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The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople
     

The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople

4.2 6
by Jonathan Phillips
 

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In 1202, zealous Western Christians gathered in Venice determined to liberate Jerusalem from the grip of Islam. But the crusaders never made it to the Holy Land. Steered forward by the shrewd Venetian doge, they descended instead on Constantinople, wreaking terrible devastation. The crusaders spared no one: They raped and massacred thousands, plundered churches,

Overview

In 1202, zealous Western Christians gathered in Venice determined to liberate Jerusalem from the grip of Islam. But the crusaders never made it to the Holy Land. Steered forward by the shrewd Venetian doge, they descended instead on Constantinople, wreaking terrible devastation. The crusaders spared no one: They raped and massacred thousands, plundered churches, and torched the lavish city. By 1204, one of the great civilizations of history had been shattered. Here, on the eight hundredth anniversary of the sack, is the extraordinary story of this epic catastrophe, told for the first time outside of academia by Jonathan Phillips, a leading expert on the crusades. Knights and commoners, monastic chroniclers, courtly troubadours, survivors of the carnage, and even Pope Innocent III left vivid accounts detailing the events of those two fateful years. Using their remarkable letters, chronicles, and speeches, Phillips traces the way in which any region steeped in religious fanaticism, in this case Christian Europe, might succumb to holy war.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While the first three Crusades were launched in an effort to reclaim Jerusalem from Muslims, the Fourth Crusade, begun in 1202, pitted Christians against Christians: Roman Catholics against Orthodox. In this authoritative and vivid account, historian and BBC commentator Phillips (Defenders of the Holy Land) uses monastic chronicles, letters and even the songs of court troubadours to reconstruct the brutal sacking of the Byzantine capital and its underlying causes. Although the enmity between East and West went back 150 years before the Crusade, the crusaders might never have sailed to Constantinople if Emperor Alexius III hadn't requested Pope Innocent to send troops to help him secure Eastern Christendom. When the French and Venetian soldiers arrived, however, they found themselves unwelcome and forced to camp outside Constantinople. As religious and political tensions evolved, the crusaders-already prepared to sacrifice themselves for their faith-grew restless and attacked the city, killing thousands, destroying churches and Constantinople itself. As Phillips points out, the destruction was so embedded in the collective memory of Christianity that in 2001 Pope John Paul II apologized to Greek Orthodox Christians. Phillips's book provides a first-rate narrative of this significant episode in medieval history. Illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Catherine Clarke. (On sale Oct. 25) Forecast: A PBS special on the Fourth Crusade, written by Phillips, could boost sales beyond the usual history buffs. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Well-crafted tale of "brutality and determination, depravity and avarice, political intrigue and religious zeal"-and even worse. Eight hundred years ago, the armies of the Fourth Crusade, mingling knights, squires, and foot soldiers from all over Europe, made a vow to retake Jerusalem from the infidel Muslims. For manifold reasons they did not succeed, but on the way to the Holy Land they turned toward Constantinople, the capital of Eastern Christianity, and looted and burned it instead. The episode has long been explained as a tragic mistake, and, in 2001, Pope John Paul II issued a formal apology to the Greek Orthodox Church expressing sorrow that Latin Christians had "turned against their brothers in the faith." The truth, writes British historian Phillips (Univ. of London), is more complex, for the Fourth Crusade blended faith and commerce: ". . . if the Fourth Crusade did succeed in retaking the Holy Land," he notes, "then there would have been quite genuine possibilities to secure lands and wealth." The Greeks of Constantinople controlled territories and monopolies in the eastern Mediterranean that Venice was avid to secure, and Venice was the Halliburton of its day: Venetian entrepreneurs saw to it that the Venetian merchant fleet would transport the Crusade to the Holy Land, the effect being much like "a major international airline ceasing flights for a year to prepare its planes for one particular client, and then to serve that client exclusively for a further period afterwards." Quid pro quo: but, it being the Middle Ages, the intrigues were ever much more complex, involving massacres, espionage, diplomatic missions between pope and Greek emperor, the murder of said emperor byhis own troops, and, eventually, the sack of Constantinople as "the crusaders spread into the city like a deadly virus running through the veins of a weak old man."Events too little remembered today, and well worth hearing about: Phillips does a good job of rendering this complex, even timely story intelligibly. Agent: Emma Parry/Fletcher & Parry

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143035909
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/28/2005
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
1,323,389
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.48(h) x 0.89(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Jonathan Phillips, a senior lecturer in medieval history at Royal Holloway, University of London, is the author of a number of books on the crusades, including Defenders of the Holy Land and The Crusades: 1095–1197. Phillips’s articles have appeared in BBC History, History Today, and the Independent.  Phillips is a frequent guest on Radio 4 and BBC World Service, as well as England’s Channel 4, the BBC, The History Channel, and PBS.

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Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One year ago I was enrolled in a medieval European class at the university I attend, and found out that I would have to write a big research paper on a medieval event. My professor gave the class a list of topics we could choose, but none of them interested me. I was walking through Barnes and Noble, trying to find a topic that would interest me, when I saw Phillips' book about the fourth crusade. I picked it up, read the back of the book and bought it. My professor agreed that the fourth crusade was an event worth researching, so I went to work studying the subject, and devouring Phillips' book. The book was great! I really enjoyed the narrative and thought it was easy to follow and exciting enough to keep my attention. I love history but often find myself putting a history book down and picking up a historical fiction instead, but Phillips' book was engaging the whole way. I wasn't familiar with the fourth crusade until reading this book - now I think it is the most interesting of the crusades since it didn't ever reach the Holy Land. Enough said. Great book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the author conveyed the true atmosphere of what the 4th crusade was all about. I am a student of history, and very often I find some books vry dry, not this on though. Highly recommended
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