The Chain of the Golden Horn
For 7 centuries, it was one of the key elements of the Queen of Cities’ elaborated system of defense and was only taken down once by the Venetians in 1203. With a length of 750 m between the Kenthenarion tower and the Kastellion tower, the legendary colossal chain-boom was operated mechanically: it took only a few minutes to open or close to allow safe passage in and out of the deep-water Golden Horn.
Constantinople had excellent natural defenses: It was built on a triangular promontory of seven hills and completely surrounded by a single high wall.
The landside had another double curtain wall and a moat. Its southern side was bounded by the fast current which swept down the Bosphorus. This made it almost impossible to beach a landing craft and hold it in position while troops get ashore. Innumerable rocks and shoals endangered boats that were not familiar with the area.
Across the northern deep water bay of the Golden Horn stretched a massive metal chain that prevented the passage of any unwanted ship. It was first designed and used during the Arab siege of 717 A.D.
The Chain consisted of a set of nine catenary curves, of which seven were permanently in place and two movable. According to calculation, between the two large suspension towers at each end, the Chain rested on 8 massive pyramidal floating pontoons anchored to the seafloor 30 meters below for stabilization. Each of the chain’s elliptical iron links was 1.20 meters in length and weighed half a ton (one of these links was observed at the Tophane Arsenal in 1877 by Alexandros Paspatis). Each pontoon bore a load of 920 tons from the two chains.
Once in position, only the sections of the Chain closest to the towers were opened or closed according to the need, using a huge wheel, pulleys, and a giant 35-ton hollow counterweight operated by adding water (transported from a water tower and lifted up using a pump) or subtracting seawater. Only three people were needed to operate the mechanisms smoothly.
A handful of dromons fireships anchored behind the chain were enough to defend it in case the enemy would try to get close and attempt to break it. In 1203, the gallant Venetians had stormed the Galata Tower after its defenders ran away. The Crusaders simply lowered down the chain to enter the Golden Horn with their massive fleet.
The sections of iron chains exhibited in various Istanbul museums are not from the original Great Byzantine Chain. They are way too small for that. Instead, they were likely the chains used to anchor the pontoons.
After two failed attempts at breaking the mighty Chain (although only 10 Byzantine and allied ships defended it), to bypass it, Mehmet II achieved the same feat Igor of Kiev’s Rus’ had done 5 centuries earlier with their longboats: His workforce carried part of his Navy overland, over the steep hill of Galata. On April 22, Constantinople’s defenders watched in terror as Amza Bey’s 70 light galleys were launched into the harbor.
When Constantinople fell on May 29th, 1453, some of the defenders and rich civilians tried to escape by sea from the Golden Horn, only to find out that they were now trapped behind the Chain, as the operators in the towers had either deserted or had been killed.
When you order the BBQ sampler platter…
I didn’t realize that it was five pounds of meat.
I couldn’t decide what to order and my daughter, Emilie, said, “just order the sampler, Dad.” Ok. The cornbread and sides are not in the camera frame. There is a philosophy that must underpin this.
Never eat more than you can lift.
They will bring more animal flesh if you eat it all. I guess you could waddle to the men’s room, barf, return and keep eating? There are different strategic schools. of thought on the matter. I don’t claim to be an expert. It’s a lot like eating ‘low country boil’ but not as healthy.
Sailing tomorrow. Even while recovering from a food coma, I can sit in the cockpit and turn the wheel (like a quartermaster or helmsman if you must), keep her headed into the wind, and keep on base course while tacking and let the youngsters handle the sheets. I can also bark instructions for others to carry out. Impressive, right?
We may pass Catalina Island and keep going to Tahiti.
Keeping the Tires Rolling
Missing a Cat?
Keep your Eye on the Ball
From the Far Side