Siege of Constantinople (1204)
Siege of Constantinople (1204) Part of the Fourth Crusade
Prise De Constantinople in 1204, by Palma il Giovane
Date 8 April - 13 April 1204 Location Constantinople, Byzantine Empire Result The capture of the city by the Crusaders. Belligerents Byzantine Empire Crusaders Commanders and leaders Alexios III Angelos
Alexios V Doukas
Strength Byzantines: 15,000 men,
- Byzantines: 20 ships
Crusaders: 10,000 men
Venetians: 10,000 men
- Venetians: 210 ships
Casualties and losses Unknown Unknown
The Siege of Constantinople (also called the Fourth Crusade) occurred in 1204; it destroyed parts of the capital of the Byzantine Empire as it was confiscated by Western European and Venetian Crusaders. After the capture the Latin Empire was founded and Baldwin of Flanders was crowned Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople in the Hagia Sophia.
Following the end of the first siege of Constantinople in 1203, the pro-Crusader Alexios Angelos was crowned as Emperor Alexois IV of the Byzantine Empire on 1 August 1203 who then tried to stablize the city. But riots between anti-Crusader Greeks and pro-Crusader Latins broke out later that month which lasted until November in which most of the populace began to turn against Emperor Alexois IV.
On 25 January 1204, the death of co-Emperor Isaac II set off rioting in Constantinople in which the people deposed Alexois IV, who turned to the Crusaders for help but was imprisoned by the imperial chamberlain, Alexios Doukas, who declared himself Emperor on 5 February. Emperor Alexios V then attempted to negotiate with the Crusaders for a withdrawal from Byzantine territory, but they refused to abandon their old treaty with Alexios IV. When Alexios V ordered Alexios execution on 8 February, the Crusaders declaired war on Alexios V. In March 1204 the Crusader and Venetian leadership decided on the outright conquest of Constantinople, and drew up a formal agreement to divide the Byzantine Empire between them. By the end of that month, the combined Crusader armies were besieging Constantinople as Emperor Alexios V began to strenghthen the city's defences while conducting more-active operations outside the city. By the first week of April, the Crusaders had began their siege from their encampment in the town of Galata across the Golden Horn from Constantinople. 
On 9 April 1204, the Crusader and Venetian forces began an assault on the Golden Horn fortifications by crossing the waterway to the north-west wall of the city, but because of bad weather the assault forces were driven back when the troops that landed came under heavy archery fire in open ground between the Constantinople fortifications and the shore. 
Capture of the city
On 12 April 1204 the weather conditions finally favoured the Crusaders as the weather cleared and a second assault on the city was ordered. A strong northern wind aided the Venetian ships in Golden Horn to come close to the city wall which enabled the attackers to seize some of the towers along the wall. After a short battle, approximately 70 crusaders managed to enter the city. Some Crusaders were eventually able to knock holes in the walls, small enough for a few knights at a time to crawl through; the Venetians were also successful at scaling the walls from the sea, though there was extremely bloody fighting with the Varangians. The crusaders captured the Blachernae section of the city in the northwest and used it as a base to attack the rest of the city, but while attempting to defend themselves with a wall of fire, they ended up burning down even more of the city. This second fire left 15,000 people homeless. Emperor Alexios V fled from the city during that night through the Polyandriou (Rhegium) Gate and escaped into the countryside west of the city.
The Sack of Constantinople
The Crusaders inflicted a savage sacking on Constantinople for three days, during which many ancient and medieval Roman and Greek works were either stolen or destroyed. The famous bronze horses from the Hippodrome were sent back to adorn the facade of St Mark's Basilica in Venice, where they remain to this day.
The Library of Constantinople was destroyed. Despite their oaths and the threat of excommunication, the Crusaders systematically violated the city's holy sanctuaries, destroying, or stealing all they could lay hands on; nothing was spared.
It was said that the total amount looted from Constantinople was about 900,000 silver marks. The Venetians received 150,000 silver marks that was their due, while the Crusaders received 50,000 silver marks. A further 100,000 silver marks were divided evenly up between the Crusaders and Venetians. The remaining 500,000 silver marks were secretly kept back by many Crusader knights. Latin residents of Constantinople, meanwhile, took revenge for the Massacre of the Latins of 1182.
According to a prearranged treaty, the empire was apportioned between Venice and the crusade's leaders, and the Latin Empire of Constantinople was established. Boniface was not elected as the new emperor, although the citizens seemed to consider him as such; the Venetians thought he had too many connections with the former empire because of his brother, Renier of Montferrat, who had been married to Maria Comnena, empress in the 1170s and 80s. Instead they placed Baldwin of Flanders on the throne. He was crowned Emperor in the Hagia Sophia as Baldwin I of Constantinople. Boniface went on to found the Kingdom of Thessalonica, a vassal state of the new Latin Empire. The Venetians also founded the Duchy of the Archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Meanwhile, Byzantine refugees founded their own successor states, the most notable of these being the Empire of Nicaea under Theodore Lascaris (a relative of Alexius III), the Empire of Trebizond, and the Despotate of Epirus.
Eight hundred years after the Fourth Crusade, Pope John Paul II twice expressed sorrow for the events of the Fourth Crusade. In 2001, he wrote to Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens, saying, "It is tragic that the assailants, who set out to secure free access for Christians to the Holy Land, turned against their brothers in the faith. The fact that they were Latin Christians fills Catholics with deep regret." In 2004, while Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople, was visiting the Vatican, John Paul II asked, "How can we not share, at a distance of eight centuries, the pain and disgust." This has been regarded as an apology to the Greek Orthodox Church for the slaughter perpetrated by the warriors of the Fourth Crusade.
In April 2004, in a speech on the 800th anniversary of the city's capture, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I formally accepted the apology. "The spirit of reconciliation is stronger than hatred," he said during a liturgy attended by Roman Catholic Archbishop Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France. "We receive with gratitude and respect your cordial gesture for the tragic events of the Fourth Crusade. It is a fact that a crime was committed here in the city 800 years ago." Bartholomew said his acceptance came in the spirit of Pascha. "The spirit of reconciliation of the resurrection... incites us toward reconciliation of our churches."
- Siege of Constantinople (1203)
- Siege of Constantinople (1235)
- ^ S. Blondal, The Varangians of Byzantium, 164
- ^ J. Phillips, The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, 159
- ^ a b J. Phillips, The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, 269
- ^ J. Phillips, The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, 106
- ^ a b c David Nicolle, The Fourth Crusade 1202-04; The betrayal of Byzantium. Osprey Campaign Series #237. Osprey Publishing.
- ^ "Sack of Constantinople, 1204". Agiasofia.com. http://www.agiasofia.com/emperors/fall1204.html. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
- ^ "Preface". Clir.org. http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/bellagio/bellag1.html. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
- ^ Jean Richard, The Crusades, c.1071-c.1291, 251
- ^ Герцберг, Г. Ф. История на Бизантия, Москва 1895, с. 359-360
- ^ Gerland, Е. Geschichte des lateinischen Kaiserreiches von Konstantinopel. 1. Teil: Geschichte des Kaisers Balduin I und Heinrich. Homburg v. d. Höhe 1905. p. 1-10
- ^ "The Latin Occupation in the Greek Lands". Fhw.gr. http://www2.fhw.gr/chronos/projects/fragokratia/en/webpages/frago.html. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- ^ "In the Footsteps of St. Paul: Papal Visit to Greece, Syria & Malta - Words". Ewtn.com. http://www.ewtn.com/footsteps/words/CHRISTODOULOS_5_4.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- ^ "Pope Expresses “Sorrow” Over Sacking of Constantinople". Atheism.about.com. 2004-06-30. http://atheism.about.com/b/2004/06/30/pope-expresses-sorrow-over-sacking-of-constantinople.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- ^ Phillips, The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, intro., xiii).
- ^ "In Pascha messages, Patriarchs address question of violence". Incommunion.org. http://incommunion.org/articles/issue-33/news-issue-33. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
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