In the late evening of March 29, 1432, Murad II, sultan of the Ottoman Turks, awaited the imminent birth of his child to one of his harem wives. According to tradition, Murad was reading the verses of the Koran promising victory against the unbeliever when he was told that he had a son. The son would become known as Mehmet the Conqueror.
Twenty-one years later, early in April 1453, the middle-aged Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI joined his soldiers on the walls of Constantinople. Curly haired, bearded, and lean of face, Constantine looked through eyes that had seen plenty of battles and bloodshed. They would see more, for below, only 250 yards away, sprawled the gigantic camp of the enemy. Behind a ditch and rampart, a sea of conical tents sheltered 200,000 soldiers, servants, and followers. Sultan Mehmet II, the son of Murad, had come to claim the ultimate prize in the 800-year-old war between Islam and Christendom. That prize was Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, which was commonly known as the Red Apple to the Turks.