By Dionysios Bernincolas-Hatzopoulos
Byzantine Studies / Etudes Byzantines, Vol. 10:1 (1983)
Introduction: The end of the fourteenth and the first years of the fifteenth century were marked by the first major Ottoman effort to capture Constantinople. For nearly a decade the Byzantine capital sustained a very severe siege. The city’s civilian population was devastated by famine and outbursts of plague, and as a consequence a great part of the population fled Constantinople.
A detailed study of the events between 1394 and 1402 shows that the Ottomans used in their assault upon Constantinople their proven method of blockading the enemy city for a long period of time, thus causing its surrender. The method had been successfully tried on Greek cities in Asia Minor. The Byzantine capital, however, escapted the same fate because of the Mongol intervention and the subsequent Ottoman defeat at Ankara in July, 1402.
During the siege of Constantinople sustained a number of violent Turkish attacks, especially those of the summer and fall of 1395 and that which followed the Christian disaster at Nikopolis in September, 1396, and last until the spring of the next year. The arrival in the latter half of 1399 of the French expeditionary corps led by Marshal Boucicaut brought temporary relief. In fact, the combined operations outside the capital of the Byzantines and their French allies are the only engagements which ended in victory due to the absence of the bulk of the Ottoman army that was away on military operations elsewhere.