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The Fourth Crusade Essay, Research Paper

The Fourth Crusade The Fourth Crusade is one of the most important of all the major crusades. It is thought to be one of the simpler crusades and to not be very important. It is easily misunderstood, and is actually a very complex and important crusade.After failing to recover Jerusalem by the end of the Third Crusade, the pope began to talk about a new crusade, the Fourth Crusade. Several events happened in Constantinople would then cause the Fourth Crusade to take a turn away from Palestine. The Fourth Crusade did not recover Jerusalem or Palestine. The Crusaders ended by attacking Constantinople, driving out the Byzantine Emperor, and placing one of their own in the capital of Constantine. Emperors were a large part of the cause of the Fourth Crusade. The Comnenus family ruled Byzantium. The last emperor of that family was Andronicus Comnenus. He took the throne, in 1182. He was a bad ruler and the people of Constantinople rioted and killed Andronicus. He was succeeded by Isaac II Angelus. (Bradford, 38)Isaac had his hands full and a few years later Frederick Hohenstaufen of France marched through his lands with a huge army; Isaac was too weak of an Emperor to stop Frederick from taking Adrianople and Philippopolis. In the end, Frederick continued on, but only after Isaac granted him everything he wanted. In April of 1195, his brother Alexius III seized the throne and had Isaac blinded. (Bradford, 39) To continue on with the Crusades, Henry VI of Germany was then thinking about asking for a new crusade. Henry wanted to take over Constantinople and then attack Jerusalem. This scheme never got off the ground because Henry died in 1197. (Bradford, 38)In 1197, however, the Holy Roman Empire was in no position to do much of anything. Henry VI had been important but he was now deceased and his son was only an infant. Since his son was in no position to rule, in Germany there promptly rose two rivals: Philip of Swabia and Otto of Brunswick. Neither of them considered on going on a Crusade. They might lend support but not much more. The Pope, Innocent III suggested that Otto should start the crusade and that he would support him. (Bradford, 38)Innocent III decided instead of Otto that he should control the next Crusade because everyone else who had been chosen for the crusades had failed to recover Jerusalem. He issued his crusading letter in August of 1198, sending it to all the archbishops of the West. He asked for recruits not only from kings and emperors but also from cities. The archbishops and bishops also contributed soldiers, or an equivalent amount in money.Innocent set the original date for the Crusade for March 1199, but no one left. Preachers preached, Innocent wrote more letters and tried to raise money, but still nothing much happened. Only in November of 1199 did the first significant lords take the cross and get enough men for it to be considered an army. (Knox, 4) Almost immediately, Innocent began to lose control of the Crusade. The Crusaders from all over Europe were supposed to assemble at Venice. The Venetians said they would provide the ships to transport the Crusaders to the Holy Land. The ships would not be free. The crusaders had to use Venice because they were the only ones capable of building enough ships to carry the Crusaders. From that moment on, the course of events were affected far more by Venice than by the Pope. To create a strong army for the Crusades a tournament was held in Champagne in November 1199 to see who should become a Crusader. The tournament was held by count Theobald. As part of the festivities, Count Theobald and Count Louis of Blois took the cross, to symbolize Christianity and the men from the tournament, and became the first Crusader army. As word spread of their deed, other lords took crosses. Theobald’s older brother, Henry, had participated in the Third Crusade and had become the King of Jerusalem, so Theobald had very close ties with the Holy Land. (Bradford, 37-39)Before the Crusade ever left, however, Theobald died (May 1201). Since Theobald died the Crusaders chose Boniface of Montferrat to lead them. Boniface, too, had close ties with the Holy Land. He was descended from crusaders. His late oldest brother was the father of King Baldwin V of Jerusalem. So, Boniface brought to the leadership of the Crusade an interest in succeeding instead of failing like the rest. (Bradford, 37-39) The Crusaders assembled first at Soissons, then moved south to C teaux in September, where they were joined by a large number of Burgundians. Next they moved to Italy, not in a single army, but in separate parties. Since they moved in several groups the Crusade was delayed because it took a while for all the groups to meet up. The number of soldiers who actually made it to Venice was far less than had been originally estimated. (Knox, 6)The result was that by autumn of 1201, the Crusaders were late and were behind in their payments. Those who did show up were in trouble because they could not possibly pay the fee that had been set for a much larger army. The original agreement had calculated 33,500 men, whereas perhaps only 11,000 or so actually showed up in Venice. The Crusaders had assembled, but Venice was not about to transport them until it had received the amount owed to them. Crusades were crusades, but business was business. (Knox, 7)There the Crusaders sat, unable to pay for their passage, unwilling to go home, and in the meantime running up bills with all the locals. They could not pay the locals either. So, the Venetians offered a new arrangement to replace the old one. The King of Hungary had been causing rebellion in the Dalmatian towns which were owned by the Venetians, and offering them his protection. One town that had defected was Zara, which for fifteen years Venice had been trying to recover. (Knox, 7) The doge of Venice, Enrico Dandolo, offered to delay the payment of the contract (canceling it was out of the question) if in return, the Crusaders would help Venice recover Zara. The Crusade leaders had little choice, since the alternative was to abandon the Crusade, violate their crusading vow, and return home broke and humiliated. So the Dodge himself took the cross, and many Venetians followed his example.Around the time Isaac II Angelus was blind and in prison in Constantinople, his son Alexius IV had managed to escape. His son decided to flee to the west. Young Alexius spoke to the Crusaders and asked them to help him drive out Alexius III and to put him (the prince) on the throne. If they should do so, the young prince promised an extravagant amount of help for the Crusade to Jerusalem: men, money, weapons, and ships. (Knox, 7)So the agenda was set before the fleet ever sailed on October 1, 1202. The Crusaders would capture Zara for Venice then they would capture Constantinople for the young prince Alexius, and proceed on to Outrem r. By this time, it was not at all clear whether the ultimate objective was still Jerusalem. But By now most of the leaders were not thinking much past Zara and Constantinople. (Bradford, 47-49)The Crusaders left in a huge fleet of over 200 ships. Zara was not a Muslim city, but a Christian one. Since it was a Christian city the Pope was angry and demanded that they not attack Zara, but the Crusaders ignored his threats because they were still in debt to Venice and therefore had to attack Zara. Not all of the Crusaders thought it was a good idea to attack the Christians as part of a Crusade, but waited until they began to attack the city before speaking up. It was not that difficult to persuade them back to the attack on Zara because they blamed it on the Venetians and said they were only fighting because of their debt. The siege began and they attacked the people of Zara. It only took two weeks of battle before the city surrendered. (Bradford, 50-52)

The Crusade spent the winter at Zara and Alexius told the army of his plan to have them help capture Constantinople and rightfully return the throne to him and how he would reward them. Many of the soldiers were not happy because this was not the purpose of the crusade so they refused to go any further, but most of the army stayed. By attacking Zara they were excommunicated, by orders of the Pope so they figured going on to Constantinople could not do any more damage. Excommunicated is when your not allowed sacraments of the church. They sent letters to Innocent begging for forgiveness. Innocent would only bend a little but he demanded that they not attack Constantinople. (Bradford, 52-55)They disregarded Innocent s request to not attack Constantinople. On the way to Constantinople they captured the island of Corfu. They then made a few other stops, and arrived at Constantinople June 24 1203. There they prepared for battle. To begin the battle on July 5, the Venetians broke through the fleets that were blocking the harbor. This was definitely a good thing because it allowed the Crusaders to attack from both land and sea. The Franks attacked near the Blachernae palace, while the Venetians prepared to attack from the harbor side. The Franks were not able to defeat the land side because of the Varangian Guard, who were made up of English and Danish mercenaries. But the Venetians, led by Enrico Dandolo himself (who was at least in his 80s) were able to land on the beaches and attack. The Venetians had to leave the area they just conquered because they had to help the Franks on the other side. Even though the Crusaders assault had only partially succeeded, that night Alexius cowardly grabbed what wealth he could and fled the city with his daughter. Now Constantinople was without a ruler, so they released the blind Isaac II Angelus, and said he was the rightful ruler and that there was no need to fight anymore. The Crusaders said they would only accept Isaac if his son were named co-Emperor. It was agreed, and Alexius was crowned August 1, 1203. (Knox, 9)Isaac II was blind and old and took little part in government and Alexius IV withdrew from public life and spent his time in the palace. Since the city was angry with these two Alexius Murzuphlus stepped in and took over the government. He seized power by murdering Alexius IV and he put Isaac back in prison. As Alexius V, he reinforced the city’s defenses. He positioned himself as the leader of the anti-Roman faction and started serious problems with the Romans. Most of the Romans left Constantinople and went to their camp across the Golden Horn. (Bradford, 101-104) Alexius V made the crusade leaders very angry because of what he did to the Romans. In retaliation they decided to once again try to conquer Constantinople and take it from Alexius V. They had it all planned out. They found ways to split up the goods of the land amongst themselves and also pay off the Venetians. The Crusaders began their assault on April 9, 1204. The initial attack was driven back and the Crusaders took a couple of days to re-group. They tried again on the 13th and after some sharp fighting, the Venetians got over the walls and attacked while another group went over and knocked down one of the city gates along the sea wall. Murzuphlus abandoned the city almost immediately, taking with him some jewels plus the widow and daughter of Alexius IV for ransom. (Bradford, 113-116)The first time the Crusaders captured the city, it was done in the name of Alexius IV. It was done to drive out a bad emperor, Alexius III, and to restore the rightful emperor, Isaac II and co-emperor Alexius IV. This time, however, the attack was purely one of conquest and the Romans joined with the Crusades and put Constantinople to the test. It was the worst looting the city ever experienced. It was called the sack of Constantinople. Constantinople was the richest of all the Christian cities, for it had been slowly gaining its wealth for almost a thousand years. Over the next three days, the Romans managed to carry off a great deal of it. According to the terms of the agreement which were made when they originally decided to divide it up, after three days the loot was collected in great piles and apportioned out: three-eighths of it to Venice, one quarter to the new emperor, and the rest divided among the remaining Crusaders. Literal shiploads of gold, silver, jewels, artwork, and sacred relics left the city that year. Between the robbery and the fires that broke out during the two captures of the city, Constantinople was ravaged so badly that it simply never recovered. It would not return to anything like its former glory until the Ottomans had conquered it and turned it into a great Muslim city. (Knox, 12)The fall of Constantinople in April 1204 marks the end of the Fourth Crusade. The Crusaders did not immediately turn the wealth of the Empire to the conquest of Jerusalem, for they were fully pre-occupied with simply preserving what they had won. They captured Murzuphlus a year later and had him killed, but rival Greek claimants appeared immediately, the most important of which were the emperor of Nicaea and the Despotate of Epirus, who tried to claim Constantinople and its booty. In addition to those empires Bulgaria also emerged as a deadly foe. The Roman knights and rulers of Constantinople ended up spending the entire time fighting for their own survival until finally they lost it in 1261. (Knox, 13)Some Crusaders stayed on, to be granted various fiefs. Most, however, returned home, very happy with what they had plundered from Constantinople. They were still technically excommunicants, but the great victory at Constantinople persuaded Innocent to remove the ban. While there were those who were bitterly critical of the Crusaders for lining their own pockets under the protection of a Crusade, many were happy that they had returned with something. Rather than condemning the Fourth Crusade as a disgrace of a crusade, most people continued to support crusading and the idea of crusading. The next generation would produce more crusades than any other, for people continued to believe that all that was needed was one more large effort and the Holy Land would be returned to Christendom. Matt Nickerson Acc. English Block C & DBibliography and Citations Bradford, Ernle The Sundered Cross. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1967. The Fourth Crusade. [Online] Available http://www.boglewood.com/timeline/crusade.html, Feb. 25, 1999. Marzials, Frank T. Memoirs or Chronicle of The Fourth Crusade and The Conquest of Constantinople. [Online] Available http://liberty.uc.wlu.edu/ mrst/texts/villehardouin.html, April 1996. Knox, Skip. The Fourth Crusade [Online] Available http://www.idbsu.edu/crusades/4th/, 1998 Crusades Encyclopedia Britannica. 11th edition, Vol. VII. New York: University Press, 1910

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