Constantine XI Dragasēs Palaiologos (8 February 1405 – 29 May 1453) was the last reigning monarch of the Byzantine Empire (and, as such, of the Roman Empire). He ruled from 1449 until his death in battle during the fall of Constantinople. As his body was never definitively identified or recovered, he became a legendary figure in Greek folklore as the "Marble Emperor" who would awaken and recover the Empire and Constantinople from the Turks.
Constantine XI Palaiologos in "The Emperor's Return"[edit | edit source]
On 29 May 1453, Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos entered the Hagia Sophia as the Ottoman Empire overran Constantinople. After informing a priest that he would not flee, Constantine asked for a miracle: that God would let him see the city in Christian hands again.
With that, a mantle of flame bathed the emperor, and he sank into the marble floor before the eyes of the startled priest. Constantinople fell shortly after, and Constantine's body was never found.
A legend grew amongst the Greek descendants of the Byzantine Empire: that one day, Constantine would return, at a time when the city was again in Christian hands. That day came on 10 June 2003. After Socialist Greece allied itself with the Soviet Union in a war against Turkey, Greek forces retook Istanbul.
Four soldiers, Sgt. Yannis Pappas, Taso Kiapos, George Nikolaidis, and Spero, entered the Hagia Sofia after most of the city was in Greek hands. The devout Nikolaidis began praying. Moments later, Constantine emerged from the floor in a flash of light. Constantine quickly identified himself (prompting Spero to run from the Hagia Sophia), and learned the identities of the soldiers. Upon learning he'd slumbered for 550 years, he announced his intention to begin his rule again. Nikolaidis, a devout Orthodox Christian, immediately pledged his allegiance to the emperor. Pappas, recognizing the danger Constantine presented to the stability of Greece, resolved to kill him. Kiapos sided with Pappas.
As Constantine prepared to leave the Hagia Sophia, Pappas ordered him to halt. Pappas informed Constantine that Greece had outgrown such rulers, and that miracles were too much trouble. When Nikolaidis tried to shoot Pappas, Kiapos instead gunned Nikolaidis down. Constantine was horrified that Pappas had murdered his comrade; Pappas informed Constantine that Nikolaidis had not been part of his faction. Constantine, angrily remembering the factionalization that had plagued Greece in his time, and refusing to believe that God would abandon him now, attacked with his sword, and was immediately shot dead by Pappas.
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