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Fourth Crusade

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Carolina Brewer
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« on: November 18, 2007, 03:49:48 am »

Boniface, the Marquess of Montferrat, meanwhile, had left the fleet before it sailed from Venice, to visit his cousin Philip of Swabia. The reasons for his visit are a matter of debate; he may have realized the Venetians' plans and left to avoid excommunication, or he may have wanted to meet with the Byzantine prince Alexius Angelus, Philip's brother-in-law and the son of the recently deposed Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelus. Alexius had fled to Philip when his father was overthrown in 1195, but it is unknown whether or not Boniface knew he was at Philip's court. There, Alexius IV offered 200,000 silver marks, 10,000 men to help the Crusaders, the maintenance of 500 knights in the Holy Land, the service of the Byzantine navy (20 galleys) to transport the Crusader Army to Egypt and the placement of the Greek Orthodox Church under the Roman Catholic Church if they would sail to Byzantium and topple the reigning emperor Alexius III Angelus. It was a tempting offer for an enterprise that was short on funds. Greco-Latin relationships had been complicated ever since the Great Schism of 1054.

The Latins of the First, Second, and Third Crusade had been hostile to Constantinople on their way to the Holy Land, whereas the Greeks had been accused of betraying the Crusaders to the Turks. A large number of Venetian merchants were also attacked and deported during anti-Latin riots in Constantinople in 1182. However, the Byzantine prince's proposal involved his restoration to the throne, not the sack of his capital city, which Count Boniface agreed to. Alexius IV returned with the Marquess to rejoin the fleet at Corfu after it had sailed from Zara. The rest of the Crusade's leaders eventually accepted the plan as well. There were many leaders, however, of the rank and file who wanted nothing to do with the proposal, and many deserted. The fleet of 60 war galleys, 100 horse transports, and 50 large transports (the entire fleet was manned by 8,000 Venetian oarsmen and marines) arrived at Constantinople in late June 1203.

When the Fourth Crusade arrived at Constantinople, the city had a population of 150,000 people, a garrison of 30,000 men, and a fleet 20 galleys at this time. The Crusaders' initial motive was to restore Isaac II to the Byzantine throne so that they could receive the support that they were promised. Conon of Bethune delivered this message to the Lombard envoy who was sent by the reigning emperor Alexius III Angelus, who had deposed his brother Isaac. The citizens of Constantinople were not concerned with the deposed emperor and his exiled son; usurpations were frequent in Byzantine affairs, and this time the throne had even remained in the same family. From the walls of the city they taunted the puzzled crusaders, who had been promised that Prince Alexius would be welcomed. First the crusaders captured and sacked the cities of Chalcedon and Chrysopolis, then they drove 500 Byzantine cavalrymen away with 80 Frankish knights. Next the crusaders landed, attacked the northeastern corner of the city, and set a destructive fire, causing the citizens of Constantinople to turn against Alexius III, who then fled. Prince Alexius was elevated to the throne as Alexius IV along with his blind father Isaac.

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