Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Fourth Crusade 1202-04 - The betrayal of Byzantium

If the crusades have become controversial, the Fourth Crusade always was so. Until modern times the idea of Christians and Muslims slaughtering each other in the name of religion seemed almost acceptable, but the idea of Latin Catholic Crusaders turning against fellow Christians of the Orthodox Church shocked many people, even at the time, and came to be described as 'The Great BetrayaP. It was even blamed for so undermining the Greek-speaking Byzantine state that this relic of the ancient Roman Empire succumbed to the Ottoman Turks. In reality the Fourth Crusade was not that straightforward; nor was its aftermath inevitable. The Fourth Crusade was a consequence of the deeply disappointing though gratifvingly heroic Third Crusade, which had failed to regain the Holy City of Jerusalem from Saladin. On 8 January 1198 a new pope, the hugely ambitious Innocent III, took the reins of power in Rome. In August he proclaimed a new crusade, the declared purpose of which was to liberate Jerusalem from the 'infideP by invading Egypt, the chief centre of Muslim power in the eastern Mediterranean. It was also the most important sultanate in the Ayyubid Empire founded by Saladin.