ON THIS DAY, May 29th, in the year 1453 the last Roman Emperor, a remarkable man who ruled under the name Constantine XI (born Constantine Palaiologos) died and with him what was left of the Roman Empire – which at this late date was reduced to the capital city of Constantinople with some minor appendages – was finally extinguished.
Constantine was killed leading troops into battle against a vastly larger Ottoman army led by Mehmed the Conqueror. Mehmed had finally succeeded in piercing Constantinople’s Theodosian Walls after a lengthy siege and years of preparation with the aid of modern artillery. It would be the first time these otherworldly walls were so breached (but for the brief Latin incursion) in their 1,100 year history). Unwilling to live in a world in which Rome had ceased to exist, the noble-hearted Emperor stripped the Imperial insignia from his armor so that he would not receive special treatment and plunged headlong into the melee. His body was never found, and he lives on in legend as the “Marble Emperor” who will one day return to his capital to rescue his subjects and to reestablish the Empire.
Rome was founded in 753 BC by refugees from Troy (according to the myths the Romans told themselves) in a swamp beside the Tiber River. There it had been ruled by foreign (Etruscan) kings until 509BC whereupon it chose self-rule as a republic until a young man named Octavian changed his name to Augustus and succeeded where his uncle Julius Gaius Caesar had failed in 27BC, ending the Republic and ushering in the birth of the Principate, lead by the Imperator. In 330CE Constantine I formally moved the capital from Rome to “Nova Roma”, known as Constantinople among its denizens.
One thousand four hundred and eighty years later both the Principate and the nation of Rome herself died there on the banks of the Bosporus, on May 29th 1453, scant years before Christopher Columbus ‘sailed the ocean blue.’
Tell me if that does not spark the imagination?