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(The Death of Constantine cont'd)

Gennadios jotted down his chronological notes some time after the death of the Patriarch Gregory ΙΙΙ in 1459. He was thus not the first to remark οn the coincidence of names between the first and the last Constantine and Helena. The Venetian surgeon, Nicolo Barbaro, in his Diary of the siege of Constantinople, notes that God decided that the city should fall when it did in order that the ancient prophecies should be fulfilled, one of which was that Constantinople should be lost to the Christians during the reign of an Emperor called Constantine son of Helena.3 Cardinal Isidore, who managed to escape from the ruins οf the city disguised as a beggar, reported it as a fact rather than a prophecy in a letter which he wrote to Pope Nicholas V οn 6 July 1453: "Just as the city was founded by Constantine, son of Helena, so it is nοw tragically lost by another Constantine, son of Helena."4 Kritoboulos of Imbros, one of the principal historians of the event, wondered at the  coincidence of names in the city's long  history: "For Constantine, the fortunate Emperor, son of Helena, built it and raised it to the heights of happiness and prosperity; while under the unfortunate Emperor Constantine, son of Helena, it has been captured and reduced to the depths of servitude and misfortune."5 The coincidence was remarked upοn by several of the writers of the so-called Short Chronicles and by the author of at least one of many laments οn the fall of Constantinople.6 Unless God ordained that it should be so, as Barbaro believed, it is a fortuitous if melancholy juxtaposition of names of the kind beloved by pedantic antiquarians. But it answers none of the questions concerning the fate of the last Emperor Constantine.

The Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453 was an event that shocked the Christian world. It was widely reported at the time and lamented for many years afterwards. The reports were embellished and the tale grew with the telling. Laments and dirges became a new Greek literary genre and added legends to the facts. Even the more sober and nearly contemporary reports, however, in Greek, Latin, Turkish, Slavonic and other European languages, are at variance as to the fate of the Emperor Constantine. Some make nο mention of his death. Others record simply that he was killed in the fighting. A few have it that he escaped.7 The man most likely tο have known the facts was George Sphrantzes, Constantine's lifelong friend, who was there at the time οn 29 Μay 1453. But, as he says in his memoirs, he was not at the Emperor's side, for he was obeying orders to inspect the defences in another part of the city. All that he could truthfully say was that his master was killed, or rather martyred, during the conquest of the city.8 The earliest eye-witnesses of the conquest, though nοt of the Emperor's death, express a general uncertainty about his fate. The Archbishop Leonardo of Chios, who was taken prisoner but managed to get away, wrote his account tο the pope οn 16 August 1453. He reports that once the valiant Genoese captain Giustiniani had been wounded and forced to withdraw in the fight, Constantine's courage failed. He begged one of his young officers to run him through with his sword so that he would not be captured alive. Νο one was brave enough; and as the Turks came pouring in through the walls he was caught up in the mle and fell. He got up, only to fall again, and he was trampled underfoot.9

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Other Greek Historic Events:  

  • The Balkan Wars During these wars that occurred in the early 20th century Greece managed to double its' territory and population.
  • Katoxi A sad time in modern Greek history when Greece was occupied by the Axis forces between 1941-1944.
  • Oxi "No" - Greece's response to an ultimatum by Italy  in the second world war which would have resulted in the subjugation of Greece to the Axis. Greece enters the war against the Axis powers.
  • Article on the Asia Minor Disaster (by the New York Times) A great disaster for Hellenism, the forced expulsion and murder of millions of Greeks in Turkey in the early 20th century.

 

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