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The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople

The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople
Jonathan Phillips
New York: Penguin Group, 2004
D164 P48 2004

In April 1204, the armies of Western Christendom wrote another bloodstained chapter in the history of holy war. Two years earlier, aflame with religious zeal, the Fourth Crusade set out to free Jerusalem from the grip of Islam. Urged on by a canny, venerable Doge of Venice and a pretender to the Byzantine throne, the crusades now turned their weapons against Constantinople, the heart of Christian Byzantium and the most opulent, sophisticated metropolis in the known world.

The crusaders spared no one in their savagery: they murdered old and young, they raped women and girls - even nuns - in their frenzy. They also desecrated churches and plundered treasuries, and much of the city was put to the torch. In celebration of the victory, a prostitute from the crusader army climbed onto the altar of Hagia Sophia and gyrated to obscene songs: barbarism cloaked in the mantle of religious warfare had swept aside one of the great civilizations of history.

Some contemporaries were delighted: God had approved this punishment of the effeminate, treacherous Greeks; others, including the once zealous Pope Innocent III, expressed shock and disgust at this perversion of the crusading ideal. History has judged this as the crusade that went wrong and even today the violence and brutality of the western knights provokes in the Greek Orthodox Church a deep hostility toward the Catholic Church.

In this remarkable new assessment of the Fourth Crusade, Jonathan Phillips doesn't just follow the fortunes of the leading players. Using first hand accounts from knights' and commoners' letters to enrich his analysis, he explores the conflicting motives that drove the expedition to commit the most infamous massacre of the crusading movement.

Quoted from dust jacket.