Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The later Crusades, 1189-1311
V: The Fourth Crusade, pp. 152-185 PDF (13.5 MB)
Ch. V THE FOURTH CRUSADE 161 were following a well established practice, for the sea route had by now almost entirely superseded the long and difficult land route of the first crusading expeditions. The Italian maritime cities had developed a lucrative passenger traffic in pilgrims and crusaders, along with their carrying trade in the Mediterranean. Individual pilgrims now usually sought passage in the great freighters, which set out each year from Pisa, Genoa, and Venice, while bands of crusaders often contracted to hire individual ships at one or another of these ports. In this case, however, the six envoys from the three counts were asking Venice to furnish a fleet large enough to transport a whole army, and the Venetians would certainly consider so serious an undertaking as a matter of state policy, to be determined in the light of their other interests and commitments. By the end of the twelfth century Venice had already entered upon her greatest age as a commercial, colonial, and maritime power.<22> Her widespread interests in the eastern Mediterranean required the maintenance of a powerful naval establishment and the pursuit of a vigilant and aggressive diplomacy. Like the other Italian maritime cities, Venice had long since acquired valuable trading privileges and exemptions in the ports of 'Outremer', such as Acre and Tyre, in return for naval help given to the kingdom of Jerusalem. This had given the Venetians a practical interest in the affairs of the crusader states and had deepened their rivalry with Pisa and Genoa. More recently Venice and her rivals had also developed a profitable trade in Egypt through the port of Alexandria. From the point of view of the crusader states and the papacy, this was traffic with the enemy, especially as Egypt demanded much-needed timber and other naval stores in exchange for the spices of the Far East. Popes and councils had fulminated in vain against this trade in war contraband on the part of Italian cities. Venice especially had a bad reputation among the Christians of the east as being more concerned with the profits from this trade than with the triumph of the cross.<23> In her trade with Constantinople and other cities of the Byzantine empire, Venice still enjoyed the special advantages granted by emperor Alexius I in 1082 in 22 On the position of Venice at this time, see H. Kretschmayr, Geschichte von Venedig, I (Gotha, 1905), chaps. VII, VIII; W. Heyd, Histoire du commerce du Levant au moyen-age, tr. Furcy Rainaud, I (Leipzig, 1885); and A. Schaube, Handelsgeschichte der romanischen Volker (Munich and Berlin, 1906), chaps. X-XIX. A chapter on the Venetians is planned for volume IV of the present work. 23 It was this feeling presumably that gave rise to the popular story repeated by Ernoul (Chronique, p. 345), that the sultan succeeded in bribing the Venetians to turn the projected crusade away from his land.
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