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Mike Gerow


World History


The fourth Crusade (1198 under Innocent III)

To understand the setting it is important to note that the fourth crusade occurs six

years after the third crusade. The third crusade was resolved between the Muslims and

the Christians by Saladin and Richard the Lion-Hearted. Through their agreement,

Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control, but Saladin promised that unarmed

Christian pilgrims could visit the holy places in the city without worry. This worked well

for a while, but Pope Innocent III wanted control over Jerusalem, and thus started the

fourth crusade.

This story is from the view of Robert de Clari, a relatively low level knight who

takes part in the crusade. These are not Clari’s exact words, but this work is based off


Clari’s story begins in Venice and an encounter with the doge of Venice. A group

of crusaders had arranged to pay the Venetians in order to use their boats to get to

Jerusalem. They severely overestimated the number of boats they would need, but still

needed to pay for every boat. The knights had to pool together in order to pay for the

voyage, but where unsuccessful twice. The dodge worked with them to get them to agree

to pay the rest after they had made their first conquest, and they agreed.
Winter came and the crusaders were unable to go to Jerusalem, but the doge

recommended that they go to Zara. Zara had apparently had some conflicts with Venice,

and the doge wanted to settle it through the crusaders. They stayed the winter in Zara,

but discovered that they didn’t have enough supplies to make it to Jerusalem. Again, the

doge recommended that they take supplies from elsewhere. This time, the doge picked

Greece. The crusaders probably would have gone to Greece had the marquis (Boniface

of Montserat; leader of the crusades) not recommended that they find the brother-in-law

of the emperor of a Germanic tribe. The marquis claimed that this brother-in-law was the

rightful heir of Constantinople and planned to find this brother-in-law and use him to get

provisions for the crusaders. So then, the crusaders decided to head for Constantinople,

veering off from their original religious goals.

Alexis was crowned, but what happens next is very confusing. Apparently, Alexis

owed money to the to the barons, which he refused to pay. Regardless, the clergy decided

that the war against Greece (including Constantinople) was a just one. They called them

traitors and murders and described them as being “worse than Jews.” The pope took

authority and promised all the crusaders that they would all be absolved for attacking the

Greeks, and to not even wink while doing so.

And so, the crusaders did just that. They went to Constantinople and ravaged the

town. This created a deep split between the eastern and western church.