THE PREPARATIONS which the leaders had been pushing on during several
weeks were completed in April, 1204, and that day was chosen for an
assault upon Constantinople. Instead of attacking simultaneously a
portion of the harbor walls and a portion of the landward walls,
Venetians and crusaders alike directed their efforts against the
defences on the side of the harbor. The horses were embarked once more
in the huissiers.
The line of battle was drawn up; the huissiers and galleys in front,
the transports a little behind and alternating between the huissiers
and the galleys. The whole length of the line of battle was upward of
half a league, and stretched from the Blachern to beyond the Petrion.
The Emperor’s vermilion tent had been pitched on the hill just beyond
the district of the Petrion, where he could see the ships when they
came immediately under the walls. Before him was the district which
had been devastated by the fire.
On the morning of the 9th the ships, drawn up in the order described,
passed over from the north to the south side of the harbor. The
crusaders landed in many places, and attacked from a narrow strip of
the land between the walls and the water. Then the assault began in
terrible earnest along the whole line. Amid the din of the imperial
trumpets and drums the attackers endeavored to undermine the walls,
while others kept up a continual rain of arrows, bolts, and stones.
The ships had been covered with blanks and skins so as to defend them
from the stones and from the famous Greek fire, and, thus protected,
pushed boldly up to the walls. The transports soon advanced to the
front, and were able to get so near the walls that the attacking
parties on the gangways or platforms, flung out once more from the
ships’ tops, were able to cross lances with the defenders of the walls
The attack took place at upward of a hundred points until noon, or,
according to Nicetas,
until evening. Both parties fought well. The invaders were repulsed.
Those who had landed were driven back, and amid the shower of stones
were unable to remain on shore. The invaders lost more than the
defenders. Before night a portion of the vessels had retired out of
range of the mangonels,
while another portion remained at anchor and continued to keep up a
continual fire against those on the walls. The first day’s attack had