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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantium and the Crusades

The Fourth Crusade and Byzantium 


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Page 2

But Innocent III did not want to see the eastern emperor a schismatic; he opened negotiations for union. These progressed slowly, for in one of his letters to Alexius the irritated pope threatened, in case of resistance, to support the right to the Byzantine throne of the family of the dethroned and blinded Isaac, whose daughter had been married to the German king, Philip of Swabia; probably the pope did not mean to carry out his threat. Alexius III, however, did not consent to his proposal of union, and in one of his letters he even brought forward the statement that the imperial power was higher than the spiritual. Thereupon relations between Byzantium and Rome became somewhat strained.

While carrying on negotiations with Constantinople and subtle diplomatic propaganda in Germany, Innocent III was exerting extraordinary activity in organizing a general crusade in which western and eastern Christianities should be fused together in order to reach the common aim, the liberation of the Holy Land from the hands of the infidel. Papal messages were sent to all the Christian sovereigns; the papal legates were traveling over Europe and promising the participants in the crusade the remission of their sins and many worldly practical advantages; eloquent preachers were encouraging the masses. In a letter Innocent III described the sad conditions of the Holy Land and expressed his anger against the sovereigns and princes of his epoch who were devoting their time to pleasures and petty quarrels; he described what the Muslims, whom the pope named in his letter pagans, think and say about the Christians. The pope wrote:

Our enemies insult us and say, Where is your God who can free from our hands neither Himself nor you? We have polluted your sanctuaries, put forth our hands against the objects of your adoration, and violently attacked the Holy Land. In spite of you we keep in our hands your fathers' cradle of superstition. We have reduced and broken the spears of the French, the efforts of the English, the vigour of the Germans, the heroism of the Spaniards. What has all this valor which you sent against us accomplished? Where is your God? Let Him rise and help you! Let Him show how He protects you and Himself! We have no more to do except, after the extermination of the defenders left by you for the protection of the country, to fall upon your own land in order to eradicate your name and the remembrance of you. What may we reply to such aggressions? How may we refute their insults? Indeed, that which they say is partly the very truth. When the pagans display their anger with impunity in the whole country, the Christians do not dare any more to go out of their cities. They cannot even stay in them without shuddering. The sword (of the infidel) waits for them without; within they are torpid from fear.

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