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

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

Page 175

not end dissension. Many of the lesser people, suffering from hunger and
other discomforts while the more important barons monopolized the army's
resources, deserted during the winter, fleeing in merchant ships, some of
which were lost at sea, or by land through Croatian territory, where the
inhabitants massacred them. One group of nobles also departed, swearing that
they would return after delivering messages in Syria; but they did not come
back. A Flemish contingent, which had been proceeding by sea, arrived safely
in Marseilles; although Baldwin commanded its leaders to make rendezvous
with the main body off the coast of Greece, they went instead direct to Palestine.
Simon of Montfort, Enguerrand of Boves, and other important barons also departed,
having made arrangements with king Emeric of Hungary to permit them to pass
through his Croatian territories, and thus regain Italy by marching along
the shores of the Adriatic. These defections, Villehardouin reports bitterly,
hurt the crusader forces seriously. 
 Those crusaders who had taken part in the attack on Zara, in defiance of
the pope's specific commands, had automatically incurred excommunication.
The leaders now first secured provisional absolution from the bishops in
the host, and then sent a delegation to Rome to explain to Innocent how they
had been unwillingly forced into the sin of disobedience, and to ask forgiveness.
Eager not to jeopardize the success of the whole crusade, of which he still
expected great things, the pope received the delegates kindly. He sent them
back with a reproving letter, but not nearly so vigorous in its denunciation
of the taking of Zara as one might have expected. After the guilty crusaders
should have restored what they had taken illegally, and on condition that
they commit no more such offenses, the pope agreed to absolve them. <53>
The Venetians, however, could not be let off so easily. They had rebuffed
Peter Capuano at Venice, had openly flouted Innocent's warning not to attack
Zara, and had shown no signs of repentance. Though the envoys of the crusaders
tried to dissuade the pope from excommunicating them, he would not accede.
Indeed the papal emissary who brought the letter of absolution for the crusaders
bore also a letter of excommunication for the doge and the Venetians. Boniface
and his fellow barons, however, took it upon themselves to withhold this
letter. They wrote the pope explaining that they had done so to prevent the
dissolution of the crusade, and saying that they would deliver it if the
pope should still insist. <54> 
 53 Innocent III, Epp., an. no. 162 (FL, CCXIV, cols. 1179 ff.), February
 54 Innocent III, Epp., an. VI, nos. 99, 100 (FL, CCXV, cols. 103 ff.). 

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