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ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Edwin Pears
Venetians and Crusaders take Constantinople (1204)
Plunder of the Sacred Relics

Part of Constantinople on the web section of Elpenor's history resources [15 Pages]













Page 11

    The emperors had been buried within the precincts of the Church of the Holy Apostles, the site of which was afterward chosen by Mahomet II for the erection of the mosque now called by his name. Their tombs, beginning with that of Justinian, were ransacked in the search for treasure. It was not until the palaces of the nobles, the churches, and the tombs had been plundered that the pious brigands turned their attention to the statues, A colossal figure of Juno, which had been brought from Samos, and which stood in the forum of Constantine, was sent to the melting-pot. We may judge of its size from the fact that four oxen were required to transport its head to the palace. The statue of Paris presenting to Venus the apple of discord followed. The Anemodulion, or “Servant of the Winds,” was a lofty obelisk, whose sides were covered with bas-reliefs of great beauty, representing scenes of rural life, and allegories depicting the seasons, while the obelisk was surmounted by a female figure which turned with the wind, and so gave to the whole its name. The bas-reliefs were stripped off and sent to the palace to be melted.

    A beautiful equestrian statue of great size, representing either Bellerophon and Pegasus or, as the populace believe, Joshua on horseback commanding the sun to stand still, was likewise sent to the furnace. The horse appeared to be neighing at the sound of the trumpet, while every muscle was strained with the ardor of battle. The colossal Hercules of Lysippus, which, having adorned Tarentum, had thence been transported to the Elder and subsequently to the hippodrome of the New Rome, met with a like fate. The artist had expressed, in a manner which had won the admiration of beholders, the deep wrath of the hero at the unworthy tasks set before him. He was represented as seated, but without quiver or bow or club. His lion’s skin was thrown loosely about his shoulders, his right foot and right hand stretched out to the utmost, while he rested his head on his left hand with his elbow on his bent knee. The whole figure was full of dignity; the chest deep, the shoulders broad, the hair curly, the arms and limbs full of muscle.

    The figure of an ass and its driver, which Augustus had had cast in bronze to commemorate the news brought to him of the victory of Actium, met with the same fate.

    For the sake of melting them down into money the barbarians seized also the ancient statue of the wolf suckling Romulus and Remus; the statues of a sphinx, a hippopotamus, a crocodile, an elephant, and others, which had represented a triumph over Egypt; the monster of Scylla and others; most of which were probably executed before the time of Christ.

    The celebrated statue of Helen was destroyed by men who knew nothing of its original. There must be added to these the graceful figure of a woman who held in her right hand the figure of an armed man on horseback. Then near the eastern goals, known as the “reds,” stood the statues of the winners in the chariot races. They stood erect in their bronze chariots, as the originals also had been seen when they gained their victories, as if they were still directing their steeds to the goals. A figure of the Nile bull in deadly conflict with a crocodile stood near. These and other statues were hastily sent to the furnace to be converted into money. We may judge of the value and artistic merit of the bronze statues which were destroyed, by the specimens which remain. The four horses which the emperor Theodosius had brought from Chios and placed in the hippodrome escaped, by some lucky chance, the general plunder, and were taken to Venice, where they still adorn the front of St. Mark’s.

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