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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 176

 The surviving correspondence between pope and crusaders up to this point
deals only with Zara. Yet the pope was well aware of the designs upon Constantinople;
we have observed his reference to them in his letter of November 1202 to
Alexius III. It was not until Innocent received Boniface's letter explaining
the withholding of the papal ban from the Venetians that, in June 1203, he
finally wrote commanding Boniface to deliver the letter of excommunication
on pain of incurring a similar punishment himself, and flatly forbidding
the attack on Constantinople. <55> By then it was too late. The fleet
had left Zara before the letter was written, much less delivered. How far
does the curious papal failure to condemn the diversion in time argue Innocent's
complicity in a plot? Some modern historians believe that the pope was protesting
"for the record", and had secretly endorsed the attack on Constantinople.
The Greeks, from that day to this, have regarded Innocent as the ringleader
in a plot. It seems more likely that Innocent rather allowed the diversion
to happen. Perhaps he felt he could not prevent it. Moreover, it promised
to achieve - though by methods he could not publicly endorse - one of the
chief aims of his foreign policy, the union of the churches, and simultaneously
to further a second aim, the crusade. 
 From Zara, most of the army sailed early in April 1203, Dandolo and Boniface
remaining behind until the young Alexius could join them. Then they touched
at Durazzo (Dyrrachium), where the population received the young Alexius
as their emperor. The news that the great expedition had now been launched
against him came direct from Durazzo to Alexius III in Constantinople, where
bad naval administration had reduced the city's defenses to a pathetically
low level. So fond was Alexius III of hunting that the imperial foresters
would not permit the cutting of trees for ship-timber, while the admiral
of the fleet, Michael Stryphnus, brother-in-law of the empress Euphrosyne,
sold nails, anchors, and sails alike for money. Only about twenty rotten
and worm-eaten vessels could now be hastily assembled. <56> Meanwhile
the advance party of the crusaders had arrived in Corfu, where the inhabitants
at first received them cordially. The arrival of the young Alexius, however,
spurred the Corfiotes to attack the fleet in the harbor. In revenge, the
armies devastated the island. It was already clear that the appearance of
a Latin-sponsored claimant to the Byzantine imperial 
 55 Innocent III, Epp., an. V, no. 101 (PL, CCXV, col. 106). 
 56 Nicetas, Historia; De Alexio Angelo, III (CSHB), p. 717. 

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