Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/106

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victors overrated the importance of their achievement; they fancied that the Turk was almost crushed and that but little was wanting to drive him from Europe. It could be done, wrote Hunyady in a letter to the Pope, "if Christendom were to rise up against him." But there was no chance of such a rising, and in a few days Christendom lost her ablest champion, Hunyady himself (August, 1456). Hungary, crippled by domestic feuds, without a leader in whom men trusted, receiving no support from Germany in consequence of the hatred between King Wladislav and the Emperor, could not follow up her victory. Presently Wladislav died and Hunyady's son, Matthias Corvinus, a lad of sixteen years, came to the throne (January, 1458).

Meanwhile Mohammad was taking measures for the subjection of Servia. He was helped by its domestic circumstances. After a struggle for the succession to the crown, the government devolved upon a woman, Helena, the widow of the despot George's youngest son; and she took the strange impolitic step of placing the country under the protection and overlordship of Pope Calixtus, who had vowed his energies to the abolition of the Turk. But this act alienated the boyars, who liked the interference of the Catholic no better, or even less, than the rule of the infidel. In 1457 Mahmud Pasha (Beglerbeg, or Governor, of Rumelia) had overcome all Servia; in 1458 Mohammad came himself, captured Semendra by treachery, and received the voluntary submission of many of the boyars. It is said that 200,000 inhabitants were carried from the land, whether to be trained for military service, or to be settled in other parts of the empire.

On the death of Hunyady only a single great warrior was left to fight for the cause of Christendom—"standing almost alone, like a strong wall," said Pope Calixtus;—but it was as much as his strength could compass to defend his own land. This was George Castriotes, the Albanian, whom we are accustomed to designate as Scanderbeg,—a name which always reminds us that he had been brought up in the faith of Islam and held high office under Murad II, before he returned to his own religion and his own people. Beneath the supremacy of his masterful and daring spirit, the Albanian folk, which in the regions of northern Epirus preserved the old Illyrian language, was raised into transient greatness. For a brief space, an united Albanian nation lifted up its voice amid the roar of the world's tide, and admiring Europe applauded. In the warfare on the Illyrian hillsides, Scanderbeg was almost invariably successful; and a defeat which he suffered at the Albanese fortress of Belgrade, through an indiscreet concession (1456), was avenged in the following year by a great victory over Mohammad's able general Hamsa, who was himself taken prisoner. Mohammad was glad to make a truce for a year, and Scanderbeg was persuaded to cross over, a second "Alexander" of Epirus, to Apulia, to help the Spaniard Ferdinand of Naples to drive out the French (1461). On the Albanian chief's return, new discomfitures forced Mohammad, intent on more pressing enterprises, to seek a