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

III: The Crusades of Frederick Barbarossa and Henry VI,   pp. 86-122 PDF (16.5 MB)

Page 97

Greek who killed one hundred pilgrims, even if he were charged with murdering
ten Greeks, would secure a pardon. . . . We have already spent twelve weeks
at Philippopolis. From Philippopolis to Constantinople no inhabitant of city
or fort is to be found."7 
 From this letter it is obvious that the march through Bulgaria and Thrace
succeeded in so building up German fury against the Greeks that Frederick
planned the capture of Constantinople, and, to promote it in the west, asked
for a papal campaign of hatred against Byzantium. If one accepts Frederick's
account at its face value the responsibility for this wholly unnecessary
exacerbation of German sentiment must be put upon the feeble judgment and
puerile diplomatic machinations of a cagey emperor, Isaac Angelus, who, without
material means to retrieve the fortunes of a contracting empire, thought
to frighten the Germans into making profitable concessions in the east by
harassing their march and allying himself with the supreme enemy of western
Christendom, Saladin himself. It is, however, conceivable that some, at least,
of the attacks upon the crusader forces came from Balkan brigands. The writ
of Constantinople no longer ran unchallenged in this area; witness the major
rebellion of Vlachs and Bulgars that had exploded only three years before,
and was still unquelled. It may have been impossible for Isaac to carry out
the provisions of the treaty, which his chancellor had made with Frederick
at Nuremberg - to supply guides, provisions, and transportation across the
straits. Had he done so, however, he might have delivered his potential western
enemies into the hands of the Selchükid Turks with dispatch. 
 Barbarossa had no aggressive intentions against Byzantium, as Isaac had
every reason to know from his conduct. Indeed the German emperor, bent upon
a crusade to the east and not upon a hazardous political adventure, went
out of his way, in the face of what appeared to be outrageous provocation
and at great cost to the crusading army, to deal coolly with the impossible
demands of his imperial colleague. Even if Isaac's fear of German aggression
had been well founded, it was madness to stimulate rather than attempt to
divert it, at a moment when Frederick was in direct touch with the Serbian
and Bulgarian rebels. No Byzantine army could resist the German army if the
petty diplomatic trickery of a despot failed to scare the untutored western
barbarians into submission. It was irresponsible and callous to turn his
subjects over to plunder and finally to an occupation. Indeed in provoking
his own people, and in arousing the hatred and contempt of the German empire,
 7 This letter is in Ansbert, pp. 40-43. 

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