Friday, March 11, 2005

The Fourth Crusade : A Western Crime Against Humanity

The Fourth Crusade and Venice's role...
I think of this as a Western crime against the Byzantines/Greeks, although the Western mainstream tendency is to purport Catholic vs. Orthodox


Presented by
Bill 'Mastermind' Fitzgerald®

#7 -The Fourth Crusade 1202-1204

(...) Those Venetians drove a hard bargain.

They had made great profits from their trade with the Muslims in Egypt and the Holy Land. But they were always open to better offers. They secretly assured the Sultan of Egypt that they had no intention of leading the Crusaders through his country. I wonder if the Sultan believed them?

When the Crusaders eventually arrived in Venice for their trip to the Holy Land they were short of the specified amount of cash demanded by the Venetians. So instead of going directly to the Holy Land via Egypt as they had expected to do (and as the Venetians had assured the Sultan of Egypt they would not do) the Venetians changed the plans.

They refused to transport the Crusaders to Egypt because of the shortfall in the money demanded of them. However, being good businessmen they had a negotiating point; they would relent on one condition. The Venetian Doge, Dandolo, ninety-five years old and totally blind, but he still drove a hard bargain, demanding that the Crusaders make up the deficit by helping him to seize the Adriatic coastal city of Zara from Hungary. When the Pope heard of this corrupt bargain he was furious. He threatened to excommunicate the Crusaders if they agreed to it.

The lure of booty, however, was apparently too strong to resist. The Crusaders ignored the Pope’s threat and joined the Venetians in taking Zara from the Hungarians. Only then did the Crusaders reply to the Pope, asking for his forgiveness! He agreed but only if they returned their booty. They accepted his forgiveness and kept the booty!

The Ventians had a second part to their plan, unbeknownst to the Crusaders, of course. This was even more audacious and unscrupulous. They intended to capture the very heart of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople itself! This would at least see them honoring one pledge, not to bring the Crusaders through Egypt! (...)

The Sack of Constantinople
The Conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in AD 1203/1204
Outlined as:
Background of the Fourth Crusade
The Crusade falls into Debt
The Assault on the City of Zara
The Plan to attack Constantinople is hatched
The Crusade arrives off Constantinople
The Capture of the Tower of Galata
The first Assault
Restoration of Isaac II
The Coronation of Alexius IV
The second Great Fire of Constantinople
The Night of the four Emperors
Alexius V takes Control
The second Assault
The final Assault
The Sack of Constantinople
The Triumph of Venice

Eye-witness account - Choniates. (From the Medieval Source Book)

. . . How shall I begin to tell of the deeds wrought by these nefarious men! Alas, the images, which ought to have been adored, were trodden under foot! Alas, the relics of the holy martyrs were thrown into unclean places! Then was se en what one shudders to hear, namely, the divine body and blood of Christ was spilled upon the ground or thrown about. They snatched the precious reliquaries, thrust into their bosoms the ornaments which these contained, and used the broken remnants for pans and drinking cups,-precursors of Anti-Christ, authors and heralds of his nefarious deeds which we momentarily expect. Manifestly, indeed, by that race then, just as formerly, Christ was robbed and insulted and His garments were divided by lot; only one thing was lacking, that His side, pierced bv a spear, should pour rivers of divine blood on the ground.

Nor can the violation of the Great Church [note: Hagia Sophia] be listened to with equanimity. For the sacred altar, formed of all kinds of precious materials and admired by the whole world, was broken into bits and distributed among the soldiers, as was all the other sacred wealth of so great and infinite splendor.

When the sacred vases and utensils of unsurpassable art and grace and rare material, and the fine silver, wrought with gold, which encircled the screen of the tribunal and the ambo, of admirable workmanship, and the door and many other ornaments, were to be borne away as booty, mules and saddled horses were led to the very sanctuary of the temple. Some of these which were unable to keep their footing on the splendid and slippery pavement, were stabbed when they fell, so that the sacred pavement was polluted with blood and filth.

Nay more, a certain harlot, a sharer in their guilt, a minister of the furies, a servant of the demons, a worker of incantations and poisonings, insulting Christ, sat in the patriarch's seat, singing an obscene song and dancing frequently. Nor, indeed, were these crimes committed and others left undone, on the ground that these were of lesser guilt, the others of greater. But with one consent all the most heinous sins and crimes were committed by all with equal zeal. Could those, who showed so great madness against God Himself, have spared the honorable matrons and maidens or the virgins consecrated to God?

Nothing was more difficult and laborious than to soften by prayers, to render benevolent, these wrathful barbarians, vomiting forth bile at every unpleasing word, so that nothing failed to inflame their fury. Whoever attempted it was derided as insane and a man of intemperate language. Often they drew their daggers against any one ivho opposed them at all or hindered their demands.

No one was without a share in the grief. In the alleys, in the streets, in the temples, complaints, weeping, lamentations, grief, the groaning of men, the shrieks of women, wounds, rape, captivity, the separation of those most closely united. Nobles wandered about ignominiously, those of venerable age in tears, the rich in poverty. Thus it was in the streets, on the corners, in the temple, in the dens, for no place remained unassailed or defended the suppliants. All places everywhere were filled full of all kinds of crime. Oh, immortal God, how great the afflictions of the men, bow great the distress!

Catholic perspective - good reading!
Reflections on the Sack of Constantinople in 1204 and Lesser-Known Byzantine Atrocities

Not only do you find the accounts of the victims -

Eastern Christendom has never forgotten those three appalling days of pillage . . . What shocked the Greeks more than anything was the wanton and systematic sacrilege of the Crusaders. How could men who had specially dedicated themselves to God's service treat the things of God in such a way? As the Byzantines watched the Crusaders tear to pieces the altar and icon screen in the Church of the Holy Wisdom, and set prostitutes on the Patriarch's throne, they must have felt that those who did such things were not Christians in the same sense as themselves . . .

Can we wonder if the Greeks after 1204 also looked on the Latins as profani? Christians in the west still do not realize how deep is the disgust and how lasting the horror with which Orthodox regard actions such as the sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders.

{Ware, The Orthodox Church, NY: Penguin Books, revised 1980 edition, p. 69}

The sack that followed was one of the worst in all of history . . . No man, woman or child was safe from the ravagers. Robbery and rape were almost universal, mindless destruction widespread. Westerners . . . killed indiscriminately, without mercy or restraint . . . For this to have been done by crusaders - men actually wearing the Cross of Christ - was an ineffaceable disgrace . . . The Greeks never forgot the sack of Constantinople in 1204; its memory, more than anything else, has prevented the healing of the Greek schism from that day to this, despite several major efforts at reunion.

{The Glory of Christendom, Front Royal, VA: Christendom Press, 1993, p. 157-158}

These "soldiers of Christ" who should have turned their swords against the infidel have steeped them in Christian blood, sparing neither religion, nor age, nor sex . . . They stripped the altars of silver, violated the sanctuaries, robbed icons and crosses and relics . . . The Latins have given example only of perversity and works of darkness. No wonder the Greeks call them dogs!"

{cited in Carroll, ibid., p. 158; from Mann, Popes of the Middle Ages, vol. 12, pp. 266-267}


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