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)
Ch.V THE FOURTH CRUSADE 169 whose appeal, we are to believe, had only recently been delivered to them. It was, of course, this appeal and the eventual decision of the crusader chieftains to accede to it that resulted in the "diversion" of the Fourth Crusade from its original purpose of fighting the Moslems in Palestine, or in Egypt, to Constantinople, where the expedition would first restore Isaac and the young Alexius, and then oust them and found a Latin empire on Byzantine soil. This endeavor coincided with the interests of Venice, of Boniface of Montferrat, of Philip of Swabia, and - to the extent that it placed a Roman Catholic dynasty and patriarch on the imperial and ecclesiastical thrones of Constantinople - of Innocent III as well. So modern scholars have often questioned Villehardouin's version of events, which has seemed to them "official" history, concealing behind a plausible narrative a deep-laid secret plot among the interested parties, hatched long before their intentions were revealed to the rank and file of the crusaders, most of whom would have much preferred to carry out a real crusade against the "infidel". Few problems of medieval history have elicited so much scholarly controversy as the "diversion" problem. Though numerous, the sources are often vague or contradictory, naturally enough, since if there was indeed a plot one could hardly expect a contemporary in the secret to reveal it, while one who had no knowledge of it could not reveal any. Both the modern editors of Villehardouin accept his story at face value, and are thus partisans of what has come to be called the théorie du hasard or d'occasion, according to which the decision to help the young Alexius was really not made until the last moment. <43> In the early days of the discussion, the Venetians received most of the blame for the diversion. They had, it was alleged, concluded a secret treaty with al-'Adil, the Aiyubid sultan, promising not to attack his lands. Indeed, one scholar wrote as if the text of the treaty itself were available. But by 1877, it was clear that the treaty in question actually belonged to a far later date, and that Venice had made no secret promises to the sultan before the Fourth Crusade. Though innocent of this charge, Venice was of course profoundly hostile to Alexius III Angelus; she wished at least to assure herself that the rights owed her by treaty would be respected, and at most to take over the commerce of Constantinople completely. The doge may have lost his eyesight through action by Byzantines, 43 In addition to the comments by Natalis de Wailly and Edmond Faral in the introductions to their respective editions of Villehardouin, see Faral's article cited in note 31 above.
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