterranean) with my army and hitch my horse to your church as I did to Hagia Sophia”. Of course the Pope’s request is, to say the least, unrealistic, as the Sultan’s army and ministers were muslim and so even if he did want to convert he’d lose his kingship. One thing to note is that the Pope’s request or plea to a Muslim ruler who had just conquered Constantinople to convert to Catholicism to bring about an Imperial Catholic expansion shows that it was not about religion but about the riches that could be gained, and that is why Rome never sent aid to Constantinople.

Napoleon famously said: “I am surrounded by priests who repeat incessantly that their kingdom is not of this world, and yet they lay hands on everything they can get.”

One of the many outcomes of this Orthodox-Catholic intra-war was the fall of Constantinople and the subsequent conversion of many Christians having lost faith in both the churches. The son of the brother of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI converted to Islam and changed his name to Mesih Pasha and had assumed the office of Grand Vizier for a short period.

Amidst the confusion own Moscow’s prince, Ivan IV, grabbed at the chance and proclaimed himself as Tsar in 1547. The Eastern Orthodox world recognized Ivan as a legitimate successor to the throne, and as a result Moscow was proclaimed to be the Third Rome and Orthodoxy’s new fortress, and with this development Russia along with the rest of the world commenced on a new age.

The point to consider from the above is to recognize just how toxic and destructive a force sectarianism can be, that has and continue to threat the stability and even existence of empires. Due to the bickering between the Orthodox and Catholic churches Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, and it could be argued that such quarreling quickened the rise of the Protestant reformation.

The Catholics were enthused by the fall of Constantinople thinking that would lead their Orthodox brethren to convert to Catholicism, instead they lost them to Islam and subsequently the Ottomans marched towards Vienna. The Catholics also suffered from the formation of a schismatic sect, i.e. the Protestants, and the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the magnificent supported the Protestants in order to further weaken Europe by fueling a civil war as he steam rolls through their lands.

Anyone imagining that a sectarian minority could ever rule over the majority and guarantee peace is deluded, on the other side of the coin if those who belong to a majority think that they can crush minorities into submission, then they are naive. Europe after going through a bitter series of violent, destructive sectarian wars realized that religion and politics is a toxic marriage, Europe developed a fresh concept that of equal citizenship were all those living within geographical borders have equal rights as far as the Law was concerned, and religion was forever banished from political intrigues, as a result Europe destroyed and humiliated the Ottomans in a few short centuries.

Copyright © 2022. All Rights Reserved.