Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Immortal Emperor, last Emperor of Byzantium

The Immortal Emperor, who was the last Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, Constantine XI Paleologus, isbelievef to have died in battle, 29th May 1453, when the Imperial City fell to the Ottomans. However, his body was never found, creating a number of myths around his life and his death.

The last confirmed sighting of the Emperor was near the Gate of St Romanus. Constantine was fighting next to common soldiers. It is believed that he died there and then; however, what happened to his body, no one knows. After his death, it is believed that he was beheaded. Was it brought to the Sultan? Apparently he had cast off his emblems of rank before the battle, therefore his body would not be distinguishable from that of any other soldier. Even the statue, depicted here – which stands in central Athens -, has an imagined face, since no authentic picture of Constantine survives.

There are, of course, legends that Constantine did not die at all. Some mystical accounts whispered among the Greeks in the decades and centuries after the fall hold that Constantine is “sleeping,” in some sort of suspended animation in a secret chamber near the Golden Gate of the Theodosian Walls, a gate that was bricked up long before the fall. The legends go that if Byzantium rises again, Constantine XI will “wake up” and come out of his prison to rule again. Many songs and traditions in Modern Greece refer to the immortal Emperor, awaiting his awakening, to create, a new, the Byzantine Empire. 

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