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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 179

and the walls of the Golden Horn. The Venetian fleet moved up to the inner
end of the harbor, and maintained contact, preparing scaling ladders and
siege artillery, and building platforms high up on the spars of their galleys.
Repeated Byzantine sorties kept the land forces engaged, and necessitated
the building of palisades around the camp. It was ten days before the preparations
for the assault were complete. 
 It came on July 17. The Varangian guard of English and Danes successfully
defended with swords and axes the section of wall chosen by the French crusaders,
but the Venetians, with the blind old Dandolo waving the banner of St. Mark
in the foremost galley and shouting at his forces, beached their galleys
below the sea walls, and with scaling ladders seized first one tower and
then another until they held twenty-five along the sea wall, and actually
were capturing horses within the walls and sending them to the crusader forces
by boat. For defense against the vastly superior Byzantine forces, they set
fire to the buildings inside the walls, destroying the whole neighborhood
utterly and beginning the tragic ruin of the city. Meanwhile Alexius III
with a huge army made a sortie against the crusader battalions attacking
the land walls. Wisely refusing to break ranks, the crusaders drew up before
their camp, and awaited an onslaught which, in the end, failed to materialize;
Alexius III approached close, but then withdrew. At the news of the Byzantine
sortie, Dandolo ordered his forces to withdraw from the towers they held,
and the Venetians now joined the French. Despite the temporary lodgment of
the Venetians on the walls, the action as a whole had failed. 
 But that night Alexius III fled with his daughter Irene and his jewels to
Mosynopolis, a Thracian town. Abandoned, the Byzantine officials released
Isaac from prison and restored him to office, sending messengers before dawn
to inform the Latins of their action. The wary host sent four representatives,
two Frenchmen and two Venetians, to investigate the truth of the report.
Through the open gate and between the lines of the axe-bearing Varangians,
Villehardouin and his three colleagues came into the Blachernae and the presence
of Isaac Angelus. They required him to ratify the obligations, which the
young Alexius had assumed toward the crusading army, and returned with the
proper chrysobull, reluctantly granted. Then the Byzantines opened the city
to the entire crusading force, which escorted the young Alexius into the
capital. The next day the Latins yielded to the urgent request of Isaac and
Alexius to take their forces out of Constantinople proper, in order to avoid

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