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

VIII: The Hospitallers at Rhodes, 1306-1421,   pp. 278-313 PDF (20.9 MB)

Page 282

 The conquest of Rhodes was one among a number of schemes, disguised as crusades,
which sought to take advantage of the Greeks' inability to withstand the
assaults of the Turks. The victories of the Catalan Company in Asia Minor
in 1304 showed that the Turks were not invincible, but they provided only
temporary relief for the Greeks. The Genoese Benedict Zaccaria demonstrated
the possibil ities of establishing new Latin lordships in the Aegean by occupying
the island of Chios and securing the recognition of his position there from
the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II. As early as 1299 there was a papal scheme
by which king Frederick II of Sicily would receive Rhodes in fief, and in
1305 Frederick sent his half-brother, the Hospitaller Sancho of Aragon, on
an unsuccessful expedition to occupy certain Byzantine islands. In the same
year Raymond Lull advocated the seizure of Rhodes with four galleys and its
use as a base from which to enforce the prohibitions against Christian trade
with the Moslems. This proposal was part of a larger scheme for an attack
in Romania, justified by the theorists as a move against the "schismatic"
Greeks and "infidel" Turks and as a step toward the recovery of Jerusalem;
it was planned by Charles of Valois, brother of king Philip IV of France
and titular Latin emperor of Constanti nople, with the support of the papacy
and, in theory at least, of all the major Latin Mediterranean powers except
Genoa. The Hospital lers were predominantly French and, unlike many of the
Italian powers which were inhibited by commercial considerations, they constituted
a reliable crusading element. The attack on Rhodes, however, was not itself
conceived primarily as part of a crusade against Andronicus.3 
 The Hospitallers were naturally attracted to the green and fertile island,
nearly fifty miles long and some twenty miles wide, lying off the southwestern
coast of Asia Minor. Northeast of Crete and north west of Cyprus, Rhodes
was not on the most direct European trade routes to Constantinople or Alexandria,
but its fine harbor added to its considerable strategic importance. A forested
ridge of hills down the center of the island ended in a plain at the northeastern
tip, where the city of Rhodes enjoyed a fresh climate some twelve miles across
the water from the mainland. The Byzantine town was a 
3. R. Burns, "The Catalan Company and the European Powers, 1305—1311,"
XXIX (1954), 751—77 1; P. Lemerle, L'Emirat d'Aydin, Byzance et l'Occident
(Paris, 1957), 
pp. 10—26, 50—52; F. Giunta, Aragonesi e Catalani nel Mediterraneo,
II (Palermo, 1959), 
170—171. Text of 1299 in V. Salavert y Roca, Cerdeña y La expansion
mediterrdnea de La 
Corona de Aragon, 129 7—1314, II (Madrid, 1956), 44—45; for Lull's
scheme see A. S. Atiya, 
The Crusade in the Later Middle Ages (London, 1938), p. 82. 

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