Danger from the Great Debt and the Great Turk, 1453–1480
Lastic sent envoys to Mehmet at the same time he appealed to the west for aid to ght the Ottoman leader.5 On 21 January 1454, Lastic informed the western priories that his envoy, the Turcopolier William Daunay, discovered that the other rulers in the region, including the Christian king of Cyprus, had also sent envoys to Mehmet. Daunay reported that the other Christian powers oered Mehmet tribute, but the Hospitallers refused to pay Mehmet’s demand for an annual tribute of 2,000 ducats. Lastic concluded that Mehmet would attack Rhodes next because of its physical proximity to Turkey as well as the deant stance the Knights had taken against Ottoman expansion.6 By February, Lastic addressed a letter to all of Christendom, requesting aid to defend against an anticipated attack on Rhodes.7 Lastic, however, did not inform his European correspondents that he had also sent an ambassador to the Mamluk sultan in Syria, with whom the Order would make a treaty in March, 1455.8
Lastic’s requests for assistance assured his readers that the central convent was doing everything possible to prepare Rhodes for attack, up to and including improvements to the fortications. Similar assurances, supported by appropriations for building works, appeared in subsequent magisterial bulls. is contradicts Giacomo Bosio’s conclusion, drawn from Caoursin, that when Pierre d’Aubusson became master in 1476, he found the walls and the towers of Rhodes old and in ruins. If this was true, all of d’Aubusson’s
Caoursin’s Descriptio omitted any discussion of improvements to the Rhodian fortications between 1453 and 1480. Instead, he described the faulty intelligence Mehmet received about the fortications of Rhodes from several sources. Anthony Meligalo, a Rhodian who defected to the Turks, passed on out-of-date information claiming that the walls of the island settlement were in a ruinous condition. Demetrius Sophiana, an Ottoman ambassador to Rhodes in 1479, corroborated Meligalo’s description of the city’s fortications. Master George, a German engineer who worked for Mehmet, drew a sketch of the fortications based on observations he had made twenty years before. Mehmet selected Master George’s outdated plan, which omitted such magisterial improvements as the fosse, the tower of St. Nicholas, the tower of St. Peter, and the expansion of the fortied space inside and outside the walls. Bosio’s statement does no justice either to previous masters or to d’Aubusson himself. D’Aubusson played an important role in fortifying the city, but previous masters of the Order had not neglected the task.