Manuel Palaiologos Database Image

Born the year of Constantinople's fall to the Ottomans, Manuel Palaiologos - nephew of the fallen Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI - did not visit the city that might have been his until much later in life. As a boy, he was heavily influenced by the tales of his family's tragic fall from power and, with his brother Andreas, fostered early hopes of somehow reclaiming that glory. But this brotherly pact also fell to ruin. Andreas, a friend of Rodrigo Borgia and acquaintance of the Ottoman Sultan's brother, Cem (living under house arrest in Italy), advocated a militaristic approach against the Ottomans, to be led and commanded by the Templars. Manuel, on the other hand, preferred a subtler approach - less flashy but more likely to succeed.

At some point after 1485, Manuel moved to Constantinople and immediately made his presence known to the Sultan, selling the rights of his throne to Bayezid II for a healthy pension. He then joined the Ottoman navy and converted to Islam. Thus, on the surface, he appeared the very model of a modern Ottoman - learned, curious, and proud of his adopted country. Andreas was, of course, furious at his brother, believing him to be a traitor. But of the two men, Manuel's scheme proved more viable ... at least on the surface. By the late 1490s, Rodrigo's interest in helping the Palaiologi retake Constantinople had evaporated, and Andreas had fallen deep into poverty, eventually dying alone and penniless in the gutters of Rome, sometime around 1502.

But Manuel flourished. He grew fat and satisfied off his pension and the income pouring in from various other dubious concerns. By the time he was in his late 50s, he was one of the wealthiest people in the city. So did his wealth and success temper his plans for world domination? I'm going to guess No. And was he still bitter about the Ottoman occupation of his city? Most likely. Yes.

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