Rise of Empires: A must watch on Netflix

One of the cardinal things that helps an individual fathom himself and the world around him is the knowledge of history
"It teaches us how manifestations can become a reality even if there isn’t any real ray of hope available."
"It teaches us how manifestations can become a reality even if there isn’t any real ray of hope available." Netflix

Dr. Shashi Tharoor once said, ‘if you don’t know where you have come from, how will you appreciate where you are going?’. Aren’t these words enough to provoke us to dig into our past in order for us to carve out our future trajectory? As a matter of fact, the general populace is never interested in anything serious.

All they care about is their bread and butter. Nothing wrong with that. I am not being caustic. Nor do I have the right or authority to judge anyone except myself. But this is a part of our entity as humans only not something whose yoke we need to hang around our necks till we reach the death-bed.

Iqbal (R.A) in one of his poems said, the English translation of which goes like this, “I have cut myself aloof from this value of dust where bread and butter constitute man’s major quest.” In pursuit of this, we risk losing many important things in life.

We live our life with no ingenuity. We live a life that is full of trepidation and cut-throat competition, just to reach somewhere where we would feel satiated and completed. In short, we tread a path of emulative rat racing to reach a point where ultimately we could drink the wine of ecstasy and joviality. It’s very much achievable. But is achieved only once in a blue moon.

One of the cardinal things that helps an individual fathom himself and the world around him is the knowledge of history. Without knowing history, we are highly susceptible to making errors which at times become unatonable.

We are mainly poised to learn two things from history- what was done? And the other is what can be done? With regards to why was it done; People have their views as to why were things done the way they were.

As the famous saying goes, “History is open to interpretations”. Let’s keep that part for those who hold authority on the subject. What more do we get by learning history? We get a lot.

The first thing we get to know about is, who we are? The second thing we get is confrontation with other people’s bad experiences which eventually helps us choose our future paths more wisely and thoughtfully.

The next thing we get to know about is characters. Both virtuous and vice. Juxtaposition of such characters enflames an urge in us to reach an apogee where even after our demise, our names are considered indelible and immortal like Sultan Mehmed Fatih’s.

The Netflix docudrama Rise of Empires is truly a spellbinding series especially for history enthusiasts. It has two seasons each has six episodes.

The first season concentrates on portraying how a twenty-one-year-old sultan gets obsessed about conquering the city of Constantinople. Apart from the other details, the first season delivers a very lucid and immaculate message to the audience.

It teaches us about the power of obstinacy when it’s founded on strong convictions. It teaches us how manifestations can become a reality even if there isn’t any real ray of hope available.

Twenty-three armies including that of Sultan Murad’s tried to conquer the city of Constantinople, before Sultan Mehmed Fatih, but failed through and through.

Technology and military might did certainly play its part in the conquest of Constantinople, nevertheless, it was Sultan Mehmed II’s obsession and obduracy that actually yielded the desired results.

That said, it wasn’t easy for the Sultan too, then. He suffered many hiccups during the battle at the hands of an Italian pirate proficient in defensive warfare. Giovanni Giustiniani rendered every attack of the Sultan ineffective and outfoxed the march of the Ottomans with zero causality from his side.

He smashed and obliterated many Ottoman military units, initially. Seeing many units of the Ottoman army collapse, the Sultan was admonished by many to consider withdrawal.

They were nearly successful in winning the young Sultan desperate to conquer the city over but the Sultan’s stepmother helped the young Sultan sustain the flow of his desire by advising him not to retreat.

At long last, the Sultan decided to inflict one last major military blow to the Roman Empire by launching an attack near the gates of St Romanus which had substantially been faltered by the mammoth Ottoman cannons. This proves sorely advantageous.

Unable to defend the city from this side, the Ottomans are finally through the big walls of Constantinople. This event marked the end of 1100-year-old Roman Empire like it never existed. Just at the age of 21 Sultan Mehmed II was given the title Fatih, an appreciation for his momentous achievement. An achievement that would make his name indelible till the world meets its end.

The second season showcases the skirmish and battle between the Wallachian Prince Vlad Dracula and the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed Fatih that started eight years after the conquest of Constantinople. This season is driven with vengeance that Vlad Dracula is eager to achieve.

Being handed over to the Ottomans along with his brother Radu in their childhood as a surety that their father wouldn’t join the Hungarians against the Ottomans, Vlad Dracula gets extremely incensed both with his own father and the Ottomans for turning him and his brother into scapegoats.

Sultan Murad II made it copiously clear to the father of Vlad Dracula that should he betray the Ottomans by joining the Hungarians, both of his children would be executed. Later the father of Vlad Dracula is found to have betrayed the Ottomans by joining forces with the Hungarians.

The result should have been the instant execution of Vlad and his brother. But it didn’t happen. Sultan Murad II didn’t execute Vlad and his brother. We can call this decision of Sultan Murad’s as a cunning political maneuvering or attribute it to his innate merciful demeanor.

Whatever you opt for. Hardly matters. As the time glided away and the boys grew up, the Ottomans released the two boys and proposed to send them to Wallachia to fight for the throne. But Vlad’s younger brother Radu declined the offer and expressed his desire to stay back.

The thirst for vengeance and unstinted hatred against the Ottomans were further solidified, proliferated and intensified by this in Vlad Dracula. Vlad held the Ottomans in general and Mehmed in particular responsible for convincing his younger brother to stay back.

There is dissonance among the historians with regards to Radu staying back. Some are of the opinion that he chose to stay back willingly because he liked the Ottoman way of doing thing. Some say he was held back as a surety so that Vlad Dracula doesn’t embark on endeavors (after he ascends the throne) that would impact the Ottoman interests negatively.

At the end of the season, Vlad Dracula flees the Wallachian capital Targoviste. And Vlad’s younger brother Radu becomes the new ruler of Wallachia. Vlad’s disappearance makes Sultan Mehmed Fatih restless and worried because Vlad alive posed a huge threat to both Mehmed and his childhood friend who later became his advisor and now ruled Wallachia, Radu. But the apprehensions of Mehmed and Radu are finally laid to rest when Vlad Dracula is found dead in 1477.

(Author is a final year law student at JMI, New Delhi)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.  

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