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tine shore. After some fruitless attempts, their intrepid perseverance prevailed ; twenty ships of war, the relics of the Grecian navy, were either sunk or taken; the enormous and massy links of iron were cut asunder by the shears, or broken by the weight of the galleys ; 77 and the Venetian fleet, safe and triumphant, rode at anchor in the port of Constantinople. By these daring achievements, a remnant of twenty thousand Latins solicited the licence of besieging a capital which contained above four hundred thousand inhabitants,78 able, though not willing, to bear arms in the defence of their country. Such an account would indeed suppose a population of near two millions; but, whatever abatement may be required in the numbers of the Greeks, the belief of those numbers will equally exalt the fearless spirit of their assailants.
In the choice of the attack, the French and Venetians were First siege divided by their habits of life and warfare. The former affirmed quest of with truth that Constantinople was most accessible on the side nople by of the sea and the harbour. The latter might assert with honour July 7-18 that they had long enough trusted their lives and fortunes to a frail bark and a precarious element, and loudly demanded a trial of knighthood, a firm ground, and a close onset, either on foot or horseback. After a prudent compromise, of employing the two nations by sea and land in the service best suited to their character, the fleet covering the army, they both proceeded from the entrance to the extremity of the harbour; the stone-bridge of the river was hastily repaired; and the six battles of the French formed their encampment against the front of the capital, the basis of the triangle which runs about four miles from the port to the Propontis.79 On the edge of a broad ditch, at the
77 The vessel that broke the chain was named the Eagle, Aquila (Dandol. Chronicon, p. 322), which Blondus (de Gestis Venet.) has changed into Aquilo, the north wind. Ducange, Observations, No. 83, maintains the latter reading; but he had not seen the respectable text of Dandolo; nor did he enough consider the topography of the harbour. The south-east would have been a more effectual wind.
78 Quatre cens mil homes ou plus (Villehardouin, No. 134) must be understood of men of a military age. Le Beau (Hist. du Bas Empire, tom. xx. p. 417) allows Constantinople & million of inhabitants, of whom 60,000 horse, and an infinite number of foot-soldiers. In its present decay the capital of the Ottoman empire may contain 400,000 souls (Bell's Travels, vol. ii. p. 401, 402); but, as the Turks keep no registers, and as circumstances are fallacious, it is impossible to ascertain (Niebahr, Voyage en Arabie, tom. i. p. 18, 19) the real populousness of their cities.
19 On the most correct plans of Constantinople, I know not how to measure more than 4000 paces. Yet Villehardouin computes the space at three leagues (No.
foot of a lofty rampart, they had leisure to contemplate the difficulties of their enterprise. The gates to the right and left of their narrow camp poured forth frequent sallies of cavalry and light infantry, which cut off their stragglers, swept the country of provisions, sounded the alarm five or six times in the course of each day, and compelled them to plant a palisade, and sink an entrenchment, for their immediate safety. In the supplies and convoys the Venetians had been too sparing, or the Franks too voracious; the usual complaints of hunger and scarcity were heard, and perhaps felt; their stock of flour would be exhausted in three weeks; and their disgust of salt meat tempted them to taste the flesh of their horses. The trembling usurper was supported by Theodore Lascaris, his son-in-law, a valiant youth, who aspired to save and to rule his country; the Greeks, regardless of that country, were awakened to the defence of their religion; but their firmest hope was in the strength and spirit of the Varangian guards, of the Danes and English, as they are named in the writers of the times. 80 After ten days' incessant labour the ground was levelled, the ditch filled, the approaches of the besiegers were regularly made, and two hundred and fifty engines of assault exercised their various powers to clear the rampart, to batter the walls, and to sap the foundations. On the first appearance of a breach the scaling-ladders were applied; the numbers that defended the vantage-ground repulsed and oppressed the adventurous Latins; but they admired the resolution of fifteen knights and serjeants, who had gained the ascent, and maintained their perilous station till they were precipitated or made prisoners by the Imperial guards. On the side of the harbour, the naval attack was more successfully conducted by the Venetians; and that industrious people employed every resource that was known and practised before the invention of gun-powder. A double line, three bow-shots in front, was formed by the galleys and ships; and the swift motion of the former was supported by the weight and loftiness of the latter, whose
86). If his eye were not deceived, he must reckon by the old Gallic league of 1500
80 The guards, the Varangi, are styled by Villehardouin (No. 89, 95, &c.) Englois
decks and poops and turret were the platforms of military engines, that discharged their shot over the heads of the first line. The soldiers, who leapt from the galleys on shore, immediately planted and ascended their scaling-ladders, while the large ships, advancing more slowly into the intervals, and lowering a drawbridge, opened a way through the air from their masts to the rampart. In the midst of the conflict, the doge, a venerable and conspicuous form, stood aloft, in complete armour, on the prow of his galley. The great standard of St. Mark was displayed before him; his threats, promises, and exhortations urged the diligence of the rowers; his vessel was the first that struck; and Dandolo was the first warrior on the shore. The nations admired the magnanimity of the blind old man, without reflecting that his age and infirmities diminished the price of life and enhanced the value of immortal glory. On a sudden, by an invisible hand (for the standard-bearer was probably slain), the banner of the republic was fixed on the rampart; twentyfive towers were rapidly occupied ; and, by the cruel expedient of fire, the Greeks were driven from the adjacent quarter. The doge had dispatched the intelligence of his success, when he was checked by the danger of his confederates. Nobly declaring that he would rather die with the pilgrims than gain a victory by their destruction, Dandolo relinquished his advantage, recalled his troops, and hastened to the scene of action. He found the six weary diminutive battles of the French encompassed by sixty squadrons of the Greek cavalry, the least of which was more numerous than the largest of their divisions. Shame and despair had provoked Alexius to the last effort of a general sally; but he was awed by the firm order and manly aspect of the Latins; and, after skirmishing at a distance, withdrew his troops in the close of the evening. The silence or tumult of the night exasperated his fears; and the timid usurper, collecting a treasure of ten thousand pounds of gold, basely deserted his wife, his people, and his fortune; threw himself into a bark, stole through the Bosphorus, and landed in shameful safety in an obscure harbour of Thrace. As soon as they were apprised of his flight, the Greek nobles sought pardon and peace in the dungeon where the blind Isaac expected each hour the visit of the executioner. Again saved and exalted by the vicissitudes of fortune, the captive in his Imperial robes was replaced on
Restoration of the
us. July 19
the throne, and surrounded with prostrate slaves, whose real terror and affected joy he was incapable of discerning. At the dawn of day hostilities were suspended; and the Latin chiefs were surprised by a message from the lawful and reigning emperor, who was impatient to embrace his son and to reward his generous deliverers. 81
But these generous deliverers were unwilling to release their Emperor hostage, till they had obtained from his father the payment, or
at least the promise, of their recompense. They chose four amson Alexi- bassadors, Matthew of Montmorency, our historian the marshal
of Champagne, and two Venetians, to congratulate the emperor. The gates were thrown open on their approach, the streets on both sides were lined with the battle-axes of the Danish and English guard : the presence chamber glittered with gold and jewels, the false substitutes of virtue and power; by the side of the blind Isaac his wife was seated, the sister of the king of Hungary; and by her appearance the noble matrons of Greece were drawn from their domestic retirement and mingled with the circle of senators and soldiers. The Latins, by the mouth of the marshal, spoke like men conscious of their merits, but who respected the work of their own hands; and the emperor clearly understood that his son's engagement with Venice and the pilgrims must be ratified without hesitation or delay. With. drawing into a private chamber with the empress, a chamberlain, an interpreter, and the four ambassadors, the father of young Alexius inquired with some anxiety into the nature of his stipulations: the submission of the Eastern empire to the pope, the succour of the Holy Land, and a present contribution of two hundred thousand marks of silver.-“These conditions are weighty," was his prudent reply; “they are hard to accept and difficult to perform. But no conditions can exceed the measure of your services and deserts.” After this satisfactory assurance, the barons mounted on horseback, and introduced the heir of Constantinople to the city and palace: his youth and marvellous adventures engaged every heart in his favour, and Alexius was
81 For the first siege and conquest of Constantinople, we may read the original letter of the crusaders to Innocent III. Gesta, c. 91, p. 533, 534; Villehardouin, No. 75-99; Nicetas in Alexio Comneno, 1. iii. c. 10, p. 349-352; Dandolo, in Chron. p. 322. Gunther and his abbot Martin were not yet returned from their obstinate pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or St. John d'Acre, where the greatest part of the company had died of the plague.
solemnly crowned with his father in the dome of St. Sophia. In the first days of his reign, the people, already blessed with the restoration of plenty and peace, was delighted by the joyful catastrophe of the tragedy; and the discontent of the nobles, their regret, and their fears, were covered by the polished surface of pleasure and loyalty. The mixture of two discordant nations in the same capital might have been pregnant with mischief and danger; and the suburb of Galata, or Pera, was assigned for the quarters of the French and Venetians. But the liberty of trade and familiar intercourse was allowed between the friendly nations; and each day the pilgrims were tempted by devotion or curiosity to visit the churches and palaces of Constantinople. Their rude minds, insensible perhaps of the finer arts, were astonished by the magnificent scenery; and the poverty of their native towns enhanced the populousness and riches of the first metropolis of Christendom. 82 Descending from his state, young Alexius was prompted by interest and gratitude to repeat his frequent and familiar visits to his Latin allies; and in the freedom of the table, the gay petulance of the French sometimes forgot the emperor of the East. In their more serious conferences, it was agreed that the re-union of the two churches must be the result of patience and time; but avarice was less tractable than zeal; and a large sum was instantly disbursed to appease the wants, and silence the importunity, of the crusaders. Alexius was alarmed by the approaching hour of their departure; their absence might have relieved him from the engagement which he was yet incapable of performing; but his friends would have left him, naked and alone, to the caprice and prejudice of a perfidious nation. He wished to bribe their stay, the delay of a year,
Compare, in the rude energy of Villehardouin (No. 66, 100), the inside and outside views of Constantinople, and their impression on the minds of the pilgrims : Cette ville (saya he) que de totes les autres ére souveruine. See the parallel passages of Fuichenius Carnotensis, Hist. Hierosol. I. i. c. 4, and Will. Tyr. ii. 3, XX. 26.
As they played at dice, the Latins took off his diadem, and clapped on his head a wool:en or hairy cap, το μεγαλοπρεπές και παγκλείστον κατερρίπαινεν όνομα (Ninetan, p. 358). If these merry companions were Venetians, it was the insolence of trade and a commonwenith.
** Villehardouin, No. 101. Dandolo, p. 822. The Doge affirms that the Vene. tans were paid more slowly than the French; but he owns that the histories of the **u nations differed on that subject. Had be read Villehardouin? The Greeks compla, ned, however, quod totius Graeciæ opes transtulisset (Gunther, Hist. C. P. e. 18). See the lamentations and invectives of Nicetas (p. 856 (in Isaac. et Aler.