Saturday, September 04, 2010

Fourth Crusade - Twilight of Byzantium (Part three: Crusader Galleys Under Constantinople)

In July of a 1203, or  a year of 6711 of the Byzantine era, the guards on the towers of the city of Constantinople saw hundreds of Venetian galleys approaching the other coast of Golden Horn bay, the merchant suburb called Galata. Galleys were carrying army of crusader knights, mostly French and Fleming, who, while not clearly understood themselves how, instead of the walls of Jerusalem, the holy city, found themselves in front of Christian Constantinople. The first Crusader attack was directed on the Tower of Galata. In this tower was end of a huge chain of Constantinople walls, over the whole bay, which was preventing the entrance of ships into the Golden Horn, and thus the attacks on the city from the sea.

Byzantine tower defense lasted only one day. Already the next morning, the chain has fallen and the entire Venetian fleet with the crusade army found itself under the walls of Constantinople. The last act of the tragedy of the Byzantine Empire could begin.

The Fourth Crusade was launched five years before by Pope Innocent III as soon as he was elected (1198). It took a long time for the crusaders from the north of Europe to gather together and go with hired Venetian galleys in the campaign to the Holy Land. But neither the pope nor did crusader leaders counted on a feature that will turn an entire campaign to achieve a completely other intentions. Venetian Doge Enrico Dandolo was already very old and almost completely blind. Cunning leader and a skilled politician will use the inability of the Crusaders, to pay transport to the Holy Land, and will make them, for the account of Venice, to conquest Hungarian Zadar, and then Constantinople. Excuse for the arrival of the Crusaders under the walls of Constantinople was their alleged intention to return to the throne, the young Tsarevich Alexis and his father, the blind Isaac II, who was languishing in jail in which he was thrown by his brother Alexius III. Of course, doge Dandolo’s real goal was winning the Byzantine Empire so that Venice could freely trade in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

To read Part one: Angels of Vanity, click HERE.

To read Part four: A Tragedy Had Several Acts, click HERE.
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