University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

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

V: The Fourth Crusade,   pp. 152-185 PDF (13.5 MB)

Page 172

olim could not refer to anything as recent as August 1202, but must refer
to a considerably longer period, as far back as 1201. <48> The 4nnals
of Cologne also include a passage, which may well date the young Alexius's
arrival in the summer of 1201. <49> Finally, Robert of Clan tells us
that in mid-December 1202 at Zara, Boniface of Montferrat, in a speech to
the crusaders, told them that "last year at Christmas," that is,
Christmas 1201, he had seen the young Alexius at the court of Philip of Swabia.
 When all these passages are taken together, they strongly suggest that Villehardouin
was wrong about the date of the arrival of the young Alexius in the west,
and that he had in fact been there since sometime in 1201, or long enough
to have launched a plot with Boniface and Philip, and perhaps with the Venetians
and the pope. But this is a long way from proving that such a plot was actually
launched. Nor need we believe that Villehardouin deliberately lied about
the time the young Alexius arrived. He may simply have erred. Moreover, he
may be right, and the other evidence misleading. The problem of the diversion
is still with us. Though scholars have not heeded a plea made half a century
ago to give up trying to solve an insoluble problem, <51> the plea
itself makes excellent sense. We are unlikely to be able to go beyond the
statement that the diversion which occurred suited the interests of the young
 48 Innocent III, Epp., an. v, no. 122 (PL, CCXIV, col. 1124); argument from
the word "olim" originated and pressed very hard by Grégoire,
loc. cit., 165 f. 
 49 MGH, SS., XVII, 810, dealing with the consecration of archbishop Siegfried
of Mainz in July 1201, and continuing: "Per idem tempus Alexius.. venit
in Alemanniam ad Phylippum regem sororium suum..." Gerland, "Der
vierte Kreuzzug und seine Probleme," p. 510, note a, points out that
there is some ambiguity as to which archbishop is meant, Mainz or Magdeburg;
and that the date 1201 or 1202 hinges on this question. Faral and Cerone
reject the passage; Usseglio (I Marchesi di Monferrato, II, 186 f.) refutes
their arguments; Grégoire follows Usseglio. It seems likely that the
passage really can be used to support the date 1201 for Alexius's journey.
 50 Ed. Lauer, p. 16; tr. McNeal, pp. 45-46. 
 51 Luchaire, Innocent III: La question d'orient (Paris, 1907), p. 97: "...on
ne saura jamais, et la science a vraiment mieux a faire qu'a discuter indéfiniment
un problème insoluble." The references given above show that
scholars did not take his word or his advice. In addition, see H. Vriens,
"De Kwestie van den vierden Kruistocht," Tijdschrift voor Geschiednis,
XXXV (1922), 50-82, and the new and most interesting review of the subject
by A. Frolow, "La Deviation de la 4e croisade vers Constantinople,"
Revue de l'histoire des religions, CXLV (1954), 168-187; CXLVI (1954), 67-89,
194-219, who emphasizes the role played by the relics of Constantinople in
the motivation of the crusaders. Nor have scholars ceased to take downright
positions on the vexed question. See, for example, R. S. Lopez, Cambridge
Economic History, II (Cambridge, 1952), 311: "...the Pope, the Venetians,
and a number of feudal lords planned the Fourth Crusade as an expedition
against the Byzantine Empire", and note I: "The legend of a last-minute
'diversion' of the Crusade from the Holy Land to the Byzantine Empire is
no longer tenable in the light of decisive Greek and Latin evidence."
With such flat statements we must disagree: to us the evidence for a plot
seems compelling but not decisive, while we find no evidence that the pope
participated in it, though this does not rule out the possibility that he
did: no evidence is what one would expect to find if the pope had plotted
with the others. 

Go up to Top of Page