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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

II: Byzantium and the Crusades, 1261-1354,   pp. [unnumbered]-68 PDF (16.6 MB)

Page 32

32 A HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES 5.See above, pp. 2 1—25.6.A chapter on
the crusade of Varna is planned for volume V of this work, in preparation.
Christendom launched or helped to launch two major expeditions to aid the
Byzantines: the luckless crusade of Nicopolis in 1396, 5 and the essentially
Polish-Hungarian crusade of Varna in 1444.6 
 The Byzantine point of view in connection with the crusading expeditions
from 1261 to 1453 has not hitherto been dealt with systematically. Though
any direct Byzantine involvement in these events is usually difficult to
ascertain, it was, nevertheless, often greater than appears on the surface.
Indeed, if one judges strictly from the Byzantine viewpoint, all three phases
from 1261 to 1453 may be characterized as a Byzantine struggle for survival—in
the first, to preserve Greek independence in the face of threats from western
pretenders to the throne of Constantinople, and in the two subse quent phases,
to protect the empire against the advancing Ottoman Turks. 
 Byzantine statesmen from Michael VIII to 1453 realized that Byzantium had
become too weak to stand alone and must therefore secure allies from the
only source that could provide effectual help, the west, in particular its
leader the pope. At the same time the Byzantines understood that from him
no aid would be forthcoming unless they were willing to pay his price, ecclesiastical
union, entail ing subordination of the Greek church to Rome. Hence, as we
shall see, in all three periods a basic, sometimes the most significant,
factor was the repeated proposals of the Byzantine emperors to the popes
and western rulers for union of the churches. And it is this factor, with
its accompanying and often complex diplomatic negotia tions, that seems always
to be intertwined with, at times even to predominate in, the history of Byzantium's
involvement in the later crusades. 
 The majority of the Byzantine populace, however, remained so deeply hostile
to the Latins that any attempt at union, for whatever reason, was rejected
out of hand. It was not only the persistent fear of a possible new Latin
invasion that aroused the Greeks against ecclesiastical union, but even more,
it would seem, the belief that union meant the dilution of the purity of
the Orthodox faith and thus, through this beginning of a process of Latinization,
the loss of their identity as a people. Paradoxically, as the medieval Greeks
became weaker and weaker politically and militarily, more than ever they
clung tenaciously to their religion, believing that loss of the Orthodox
faith would bring with it the destruction of the empire itself. By 1400,
in fact, certain segments of the populace, especially 

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