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7.9: The Fourth Crusade

  • Page ID
    132382
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    While Jerusalem remained under Muslim control, the papacy’s goal was to retake it. In 1198, one of the most ambitious popes of the Middle Ages was elected:Pope Innocent III (r. 1198 – 1216). His goals were to morally reform society and to launch a crusade for retaking the holy city of Jerusalem. In the year of his election, he issued a call to a crusade that ended up as a disaster.

    Between 1185 and 1204, the Byzantine Empire had drastically weakened. After the death of Manuel Komnenos with his heir still a child, the Empire faced a string of catastrophes. The child-emperor was murdered, his successor was eventually overthrown, as was the next one. During this political infighting, the Empire’s peripheral territories of Serbia, Cyprus, and Cilicia all seceded. Closer to the center, the Bulgars rose in rebellion in 1186 and re-established an independent Bulgaria within only a few days’ march of Constantinople itself. In addition, the chain of emperors, regents, and usurpers reigning between 1185 and 1204 had allowed the Byzantine navy to gradually disintegrate.

    In 1202, a group of crusaders (with kings notably absent) contracted with the government of Venice to transport them to fight in Egypt, now ruled by Saladin’s heirs. When these crusaders proved unable to pay, the Venetian government requested their military assistance. The son of the deposed Byzantine emperor needed some assistance. If the crusaders and Venetians would help him regain his throne, he would provide the crusaders military and financial assistance, as well as give Venice trading privileges with the empire. In 1204, after a series of misadventures, a crusader army stormed the walls of Constantinople and put the city to a brutal sack. Then, the crusaders parceled out much of the territory of the Byzantine Empire amongst themselves. The most advantageous ports went to Venice, which would use them as the basis of a Mediterranean trading empire for centuries. The Crusades, which had begun as a result of an appeal for help by the Byzantine Empire, ultimately resulted in its destruction.

    Although the Byzantine Empire had been broken up, three states survived that claimed to be legitimate heirs to the Byzantine State:

    • One was established in Western Anatolia with its capital in Nicaea
    • Another, in Epirus, in what is today the country of Albania
    • A third was based on the city of Trebizond, on the northern coast of Anatolia.

    The Nicene Empire would eventually retake Constantinople in 1261. Yet, the restored state would never be the regional power that the Empire had been under the Komnenoi.

    Screenshot (984).png
    Map \(\PageIndex{1}\): The Latin Empire in 1212 CE | The Latin Empire of Constantinople (the state established by crusaders after 1204) and Byzantine successor states Author: Ian Mladjov Source: Original Work License: © Ian Mladjov. Used with permission

    This page titled 7.9: The Fourth Crusade is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Andrew Reeves (University System of Georgia via GALILEO Open Learning Materials) .

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