Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Last Byzantine Emperor

 From The Greek Reporter:

Constantine XI Palaiologos was born on February 8, 1405, the eighth of ten children of Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos and his wife Elena Dragases, daughter of the Serbian ruler Konstantin Dejanovic. Little is known about Constantine’s life before his rise to the throne of Byzantium. He was a skilled general and he and his brothers commanded the Despotate of Mystras, in Moreas, today’s Peloponnese. In 1427–1428, Constantine and his brother Ioannis fended off an attack on the Moreas by Carlo II Tocco, the ruler of Epirus, and in 1428 Constantine was proclaimed as Despot of the Moreas, to rule the province together with his older brother Theodore and his younger brother Thomas. Together, the Palaiologos brothers extended Byzantine rule to cover almost the entire Peloponnesian peninsula for the first time since the Fourth Crusade, more than two hundred years prior.

They rebuilt the ancient Hexamilion wall, which defended the peninsula from outside attacks, and in 1444-1446, Constantine personally led a campaign into Central Greece and Thessaly in an effort to extend Byzantine rule further into Greece. The Byzantine Empire was in decline when Constantine was proclaimed emperor on  January 6, 1449, after the death of his brother Ioannis. It was a time when the Ottomans were on the rise, taking over land that had been under Byzantine rule.

Constantine made an effort to unite the Orthodox Church with the Catholic Church in the hope that the Catholics would provide military aid to stop the advance of the Ottomans. But this stratagem was sadly to no avail. Four years after assuming power in Byzantium, Constantine Palaiologos was called upon to counter the third siege of Constantinople by the Ottomans — a siege that began on April 15, 1453 and ended in the Fall of the city on May 29 of the same year. (Read more.)


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