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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 185

excesses which the Greeks have not forgotten to this day, and which Innocent
III himself bitterly condemned when he heard of them. The Latins defiled
Greek sanctuaries, murdered and raped, stole and destroyed the celebrated
monuments of the capital. The historian Nicetas Choniates wrote a separate
treatise on the statues, which had perished in the terror. <64> When
it was over, Boniface of Montferrat ordered all booty brought in for division.
Many risked execution in an effort to keep what they had already seized,
and much was doubtless concealed. But what was turned in yielded 400,000
marks and 10,000 suits of armor. The humbler knights resented the greed of
the leaders, who took all the gold and silk and fine houses for themselves,
leaving the poorer men only the plain silver ornaments, such as the pitchers,
which the Greek ladies of Constantinople had carried with them to the baths.
Sacred relics shared the fate of profane wealth. The Fourth Crusade had come
a long way from Ecry, and now terminated without having encountered a single
armed Moslem. 
 Indeed, we may regard the momentous events of 1203-1204 as the culmination
of an assault of the Latin west upon the Byzantine east that had been intermittently
under way for more than a century. Boniface of Montferrat, as ally of Philip
of Swabia, had inherited the anti-Byzantine ambitions of Robert Guiscard,
Bohemond, the Norman kings of Sicily, and their Hohenstaufen heir, Henry
VI, as well as the claims of his own elder brothers, Conrad and Renier. Dandolo
was avenging the Byzantine massacre of the Latin residents of Constantinople
in 1182, the mass arrest of the Venetians by Manuel Comnenus in 1171 (the
bills for this affair had never been settled), and possibly early injuries
to himself; these episodes had in turn sprung out of the natural mutual hatred
between the Greek population and the pushing, rowdy, shrewd, and successful
Italian interlopers in Constantinople, whose privileges and possessions in
the capital dated back to the chrysobull of Alexius I of 1082. In the French
and German barons of 1204 we may see the successors of all those hosts of
crusaders that had poured through Constantinople, with an envious eye to
its wealth and a scornful distaste for its inhabitants, since the days of
Godfrey of Bouillon, or Louis VII, or Frederick Barbarossa. The sword that
had hung precariously over the heads of the Byzantines for so long had fallen
at last. 
 64 See Innocent's letter, an. VIII, no. 133 (FL, CCXV, cols. 710-714); Nicetas's
treatise is to be found on pp. 854-868 of the volume of CSHB containing his
history. See the famous paraphrase of the passages of Nicetas's history in
Gibbon's account of the sack. 

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