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The Norman Plan of Constantinople and the Fourth Crusade

The Prussian poet, Heinrich von Kleist, in his curious play whose “Titelheld” is Robert Guiscard makes the Norman die before the gates of Constantinople, and he undoubtedly represents what the indomitable duke had anticipated and visualized when died on the island of Kephalenia, of which contemporary texts indulging in wishful thinking speak of as the first stage on the road to Constantinople from Jerusalem. It is not without some deep reason that this island under the slightly altered came of Califern appears in the geography of the Chanson de Roland, and later on, in various romances of chivalry, was confused with different Eastern countries, was adopted by the fancy of the Spanish Conquistadores and finally was rediscovered on the Pacific coast, for Kephalenia – Califern is your American golden state of California. All the dreams of Robert Guiscard had far-reaching consequences. And here we are concerned with the fate of his great thought, of his main ambition, the conquest of the Byzantine Empire.

We have seen how he availed himself of the straitened circumstances to which the great struggle of the Roman Church against Henry IV of Germany had reduced Gregory VII. The Pope was compelled to believe or to feign to believe that Robert, when he started his first expedition against Epirus, was simply trying to reinstate in his imperial rights the legitimate Emperor of Byzantium Michael Dukas. Of course, the person whom Robert presented to his troops and to the Pope under this name was a contemptible imposter, a pseudo-Dukas. There are pious historians who express the hope that the Pope was really deceived by that mean trick, and this they must do for the honor of the Church, because in his famous letter to the bishops of Southern Italy, the Pope declares without hesitation that the Crusade of Robert is politically speaking, an undertaking serving the purpose of helping a Christian sovereign to regain the throne from which he has been ousted by an usurper, Nicephorus Botaniates.

The pseudo-Dukas was not the first Quisling in history, and it is painful to find the memory of a great Pope linked with a political device for which one can only have a feeling of contempt. Unfortunately, that device, primitive as it may appear, is often effective, and we are going to see it again resorted to against Byzantium, under a more plausible form, it is true, on the eve of the Fourth Crusade, which is probably the final result of the Norman plan. But before we discuss the very complicated historical questions raised by what we call in French: “le changement de direction” or “le détournement” of the Fourth Crusade, we must enumerate the successive attempts made by the Norman rulers after Guiscard, to transform into a political reality the scheme which had been defeated in 2085, thanks to the energy of Alexios Comnenos and to the sudden death of Robert.

That story is not generally known, because the period into which we now enter is that of the Crusades, generally treated in the traditional way which pays attention only to the canonical crusades, numbered from one to eight, omitting all those expeditions which took place before or after the eight holy wars, and equally those which fall in between, that is, in the interval between two numbered crusades. That manner of treating the historical stuff is not only characteristic of text-books, but even of scholarly books. You would not believe that Guiscard’s wars in Epirus and Macedonia, from 1080 to 1085, are not even alluded to in the classic book of Louis Bréhier, “l’Eglise et l’Orient au Moyen Age”.

The First Crusade, in which Bohemond, son of Guiscard played a prominent part, saw a new landing of the Normans in Albania (1096) – but this time a peaceful one, for Bohemond, who had learned to appreciate Alexios’ power, had decided to court the Eastern Roman Emperor in order to obtain from him the title and rights of a Byzantine Field-Marshal or to use the correct Byzantine name of that charge, the dignity of “Great Domestic”. He took, without protest, an oath of allegiance to the sovereign, and induced his companions to do the same, The shrewd Emperor, however, did not trust Guiscard’s son, who, in the end, did not receive the Great Domesticate. Everybody knows how in 1098, after the Capture of Antioch, which had been the greatest city of the Empire and which ought to have been restored to it according to the obligations assumed by the Crusaders, Bohemond succeeded in becoming Prince of Antioch, and how, to secure his new position, he dictated the famous letter to the Pope Urban II (September 1098), not only against the Moslems, but also against his disgruntled fellow-crusaders, and above all against his legitimate overlord the Byzantine Emperor. In this he says the perfidious and ominous words:  “Holy Father, we have vanquished the Turks and Pagans, but the Heretics, the Greeks and the Armonians, the Syrians and Jacobites, we have not succeeded in beating them”. And the princes who was induced to sign that letter with Bohemond request the Pope to come in person and to take possession of the see of Antioch, to help crush all heresies: “Nos onis Turcos et Paganos expugnavimus, hereticos autem, Graecos et Armenos, Syros Jacobitasque expugnare nequivimus”.

A famous document, this, the first in history in which the Greeks are listed along with the old heresies, condemned by former councils.

Six years later, Bohemond recognized that from Antioch where he was surrounded by Greeks and Turks allied against him, he could not defeat the man and State whom he considered, just as his father had done, as the first enemy of his own dynasty, the great obstacle in his way. He assembled his knights in the Church of Saint Peter in Antioch, and told them that he was going back to Europe, to Italy and France, in order to repeat on a larger scale his father’s expedition. The Price of Antioch and of Tarent thought that to crush the Byzantine Empire he should strike again at Durazzo. And, in a curious speech, full of Norman grandeur, he says: “A mighty wind must be made to blow, to tear up with its very roots, the gigantic oak “Magno opus est flatu, ut possit quercus alta radicibus evelli”. That oak is the Byzantine Empire. But Bohemond did not succeed in uprooting it. His Albanian war was less successful even than his father’s. He was not only beaten before Durazzo, but surrounded by Alexios’ army, and compelled to sign a humiliating treaty of peace, by which he recognized himself the Emperor’s humble vessel, and yielded to the Emperor a number of strongholds, and a large part of the territory of the principality of Antioch. That treaty could not be enforced, at that time, but Alexios’ second successor, Manuel, saw its realization, when he entered Antioch in 1159, on horse-back, with the Prince of Antioch following on foot.The Prince of Antioch was then: Renaud de Chatillon, who had obtained the principality by marrying the widow of his predecessor, Raymond de Poitiers, who already in 1144, had come to Constantinople to accept the terms of the treaty of 1108. That treaty, then, was the Magna Carta ruling the relationship between the Greek Empire and the Latin Principality of Antioch. The Overlordship of Byzantium in Northern Syria thus goes back to a battle won in Albania, and to a treaty signed in an Albanian town: Deabolis (today Devol). Raymond de Poitiers had become Prince of Antioch through his marriage with Constance , daughter or Bohemond II, who had died in 1131. And Bohemond II himself had succeeded Tandred, Bohemond’s heir, who had refused to comply with the terms of the treaty.

Bohemond’s invasion of Albania was the Third Roman Expedition.

In the West, Roger II, called the Great Count, had reunited Sicily and Apulia and had been crowned as a King in Palermo (1130). It is under his reign that, while Manuel Comnene was fighting in the East, the Fourth Norman Aggression against Greece took place (1147). This expedition is not a crusade, although this is not Roger’s fault. He had tried to combine his private undertaking with the Second Crusade, the occasion of which was the loss of Edessa (taken by the Atabey of Mossoul, December 1144).

Everybody knows that this second crusade was led by the German Conrad III and the French Louis VII, and that its chief event was the march on Damascus, and the failure to take this town (1148).

Roger had tried to enlist, at least the French Royal army for his particular aims but had failed, and therefore as NordenNorden, Das Papsttum und Byzanz, Berlin 1903 says, he undertook an expedition of his own against the Byzantine Empire, taking advantage of the real Crusade and greatly hampering it. It is because Manuel was occupied with all his forces in watching the Crusaders that Roger could strike in Greece, take Corfu, Corinth, Thebes, from where he transferred to Palermo the flourishing silk industry. But the Greek conquests were soon lost.

Under William I, son of Roger II, almost miraculously, the last really great Byzantine Emperor Manuel retaliates for the four Norman invasions, and lands Greek troops in Italy, which he succeeds in reconquering from Ancona to Tarento, but this sudden display of Greek force favours the Normans, who win the support of Barbarossa and even of Venice which had been the ally of the Empire since 1082, because of the commercial privileges bestowed upon them as a consequence of their assistance against Guiscard.

A few words about the Fifth Expedition which again does not coincide with the Third Crusade (1189), which was rendered necessary by the loss of Jerusalem in 1187, but precedes it by four years.

William, for the first time, was almost completely successful and carried out after exactly a century, the original plan of Guiscard. He took Durazzo, marched on Salonika, occupied Corfu and the rest of the Ionian islands. Salonika fell on the twenty-fourth of August, 1105; atrocious deeds took place, the record of which we own to the great Bishop of that city Eustathius.

On his way to Constantinople, near Serres, William learned of the murder of the Emperor Andronicos Comnenos, whose successor Isaac Angelos succeeded in repelling the Normans, who again losty all their conquests, with the exception of Corfu and Zacynthos.

Evidently that constant failure was due to the fact that almost always the Normans were compelled, or chose, to act singlehanded. Decidedly the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had not at its disposal the army and the navy which would have been necessary to achieve their aim and to destroy the Empire, even weakened as it was at the end of the XIIth century. But what the Normans of Italy had not achieved alone, the “Axis” could hope to realize: I mean the combination of the German and of the Sicilian force.

After the death of Frederic Barbarissa, in Cilicia during the IIIrd crusade, his son Henry VI, the husband of Constance, daughter of William II, inherited the two Kingdoms. Henry was crowned in Palermo in 1194. And then for the first time since Bohemond the Norman ambitions took the form of an actual crusade. But again this crusade is not numbered, probably because of its unholy aim. Henry, uniting Norman and German claims (as soon as he was crowned) sent an ultimatum to Isaac asking for (1st) the surrender of the ephemeral conquest of the Normans, (2nd) an indemnity for the damages sustained by Frederic Barbarossa during his crusade and (3rd) the use of the Byzantine Fleet for transporting a crusading army to Palestine.

When, in April 1195, Isaac was overthrown by his Brother Alexios III, Henry engaged the Byzantine princess Irene, daughter of Isaac, to his brother Philip of Swabia, who was to act as a pretender to the Byzantine throne, and he wrote to Pope Celestine and to the German bishops, announcing a great expedition with a double aim: Constantinople and Jerusalem. The concentration of the army, largely German, was to take place at Messina; the French King of Cyprus (Amaury de Lusignan), the ancestors of De Gaulle’s pretender to the present French Gaul, and Leo, the King of lesser Armenia, were to help. That crusade really took place. Text-books call it the German Crusade. But, as we have already said, it was two-pronged: first, an expedition headed by the Archbishop of Mayence, Conrad, landed in St. Jean d’Acre (Ptokrmais), and by the capture of Sidon and Beyrouth reestablished the communications between Tripoli and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Even, the Holy City was well nigh retaken. But the Germans were held in check during long months before a small place called Tibain and they retreated when they heard, early in 1198, that Henry VI was no longer alive. He had remained in Messina in Sicily with his army of 16,000 men and his fleet of 44 ships which he intended to land personally against Constantinople.

When he died after two months’ illness, the double Crusade was given up, the only lasting memory of it being the Foundation of the Teutonic Order. But Henry VI had put the Byzantine question brutally. The Pope had not opposed the idea of attaching both the Infidels and the Heretics. And the Italian trading republics, Genoa and Pisa, had shown the greatest interest in that affair. The Norman planj had been sponsored by the German Empire. It is only because of a historical accident, the sudden death of Henry VI that the Crusade against Constantinople had to be postponed. But the IVth crusade cannot be understood if one does not know that prologue.

Of course, the Papacy was not enthusiastic about an undertaking which would have made of the Hohenstaufen a universal monarch. Innocent III, successor of Celestine, was an enemy of Philip of Swabia, son-in-law of Emperor Isaac, the dethroned.

In 1198, the Pope hastened to make friends with the reigning Greek Emperor Alexios III, who in turn, in order to make the Crusade against him impossible agreed to a Church Union. At the same time Innocent was preaching and organizing a true Crusade to reconquer Jerusalem. We are going to see how that Crusade, against the will of the Pope, was made to serve the old Norman plans, but I must warn you again, that in spite of all the facts which concur to make it understandable, it remains one of the most difficult problems in world history.

Fulko, priest of Neuilly, in France, was the preacher of the IVth Crusade, duly authorized by King Philip-August of France. He had what has been called the “permanent central committee of action” whose seat was the castle of Compiègne; but in Germany the political and dynastic situation was complicated. The new King, Philip of Swabia, was opposed by the Pope who had set up against him a Guelph anti-king, Otto IV of Brunswick, and naturally the struggle between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines was raging in Italy along with the rivalry of the trading Republics, Genoa, Pisa and Venice, the most independent of all states, because of its geographical position and of its large navy. The Venetian Doge was the famous Enrico Dandolo, ninety years of age, and blind, but full of life and of energy. The elected chief of the Crusade had been Thibault of Champagne who died after the expedition began and was replaced by Boniface of Montferrat, brother of Conrad of Montferrat, and cousin of Philip of Swabia.May 6, 1201. This is important. By the election of Boniface of Montferrat, the leadership of the Crusade went back to the Ghibellines. Philip, the heir of the Norman and German plan of conquest of the Byzantine Empire could not go himself to the Orient (because of the domestic struggle against Otto IV, he had to remain in Germany), but Boniface was in reality his lieutenant. Not only was he the cousin of Philip, the son-in-law of Emperor Isaac, but he himself had many Byzantine connections. One of his brothers, Renier had married a daughter of Manuel Comnenos and had even received the title of Caesar. He had been assassinated by the Emperor Andronikos. His brother, Conrad, before he became King of Jerusalem, seems to have helped Isaac seize the throne. All these connections were known among the crusaders and Robert de Clari has a very long excursus about them (Robert de Clari, p. 59, 65). It is known that the two chief historical sources for the IVth Crusade are the famous chronicle of the Marshall of Champagne, Geoffroi de Villehardouin, outstanding member of the G. H. Q. and the more popular tale of Robert de Clari, from Cléry les Pernois, not far from Amiens, whose chronicle, however, was published for the first time in 1873, from a Copenhagen manuscript. My experience, and every historian’s experience is, that, in similar cases, conventional history is based and will remain based for a long time on the longer known source. Consciously or unconsciously, historians almost always prefer the older version, the elements of which have been incorporated in most of the modern works on the subject. And, of course, the better writer is Villehardouin. His work is a monument of our French literature, whereas Clari’s chronicle hardly belongs to literature, at all. Of course, Villehardouin was better informed, and knew all the secrets of the G. H. Q., but that is just the reason why we should be very cautious in accepting his statements. Critics who rely upon him consider the history of the Crusade as a mere succession of accidents which may be summed up in the following way: 1) the Crusaders, in March, 1201, concluded, through an Embassy, a treaty with the government of Venice on these terms: the Venetians pledged themselves to carry by sea on their ships, 4,500 knights, 9,000 squires, 20,000 sergeants on foot with food supply for 9 months. The crusaders [agreed to pay] 4 marks (Cologne currency) a horse, and 2 marks a man, to wit in all: 85,000 marks, being 5,000,000 gold franks, and to surrender to the Republic of Venice half of their eventual conquests. It was moreover decided that the landing would take place in Egypt: “Pour ce que par Babylon pourraient mieux les Turcs que par autre terre.”

The expedition was to sail on June 26, 1202. On May 8, 1201, Boniface had in the meantime replaced Thibaud [sic] de Champagne, but this was not yet known. Innocent III approved of the agreement, but precluded in express terms any aggression against Christians, “ut videlicet ipsi Christianos nonlaederent.”

Innocent’s opposition to any attack on Byzantium became more definite when he learned that the leader was to be Boniface, cousin of Philip, the personal enemy of the Pope. Innocent was for a crusade, but not for a Ghibelline one.

Innocent’s misgivings soon were confirmed by the unexpected flight from Constantinople of the young Alexios, son of the dethroned Isaac, nephew and prisoner of the usurper Alexios III. He landed at Ancona, went to Rome, and tried to gain the support of Pope Innocent, promising him (it was the customary bait), the submission of the Byzantine Church.

This was in the spring of 1201. Immediately after the confirmation of the transportation agreement, but before the concentration of the crusaders in Venice, we know from a letter of Pope Innocent, dated November, 1202, that the Pope had dismissed the Pretender, without accepting his proposals, and that the young Prince thereupon had gone to Germany, to his brother-in-law, King Philip of Germany. But we shall speak in a few minutes of Alexios’ intrigues. It is evident that seeing the crusaders hurrying on to Venice from every part of Europe, he conceived the hope of making use of them for his restoration plan. But the crusading army had to ignore those manouvres for two reasons: there was in the rank and file a majority of pious Christians who thought with horror of shedding Christian blood, and the will of the Pope was clear to everybody. Therefore, in our sources, Alexios appears on the stageIt is true that Villehardouin mentions for the first time Alexios’ evasion in August 1202. He does not say that he visited the Pope and was dismissed by him without any promise. He speaks only on his meeting at Verona some of the crusaders and adds that he then sent messengers to Boniface of Montferrat & then proceeded to Germany to see King Philip. And as to Robert de Clari, he introduces for the first time young Alexios after the capture of Zara, that is to say exactly at the time when the final agreement was to be reached, which means that to him, just as to the mass of the crusaders, the Byzantine turn of the Crusade came as a wholly unforeseen contingency. Now this was exactly what one tried to make: “la pauvre gent de l’ost” believe. at the last moment, when everything was decided. His intervention was presented as a lucky windfall which had come to pass to save the crusaders from a difficult situation in January 1203.

But to return to Villehardouin’s presentation of events, the fact of having concentrated the Franks at Venice had many drawbacks: first, the total effective of 33,500 crusaders was far from having been reached; only 60 per cent were there, and the Venetians in expectation of the announced number was mobilizing too many ships. Moreover, in spite of many extra individual contributions, the crusaders could pay the Venetians only 34,000 marks instead of 85,000. And they had no money to go home with, either. Out of that painful situation, they were “saved” by the Venetians; here I shall quote the plain words of Clari (where you will notice a slight variant in figures): “Said the Doge: ‘Lords, we have taken council, I and my people, to this effect, that if you are willing to pay us the 36,000 marks you owe us, out of the first gains that you shall make for yourselves, we will put you over sea.’ When the crusaders heard what the Doge said & proposed, they were right glad, & they fell at his feet for joy; and they promised faithfully that they would do what the Doge had devised, and there was such rejoicing that night that there was no one so poor as not to make a great illumination, and they carried great torches on the end of their lances around their lodges and inside them, so that it seemed as if the whole camp were on fire.

Afterwards, the Doge came to them, and said: “Lords, it is now Winter, and we cannot cross over sea. The fault cannot be laid on me, for I would have had you make the crossing long ago if it had not been for you. But let us make the best of it, said the Doge, there is a city near here Zara (Jadres) by name, they of this city have done us much harm,In 1181, Zara had expelled its Venetian governor and submitted itself to Bela III, King of Hungary. and I and my men want to be avenged of them if we can. If you will trust me, we will go there and stay there this winter until toward Easter. And then, we will make ready our fleet and go over sea to the service of God. For Zara is a very fine city and plenteous in all good things.’

The barons and the highmen of the Crusaders agreed to what the Doge had said, but the host as a whole did not know anything of this plan, save only the highest men.”

I would like to underline this sentence, which speaks volumes.

Now the learned champions of the “Zufallstheorie” are in the trend of mind of the ignorant dupes which formed the majority of the army. They hold that everything was unforeseen, that young Alexios’ intrigues played no part in the whole story, that after his first appearance in Italy, he disappeared in Germany, and was lost sight of: that the Venetians already then the best diplomats – after the Byzantines perhaps – did not care for him; that they did not suspect that the crusaders would run short of cash and need some sort of Land & Lease bill instead of the Cash & Carry one that had been agreed to; that they had even forgotten about their pressing need of regaining their naval & continental base of Zara; that it was a mere windfall that they came upon the happy thought of linking the debt question with the question of the bases; that while suddenly rediscovering the Zara problem, they had no inkling of their all-important interests in the Byzantine Empire! How could we credit them with that amount of absent-minded disinterestedness? Of course, Villehardouin plays his role in pleading on behalf of the crusader headquarters, a complete ignorance of all political implications, for he is fully aware of the fact that both the Zara affair and the Byzantine venture are from a Christian point of view, capital sins, and if pone sins, it is better to sin without premeditation. So his shrewdness apparently bears out Robert de Clari’s sincere ignorance. But the truth can be reinstated in its rights by some decisive texts: 1) There is the fact that as early as Xmas 1201, Philip of Swabia had an interview with Boniface of Montferrat, leader of the Crusade at Haganau, and that was after the Pretender’s unsuccessful visit to the Pope. 2) Boniface, who was travelling all the time, went, in the spring of 1202, to Rome, in order to propose to the Pope for the 2nd time to combine the Crusade with a restoration of Alexios. Here we have the testimony of the Gesta Innocentis, which say: “The Marquess, having secretly discussed that question with the Holy Father, but having understood that the Pope did not favour that plan, went back to his army.” This alone proves that the whole plan existed even before the concentration at Venice. The Venetians never knew it. 3) Is the Zara episode in any connection with the Byzantine plan of Philip of Swabia? I think that we have a decisive proof that it is, for at the very moment when the Crusaders sailed to Zara, they sent to the Pope, the Cardinal Legate Peter of Capoua asking for his approval of the restoration of the Pretender, and at the same time, Emperor Alexios III, well-informed about all these intrigues, (which means that they had been going on for many months), tried to and succeeded in deterring the Pope from backing the Pretender. I don’t understand how the champions of the “Zufallstheorie” can uphold their views when they read the unmistakable words of the Pope, in his letter to Alexios III, dated November 16, 1202: “But the Cardinal, appearing before us, set forth very carefully the proposals made by the Pretender to the crusaders;  and as your own ambassadors equally appeared before us (bringing us your letter), we have discussed the question with our brethren, and decided in your favour, in spite of the fact that some members of our Council advocated the other course, saying support of it that the Greek church was not obedient & devoted to our Apostolic See.”

All that, naturally, was concealed from the naïve crusaders. And when, finally, the “proposals” of Alexios (already old in November 1202) were finally put before them, they were presented (January, 1203) as a kind of providential revelation. In the meantime, the army had taken Zara, in spite of the courageous warning of the Abbot of Vaux: “Seigneurs, je vous défends, de par le Pape de Rome, d’attaquer cette cité, car elle est cité de chrétiens, et vous êtes des pélerins.” (Villehardouin.)The Pope himself intervened in the Zara question, and here again Villehardouin has suppressed important facts. The Abbot of Vaux was really acting on formal Papal instructions! Robert de Clari: “The people of Zara had secured a letter from Rome, saying that anyone who should make war on them or do them any harm would be excommunicated. And they sent this letter by good messengers…. When the messengers came to the camp, the letter was read before the Doge & the pilgrims, and when the Doge had heard it, he said that he would not give over having his revenge on those of this city”: not even “for the excommunication of the Apostolic” but only a minority refused to attack Zara.”

But after that Venetians and crusaders quarreled. There were many slayed and wounded. And the money question had again become acute, not for Villehardouin perhaps, and the other grandees, but for “la pauvre gent de l’ost” whose voice we again hear in Clari’s chronicle: “The crusaders bethought them that they had spent a great deal, and they talked with one another, and said that they could not go to Babylon or to Alexandria or to Syria, because they had neither provisions nor money for going there, for they had spent nearly everything on the long delay they had made as well as on the great price they had given for the hire of the fleet.”

And then the dénoument comes. Amazingly enough, the generalissimo appears: the Marquis Boniface of Montferrat. Whence did he come? From Germany, evidently, for we know that he was not in Venice from September 1202 to December 1202, and this is decisive, when he arrived in Zara, (he had purposely avoided taking a part in that operation) he was immediately followed by German ambassadors sent by King Philip and the Pretender Alexios. Here the statements of Villehardouin and of Robert are in almost complete agreement, or else complete each other.

Villehardouin says: “Et les Barons et le Duc de Venise s’assemblèrent en un palais où le Duc était loge, et alors, les messagers parlèrent et dirant….” (See Villehardouin p. 93)

Robert de Clari puts these words in the mouth of the Duke: “Lords, in Greece there is a land that is very rich & plenteous in all good things. If we could have a reasonable excuse for going there & taking provisions and other things in the land until we were well restored, I think it would be a good plan. Then we should be well able to go oversea.”

Then the Marquis rose and said: “Lords, last year at ChristmasThis is the most illuminating chronological detail Robert de Clari added to our knowledge. Boniface of Montferrat arrived after the capture of Zara, but before the end of the year 1202. See Faral, Revue historique, 1906, p. 571-2. Anyhow, the ambassadors of Philip arrived a fornight after him, that is to say, either at the end of December or, as another source says on January 1st 1203. Thus Boniface speaks in 1202 and Xmas of last year must [be] Xmas of 1201. This solves two much discussed questions: first, Alexios was already in Germany at the end of 1201; second, Boniface admits that he had been for more than a year in contact with the pretender, and probably some of his mysterious journeys find their explanation in that way. Naturally he does not say that there had been even then a draft agreement of any kind between them; but the Pope’s letter of November 16th 1202 testifies to this. I add that Prince Alexios himself arrived only later on, when the crusaders were already at Corfuin May 1203. I was in Germany at the Court of my Lord the Emperor; there, I saw a youth who was brother to the wife of the Emperor of Germany. The youth was the son of the Emperor Isaac of Constantinople, whose brother had taken the Empire of Constantinople from him by treason. Whoever could get hold of this youth, said the Marquis, would be well able to go to Constantinople and get provisions & other things, for this youth is the rightful heir.”

The agreement proposed by Alexios, Boniface & the Venetians, and guaranteed by Phlip of Swabia (the proposals are even, & this is all important, presented by Villehardouin as being made by Philip of Swabia himself, were:

1)      Alexios & his father would be reinstated.

2)      The Byzantine Church will be submitted to Rome.

3)      The army will receive 200,000 silver marks.

4)      The Emperor himself will accompany the crusaders in Egypt, or maintain at his cost 10,000 men there, and in addition: “Toute sa vie Durant, il entretiendra 500 chevaliers en la terre, d’outre-mer, et les entretiendra à ses frais.”

But the sincere Christians among the Crusaders were not deceived, and it is with pleasure that we read in Villehardouin’s chronicle: “L’abbé de Vaux de l’Ordre de Cisteaux, parla, et ceux du parti qui voulait dialoquer l’armée; et ils dirent qu’ils n’y conserntiraient point, car c’était marcher contre des Chrétiens et qu’ils n’étaient point partis pour cela, mais qu’il voulaient aller en Syrie.

Et l’autre parti leur répondit: “Beauxs seigneurs, en Syrie vous ne pouvez rien faire, et vous le verres bien d’après ceux mêmes qui nous ont quittés et sont allés aux autres ports. Et sachez que c’est par la terre de Babylone ou par la Grèce que sera recouvrée la terre d’outre-mer si elle est jamais recouvrée; et si nous repoussons cette convention, nous sommes honnis pour toujours.

Ainsi était l’armée en discorde, et ne vous étonnez si les laïques étaient en désaccord, puisque les moines blancs de l’ordre de Cîteaux étaient également en désaccord dans l’armée. L’Abbé de Loos (Simon), qui était très saint home et prud’homme, et d’autres abbés qui étaient de son côté prêchaient et suppliaien les gens de maintenir pour Dieu l’armée réunie, et de suivre cette convention, car c’était la chose par laquelle on pouvait le mieux recouvrir la terre d’outre-mer. Et l’Abbé de Vaux et ceux qui étaient de son côté préchaient eux aussi à fréquentes reprise et disaient que tout cela était mauvais: qu’ils allasseent plutôt en la terre de Syrie et qu’ils fissent ce qu’ils poourraient!

Alors intervinrent le marquis Boniface de Montferrat, et Beaudouin, le Comte de Flandre, et de Hainaut, et le Comte Louis, et le Comte Hugues de Saint-Pol, et ceux qui étaient de leur côté, et ils dirent qu’ils concluraient cette convention, car ils seraient honnis s’ils la repoussaient. Ils s’en allèrent ainsi à l’hôtel du duc, et les messagers furent mandés; et ils concluent la convention, comme vous l’avez ouï plus haut, par serments et par chartes à sceau pendant.”

The agreement of all sources allow us to say that the opposition to that last piece of political hocus-pocus was almost general, and even resulted at Corfu in a kind of conspiration or of riot, not to speak of many defections (Beaucoup de petits gens s’enfuirent dans des nefs de marchands). Many brave men went directly to Syria. One must not forget that through the Zara affair, the crusaders had first incurred the excommunication of the Pope. It is true that the Pope, about February 1203 lifted the ban, yielding to a delegation which had been sent to the Holy Father, in December 1202. “Le Pape,” says Villehardouin, “dit aux nessagers qu’il savait bien que d’était par la défaillance des autres qu’il leur avait fallu agir sinsi, et qu’il en avait grand pitié, et alors il envoyaa son salut aux barons et aux pélerins, et leur dit qu’il les absolvais comme ses fils.”

With a devilish adroitness, Villehardouin inserts the Papal absolution immediately after the agreement with Alexios, so that the careless reader must have the impression that the Pope forgave both the past & the future sin. And I regret to say that one of the last writers on the subject, the Dutch historian H. Vriens: “De Kevestie van den Vierden Kruistocht” (Tydschrift von Geschiedens XXXVII, 1922, pp. 50-80, no p. 75) has been misled by Villehardouin and does not blush to say: “it seems extraordinary that the Pope gave immediately his approbation to Alexios’ proposal, and forgave the whole episode of Zara.”

The exact opposite is true: as soon as the Pope heard about the final Détournement of the Crusade he felt the greatest indignation. At the end of May, when the fleet was sailing, informed by Cardinal Peter of Capoua, he sent them a formal and emphatic interdiction of attacking Constantinople. The Pope had remained faithful to his ideal. Secular motives and especially his fear of the imperialism of the Hohenstaufen, of Philip and Boniface, who, with the help of Venice, and against the will of a Christian army, were now relentlessly carrying on the Norman plan, political considerations or motives must have contributed to strengthen his firm but fruitless opposition.

Terrible things were going to occur: the sack of the capital of the Christian East, of the most civilized city in the world, scenes of murder and arson, of pillage and robbery, worse than those which 2 ½ centuries later, were to be committed by the Turks destruction or partition of that state which was the last bulwark of Christendom against the Seldjouks of Asia Minor: and all that perpetrated, like the first false crusade, that of Guiscard under the sign of the Cross, although fortunately this time not under the “Vexillum Sancti Petri,” under the banner of Saint Peter.

We shall see in our last lecture how these ruthless & unforgettable outrages, instead of furthering Christian unity as the crusaders believed or feigned to believe, deepened the chasm between the two now really estranged churches, created inextinguishable hatred, and, on the hand, brought about, by a miraculous reaction, one of those miracles of which there are a few in the wondrous story of the Greek nation. In destroying the Roman Eastern Empire, the crusaders did much the same as the Eastern Powers who in our days, in demolishing the brittle and dead fabric of the Ottoman Empire, quickened the Young Turkey.

Thus in 1204 young Greece, or old Greece, rejuvenated by the shock of an immense catastrophe, lashed by the injury of the barbarous west, conscious of her dignity, of her superiority, of her resource & strength, began a new era under new men. And to the surprise of the world the Moslem, the Slavonic & the Frankish, who thought that all was over & done with, that glory which had been Greece, to the surprise of our forefathers & of my valiant countrymen Beaudouin and Henry of Hainaut-Flandres, young Greece, after the fall of Constantinople, started immediately a victorious resistance and at once began the reconquest from three distant points of the Hellenic world, where the Akrites or frontier fighters displayed their almost forgotten heroism: from Trebizond. In the Anatolian far east, from Nicaea and Smyrna (which may be temporarily in Turkish hands, but always will reassert their Greek character), and last, not least, from the bulwark of Greek in all times, from the epic land of Epirus.