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Let's Sue Them All!!

The Byzantine Disaster

Task | Process | Learning Advice | Evaluation | Reflection | Conclusion
Materials and Resources
Who is responsible for loss of life and property when one empire is conquered by another? It is the year 1473 A.D., twenty years after the fall of Constantinople. You are an investigator for a participant in the conquest who is now being sued. Follow the trail of evidence from Rome to Genoa, Transylvania to Venice and present your case to the "Hanseatic Tribunal" in Copenhagen, Denmark. Let the evidence decide.
 
Have you ever wondered how an empire could cease to exist? Or what the people in and around the area were doing during its dying days? History does not occur in a vacuum. What happens in one place effects others and can be partially caused by the actions or non-actions of neighbors. What if there were "modern type" insurance companies in existence at the time that an empire collapsed? Could they be forced to pay claims for the "wrongful death" of a ruler or for loss of property (the empire, buildings, treasures looted)? And, what if survivors could sue the neighbors for damages. Could they prove any person, country or institution was at fault?

On May 29, 1453 the Eastern Roman Empire (also known as the Byzantine Empire or Byzantium) came to an end with the military takeover of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks. The Byzantine Empire had been the center of the Christian Eastern Orthodox Church. The Ottomans were Muslims.



Task | Process | Learning Advice | Evaluation | Reflection | Conclusion
Materials and Resources

The Task

In this activity, you and your staff of advisors will represent people who existed during the years between 1380 and 1453. In most cases, your jobs will be to defend their actions against claims by the survivors of the Byzantine Empire for damages. In other words, prove that those you represent were not responsible for the fall of the Empire, and could not have saved it from the Ottomans. You will need to discover what happened during the 70 years leading up to the fall of Constantinople and how the Ottoman Empire took it over.

You will:

Allworld Farmers

Insurance

    
Hanseatic Division
Home Offices:
Copenhagen, Denmark


October 12, 1472

To:       English King, French King, Pope, Doge of Venice, Ruler of Genoa, Ruler of Serbia, 
            King of Hungary, King of Bulgaria, Ottoman Sultan, Representatives of Palaeologus family
 
From:   Claims Department
You are hereby notified that Sophia Palaeologus, wife of Ivan III (grand prince of Moscow and Vladimir), and niece of the late Constantine XI Palaeologus, filed a claim as the beneficiary of Constantine XI Palaeologus, for collection of "life insurance" and "property" insurance for the loss of the Byzantine Empire. Both claims were investigated in our Novgorod offices and rejected for the following reasons:
  • the cause of death of Constantine XI was due to his suicidal behavior and the policy does not pay for suicide.
  • the loss of the Byzantine Empire was due to neglect, misadventure, weather conditions and lack of leadership and the insurance policy specifically excludes these causes.
  • the loss was due in part to lack of due care and caution by Christian Western European "countries" i.e. England, France, Bulgaria, Serbia, Venice, Genoa and Hungary and the company feels that these areas should pay the damages.
  • the loss was due in part to the neglect by the Pope in Rome and the Church should pay.
  • the loss was due to inadequate planning for the defense of Constantinople, the Byzantine capital, making the Palaeologus family responsible.
  • the loss was due to the Kuwae Volcano which brought about weather changes interpreted as signs of God's anger, causing the people to believe they were beaten.
  • the loss was the obvious responsibility of the Ottoman Turks led by Mehmed II and they should pay damages.
  • the Empire was broke, had no assets and had really ceased to exist before the fall of Constantinople, thus there was no loss.
Sophia Palaeologus and her husband, Ivan III, are demanding that the Hanseatic Tribunal:
1) review our refusal to pay
2) assess damages against those responsible for the loss

You are hereby notified that you are to present your side of the case on October 12, 1473, after which time the Tribunal may assess blame and decide if the insurance company is liable, or if anyone else is liable, and assess reasonable damages.





Task | Process | Learning Advice | Evaluation | Reflection | Conclusion
Materials and Resources

The Process

Everyone will be assigned to a "boss" they represent and will investigate for. You will investigate the role your "boss" played in the occurrences between 1370 and 1453 and present your side of the story to the Hanseatic Tribunal for its decision on who should pay, if anyone.

Step 1. Decide who will be: 1] the leader or coordinator of your delegation, 2] the cartographer or map maker, 3] the scribe or writer, 4] the historian or researcher and 5] the spokesman and presenter to the Hanseatic Tribunal. A person may have more than one job or jobs may be shared.

Step 2. Everyone will read the letter from the Insurance Company to decide what charges you are being asked to defend. There may be clues for you to watch for. Take notes. Reread the letter as you search for information.

Step 3. Everyone will read the Short Histories of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, the Volcano Information and the final speech of Constantine XI to his troops in May of 1453 written below; and take notes.

Step 4. The Historian will now access up to three different Internet Links under "General History of the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Turks", while the rest of the group searches for additional information in textbooks and on dossiers provided. Everyone will take notes. The focus should be the years 1380 to 1453. The group will meet together to compare notes and edit them into one document.

Step 5. The Cartographer will locate and share historical maps of the area during the time period specified (1380 to 1453) found in your textbook, historical atlases, encyclopedias, and from the "Maps and Pictures".

Step 6. After studying the historical maps and the general information, the Cartographer will, create a historical map of the area during the time period specified, 1380 to 1453. Your area should be the center of attention on the map. The map should show, in some way, the answers to the following questions for the time period of your map. Be sure to include a key and a date. When the map is completed, everyone in your group should answer, on a piece of paper, the following questions. (Members of the Palaeologus Family and the Ottoman Turks please skip to the Alternative Steps below.)

  1. According to the map, how close to Constantinople and the Turks are you?
  2. Are you, or have you been in danger from Ottoman attack or take over?
  3. During the time period shown, did the Ottoman Turks get closer to you? Or take you over?
  4. Did you or do you have any economic interest in Constantinople? If so, what?
  5. Did you have any religious interest in Constantinople? If so what?
Be sure to see advice for more information on creating your map. (Link to page 5)

Step 7. There are page(s) below called dossier pages. The information on them is in no specific chronological order. While your Historian is accessing some links to identify the name of your specific "boss", everybody else should be reading the dossier pages provided. Between the dossier pages and the Internet Links, you should be able to discover what your "boss" was doing during the particular time period.

DOSSIER/PARAPHRASED FROM NUMBERED SOURCES

Step 8. Organize all the information you have now gathered into chronological or subject order. Before you discard information you feel is duplication and any information you may feel is unnecessary, everyone will answer the following questions on their own piece of paper:

  1. Who is the leader of your area today (1473)?
  2. Who was the leader of your area during the crucial 10 years leading up to the fall of Constantinople?
  3. Were you asked to help the Byzantine Empire anytime between 1380 and 1453?
    • If yes, when did this (these) request(s) occur and how did you respond?
    • Was any specific person involved in the decision?
    • What were the reason(s) the decision(s) were made to help or not help the Emperor?
    • What were the results of your action(s)?
  4. Did either Battle of Kossovo (1389 or 1448) effect you in any way? How?
  5. Did the Battle of Varna effect you in any way? How?
  6. Were you asked to help after 1448? If so, what was your response? Why? What result did your actions, or lack of action, have?
  7. Did the invention of gun powder or the introduction of cannon effect the final outcome?
Step 9. Everyone make their own list of 5 important events, then as a group decide on the 10 most important events you think should be included on a timeline of the period. The Scribe will write them down and make illustrations for at least 3 of them and then be sure to have them placed on the timeline.

Step 10. The representatives of the Palaeologus family or a volunteer, will create a large class timeline. When it is your turn and you have your information ready, the Scribe will add your part of the story to the timeline using words and pictures. The timeline should start in 1370 and go to 1470.

Step 11. Using all the information you have gathered, your group will discuss, argue and brainstorm what your testimony before the Tribunal will be. You'll want to justify your actions, deny responsibility if you can, and put the blame on someone or something else. You may wish to check the page which lists observations about the empire. Be sure to list examples to justify your position. Your scribe will need to write your testimony down into a two page position paper, using your examples to prove your case.

Step 12. Be sure your Spokesperson understands your defense/point of view. Have your Spokesperson practice the testimony you wish to present to the Tribunal. Testimony should be about 5-10 minutes. In your research you may discover information about what others may testify to, which will be helpful when you present your 1-2 minute rebuttal or answer questions that may be put to you by the Tribunal or other groups after all testimony is completed.

Alternative Step 6

  1. Representatives of the Byzantine Empire (Palaeologus family) - Your map should be of the city of Constantinople, showing how well it was built to withstand attack. Everyone will write an explanation proving that you could have lasted many years more with outside help.
  2. Representatives of the Ottoman Sultan - everyone will use your map to write an explanation proving that you were predestined to takeover the Byzantine Empire. Your map may be of Constantinople and your battle strategy, or of the takeover of the entire empire.
Alternative Step 7.
  1. There are pages below called dossier pages. The information on them is in no specific chronological order. While your Historian is accessing some links to identify the name of your specific "boss", everybody else should be reading the dossier pages provided. Between the dossier pages and the Internet Links, you should be able to discover what the Sultan or Emperor was doing during the particular time period.
Alternative Step 8
  1. Representatives of the Byzantine Empire (Palaeologus family) - everyone should write down the specific times you asked for help 1380 to 1448 and the response, and what you did 1448 to 1453 to save yourself. Be sure to mention the use of cannon by the Ottomans and explain who Constantine was and why he would not leave the city. You may wish to evaluate information about how Constantinople was built to withstand attack and why it didn't.
  2. Representatives of the Ottoman Sultan - everyone should write down the important battles between 1380 and 1448 and their outcomes. Tell about Mehmed and explain exactly why he decided to take the city in 1453. Be sure to include the offer to Constantine to surrender and what happened at the end.
Alternative Step 9
  1. The representatives of the Byzantine Empire (Palaeologus family) will design a large classroom timeline (1380 to 1453) using butcher paper. List at least 5 different times you asked for help on the timeline. Remember all the other groups will be adding to the timeline so it needs to be big enough for everyone to write their information down. You only need to put Byzantine things down.
  2. The Representatives of the Ottoman Sultan - The representatives of the Palaeologus family will have started to create a large class timeline. When it is your turn and you have your information ready, either the Scribe or Historian will add your part of the story to the timeline (at least ten events). You need to only put Ottoman history down. You may use words and pictures.
Alternative Step 10
  1. Palaeologus Family - Using all the information you have gathered, all the questions you have answered, your map, and your notes, your group will discuss, argue and brainstorm what your testimony before the Tribunal will be. Tell the story of what happened to you, what you did to stop it, who you called for help and how that worked out, and why you think the others should be blamed for your loss.
  2. Ottoman Turks -- using all the information you have gathered, all the questions you have answered, your map and your notes, discuss, argue and brainstorm what your testimony before the Tribunal will be. Tell how you conquered the Byzantine Empire piece by piece, defeating all armies, the treaties you made, the offers you made to Constantine XI, etc. and justify your takeover of the city.
Alternative Step 11
  1. Be sure your Spokesperson understands your defense/point of view. Have your Spokesperson practice the testimony you wish to present to the Tribunal. Testimony should be five to ten minutes. In your research you may discover information about what others may testify to, which will be helpful in answering questions that may be put to you by the Tribunal or other groups after all testimony is completed.



Task | Process | Learning Advice | Evaluation | Reflection | Conclusion
Materials and Resources

Learning Advice

Stay organized and on task. Be sure to:

  1. Check the insurance letter many times to make sure you are prepared to answer the charges against your boss and perhaps shift the blame to someone else.
  2. Be sure to identify who the person you represent is. For example Nicholas V was dead, who would have received the letter dated 1472?
  3. Be sure to identify the people who played a major role in the events. Example, what Pope called for a new Crusade in 1440? Who was the Emperor at that time? The Sultan of the Ottomans?
  4. Have a dictionary on hand so you can look up any word or words you do not understand in the text.
  5. Have your social studies textbook in front of you to access maps not available in the handouts (dossiers) included here, or on the Internet.
  6. Integrate the information you find in at least 4 maps of the time period. Be sure to create a key and date your map.
  7. Highlight the dossier ten, cut-up the sections that pertain to you and sort them manually into chronological order. If more than one date appears in a section, cut-up the paragraph in order to place the events in the correct order.
  8. Organize the other information you locate on the Internet and put it together with the cut-up pieces of the dossier.
  9. Prioritize what you think the most important events are and, after a group discussion, you may wish to discard unimportant information.
  10. Use the timeline, map and other information to explain your testimony.
  11. Remember other members of the group may complete a task set up for someone who is busy, absent, etc.
  12. Create an informative presentation. Be sure you understand and can explain your view of what the damages may or may not be and who you think is responsible.
  13. The timeline should be made in pieces or segments. Members of the Byzantine group should check with the teacher for supplies and further advice on the design of the timeline.


Task | Process | Learning Advice | Evaluation | Reflection | Conclusion
Materials and Resources

Evaluation

The class will create a rubric for grading this activity. Each individual will be responsible for his/her job, and, based on a 5 point scale, with 5 being the top and 1 being the score for a non-worker, will be evaluated by other group members for an individual grade. The presentation before the Tribunal will be graded by a student created rubric which must include evaluation of preparation, validity of argument, amount of research used, use of visuals and attention to detail. Appropriate behavior during the testimony may also be included as part of the rubric.

 



Task | Process | Learning Advice | Evaluation | Reflection | Conclusion
Materials and Resources

Reflection

The students will reflect on this activity when it is completed by writing an essay with a minimum of one and one half pages which answers the following questions:

  1. Did you feel your side had adequate sources and an equal chance to present its case?
  2. What information that you learned was the most interesting part of this activity?
  3. What part of this activity did you find the hardest to do?
  4. If you were doing this activity again, what would you do differently?
  5. The United States is always being asked to: 1) help a government, oppressed people and starving or ill populations; 2) send troops to put down rebellions, stop attacks or protect weaker countries; and 3) lead other governments in trade stoppages, boycotts of goods and embargoes. If the United States existed in 1453, what do you think the U.S. would have done if asked for help from Constantine? Do you need any other information to answer this question? If so, what?


Task | Process | Learning Advice | Evaluation | Reflection | Conclusion
Materials and Resources

Conclusion

In our lifetime there exists international organizations (United Nations, World Court, NATO) for areas having problems to air their grievances. These did not exist in 1453. Nor did insurance companies insure the lives of rulers or property of empires. There were no lawsuits of the kind we have been working on here, since decisions about who was to blame for any wrong rested with the rulers of the various areas and the laws which differed from place to place.

As the times changed, the ideas of nation, government and the size of the known world changed too. Monarchies became strong then weak. Some governments began to give guarantees to the people they governed, empires were created and destroyed and political world maps changed with each succeeding year.

Our political maps have changed drastically even in the past 10 years, and are changing still, as people choose their own destinies. And, in the world of today, it is possible, and sometimes highly probable, that unlike the 1400s:


 
 



Task | Process | Learning Advice | Evaluation | Reflection | Conclusion
Materials and Resources

Materials and Resources

Materials: Large map of Europe, Historical Atlases, Encyclopedias, butcher paper, markers, World History Textbooks, and the General Information, Short Histories and dossiers written below for each group being asked to present testimony before the Hanseatic Tribunal.

Resources: Internet links
General Lists

A complete History of the Byzantine Empire
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03096a.htm

Chronological list of Popes with information
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272b.htm


Other sources for battles not already mentioned in general history

Varna also mentioned in the following sources:

http://www.lib.msu.edu/sowards/balkan/lecture3.html

http://www.bulgaria.com/varna/index.html

http://www.bnf.fr/enluminures/images/jpeg/i3_0091.jpg Picture of Battle, 1396

Kosovo (Kossovo) also mentioned in the following sources:

http://www.txdirect.net/users/rrichard/militar3.htm

http://www.lib.msu.edu/sowards/balkan/lecture3.html


Other Websites for Venice and/or Genoa

All about Serbia and Venice
http://www.montenegro.org/crnojev.html

How the Venetians fortified Cyprus after the fall of Constantinople against modern Turkish warfare Venice and Cyprus.
http://www.geocities.com/egfrothos/FourthCrusade.html

Already listed in General History it tells how Genoa got Galata. Click to "Istanbul During the Byzantine Period"
http://www.istanbulhotels.net/history/byzantineperiod.htm


Websites for Hungary
  

The Siege of Belgrade, 1456 and prior history explained. Why did peasants arm against their rulers in 1437-38? Who helped fight the Turks in 1456? And who was Hunyadi?
http://www.hyperhistory.com/online_n2/civil_n2/histscript6_n2/belgrade.html

Hunyadi - neat map, good information but needs to be read from bottom to top.
http://www.users.zetnet.co.uk/spalffy/h_15.htm


Websites for Serbia/Bulgaria

 
Battle of Varna
http://www.bulgaria.com/varna/index.html

History of Bulgaria - Bulgaria would have liked to conquer the Byzantine Empire, while being conquered themselves
http://www.eunet.bg/books/history/

A paragraph about effect of Kossovo and Serbian defeat
http://www.lib.msu.edu/sowards/balkan/lecture3.html

About Despot Stefan Lazarevic and Serbia's Prominence
http://suc.suc.org/culture/history/Medieval_Ornaments/present/Ste_Laz_Resava.html


Websites for Albania

About Hunyadi helping Skanderbeg
http://home.hiwaay.net/~pspoole/skander.htm

History of Albania -
http://www.albanian.com/main/history/

Tells who was who by name (Croats, Serbs, Albanians, etc.)
http://www.unet.com.mk/mian/terms.htm



Websites for Dracula

Military history
http://historymedren.about.com/library/who/blwwdracula.htm

Wallachia and Dracula
http://members.aol.com/johnfranc/drac05.htm


Websites for France and England & 100 Years War

http://www.ku.edu/kansas/medieval/108/lectures/hundred_years_war.html

http://www.idbsu.edu/courses/hy309/topics/100yw/100yw.timeline.html


Websites for Church/Pope

Did the church help? See last two paragraphs at the bottom of the page
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03096a.htm

One of the better sites about Crusades in the 15th Century - spellings different from other pages
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04543c.htm


Websites for Effects of Volcano

Info about Kuwae - article
http://www.tughranet.f2s.com/kuwae.htm

Report of Kuwae from JPL
http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/files/releases/hebrides.txt


Resources: Bibliography of Books and Magazines

1. Armento, Beverly J. and others. Across the Centuries. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991. Good maps

2. Arnott, Peter. The Byzantines. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973. Another version of Barbaro's eyewitness report starting March, 1452 and reports of blockade runners and the withdrawal of foreigners from the city in 1453.

3. Franzius, Enno. History of the Byzantine Empire. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1967. This had great information about the impoverishment of the Empire in the last centuries.

4. Guerdan, Rene. Byzantium, Its Triumphs and Tragedy. New York: G. P. Putman's Sons, 1957. Numerous eyewitness accounts including Barbaro.

5. Nicol, Donald. M. The Immortal Emperor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Great eyewitness accounts, original pictures especially of Mehmed and Constantine, translation of Constantine's final speech to the troops, and the last days of the empire.

6. Norwich, John Julius. Byzantium: the Decline and Fall. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. This is the latest, most definitive source available today. It is one of three volumes and can also be found in a one volume concise edition. Much ado about the omens in May, 1453.

7. Oman, C. W. The Byzantine Empire. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1892. Another viewpoint of the final 70 yrs.

8. Severy, Merle. "The Byzantine Empire Rome of the East." National Geographic. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, December, 1983, pp. 709-737. Has wonderful maps of the Byzantine World and the city of Constantinople before the takeover with a key to buildings and a great summary of how life was lived in the city which was different from the West. Greeks still look to a future with Constantinople returned, according to this article.

9. Sherrard, Philip. Byzantium. New York: Time Incorporated, 1966. Probably the best secondary source for pictures and information about the early empire. Anyone interested in military tactics would find the information about the siege and methods of fighting very interesting.

10. Simarski, Lynn Tea. "Constantinople's Volcanic Twilight." Aramco World. November/December, 1996.

11. Sphrantzes, George. The Fall of the Byzantine Empire. Translated by Marios Philippides. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1980. Sphrantzes lived in Constantinople at the time of the siege, was captured and later ransomed. His diaries are the best primary sources of information about the Empire from 1401 to 1477, since he served at least three emperors and witnessed Constantine's death.

12. Vryonis, Speros, Jr., Byzantium and Europe. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1967. Contained good pictures and great information about the empire before its collapse.


Bradford, Ernle. _The Great Betrayal: The Story of the Fourth Crusade_.New York: Dorset Press, 1967. This is a relatively easy read and goes over the facts of the Fourth Crusade when the Franks/Latins captured Constantinople. The hatred and distrust evidence in 1453 can best be understood if you know about the events of 1204.

Heath, Ian. _Byzantine Armies, 1118-1461 AD_ London: Osprey, Men-at-Arms Series, no. 287, 1995.

_____. _Byzantine Armies, 886-1118_. London: Osprey, Men-at-Arms Series, no. 89, 1979.

Nicolle, David. _Armies of the Ottoman Turks, 1300-1774_. London: Osprey, Men-at-Arms Series, no. 140, 1983.

_____. _Hungary and the Fall of Eastern Europe, 1000-1568_. London: Osprey, Men-at-Arms Series, no. 195, 1988.

_____. _Romano-Byzantine Armies, 4th-9th Centuries_ London: Osprey, Men-at-Arms Series, no. 247, 1992. Too early for you period perhaps, but interesting nevertheless.

_____. _The Venetian Empire, 1200-1670_. London: Osprey, Men-at-Arms Series, no. 210, 1989.

The Men-at-Arms series has colorful illustrations of period soldiers and explanations of strategy, tactics, and equipment. Often you find them in hobby stores.


Short History of the Roman Empire in the East 476 to 1380

  1. In 476 Rome was taken by the Goths and the Byzantine Emperor became the head of both the government and the Christian religion in the east. He claimed his authority from God and ruled with the advice of advisors and officials.
  2. Byzantium became the center of world trade -- furs, hides, grain and wine from the Black Sea, spices, gems and silk from Arabia and ivory and slaves from Africa.
  3. Constantinople had money, people (1 million in 1000 A.D.), schools where they studied Greek and Roman writers, and domed churches.
  4. The Church at Constantinople was dominated by the Bishop who clashed with the Pope in Rome, especially when Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor. After all there was already an emperor in Constantinople.
  5. While Charlemagne could barely write his name, and only churchmen could read, Byzantine Emperors were scholars.
  6. While in the west, trial was by ordeal, Constantinople had the foundation of Roman law which is part of the laws of the continent of Europe today.
  7. A split between the churches occurred in 1054.
  8. In 1071 Seljuk Turks attacked and won a battle at Manzikert. By 1081 more land had been lost to them. (Nicaea was only 200 miles away).
  9. The Byzantine Emperor asked for help from the West and the first of many crusades was called for by the Pope in 1096.
  10. The 4th Crusade ended in 1204 with the looting and takeover of Constantinople by Genoese and Venetian Crusaders, who looted the city and stayed until 1261.
  11. After 1261, even though a Palaeologus Emperor was now on the throne, the Venetians and Genoese had a strangle hold on its trade.
  12. In 1348 the Plague struck Europe, the Mongols had pushed the Ottoman Turks west and Byzantine was under attack again.
 
Technical questions on the website to: hoa_nguyen@sbcss.k12.ca.us

Last Revised: 1/03/06