|Massacre of Constantinople|
The Fourth Crusade had a devastating impact on the Byzantine Empire and its capital, Constantinople. For an enormous charge, the Venetians offered to transport the forces of the Fourth Crusade to Egypt to fight the Muslim “infidels.”
But the Venetians never intended to attack the Egyptian Muslim rulers, with whom they had an extensive and lucrative trade. Instead after some maneuvering, the Venetians convinced the crusaders to attack and take Zara, a strategic and rich Adriatic port. The spoils from Zara were divided among the Venetians and the crusaders.
The crusaders then ignored the orders of Pope Innocent III not to attack Byzantium. In 1204 the crusaders, aboard Venetian ships, landed at Constantinople, then the richest city in Europe. The aged Venetian doge, Enrico Dandolo, personally led the crusaders, mostly French, into the city. Hundreds of Muslim worshippers were killed as well as several thousand Greek Christians, considered as heretics by Latin Catholics.
Having traded extensively with Byzantine merchants, the Venetians were familiar with the city and its treasures and embarked on extensive and systematic destruction, pillaging, and theft of the city’s wealth. To the present day, many art collections in Venice, including the famous bronze horses overlooking Piazza di San Marco, were stolen from Constantinople in 1204.
The crusaders installed Baldwin of Flanders as head of the new Latin Kingdom of Constantinople and replaced the Greek clergy with Latin clergy. The Latin Kingdom proved short-lived and after its collapse Greek Byzantine rulers returned to Constantinople, but the city never regained its former glory or power.
|Enrico Dandolo, Venetian doge that led the crusaders into Constantinople|