Constantine XI Palaiologos
- Byzantium's last emperor (q.v.) (1449-1453), who died when the Ottomans captured Constantinople (qq.v.) on 29 May 1453. He was a man of energy and integrity who did what he could to stave off the Ottomans. Previous to his coronation at Mistra (q.v.) in 1449, he ruled the Morea as despot (qq.v.), with his brothers Theodore II and Thomas Palaiologos (qq.v.). He rebuilt the Hexamilion (q.v.) in 1444, which the Ottomans had destroyed in 1423. He then seized Athens and Thebes (qq.v.). These actions provoked a response from Sultan Murad II (q.v.), who invaded the Morea in 1446, making Constantine XI his tributary. Once emperor, Constantine XI had no choice but to beg the western powers for military aid. Knowing that the prerequisite for this was the union of the churches (q.v.), on 12 December 1452, in Hagia Sophia (q.v.), the Roman mass was celebrated and the previously rejected decrees of the Council of Ferrara-Florence (q.v.) were reaffirmed, though not in any way implemented due to popular hostility. The western powers were too divided to offer serious help and Mehmed II (q.v.) captured Constantinople after a siege of six weeks. Constantine XI was last seen fighting near the Gate of St. Romanos, where the battle was most intense, having discarded his imperial insignia so that his body might not be identified and made an Ottoman trophy.
Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . John H. Rosser .
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