The inhabitants were at length awakened out of the dream of security into which seventeen unsuccessful attempts to capture the New Rome had lulled them.
Continuing Constantinople Taken by the Western Crusaders,
our selection from The Fall of Constantinople Being the Story of the Fourth Crusade by Edwin Pears published in 1903. The selection is presented in six easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Constantinople Taken by the Western Crusaders.
Time: April, 1204
On Monday morning, the 12th, the assault was renewed. The tent of the Emperor had been pitched near the monastery of Pantepoptis, one of many which were in the district of the Petrion, extending along the Golden Horn from the palace of Blachern, about one-fourth of its length. From this position he could see all the movements of the fleet. The walls were covered with men who were ready again to fight under the eye of their Emperor. The assault commenced at dawn, and continued with the utmost fierceness. Every available crusader and Venetian took part in it. Each little group of ships had its own special portion of the walls, with its towers, to attack. The besiegers during the first portion of the day made little progress, but a strong north wind sprang up, which enabled the vessels to get nearer the land than they had previously been. Two of the transports, the Pilgrim and the Parvis, lashed together, succeeded in throwing one of their gangways across to a tower in the Petrion, and opposite the position occupied by the Emperor.
[1. Alexius V, Byzantine Emperor.]
[2. The remarkable church of this monastery still exists as a mosque, and is known as Eski imaret Mahallasse. It still bears witness to its having been arranged for both monks and nuns. It is on the Fourth Hill, just above the Phanar.]
A Venetian, and a French knight, André d’Urboise, immediately rushed across and obtained a foothold. They were at once followed by others, who fought so well that the defenders of the tower were either killed or fled. The example gave new courage to the invaders. The knights who were in the huissiers, as soon as they saw what had been done, leaped on shore, placed their ladders against the wall, and shortly captured four towers. Those on board the fleet concentrated their efforts on the gates, broke in three of them, and entered the city, while others landed their horses from the huissiers. As soon as a company of knights was formed, they entered the city through one of these gates, and charged for the Emperor’s camp. Mourtzouphlos had drawn up his troops before his tents, but they were unused to contend with men in heavy armor, and after a fairly obstinate resistance the imperial troops fled. The Emperor, says Nicetas — who is certainly not inclined to unduly praise the Emperor, who had deprived him of his post of grand logothete — did his best to rally his troops, but all in vain, and he had to retreat toward the palace of the Lion’s Mouth. The number of the wounded and dead was sans fin et sans mesure.
[3. Alexius V, his Greek name.]
An indiscriminate slaughter commenced. The invaders spared neither age nor sex. In order to render themselves safe they set fire to the city lying to the east of them, and burned everything between the monastery of Everyetis and the quarter known as Droungarios. So extensive was the fire, which burned all night and until the next evening, that, according to the marshal, more houses were destroyed than there were in the three largest cities in France. The tents of the Emperor and the imperial palace of Blachern were pillaged, the conquerors making their head-quarters on the same site at Pantepoptis. It was evening, and already late, when the crusaders had entered the city, and it was impossible for them to continue their work of destruction through the night. They therefore encamped near the walls and towers which they had captured. Baldwin of Flanders spent the night in the vermilion tent of the Emperor, his brother Henry in front of the palace of Blachern, Boniface, the Marquis of Montferrat, on the other side of the imperial tents in the heart of the city.
[4. It was the quarter about the gate in the harbor walls, now known as Zindan Capou, near the dried-fruit market.]
The city was already taken. The inhabitants were at length awakened out of the dream of security into which seventeen unsuccessful attempts to capture the New Rome had lulled them. Every charm, pagan and Christian, had been without avail. The easy sloth into which the possession of innumerable relics, and the consciousness of being under the protection of an army of saints and martyrs, had plunged a large part of the inhabitants, had been rudely dispelled. The Panhagia of the Blachern, with its relic of the Virgin’s robe, the host of heads, arms, bodies, and vestments of saints and of portions of the holy Cross, had been of no more use than the palladium which lay buried then, as now, under the great column which Constantine had built. The rough energy of the Westerns had disregarded the talismans of the Greek Church as completely as those of paganism. In vain had the believers in these charms destroyed during the siege the statues which were believed to be of ill omen or unlucky. The invaders had a superstition as deep as their own, but with the difference that they could not believe that a people in schism could have the protection of the hierarchy of heaven, or be regarded as the rightful possessors of so many relics.
[5. Another name of Constantinople.]
During the night following its capture the Golden Gate, which was at the Marmora side of the landward walls, had been opened, and already an affrighted crowd was pressing forward to make its escape from the captured city. Others were doing their best to bury their treasures. The Emperor himself, either seized with panic or finding that all was lost — as, indeed, everything was lost so soon as the army had succeeded in obtaining a foothold within the walls — fled from the city, He, too, escaped by the Golden Gate, taking with him Euphrosyne, the widow of Alexis. The brave Theodore Lascaris determined, however, to make one more attempt. His appeal to the people was useless. Those who were not panic-stricken appear to have been indifferent. Some, at least, were apparently still dreaming of a mere change of rulers, like those of which the majority of them had seen several. But before any attempt at reorganization could be made the enemy was in sight, and Theodore himself had to fly.
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