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Thread: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

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    therussian's Avatar Use your imagination
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    Default Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Now children, gather ‘round, and I shall tell you the tale of old Enrico Dandolo, of the Crusades, of Byzantium, of an event so full of greed and brutality, it echoes through the depths of time. This is the story of the Sack of Constantinople, in the year 1204 anno domini. It is a tale too epic to tell in great detail, but I hope that my rendition of the story will not bore you. I will present it in two parts.

    By the end of the 12th century, the Empire was in complete disarray. All that Alexius Comemnus and his two immediate successors had done a century prior to regain what ground was lost after Manzikert was quickly undone by a succession of weak and corrupt Emperors: Alexios II, Andronikos I, Isaac II . In the west, the Bulgars, the ancient pain-in-the-ass of Byzantium were up in revolt, the Germans were raiding deep into the Empire, Serbia was annexed to Hungary, the treasury was empty, and the army was demoralized. Basically, it was a total mess.

    There were thoughts of crusading to Constantinople itself by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, whose brother claimed to be a descendant of the Byzantine royal family by his marraige to Irene Angelus, daughter of the recently depose Emperor Isaac II, but Henry's death in 1197 put an end to these ideas.

    It was only in the following year that the newly elected Pope, Innocent III formally declared a Crusade. The lords of Europe were slow to respond to his request, but by November 1199, they were beginning to assemble in the vicinity surround Venice, the key state in our story. Venice, being the naval superpower it was, was asked to give ships to transport the Crusaders, and also to battle with Egyptian naval forces (the Crusade was originally set for Egypt). This was where the troubles began.

    It is important that I tell you relations between the Venetian Empire and Byzantium. Throughout its early history, Venice was seen as a daughter state next to Byzantium, whose riches made the trading state of Venice extremely rich. Venice itself was seen as more of an Eastern city than European. This can be attributed to two things. One was that it was secluded from the rest of Europe. Venice is set on a lagoon, and the physical separation of the city from mainland Europe contributed to this division from the West. Venice never followed a feudal system, as was popular throughout Medieval Europe at the time. The other influence on Venetian culture, as already stated, was the interaction with the Byzantine Empire. It can be clearly seen throughout the city’s architecture. Art, culture, architecture, government, all came from the East. The Basilica di San Marco, located in Piazza San Marco, is the epitome of Byzantine architecture

    But by the end of the 12th century, relations were strained. War and competition with another rising naval power in the region, Genova, caused great stress for the Byzantine emperors. Venice had always had special trading priviledges throught the Empire’s territory, such as no taxes, a Venetian quarter in every city, and a church in every city. But in 1171 Emperor Manuel had ordered a mass arrest of Venetians throughout the Empire, and all Latins in Constantinople were massacred by anti-Western sentiment in 1182 under his successor Andronikos I Komnenos. Isaac II had renewed their privileges, and so had Alexius III, but the latter did so only for form's sake. In practice, he had been harassing the Venetians and favoring Genoa and Pisa.

    In 1201, French dignitaries arrived in Venice, and made a deal with a Venetians that they would transport 4,500 knights and their horses, 9,000 squires, and 20,000 foot soldiers for the price of 94,000 marks. The fleet was to be at the service of the army for one year and was to be ready by June 29, 1202 and in addition, Venice would supply fifty warships, and would share equally in any conquests. But by the end of the year 1201, only 11,000 of the original 33,500 had arrived in Venice, and the Venetians would not transport them until the money for ships was paid in full. Luckily for the Crusaders (and for Venice as well), the old, almost blind Doge Enrico Dandolo (the main character in our story) came up with a new plan. The Venetians would transport the Crusaders only if they would agree to help take the city of Zara in the Dalmatian coast. It had long been under Venetian control, but for the past 15 or so years, it was under the control of the King of Hungary. This was to be the Crusaders first sight of battle. They had no other options…

    Part II
    The attack on Zara is not important enough for me to explain in full, but I will say that it was “one of the first instances of amphibious warfare”, where the Venetian ships were able to land member on strips of land next to the walls of the city. But let us continue. It was July 1203 when the siege first began. The Crusaders had thought that Prince Alexius, the son of the deposed Emperor Isaac would be welcomed by the citizens of Constantinople, and would gladly accept him and elevate him to the throne. They were wrong. The people of the Byzantine Empire considered Alexius a traitor, and the only way the Crusaders would be able to plant him on the throne was with brute force.

    The attack was to be in two parts. The Venetians would lead the attack on the Sea Walls, while the Frankish crusaders would attack the Land Walls. Fighting was fierce on both sides, as Emperor Alexius had placed his elite Varangian Guard to battle on the land walls. Enrico Dandolo led the Venetian attack on the Sea Walls, despite being 80 years old (it must be noted that Venetians had a very long life expectancy, some living into the 90s). The Franks were repulsed by the Varangians, but on the Sea Walls, the Venetians were having more success. Unfortunately for them, a victory there would only succeed with a victory by the Franks. It is interesting to note that Alexius had a large force ready to counterattack the Crusaders and Venetians, but he, for whatever reason, did not send them in. What might have happened if he did? Who knows. The fact is that he didn’t. The following night, he fled the City with a bag full of jewels and his daughter. He was a coward to the last. The citizens, seeing that their leader had abandoned them, quickly released old Isaac II out of his cell, and proclaimed him Emperor, and Prince Alexius the co-Emperor.


    ^A recreation of the Land Walls and Sea Walls, thanks to www.byzantium1200.com

    Unfortunately for Alexius, the promises he had fulfilled to the Crusaders for restoring him to the throne were hollow. The Crusaders were peeved at his empty promises, but they were not the greatest of his problems. His own countrymen, disgusted by the way the Westerners were behaving in their city. “The tax he (Alexius) levied to raise the money (for the Venetians) was bitterly resented by the citizens, who didn't much like the Westerners who were infesting their streets anyway. The Franks were rude and violent, didn't pay their bills, and sometimes pillaged the countryside.” One incident was when a group of Franks burned a mosque in the city, and the flames of the fire engulfed a section of the city, turning it into an inferno.

    Not long after, another contender to the throne stepped forward, Alexius Murzuphlus, a member of the Ducas family. He murdered Alexius IV, and put old Isaac back in prison, where he soon died. Ascending to the throne as Alexius V, he quickly began to strengthen the cities the defenses. Things were at a boiling point between East and West.

    In February of 1204, the decision was made that the Crusaders would capture the City, and install a Latin Emperor, instead of a Greek one. The Emperor would control one fourth of the city, the Venetians three eighths, and the rest would be divided between the Crusaders. It was by this decision that the title of “Lord of 3/8 of Constantinople” would be added to the title of Venetian Doge. Venice also was guaranteed ¾ of all the booty acquired from the pillaging of the city.

    The architect of these plans was no other than the old Enrico Dandolo. I will cut from the story about the Siege to tell a bit about him. He is truly one of the most interesting characters in history. At the time of the Siege, he had sat in the chair of Doge for 11 years. His exact age is unknown, but he was in his late 80s or early 90s at the time, and also partially blind. He was the grand architect of the Fourth Crusade, and made most of the big decisions surrounding it. His wit, intellect, and strength are things of legend. He died a year later during an expedition against the Bulgars, and was buried in the Hagia Sophia. But let us return to the Siege.

    Enrico Dandolo

    The assault on the City began on April 9, 1204 anno domini. Fighting was fierce and the Crusaders were forced to retreat and reorganize their attack. On the 13th, they attacked again, this time with more success. The Venetians were able to take control of the Sea walls, while the Franks were able to burst through the Land Walls. Alexius V followed his predecessor’s route, and fled the city. Now, the bloodshed and brutality would begin. For three days, Franks and Venetians plundered the richest and grandest city of the entire world. The three long days tons upon tons of silver, gold, bronze, and other precious gems and metals were stolen, plundered and even destroyed. But, it was not the Venetians who destroyed. No, the Venetians were not as mindless as their Frankish counterparts. Unlike the Franks, who also destroyed the arts that they had acquired, for no apparent reason, the Venetians were careful in keeping all they took intact. These riches were then taken to Venice, to adorn the palaces and the churches. One of the most notable of these treasure are the Four Horses of the Hippodrome, cast out of solid bronze, which were placed on top of St Mark’s Basilica (unfortunately, the ones now on top of the Basilica are replicas. The originals are locked in a dark room, due to deterioration because of pollution)

    The Fourth Crusade and the Latin Kingdom was shortlived. The effects were not. The Latin Empire would last another 57 years, when it finally fell in 1261 to the Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus of the Nicaean Kingdom. You see, after the Fall of Constantinople, the Empire was split into different Kingdoms, those of Epirus, Nicaea, Trebizond, the Latin Empire, and the Morean despotate based in the Peloponnesus. The Byzantine Empire would survive another 192 before finally submitting to the Turks under their prodigal leader Mehmet II.



    My analysis
    This was truly the Kiss of Death to Byzantium. It was a loss from which it would never recover. Not even Manzikert, which is in my opinion horribly overrated, paled in comparison to the loss of the City to the Crusaders, and yet, it would survive miraculously, day by day, until the year 1453. Led by the old, yet strong, Venetian Doge, Enrico Dandolo, the Crusaders sealed the fate of not only Constantinople, but of Anatolia and the Balkans as well, maybe even the world. It will remain one of the biggest "What if?" questions of all time. What if the Crusaders had not attacked Constantinople, and had actually gone on the Crusade to the holy land? What if Enrico Dandolo had not been Doge at the time?

    That my friends, is left to history, and history alone.

    I think John Julius Norwich stated it best when he said that:
    By its sack (Constantinople), Western civilization suffered a loss greater even than the sack of Rome by the barbarians in the fifth century or the burning of the library of Alexandria by the soldiers of the Prophet in the seventh- perhaps the most catastrophic single loss in all its history....Although the Latin rule along the Bosphorus lasted less than 60 years, after which the Greek Empire was to struggle on for nearly two more centuries, that Empire never recovered its strength or any considerable part of its lost dominon. Under firm and forceful leadership.... a strong and prosperous Byzantium might have halted the Turkish advance while there was still time. Instead, it was left economically crippled, territorially truncated, and powerless to defend itself against the Ottoman tide. There are few greater ironies in history that the fact that the fate of Eastern Christendom should have been sealed- and half Europe condemned to some 500 years of Muslim rule- by men who fought under the banner of the Cross.

    Delacroix, Eugene: The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople

    For those of you interested in a detailed account of the Siege, I invited you to check out John Julius Norwich’s book “Byzantium: The Decline and Fall” (3rd of a trilogy), and “A History of Venice”

    Long, I know. But not long enough to portray this horrible event in human history. I hope you enjoyed this, and learned something new, or remembered something which you had forgotten.


    Sources:
    http://crusades.boisestate.edu/4th/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Crusade
    http://latter-rain.com/ltrain/curfor.htm
    http://www.medievaltymes.com/courtya...th_crusade.htm
    http://byzantium1200.com/
    Norwich, John Julius. “Byzantium: The Decline and Fall”
    Norwich, John Julius. “A History of Venice”
    Last edited by therussian; November 04, 2007 at 06:27 PM.

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    God's Avatar Shnitzled In The Negev
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    To be continued? What sort of an ending is that? I was just getting interested...

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    therussian's Avatar Use your imagination
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    It's a long story, and I need some time to right it! I think it's reasonably good stopping place. THe next (and final) installment should be done by this weekend.


    But for now, discuss. This is personally a very interesting topic for me. It has fascinated me ever since I have studied Byzantine (and Venetian) history.

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    Romanos's Avatar Hey
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Therussian did you go to Constantinople that picture of Hagia Sophia is beautiful
    Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, who claimed to be a descendant of the Byzantine royal family
    What about Philip of Swabia who was married to Issac II Aneglus sister or daughter (dont know). Philip was also the architecture to attack Constantinople.
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    therussian's Avatar Use your imagination
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma AC
    Therussian did you go to Constantinople that picture of Hagia Sophia is beautiful

    What about Philip of Swabia who was married to Issac II Aneglus sister or daughter (dont know). Philip was also the architecture to attack Constantinople.
    1). That is St. Mark's Basilica in Venice (like I said, it's the epitome of Byzantine architecture :wink: )
    2). I've been to Venice, but not Constantinople. That's not my picture, though I do have some.
    3). Yea, he was Henry's brother, I guess I should change that

    From one of my sources
    http://crusades.boisestate.edu/4th/03.shtml
    Not long after Alexius made himself emperor, Philip of Swabia married Irene Angelus. Philip was the brother of Emperor Henry VI. Irene was the daughter of the deposed emperor Isaac II. Henry, as King of Sicily, was heir to all the old Norman claims to Greek territories they had once conquered. So now the Hohenstaufen had a direct interest through Irene in the claims of Isaac II over against his brother.

    Henry VI was in fact on the verge of asking for a new crusade, to be directed against Constantinople

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    Romanos's Avatar Hey
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Quote Originally Posted by therussian
    1). That is St. Mark's Basilica in Venice (like I said, it's the epitome of Byzantine architecture :wink: )
    2). I've been to Venice, but not Constantinople. That's not my picture, though I do have some.
    3). Yea, he was Henry's brother, I guess I should change that
    1) wow was I wrong, yea should had figured it out seeing its missing the Turkish towers. (idiot)
    2)do you plan to visit Constantinople.
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Short, considering how much data there is on the sacking, and informative. I like that.

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    therussian's Avatar Use your imagination
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma AC
    1) wow was I wrong, yea should had figured it out seeing its missing the Turkish towers. (idiot)
    2)do you plan to visit Constantinople.
    Eventually. I doubt that my parents would want to go there, but when I'm older, I'll probably travel around Greece and then Constantinople


    Darth Revan: Yea, it's short, but it's only the first half :wink:

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    Kara Kolyo's Avatar Mikhail
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Nice post therussian.
    The chronicle of the marshall Geodfrois de Villarduhin is verry interesting for everybody that wants to know firsthand accounts about the 4th Crusade.
    and finaly Hagia Sophia is really a wonder of the world and everybody that can go and see it must do it. to see the center of the world inside the bassilica, where the emperors were crowned is hairrising expirience, atleast for me. some of the graffity from the varangians inside it are quite funny too.


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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    This is good can't wait to read the rest. Don't let me down russian!!! Good stuff for sure.

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    Ragabash's Avatar Mayhem Crop Jet
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Exellent reading. I believe it was Byzantines isolation from other christian powers in the west that finally lead to the sack and fall of Constantinople.
    Last edited by Ragabash; June 24, 2006 at 11:56 AM.
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    therussian's Avatar Use your imagination
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Quote Originally Posted by _GunneR_
    This is good can't wait to read the rest. Don't let me down russian!!! Good stuff for sure.
    I hope I'll be able to finish it before I leave!

    Ragabash: That too, but I believe that what also led to the 4th Crusade was the deep hate of the East/Orthodoxy by the first Crusaders on their trek to the Holy Land. From the time on, the rift between East and West, Catholic and Orthodox would only grow larger.

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    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Excellent start Tovarisch(Comrade).
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    therussian's Avatar Use your imagination
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Spasibo tovarish

    Part II is on the way! I'm typing it up now

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    God's Avatar Shnitzled In The Negev
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Торопитесь прежде, чем Вы находите голову лошади в вашем крестном отце кровати!

    God bless online translators!

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    Ragabash's Avatar Mayhem Crop Jet
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Quote Originally Posted by therussian
    Ragabash: That too, but I believe that what also led to the 4th Crusade was the deep hate of the East/Orthodoxy by the first Crusaders on their trek to the Holy Land. From the time on, the rift between East and West, Catholic and Orthodox would only grow larger.
    I think you right, but if Byzantines wouldnt have isolated themselves from rest of the Europe, rift between Catholics and Orthodoxs might have not been ever born, or atleast grown that deep.

    Now get back to work next part.

    Just kidding, take your time.
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    therussian's Avatar Use your imagination
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    It is complete!

    2,020 words. Whew. I am content :original:
    Last edited by therussian; June 24, 2006 at 05:56 PM.

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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Quote Originally Posted by therussian
    It is complete!

    2,020 words. Whew. I am content :original:
    Thanks again for all this work you have put in the article.
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    God's Avatar Shnitzled In The Negev
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Excellent! Now give it to the Scriptorium or something. I would give you rep but I've already given out too much today...

    But in 1171 Emperor Manuel had ordered a mass arrest of Venetians throughout the Empire
    Why?

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    therussian's Avatar Use your imagination
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    Default Re: Constantinople: The Sack of 1204

    Well, I would write one up on the final Siege, but our great friend Seleukos has already done that. And very well, at that.


    I'll have to do one on.........Basil II soon.

    God: Because at that time, Manuel was more in favour of the Genoese, the sworn enemies of Venice, and he did all he could to reduce Venice's influence in the Empire, while granting Genova many of the priveledges that Venice had. It would be the Byzantine's undoing.
    We have seen how Manuel had renewed the Venetians' trading privileges in a chrysobull of 1148. By 1170 Manuel had also concluded alliances with Pisa and Genoa, in which the tax on trading transactions was reduced from 10 to 4 percent (as opposed to the total exemption for the Venetians). The insolent behaviour of the Venetians, who were becoming rich at the expense of others due to their trading privileges, led Manuel to have all the Venetians who were in the empire arrested on a single day (12 March 1171) and their goods impounded. The Venetians took reprisals at Euripos in Euboea and in the Aegean (Chios and Lesbos). They were pursued by the megas doux Andronicus Constostephanus with 150 ships, but evaded capture. The doge Vitale Michiel was assassinated on the return of the Venetian fleet to home base.
    http://www.roman-emperors.org/mannycom.htm

    It was in 1182 that his succesor Andronikus Komnenos slaughtered Latins
    Last edited by therussian; June 24, 2006 at 06:14 PM.

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