1492 (aged 63)
Konstantinos Graitzas Palaiologos (1429 - 1492) was an ally of the Assassin Order, a distant relative of the Byzantine imperial family, a Byzantine general and commander of Salmeniko Castle's garrison, and later a Venetian general and governor of Durazzo.
Graitzas was born somewhere in the Despotate of Morea, one of the last holdings of the Byzantine Empire, in 1429. He was a distant relative of the main Palaiologos family, who were the last Byzantine imperial family. He met several of his distant relatives, and enjoyed close friendships with his distant relations, the Emperors John VIII and Constantine XI Palaiologos.
When he came of age, he quickly proved his skill as a soldier and a military commander. Accordingly, in 1450 Constantine XI assigned him as commander of the garrison at Salmeniko Castle in the Despotate of Morea, a position he would keep for 11 years.
It was on one of his visits to Constantinople to see Constantine XI that Graitzas became acquainted with the Assassins and their ideals, the Order being allies of Constantine. Graitzas was intrigued by the Assassin philosophy and would subsequently ally with them.
In 1453, the Ottomans besieged Constantinople, and Graitzas fought alongside Constantine and Nikephoros Elenikaetos, the Mentor of the Assassins. Despite their best efforts at repelling the Ottomans however, Constantine, the last Byzantine Emperor, died, the city fell, and the Empire with it, and Graitzas returned to Salmeniko, and unwillingly entered the service of the Despots of Morea, Constantine's less capable Templar brothers, Thomas and Demetrios Palaiologos.
Between 1453 and 1460, Graitzas worked closely with the Assassins - particularly Nikephoros and his second-in-command, Loukas Notaras - to depose his incapable relatives so that he could become the Despot instead. The Assassins made a series of failed assassination attempts on the despots between 1453 and 1459.
Graitzas, Loukas and Nikephoros eventually made a deal with the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmet II in 1460 - Thomas and Demetrios would be forced out of the Despotate by the Sultan, and given that they had offended him numerous times already, he would either imprison them or execute them, and in return, Graitzas would be allowed to take over as Despot without any further attacks on his territory by the Ottomans.
Later in the same year, the Ottomans did indeed force the despots out of the Despotate, but although Demetrios surrendered and became an honorary captive in the Sultan's palace in Adrianople, Thomas was allowed to escape to Corfu with his family, and the Ottomans did not allow Graitzas to take over as Despot, instead conquering the Despotate for themselves. The Ottomans besieged Salmeniko, effectively trapping Graitzas and his men.
The timely arrival of the Assassins broke the siege, but within a year, it had resumed. Graitzas continued to collaborate with Nikephoros and Loukas to fight back against the Ottomans, and also attempted to acquire the help of the Empire of Trebizond, the last Byzantine successor state.
However, in July 1461, once news reached him of the impending Ottoman siege upon Trebizond and therefore impending doom of the Empire, Graitzas abandoned his ambitions of becoming Despot, as the Empire he had served was defunct, and seizing the Despotate was beyond his grasp now. He surrendered Salmeniko to Sultan Mehmet himself, on the condition that his men and his Assassin allies be allowed to leave freely. While the Sultan himself agreed to this, his subordinates violated the terms of the agreement, arresting the first men to leave and resuming the siege. Nikephoros and Graitzas were therefore forced to lead a sortie to escape.
Graitzas' forces and the Assassins sought refuge in the Venetian fortress of Lepanto, and Nikephoros attempted one last time to persuade Graitzas to retake the Despotate, maybe even re-establish the Byzantine Empire in time, but Graitzas again refused.
While the Assassins fractured, with some returning to Constantinople to re-establish an Assassin presence there, and some immigrating to Italy, Graitzas and his men stayed together, and accepted a commission from the Venetians.
Graitzas became a general for the Republic of Venice, and would occasionally meet Nikephoros and Loukas over the next 30 years, as both relocated to Venice due to it's sizable Byzantine expatriate community.
Upon the outbreak of the first Ottoman-Venetian war in 1463, Graitzas returned once more to Morea, now an Ottoman province. He spearheaded the Venetian campaign there, spurred on by new promises of becoming the Despot from the Venetians. However, despite his excellent service, and hardest efforts, the campaign in Morea went disastrously due to the failings of the other generals and the outbreak of disease among the troops. Graitzas was injured in 1465 and forced to withdraw from the field.
Governor of Durazzo
Nonetheless, the Doge recognized Graitzas' exemplary work in Morea, and made him governor of Durazzo, modern Durrës in Albania in late 1465.
Due to the ongoing Ottoman-Venetian war, the Ottomans besieged Durazzo in 1466, but Graitzas fended them off, as a result, the Venetians would continue to hold Durazzo for another 35 years.
Initially, Graitzas spent little time in Durazzo, as once his wound had healed, he returned to continue to serve in the war shortly after breaking the siege on Durazzo. This would persist until the conclusion of the war in 1479.
Despite his advancing age, Graitzas did not retire from the Venetian army, but a long period of peace in the Republic meant that for the rest of his life, he would not be regularly called out for duty.
Later years and death
With being called to arms becoming an irregular event, Graitzas was given the opportunity to focus on governing. He kept good order in Durazzo, strengthening the guard militia almost tenfold without choking the city with a military presence. He also severely reduced poverty and disease in his city. Ever practical, he would more often opt to build a new hospital, art gallery, orphanage or library than a new church. He would also be visited on occasion by Nikephoros and Loukas.
He continued to serve as the city's governor until he died of natural causes in 1492.