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(The Death of Constantine cont'd)

The Venetian Nicolo Barbaro, who also escaped, wrote in his Diary that nobody really knew whether the Emperor was alive or dead. Some said that his body had been seen among the corpses and it was rumoured that he had hanged himself at the moment when the Turks broke through the Gate of St Romanos. A marginal note in the text of Barbaro's Diary repeats the statement of Leonardo, that Constantine begged in vain to be put to the sword. He then fell in the crush, rose again, fell once more, and so died.10  Cardinal  Isidore  wrote  from  Crete  to  his colleague Bessarion οn 6 July 1453 and reported that Constantine had been wounded and killed fighting at the Gate of St Romanos before the final battle. But he added a new detail to the story: he had heard that the Emperor's head had been severed and presented as a gift to the Sultan, who was delighted to see it, subjected it to insults and injuries and carried it off in triumph as a trophy when he went back to Adrianople. This gruesome detail was evidently circulated among western survivors of the fall from an early date. It was tο be taken up and elaborated by the Byzantine historians Doukas and Chalkokondyles in later years. A Florentine merchant called Jacopo Tedaldi, who had taken part in the defence of the city and escaped οn a Venetian ship just after the conquest, reported the sad fact that the Emperor had been killed and added: "Some say that his head was cut off; others that he perished in the crush at the gate. Both stories may well be true." Ιn the letter that he wrote to Pope Nicholas V οn the same day as his letter to Bessarion, Cardinal Isidore says nothing of the Emperor's execution, noting οnly that the soul of Constantine, the last of the Roman Emperors, had been crowned with unexpected martyrdom and had gone to heaven. Perhaps Isidore too was uncertain of the truth.11

The uncertainty is reflected in other contemporary accounts. One who was in Constantinople at the time was Benvenuto, Consul of the Anconitans in the city. He had heard from a soldier that the Emperor had been killed and that his severed head, fixed οn a lance, had been presented to the Lord of the Turks. The Franciscans in Constaιitinople, writing to Bologna about the end of November, reported simply that the Emperor was among the dead.12 So also did the Knights of St John at Rhodes, in a letter to the Margrave of Brandenburg at Jerusalem written οn 30 June; and a pilgrim from Basle in 1453 heard the news of the conquest of Constantinople and the death of the Emperor while he was οn his voyage. A lawyer from Padua, Paοlο Dotti, writing from Crete in June, reported the same sad news.13 An account by two Greek noblemen who had been in Constantinople at the time and written not long after the event has been preserved in a German version. They reported that, when Giustiniani was wounded and left his post, the Emperor cried οut to God that he had been betrayed and he was killed in the crowd.14 The Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, however, wrote to the Prior of his Order in Germany as early as 6 July 1453, reporting the rumour that the Emperor's body, discovered among the heaps of corpses, had been decapitated.15

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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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