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Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume II: The later Crusades, 1189-1311

V: The Fourth Crusade,   pp. 152-185 PDF (11.7 MB)

Page 162

exchange for Venetian help against Robert Guiscard. John II Comnenus had
tried to revoke this grant, and Venice had resorted to war to force him to
renew it in 1126. Manuel I had again renewed it in 1148, but Byzantine relations
with Venice continued to be strained. Manuel's mass arrest of Venetians in
1171, and his confiscation of their property, coupled with the massacre of
all the Latins in 1 182, had heightened the tension. Although Isaac II Angelus
in 1187 and Alexius III Angelus in 1198 had renewed the privileges, the Byzantines
owed Venice much money. Moreover, Alexius III was not only favoring the Pisans
and Genoese unduly but also levying tolls on Venetian ships, contrary to
the provisions of the treaties. When the six French envoys arrived early
in February 1201, Venice was under the governance of one of the greatest
personages of her history, the aged, half-blind, but indomitable doge Enrico
Dandolo. Elected to this lifetime office in 1192, he had guided the fortunes
of the city in troubled times with great craft and vigor. According to Marino
Sanudo the younger (d. 1533), <24> he is said to have been 85 years
of age at the time of his election as doge. Although this seems scarcely
credible, as it would make him 95 at the outset of the Fourth Crusade, in
which he was to play so active a part, the sources generally agree on his
great age and his badly impaired vision. <25> 
 The envoys of the French counts presented to the doge and his "small
council" of six their request for ships to carry the crusaders oversea.
A week later, in reply, the Venetian authorities offered not only to provide
transport, for pay, but also to join the crusade as equal partners. They
would supply enough transports to carry 4,500 knights and their horses, 9,000
squires, and 20,000 foot soldiers, with their gear and provisions, in return
for the sum of 94,000 marks of silver, to be paid in instalments. This estimate
of the size of the army for which transportation would be needed must have
been made by the envoys themselves. It was at least three times as large
as the number of crusaders actually enrolled before the envoys had set out
on their mission. They were anticipating many more enlistments of crusaders
than in fact they would obtain. This miscalculation was a primary source
of the troubles that were to haunt the expedition throughout its whole course.
The Venetians 
 24 Vite dei dogi (RISS, XXII, 4), p. 527. 
 25 Villehardouin, Conquete, chap. LXVII: "si n'en veoit gote, que perdue
avoit le veüe par un plaie qu'il ot el chief." The Russian chronicle
of Novgorod (ed. C. Hopf, Chroniques, p. 98) attributes his partial blinding
to a trick with a burning glass perpetrated by the Greeks when he was in
Constantinople on a diplomatic mission. On his age and blindness, see H.
Kretschmayr, Venedig, I, 466, 472. 

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