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Konstantin Zapatos (Yarmuk)

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Konstantin Zapatos was the Imperial Seamaster to Emperor Michael XI. Born in 1395 in the Crimean town of Kaffa - a Genoese overseas territory defended by Byzantium - he emigrated to the province of Bithynia in search of work. Being a natural sailor, he joined the Byzantine Aegean fleet in 1412. By 1420 he was an officer, commanding over a dozen vessels. After settling a dispute between the Venetians on Crete and the Governor of Egypt, he was promoted to Admiral of the Aegean Fleet in 1425. In 1428, the Emperor gave him a special commission - to take a crack force of Byzantine troops to explore the Western Seas. He discovered a coastline in 1428, but wasted fruitless time and manpower attempting to wrest it from the natives. An easier task presented itself in the form of the Caribbean, where Konstantin discovered the island we know as Cuba. Easily taking this and its surrounding islands from the docile natives, the Caribs, in 1431, he named it New Crete, the centre of government for his Caribbean hegemony. In 1432, he returned to Constantinople, but caught a fever on the return voyage. His slow recovery crippled his enterprising nature, and he died in 1440, surrounded by his family, in his home town of Kaffa.

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