Thursday, June 26, 2014

The (Disastrous) 4th Crusade, Part 1

The Kingdom of Jerusalem, established after the First Crusade by Europeans, had been re-conquered by Saladin in 1187. Much of that was reclaimed by the Third Crusade (1189-1192), but Jerusalem itself eluded recapture. This was a problem for Europeans.

The Doge of Venice makes an offer to the 4th Crusade
In 1198, Pope Innocent III began his papacy with the preaching of a new crusade. At first, no one was rushing to join. England and France were busy fighting each other, Germany was opposed to recent papal overreach, and it was only a few years since the last Crusade—people were tired, and Crusades took energy and money. Innocent had an ally in the charismatic Fulk of Neuilly (about whom we know almost nothing outside of this sentence), who preached the Crusade and drew several to it, including Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester.

Moving thousands of men, servants, supplies, et cetera, takes a lot of ships, and a handful of men were sent to the Mediterranean coast to negotiate for ships to transport the Crusading army to the Holy Land. Geoffrey de Villehardouin, one of the six envoys, wrote a lengthy chronicle telling the story. In Venice, they put their need before Doge Enrico Dandolo and the Venetian council, and received this answer:
"We will build transports to carry 4500 horses, and 9000 squires, and ships for 4500 knights, and 20,000 sergeants of foot. And we will agree also to purvey food for these horses and people during nine months. This is what we undertake to do at the least, on condition that you pay us for each horse four marks, and for each man two marks.
"And the covenants we are now explaining to you, we undertake to keep, wheresoever we may be, for a year, reckoning from the day on which we sail from the port of Venice in the service of God and of Christendom. Now the sum total of the expenses above named amounts to 85,000 marks.
"And this will we do moreover. For the love of God, we will add to the fleet 50 armed galleys on condition that, so long as we act in company, of all conquests in land or money, whether at sea or on dry ground, we shall have the half, and you the other half. Now consult together to see if you, on your parts, can accept and fulfil these covenants." [source]
The envoys agreed to these terms, and returned to France to inform the leaders of the Crusade of their success. The army was gathered and a start date was set for the following year.

According to Geoffrey, a large number of Crusaders went, not to Venice, but to the port of Marseille, or Genoa, or other ports. (To be honest: Marseille makes sense if you're starting out in France; why have to cross the Alps and go to Venice?) Perhaps the envoys should have haggled for a lower price for transports; after all, Venice was going to get half of any spoils of war.

Whatever the case, when the Crusaders arrived in Venice, there were not as many as advertised, and they could only gather 35,000 marks, a far cry from the 85,000 of the contract. They had been assembled on the island of St. Nicholas to avoid the overcrowding and potential problems of having thousands of strangers on the streets of Venice, but this effectively made them captives of Venice. Venice did not want to cancel the contract: they would lose all the money they had invested, and Venice' reputation might suffer. They had to come up with a solution that allowed the Crusaders to continue on their journey and that was financially satisfactory for Venice.

...and that's exactly what they did. [to be continued]

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