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- Medieval Europe - 20/25 -


the Pope his adversary in the wrong, fulfilled his undertaking to the letter before he ventured to return. But a Crusade controlled by men of lower rank tended to be a joint-stock company of freebooters. For every Crusade the Pope was, to a certain point, responsible. He issued the appeal, he tuned the pulpits; he invited contributions from the laity and exacted them from the national churches; he provided for the enforcement by ecclesiastical censures of all Crusading vows. In the choice of leaders, and in the preliminary councils of war, he had a claim to be consulted. One or more of his legates normally accompanied the armies. But, if the generals chose to ignore his suggestions and to override his representatives, after the march had once begun he was powerless. Usually, it is true, his views would appeal to the rank and file, exempt as they were from the temptations presented to their leaders. But the Common soldiers could only leave the host if they had the means of paying for themselves the expenses of the homeward journey. Often they protested against the uses to which their arms were put; but very seldom were they able to enforce a change of policy.

[Illustration: The Crusaders]

These general statements may be illustrated from the First and Fourth Crusades.

Godfrey of Bouillon and his fellow-leaders, when they passed through Constantinople (1097), did homage to the Emperor Alexius for any lands that they might conquer. The transaction may not have been voluntary; this homage was the price demanded for a safe-conduct through the Greek dominions. But later events proved that the chief Crusaders were resolved not to hold their conquests as fiefs from the Holy See, for which they were nominally fighting. As they drew near to the Holy Land, it became clear that the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre was a subordinate consideration with them. At Tarsus and at Antioch there were fierce disputes between rival claimants to the conquered territories. Baldwin separated from the main army to found a seignory for himself at Edessa. Bohemund remained behind, when Antioch was once assigned to him, for fear that any rival should rob him of his prize. Raymond of Toulouse turned aside to reduce Tripoli, and was with the greatest difficulty constrained to continue the march. The final result of a war in which the loss of men must be reckoned by tens of thousands was the establishment of the four states of Jerusalem, Edessa, Antioch, and Tripoli. To extend the boundaries of these colonies, and to consolidate them under the suzerainty of the Crown of Jerusalem, was the work of their rulers for the next eighty years. These princes were esteemed as champions of the Cross; to assist them in the defence of their territories the military orders of the Temple and the Hospital were founded under the sanction of the Church; apart from the great relieving expeditions, such as those of 1101 and 1147 and 1189, annual fleets of soldier-pilgrims arrived to take part in the operations of the year. But there is little to show that either the Kings of Jerusalem or their great vassals ever justified their position by pursuing an unselfish policy. That the dominions which they ruled were imperfectly colonised cannot be made a reproach against them; only for knights and merchants had the Holy Land any attractions. But the inevitable weakness of the Frankish states was aggravated by their feuds and reciprocal ill-faith.

More than a hundred years elapsed before another expedition of this kind started for the East. The Second Crusade, inspired by St. Bernard acting as the half-reluctant spokesman of the Holy See, was ill-organised, ill-directed, and so disastrous a failure that it was followed by a perceptible reaction against the idealistic policy of which it was the outcome. It revealed to Europe the inefficiency of forces raised with more regard to the pious motives than to the efficiency of the recruits, and laid bare the calculating selfishness of the Latin principalities. But the principal leaders, Louis VII of France and the Emperor Conrad II, could not be charged with insincerity. They made gross mistakes, but were faithful to the purpose with which they set out. Similarly in the Third Crusade, though part of the failure can be directly attributed to the national jealousies of the various contingents, and to the quarrels of Richard I with the more important of his colleagues, the recovery of Jerusalem remained from first to last the dominants object of the army. There were cases of petulance, of unnecessary meddling in the squalid disputes of the Latin settlers, of readiness to depart on the first honourable excuse. But there was no disposition to make the pilgrimage a commercial undertaking. It was otherwise in 1203 when the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade set out from Venice, leaving behind them the papal legate and openly defying the injunctions of Innocent III, whose appeal to Christendom was nominally the warrant for their venture.

No kings sailed with them; from the first the movement had been in the hands of turbulent feudatories, inspired by chivalry rather than religion. Their leader, Boniface of Montferrat, the patron of all the troubadours and knights-errant of the South, was a sworn friend of the Pope's worst enemy, Philip of Suabia, the brother and successor of the Emperor Henry VI. Boniface had been elected to the command without the sanction of the Pope; and from an early date was in league with Philip to turn the Crusade against Constantinople. This plan was for a time concealed from the army, in which a majority of the common soldiers were bent upon recovering the Holy Sepulchre. But the nobles, with whom lay the last word, were ready for whatever adventure the course of events might suggest. Their original hope was to conquer Egypt,--an infinitely more tempting prey than Palestine, where the chief fruits of any success would be claimed by the remnants of the standing garrison. To obtain ships from Venice they undertook on her behalf the siege of Zara; their first feat of arms was the conquest of a Christian city, the only offence of which was that it disputed the Venetian supremacy in the Adriatic. At Zara they were invited by Philip's envoys to attack Constantinople, to overthrow the Emperor Alexius III, and to substitute for him another Alexius, son of the deposed Isaac Angelus and brother-in-law to Philip. The proposal received enthusiastic support from the Venetians, whose great commercial interests in the Greek capital had been often assailed by the fanaticism of the city-populace. The Venetians held the key of the situation, since, if they withdrew their transports, the army could neither go forward nor return in safety; and the nobles, who needed little persuasion, were able to convince the more earnest pilgrims that Philip's offer must of necessity be accepted, though Alexius III was on friendly terms with the Pope and had been expected to assist the Crusade. To palliate the flagrant treachery a promise was exacted from the pretender that, when installed as Emperor, he would help in the conquest of Egypt with men, money, and supplies.

On July 17th, 1203, the army entered Constantinople, after a short siege. Alexius III escaped by flight and Alexius IV was installed in his place. Still the Crusaders lingered in a city the outward splendour of which appealed irresistibly to their imagination and their avarice. The winter, they said, was approaching, and their candidate far from secure upon the throne; they would wait for the spring. Before that date, and in spite of their countenance, he had fallen before a nationalist rebellion (January 1204); and the army hailed the opportunity of reuniting the Greek Church to Rome and partitioning the Greek Empire among themselves. An agreement was made with the indispensable Venetians for the election of a Latin Emperor, to be endowed with one-fourth of the provinces; the booty of Constantinople and the remaining lands of the Empire were to be divided equally between the Venetians and the remaining leaders. For the second time Constantinople was carried by storm; a fire destroyed a large part of the city; and the Crusaders completed the devastation by three days of indiscriminate plunder and massacre. Neither the treasures of the churches nor the priceless monuments and statues of the public places were spared. The sum-total of the booty was thought to be equal to all the wealth of Western Europe; but when it came to the official division all that the knights obtained was twenty marks apiece; ten were the portion of a priest, and five of a foot-soldier. The other articles of the treaty, which had been referred for form's sake to the Pope, were executed without awaiting his reply. The Venetian candidate, Count Baldwin of Flanders, was elected to the Empire and received the Asiatic provinces. Boniface of Montferrat obtained, as a solatium, the kingdom of Thessalonica, embracing roughly the modern provinces of Thessaly and Macedonia; his followers were allowed to establish themselves by degrees in Central Greece and the Morea. The Venetians took the islands of the Ionian Sea, the Cyclades, and Aegina and Negropont; the provinces of Albania, Acarnania, and Aetolia; the city of Adrianople with the adjacent territories, and other possessions of less note.

The Pope, compelled to recognise accomplished facts, merely demanded three concessions: that the Latin faith should be established as the official religion of the Empire; that the possessions of the Greek Church should be handed over to the Latin clergy; and that the Crusaders should continue their pilgrimage at the end of a year. Only the first of these points was conceded. The Crusade of Innocent III ended, like that of Urban II, in the creation of a string of feudal states and commercial factories. But in 1204 there was hardly the attempt to justify what had been done in the name of religion. The Venetians behaved from first to last as commercial buccaneers; a fickle and frivolous ambition, rather than calculating villainy, characterised their highborn associates. Plainly, these were the only materials available for a Crusade; the collapse of the Crusading policy was near at hand.

A few romantic careers illuminate the monotonously sordid annals of the Latin Empire, threatened from within by the feuds of the rival baronial houses, from without by the Bulgarians, the Greek despots of Epirus, and the Greek Emperors of Nicaea. Henry of Flanders, the second Latin Emperor (1205-1216), the one constructive statesman produced by the Crusade; William of Champlitte, who overran the Morea with but a hundred knights, was hailed by the oppressed Greeks as a liberator, and founded the Principality of Achaea (1205-1209) only to lose it through the treachery of a lieutenant; Niccolo Acciajuoli (+1365), the Florentine banker, who rose to be Lord of Corinth, Count of Malta, and administrator of Achaea--these were men who on a greater stage might have achieved durable renown. But the subject Greeks were not to be Latinised by a handful of energetic seigneurs and merchants; one by one, as opportunities occurred, the provinces of the Latin Empire deserted to the allegiance of Nicaea. Adrianople and Thessalonica were lost in 1222, the Asiatic territories by 1228; in 1261 Michael Palaeologus recovered Constantinople, which was to remain the possession of his family until the capture by the Turks (1453). In Greece and the islands the colonists maintained a foothold long after the fall of the Latin Empire. But the last of the Frankish Dukes of Athens fell, with all his chivalry, fighting against the Catalan Company (1311), a horde of freebooters half-Christian and half-Turkish in its composition. Achaea, after years of ignominious subjection to the Angevins of Naples, was similarly conquered by the Company of Navarre (1380). In a maimed condition the two states survived these calamities; but the Greeks and the Venetians were enabled to absorb the richest parts of the peninsula; the last traces of Frankish blood and institutions were swept away by the Turkish conquerors of the fifteenth century. Before these grim invaders the Venetians and the Knights of St. John, the last representatives of Western power, slowly evacuated the Eastern Mediterranean.

The story of this brilliant and ephemeral episode in the expansion of Europe is closed by the Venetian peace of 1479 with the Sultan, and by the fall of Rhodes, the stronghold of the Knights, before the Turkish arms (1522). But in Malta, down to the commencement of the ninteenth century, might be seen the strange and scandalous spectacle of a Crusading Order, emancipated from the old vows and obligations, yet still allowed to exercise a medieval tyranny in memory of the services which their remote predecessors had rendered to the Cross. The other Orders had vanished, not less ignominiously, at earlier dates. The Templars, who had evacuated Syria to live on their European estates and ply the trade of bankers, were proscribed on charges of heresy, by Pope


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