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Fourth Crusade

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Carolina Brewer
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« on: November 18, 2007, 03:57:26 am »

Outcome

Almost none of the crusaders ever made it to the Holy Land, and the unstable Latin Empire siphoned off much of Europe's crusading energy. The legacy of the Fourth Crusade was the deep sense of betrayal the Latins had instilled in their Greek coreligionists. With the events of 1204, the schism between the Catholic West and Orthodox East was complete. As an epilogue to the event, Pope Innocent III, the man who had launched the expedition, thundered against the crusaders thus:

"How, indeed, will the church of the Greeks, no matter how severely she is beset with afflictions and persecutions, return into ecclesiastical union and to a devotion for the Apostolic See, when she has seen in the Latins only an example of perdition and the works of darkness, so that she now, and with reason, detests the Latins more than dogs? As for those who were supposed to be seeking the ends of Jesus Christ, not their own ends, who made their swords, which they were supposed to use against the pagans, drip with Christian blood, they have spared neither religion, nor age, nor sex. (...) They have even ripped silver plates from the altars and have hacked them to pieces among themselves. They violated the holy places and have carried off crosses and relics."

The Latin Empire was soon faced with a great number of enemies, which the crusaders had not taken into account. Besides the individual Byzantine Greek states in Epirus and Nicaea, the Empire received great pressure from the Seljuk Sultanate and the Bulgarian Empire. The Greek states were fighting for supremacy against both Latins and each other. Almost every Greek and Latin protagonist of the event was killed shortly after. Murtzuphlus' betrayal by Alexius III led to his capture by the Latins and his execution at Constantinople. Not long after, Alexius III was himself captured by Boniface and sent to exile in Southern Italy. Boniface was eventually defeated by Ducas, the despot of Epirus and a relative of Murtzuphlus, and the Kingdom of Thessalonica was restored to Byzantine rule in 1224. One year after the conquest of the city, Emperor Baldwin was decisively defeated at the Battle of Adrianople on 14th April 1205 by the Bulgarians, and was captured and later executed by the Bulgarian Emperor Kaloyan.

Various Latin-French lordships throughout Greece in particular, the duchy of Athens and the principality of the Morea provided cultural contacts with western Europe and promoted the study of Greek. There was also a French cultural work, notably the production of a collection of laws, the Assises de Romanie (Assizes of Greece). The Chronicle of Morea appeared in both French and Greek (and later Italian and Aragonese) versions. Impressive remains of crusader castles and Gothic churches can still be seen in Greece. Nevertheless, the Latin Empire always rested on shaky foundations. The city was re-captured by the Nicaean Greeks under Michael VIII Palaeologus in 1261, and commerce with Venice was re-established.

In an ironic series of events, during the middle of the 15th century, the Latin Church tried to organize a crusade which aimed at the restoration of the Byzantine Empire which was gradually being torn down by the Ottoman Turks. The attempt, however, failed, as the vast majority of the Byzantines refused to unite the churches. The Greek population found that the Byzantine civilization which revolved around the Orthodox faith would be more secure under Ottoman rule. Overall, religious-observant Byzantines preferred to sacrifice their political freedom in order to preserve their faith's traditions and rituals. In the late 14th and early 15th century, two kinds of crusades were finally organised by the Kingdoms of Hungary, Poland, Wallachia and Serbia. Both of them were checked by the Ottoman Empire. During the Ottoman siege of Constantinople in 1453, a significant band of Venetian and Genoese knights died in the defense of the city.

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