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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 168

century, and to seek Hungarian protection. In 1186 Zara, one of the most
important of these Venetian vassal cities in Dalmatia, had in this way gone
over to king Bela III of Hungary. Despite repeated efforts, Venice had failed
to recover it. The doge now asked that the crusading army help him regain
Zara. In return Venice would allow the crusaders to postpone payment of the
debt until such time as they could meet it out of their share of the booty,
to be won later during the expedition. Since the alternative was the abandonment
of the crusade and the probable forfeiture of the money already paid, the
leaders accepted the proposal, although many crusaders objected violently
to turning their arms against Christians. With this matter settled, early
in September 1202 the doge himself took the cross at a great assembly in
St. Mark's, and prepared to go with the expedition as commander of the Venetian
forces, leaving the government of Venice to his son Renier in his absence.
Then it was that the Venetians began for the first time to take the cross
in great numbers, Villehardouin tells us. Apparently they had been waiting
for the doge to take the lead. 
At this point in his narrative, Villehardouin records what he calls a marvelous
and portentous event: <41> the appeal of a Byzantine prince to the
crusaders to help him recover his rights in Constantinople. This was the
"young Alexius", son of Isaac II Angelus, who had succeeded in
escaping to the west to seek the help of his brother-in-law, Philip of Swabia.
Landing at Ancona, the party of the young prince traveled north through Italy,
and at Verona, according to Villehardouin, encountered some tardy crusaders
who were on their way to Venice. Learning from them of the gathering of an
army which was preparing to go overseas, Alexius and his advisers decided
to send envoys to the leaders of the crusade and ask them for help. Boniface
and the counts and high barons were sufficiently interested, Villehardouin
tells us, to send envoys of their own to accompany Alexius' party to Philip's
court. "If he will aid us to recover the land of Outremer, we will aid
him to conquer his land; for we know that it was unjustly taken from him
and his father." <42> So Villehardouin reports the response of
the crusaders to an appeal which he dates immediately before the departure
of the fleet in the fall of 1202. Indeed, if one accepts Villehardouin's
version of events, one must assume that the fleet actually sailed on October
1, 1202, without any commitment to the young Alexius, 
 41 Con quite, chap. LXX: "Or oiez une des plus grant merveilles et
des greignor aventures que vos oncques oisiez." The reader will recognize,
of course, that this dramatic pronouncement is to some extent a cliché
of the literature of the time. 
 42 Conquete, chap. LXXII. 

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