A chronicler tells us that those gathered were moved by the Emperor’s remarks: “The defenders of the city embraced each other, and through tears kissed one another, asking and giving mutual pardon; no one thought more of wife, child, or property, but only of the glorious death which all were ready to meet for the sake of the Fatherland.”. This, we are told, elicited tears from both the Emperor and his council. But just as the ground of Constantinople was “sanctified for ever by the heroic death of the last Greek Emperor,” the Hagia Sophia is forever sanctified by those who built it. If He should inspire thee with a wish for peace, I shall indeed be happy. See our About page to learn more. According to one chronicler, Constantine stood in shock when news reached him that the walls had been breached. It remained a functioning church until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 – a period that makes up well more than half of its existence. Wounded, but still ambulatory, Constantine fought until he was struck down by an Ottoman soldier. Like he had weeks before, he again asserted his resolve to defend Constantinople to the end: “My friends, if it is God’s will that our city shall fall, can we escape His wrath? The Emperor should live, because in his person are centered the hopes of his people. Articles about the life and times of the last Roman/Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI. 191 Finally, although the Eastern Roman Empire (or Byzantine, as it is most often called) had been for centuries a Greek Empire, it still traced its lineage, with a few hiccups, to the Roman Empire established by Augustus. Our first account comes from “Constantinople:  The Story of the Old Capital of the Empire,” by William Holden Hutton. You will find many articles about society and culture, music, arts and literature, history, and current affairs. “[Constantine] listened to the monotonous beating of the drums, and to the wild tumult that prevailed in the Turkish camp. As the sun set on the Roman Empire for what would be its final night, anxious citizens of the city gathered in the magnificent cathedral, the Hagia Sophia, for what would be its final night to date as a functioning Christian church. With the ascent of Mehmed II as Ottoman Sultan in February of 1451, it quickly became evident that Constantine’s declining Empire was in existential danger. However, rather than escape, Constantine prepared to go to the front lines himself: “God forbid that I should live an Emperor without an Empire! I have also provided links to the books and pages that I am using as references, so you will be able to follow along. For the account itself, we learn a bit more about how sources described Constantine’s visit. Nevertheless I release thee from all thy oaths and treaties to me, I close the gates of my city, I will defend my people to the last drop of my blood. The capture of Constantinople by Ottoman Turks is a pivotal historical moment. How many emperors, great and glorious, before me have had to suffer and die for their country! Constantine XI was the last Byzantine emperor, the last Christian ruler of what had been the Eastern Roman Empire, killed trying to defend his city against the final, successful Ottoman attack in May 1453. At a council including the Emperor on May 3, his military commanders, and other dignitaries of state and church, several senators, prelates, and the Patriarch of the church pled with Emperor Constantine to flee – hoping that by surviving he would attract volunteers to force the Sultan to withdraw. And he went out in a way that none of his predecessors had ever come close to matching. Many reckon the end of the medieval world by the fall of this last vestige of the Roman Empire. Constantine XI was the last Byzantine emperor, the last Christian ruler of what had been the Eastern Roman Empire, killed trying to defend his city against the final, successful Ottoman attack in May 1453. Constantine XI, born in either 1404 or 1405, assumed the throne on January 6, 1449. That possibility didn’t exist for the Emperor and he knew it. Constantine and the few gallant men who shared with him the burden and responsibility of the defence recognized in that spectacle the precursor to general assault. Rather than give an order to the men who remained with him, Constantine offered a choice: “Whoever wishes to escape, let him save himself if he can; and whoever is ready to face death, let him follow me!”. N.A. Welcome to The New Leaf Journal Guestbook. He undertook to fortify the city and appealed for support from Catholics in Western Europe, but it would be for naught. Shall I be the one to flee from it? Unlike Constantine the Great, who some 1100 years earlier reigned from Constantinople over an Empire that stretched from Britain to Syria, Constantine XI inherited the remnants of an Empire that did not extend far from Constantinople itself. In Constantine XI’s view, it was his duty to God and to his station to defend Constantinople with his life. Although the situation remained grave, the Emperor fought on. Because no Greeks who survived were with the Emperor in his final moments, the exact circumstances of his end are lost to the tides of time. The New Leaf Journal’s tag-line – “Where the leaves are perennially virid” – highlights the common fiber that holds our content together. Some accounts report that the Ottomans paraded the head of a man that they thought was Constantine, but it was not recognized by the inhabitants of the city. Remember that grasping the possessions of others, thou mayest thyself become the prey of others!”. He is not only remembered for being the last Byzantine Emperor who put up a brave last stand against the Ottomans, but also for his last speech to his officers and allies before the Fall of Constantinople on May 29, 1453 … Unlike the valiant last stand by Constantine XI in Constantinople which marked the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, the Roman Empire in the West did not fall after a notable battle. He was not, he had no need to be, ashamed of his tears, as he was resolved bravely to do his duty to the last.”. However, on July 10, 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan turned the hallowed Hagia Sophia cathedral back into a mosque. As the sun both literally and figuratively set on the Roman Empire on May 28, the Emperor addressed his commanders and chief citizens one final time. But it is impossible for me to go away: how could I leave the churches of our Lord, and His servants the clergy, and the throne, and my people in such a plight? When he is not working on The New Leaf Journal, he is a legal research specialist in the area of U.S. immigration law. You will find many articles about society and culture, music, arts and literature, history, and current affairs. Similarly to the Greeks, who made the final Byzantine Emperor a symbol of national resilience during their ultimately successful push for independence in the early nineteenth century, I find the story of Constantine XI’s last stand quite moving. After speaking to his men, he visited the Hagia Sophia. (Sultan Mehmed II subsequently had his head cut off, peeled off the skin, and stuffed it … By May 23, any hope of the Greeks holding on had all but been extinguished. Constantine Xi Palaiologos 1405-1453 was the final emperor of the Byzantine Empire. This is post 1 of 2 in the series “Constantine XI”. He noted that the pleas for him to escape were motivated by concerns for his personal safety rather than prospects for bettering the fate of the city (“inasmuch as all that you foresee might really happen”). Or perhaps as the legend goes, Constantine lies marbled, in splendid repose, waiting to rise again. Indeed, it is perhaps ironic that one of the greatest empires in history surrendered rather meekly without much of a struggle. Constantine XI’s reign was brief, and his dominion, even before the fall of Constantinople, was small. the last stand of the last emperor of constantinople..constantine xi. By May 28, Emperor Constantine XI was well aware that the fall of the city was likely near. After concluding his prayers, Constantine XI then proceeded in a manner suggesting that he did not expect to return to the cathedral again: “Having passed some time in prayer, he approached every prelate present in the church, asked them to pardon him if he had ever offended any of them, embraced each of them, and then went to the altar and received the Holy Communion.”. With 567 years having passed since Constantine and the Eastern half of the Roman Empire breathed their last, I thought that it would be fitting, with the aid of some older books and other resources, to make a toast to the last Emperor. First, Hutton made reference to the significance of this final night of prayers at the Hagia Sophia beyond it being Constantine’s final visit:  “For the last time the Holy Sacrifice was offered in S. Sophia…”  Then, in a line that was the focus of my earlier article on Constantine, Hutton made reference to Constantine XI’s place in the lineage of Roman Emperors, as tenuous as the links to Caesar Augustus may have been by 1453:  “[T]hen the last of the Cæsars and his nobles went forth to die.”. “If the Emperor had not arrived with fresh assistance, that same night would have been our final destruction.”   According to the same account, he had to be discouraged from going to the front lines himself. All content published on the New Leaf Journal is property of the New Leaf Journal and its editors, unless otherwise expressly stated. The Hagia Sophia, one of Christendom’s most hallowed churches, was converted into a mosque before being turned into a museum. See our About page to learn more. Had he surrendered the city or not volunteered to stand with his men at the very end, he would be remembered, if at all, as a sort of curiosity – similar to Romulus Augustulus, the child who nominally served as the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire in 476. but even then, he put up a heroic last stand and almost won. Benjamin Harrison’s Memorable July 4, 1888, Irene Triplett, last Civil War Pensioner, Dies. On May 29, 1453, the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II launched their successful final assault on Constantinople, ending a 53-day siege and demolishing the last legitimate claimant to the legacy of the Roman Empire. The city, however, was surrounded b… Emperor, Constantine made his last stand and almost won Europe, but it would survive for a years... A soldier his body was never found to complete what he was offered safety if he should thee. S most hallowed churches, was small the most successful Islamic Empire history. 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