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The Fourth Crusade

Greek: Δ’ Σταυροφορια
What: The invasion of Constantinople by the Crusaders of Western Europe.
When: 1202-1204

The capture of Constantinople by the crusaders.

The capture of Constantinople by the crusaders.

The Fourth Crusade occurred from 1202-1204 by the Crusaders of Western Europe who invaded and captured the city of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Originally the crusade was intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem through the invasion of Egypt. With the sacking of Constantinople, it left the city damaged beyond repair and led slowly to its demise in 1453 when it was invaded by the Turks. The Latin Empire was then established in the conquered parts of the Byzantine Empireand lasted for a few decades before the Byzantine Greeks reconquered their lands and overthrew the crusader states.

The initial stages of the fourth crusade began in 1198 when Pope Innocent III preached for a new crusade to the ‘holy lands’. This crusade would start in 1202 with the intention of conquering Egypt then proceeding to capture Jerusalem. However, in 1202 instead of heading for Egypt the crusaders began sacking Christian cities located in the Byzantium empire instead, seeking riches and profit from the dynastic rivalries. Theystarted from Venice with an army of some 25,000 people headed for Constantinople, with a population of 400,000 people.

They reached Constantinople in 1203 but were held off by the Greeks for almost a year. The leaders of the crusaders were infuriated with their failure and began insulting the Greeks in front of their own army as they stood atop their city walls. Then in April of 1204 the Crusaders attacked the city walls and managed to break the Byzantines defences. Constantinople feel for the first time and wasdevastated for three days as the crusaders looted ancient and medieval Roman and Greek worksthat were transferred to Venice. Valuable Byzantine and Roman icons were melted and destroyed in order to extract the gold and silver. Churches were burned and the great Library of Constantinople was burned to the ground as Greek works of philosophy and mathematics would be lost forever. Nothing was spared.

The people of Constantinople were helpless and could only watch as their city was being destroyed. The Crusaders declared Baldwin of Flanders as the new emperor and founded the Latin Empire. The Byzantine Empire was separated into three different kingdoms: The Empire of Nicaea, The Despotate of EPirus and the Empire of Trebizond. It wasn’t until 1259 that Constantinople would be recaptured but the surviving Byzantine Empire was weakened and was coming to an end as the Turks were beginning their decent on the Byzantine Empire. Whatever ties there had been between the Greeks and the Latins had been officially destroyed and the schism between the Roman Catholic church in the West and the Greek Orthodox Church in the east was unofficially solidified.

1204 AD Crusaders Destroy Greek Byzantine Constantinople:

 

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