With good intentions: how the fourth crusade turned into the plunder of Constantinople

Venice’s insidious revenue took advantage of both the financial weakness of the knights and their military force

With good intentions: how the fourth crusade turned into the plunder of Constantinople

The choice of the goal

The beginning of the campaign was transferred many times due to lack of money. In order to get to Egypt, the crusaders needed ships. The most powerful fleet in the Mediterranean was in Venice. Therefore, the leaders of the crusaders turned to the Republic of St. Mark, and the Venetians promised to help with the delivery of the army to Egypt. For this they were supposed to be 85 thousand marks, the term of payment expired in June 1202. But collecting this amount did not work out in any way.

Crusader detachments began to arrive in Venice only in May 1202. They were placed on the island of Lido, away from the city. At first, the Venetians regularly supplied the crusaders with all the necessary. But when a month later it turned out that only half of the agreed amount was paid, Enriko Dandolo, the rain of the Venetian Republic, forbade the supply of food to Lido until the whole debt was returned, and refused to provide vessels for transportation to Egypt. Among the warriors of Christ, the decomposition began: someone just escaped, someone took up robbery and robbery. The fate of the campaign hung in the balance.

This continued until mid -August 1202, when Boniface Montferratsky, who headed the crusaders’ army, and the Dazho Rain of Danko found a compromise. Dandolo forgave the debt, provided that the crusaders will help him take the city of Zadar (today – in Croatia). This favorably located settlement on the Adriatic coast of the Balkan Peninsula has long been the subject of lusts of Venice. But just shortly before the events described, in 1186, Zadar passed under the auspices of Hungary.

With good intentions: how the fourth crusade turned into the plunder of Constantinople

Not all crusaders pleased the achieved agreement. Some of them, according to a contemporary, “considered it completely unworthy and unreasonable for Christians, so that the soldiers of the Cross of Christ would fall on Christians by murder, robberies and fires, which usually happens when conquering cities”. Moreover, the king of Hungary Imre, he himself took the crusader vow. Some of the pilgrim even returned to their homeland, but the majority agreed.

November 24, 1202 after the stubborn resistance, the darling was taken. This was followed by the usual horrors of the assault. Pope Innocent III sharply reacted to atrocities. “We are exhorting you,” he wrote to the crusaders, “and ask you not to ruin anymore. Otherwise, you are subject to excommunication from the church without the right to be repaid “. The city, however, remained in the Venetian possession, and the further path was appointed in the spring of 1203.

A new change in direction

At this time, bloody events took place in Byzantium. In the Greek Empire (as it was called in the West), the sovereign of the sovereign (in Greek-Vasilevs) was considered sacred, but not the person himself, who was worn. Any Emperor relied on the legitimate (and sacred) if he was anointed by the kingdom of the Patriarch and Ventchans in the Cathedral of St. Sophia.

There were no strict rules of the thr1. Of the 109 people who occupied the throne from 395 to 1453, only 34 died their death, being in the imperial dignity. The rest were either killed or forced to renounce and cut their hair in the monks. Often the renunciation was accompanied by blinding.

In 1195, Emperor Isaac II Angel was deposed by his brother Alexei III he was tonsured in monks and blinded him. His son, Tsarevich Alexei, was captured and imprisoned. However, he managed to flee to Germany, to Philip Schwabsky, who was married to the daughter of Isaac and sister Alexei Irina.

In January 1203, the ambassadors of Philip and Tsarevich arrived in Zadar (Alexei himself appeared there later), and the German king said to the crusaders: “Seniora! I send my wife’s brother to you and hand him in the hands of God and your. You are going to protect the right and restore justice, you have to return the Constantinople throne to the one whom he was taken with a violation of the truth. As a reward for this case, the prince will conclude with you such a convention that the empire has never concluded with anyone, and, in addition, will provide the most powerful assistance to the conquest of the Holy Land. If God helps you put him on the throne, He will subordinate the Catholic Church a Greek empire. He will reward you for losses and correct your impoverished funds, giving you one at a time of 200 thousand brands of silver, and provide food for the whole army ”.

Tsarevich Alexei solemnly confirmed his consent. An agreement was concluded between Venice and the crusaders on the support of Alexei on the indicated conditions.

With good intentions: how the fourth crusade turned into the plunder of Constantinople

However, other of the warriors, according to an eyewitness, said that “they would never agree;What would this mean to oppose Christians and that they went on a hike not for this, but wanted to go to Syria ”or to the Holy Land. Many left the army. Dad also tried to cool the ardor of the crusaders. He wrote to them: “Give all forces only to the work of the liberation of the Holy Land and revenge for insulting the crucified;If you need land, prey, take them from Saracens, your true enemies. Going to the Greek Empire, you risk robbing your brothers. “.

However, the Mark of St. Mark, in addition to political and economic reasons, had its own scores with the Byzantine empire. Enriko Dandolo in 1171 was a messenger of Venice in Constantinople. And in Byzantium there was a custom of blinding subjects of other states, even diplomatic representatives, if this state came into conflict with the Greek empire. In March 1171, Vasilevs Manuel I Komnin ordered to suddenly arrest all the citizens of Venice in the Empire and confiscate their property. Then Enriko Dandolo and lost vision.

The leader of the crusaders of the Montferratic boniface. Firstly, Boniface was a longtime ally of the House of Gaugenshtaufenov, to which Philip Schwabsky belonged. Secondly, Brother Boniface Rene married in 1180 at Mary, daughter Manuel Komnin, who, as a dowry, brought her husband the city of Thessaloniki. During the political struggle in 1183, the newlyweds were killed, and Boniface claimed the Thessaloniki by the right of inheritance.

Change of power in Byzantium

So, on June 23, 1203, the Krestonotsev fleet was on the Constantinople raid. The warriors of Christ, according to various estimates, were from 10-12 to 30 thousand. Emperor Alexei III had about 70 thousand troops.

However, the fighting spirit of the Byzantine warriors was low, and the organization left much to be desired. Corruption and embezzlement reigned in the state. According to the Byzantine historian and contemporary of the events, Nikita Honiat, the commander of the Byzantine fleet, Mikhail Retrin, a relative of Vasilevs, “had to turn into gold not only rudders and anchors, but even sails and oars and deprived the Greek fleet of large ships”.

On July 5, 1203, Galey Venetians broke into the Golden Horn Bay. Crusaders presented Vasilevs with a demand to immediately renounce the thr1. He refused, but did not take any measures. The reserves of the Byzantines thrown into battle turned to flight without entering the battle. Upon learning of this, Alexei III fled from Constantinople, throwing his wife and three daughters, but, not forgetting to take state values with him.

The fall of Constantinople

July 18, 1203, the blind Isaac II Angel was restored on the thr1. At the request of the crusaders on August 1, Alexei Vevyan on the kingdom under the name of Alexei IV. It’s time to pay bills. But there was no money in the treasury. Attempts to increase taxes only aroused hatred among the population.

Isaac, who completely eliminated the management of management and spent time with starships, even told the crusaders: “Of course, you have provided such a service that you can give it the whole empire for it, but I don’t know what to pay from”. Having not received the promised, the Latins themselves began to satisfy their appetites, especially since the possibilities for this were.

With good intentions: how the fourth crusade turned into the plunder of Constantinople

As a participant in events wrote, the Picardic knight Robert de Clary, in Constantinople “there was such an abundance of wealth, so many gold and silver dishes, so many precious stones that it seemed truly a miracle, how such a magnificent wealth was brought here”. And the soldiers of Christ, with the silent connivance of powerless power, began to rob the Church.

The growing irritation among the population of the capital was directed not only against the crusaders, but also against the sovereigns, especially Alexei. In the last days of January 1204, monks and common people began to gather in the squares and demand the deposition of the father and son of the angels and the election of the new Vasilevs. A warrior named Nikolai Danza was even crowned in the Cathedral of St. Sophia, but without the participation of the Patriarch, that is, strictly speaking, not according to the rules.

Chaos reigned in the city. Then a high -ranking dignitary and son -in -law of Alexei III, Alexei Duk, nicknamed Murzufl (frightened) on January 29, arrested Isaac II and Alexei IV and proclaimed himself Emperor Alexei V. Alexei IV and the ditch was strangled in prison, the blind Isaac II died, learning about the execution of his son.

The new emperor defiantly refused to fulfill his previous agreements and demanded from the crusaders to clear the Greek land within a week. Before that, they were forbidden only to leave the camp under the walls of the New Rome (they constantly lived there, and not in the city). God’s warriors began to openly prepare for the assault. In March, the Crusaders and Rain of Enriko Dandolo entered into an agreement on the seizure of the entire Byzantine empire and on the division of prey and land.

April 8, 1204 Constantinople was blocked from the sea. On April 9, the French went on an attack, broke into the city, but could not hold positions and were forced to retreat. During the assault, a fire arose in the city, destroying almost two -thirds of it. April 12, the assault attempt was successful. The army of Murzufla retreated, and he fled the same night. Constantine Laskar hastily proclaimed by the emperor did not receive effective support from the population. On April 13, the main forces of the crusaders joined Constantinople, not meeting any resistance. Tsargrad fell.

The reasons for the fall of Byzantium

Since very ancient times, the main culprit of the capture of the Greek Empire, the French are considered the Venetians, dissatisfied with competition from Byzantium in trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. In addition, Constantinople from time to time provided the protection of Genoa and Pisa, to the competitors of Venice. In addition, after the death of Manuel I, his successors promised to pay compensation to the Republic of St. Brand, but never did it. By the beginning of the campaign, the duty of Byzantium exceeded 60 kg of gold, which the Venetians, of course, could not forgive.

Chronist Ernul, a contemporary, although not a participant in the campaign (he lived in Latin Syria and Cyprus) even declared (most modern researchers reject this) that the Venetian Signoria received a solid bribe from the Egyptian Sultan, who wanted to give up the danger from his country.

With good intentions: how the fourth crusade turned into the plunder of Constantinople

Most of all disputes raises the question of the role of Pope Innocent III. Historians of the Catholic direction claim that dad was categorically against changes in the direction of the campaign. They refer to his condemnation of the ruin of the Tsar and the demand to go to the Holy Land.

Other researchers – Protestants, Orthodox and atheists – tend to see the machinations of the papal throne in everything. They believe that the threats of excommunication were only the appearance, that from the very beginning he dreamed of capturing the East of the East in order to subjugate the Orthodox Church. Dad, they believe, was talking to Tsarevich Alexei about the reunification of churches after the restoration of Isaac on the throne by the crusaders. And when Emperor Alexei IV already stated that this was impossible, dad almost directly blessed the capture of Tsargrad, especially after Murzufl came to power.

It is impossible to completely deny such a development of events. But still, this hypothesis is based on the interpretation of several sufficiently vague passages from papal messages (there are no direct evidence) and is very similar to a variety of notorious “conspiracy theories”.

The ease of conquering Constantinople was ensured, inter alia, the best combat training and attackers’ mood. Many of the crusaders were convinced that they were doing a good work. Not knowing the features of the throne of the throne in Byzantium, the francs considered Isaac the II as a legitimate ruler and the victim of lawlessness, Tsarevich Alexei – the legal heir, and Alexei III – a usurper. And there was also a desire to punish Orthodox shisms.

And yet, one of the main reasons for the fall of the Byzantine power was its inner weakness. On the one hand, marginal centralization, reinforced by ideas about the sacredness of the emperor. All power belongs to the Holy Lord and he does not divide her with anyone: neither with barons, nor with the townspeople. Hence the alienation of people from power. On the other hand, the Czech of Vasilevsov. What kind of loyalty to the ruler from the people and even the troops could be here!

The consequences of the fall of Byzantium

The first consequences were ordinary, alas, horrors of the assault. There was less violence than when taking Islamic cities, but destruction and, especially, robberies – much more. After all, Constantinople was significantly richer than any Syrian or Palestinian city. Whether the tsargrad was set on fire, or did the city catch fire during the attack on it – it is unclear.

Robbed the warriors of God a lot. Member of the campaign, a noble French baron Joffrea de Villarduen, reports: “They have not taken such abundant booty in any city since the creation of the world”. Relices became highly desired trophies. An honest cross, the crown of Christ (he, however, for some time remained in Constantinople with the new owners) and many other sacred objects found themselves among the crusaders. The only description of the sacred objects and remains, compiled in the 1870s stolen from Constantinople, was hardly fitting in two voluminous volumes. In addition, a huge number of fake relics appeared in Europe.

There are many valuable works of ancient art, which were still in the new Rome by Konstantin, died in fires, was melted into ingots of precious metals or stolen.

Latin Empire

The main consequence of the fall of Constantinople was the organization of power in the newly captured country. The winners began to divide the not yet fully conquered state, called the historians of the 18th century, the Latin Empire (the Latins themselves called him a novel). The Venetians who took possession of the coastal territories and Crete received most of all.

With good intentions: how the fourth crusade turned into the plunder of ConstantinopleMichael VIII Paleolog

The Latin Empire, like the Jerusalem kingdom, was organized on the model of feudal states. The Temple Crown of the Fessaloniki Kingdom (he still received the Commander -in -Chief Boniface) and other possessions were created. Among them, the largest were the principality of Ahaiya (the ancient name of the Primorsky region in the north of Peloponnes) and the Duchy of Athenian.

The newly created state turned out to be short -lived. The wreckage of the previous power proclaimed themselves by her successors. They always called themselves Roma powers. One of them, the Nicaean Empire, which occupied most of Asia Minor, turned out to be a restorer in the Byzantine state. Based on the local population, who hated the Franks, using the help of Genoa and Pisa, who were at war with Venice and, most importantly, the Turks, the Nicaean emperors seized the territory beyond the territory. And in 1261, Mikhail VIII Paleologist entered the liberated Constantinople.

The capture of Byzantium did not bring good to either side, except, perhaps, the Venetians. Romania did not last long. Orthodox Byzantium no longer recovered in the previous force and even size. She turned out to be depending on the Turks, which, ultimately, led her to fall in 1453. And finally, the consequence of the fourth crusade was that the hostility of the Orthodox towards Catholics, which existed earlier, turned into hatred. Its fruits are tangible to this day.

The material was first published in April 2008 in the project “Telegraph around the world”, partially updated in April 2023

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