Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Constantine XI Paleologus (Last Eastern Emperor) (1405-1453)

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"Elate na thn paretai (come and take her). - Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI Paleologus to the Turkish Sultan Mehmet II upon his demand to surrender Constantinople.


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Constantine XI Paleologoi (Constantine XIII or Constantine Drageses) the last reigning emperor (r.1448-1453) of the Byzantine Empire born Feb. 9, 1409 and died May 29, 1453. Constantine was the eighth of ten children of Manuel II and Irene. He spent most of his childhood in Constantinople under the supervision of his parents. Constantine became the despot of Peloponnesus in the years after his father's death in 1425 and lived at the palace in Mistra. He married twice, with both spouses dying. When his brother Emperor John VIII died, a dispute erupted between him and his brother Demetrius over the throne. They appealed to the Ottoman sultan Murad II to arbitrate the disagreement. He chose Constantine, who was crowned in Mistra on Jan 6, 1448. He attempted to marry a distant cousin, the widow of Murad II, but the courtship failed.

Soon afterwards, Sultan Mohammed II began agitating for ownership of Constantinople. Desperate for any type of military assistance, Constantine appealed to the West, but he was refused help unless he united the Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church, which was a policy pursued by his predecessors. He declared the churches united in 1452, but the union was overwhelmingly rejected by his subjects and it dangerously estranged him from his chief minister and military commander Grand Duke Lucas Notaras. Mohammed II offered Constantine the chance to rule unmolested in Mistra before the siege of Constantinople, but he refused, preferring to fight and die defending his Empire. His wish would come true, as he was killed while defending the walls of Constantinople on May 29, 1453. His head was severed and displayed for days on a pike before he was buried with full honors in the city. Some Orthodox Christians consider him a saint but he has not been officially recognized as such. [This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Constantine XI.]

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