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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantium and the Crusades

Henry VI and his eastern plans 


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Henry's activity, which showed the complete triumph of political ideas in crusading enterprises, had a very important significance for the future destinies of Byzantium. Henry raised definitely the problem of the Byzantine Empire, the solution of which was soon to become a preliminary condition of the success of the crusades.

That Henry VI dreamed of a world monarchy and of the conquest of Constantinople is now absolutely denied by some historians, who point out that such a statement is based only on the authority of a Byzantine historian of that epoch, Nicetas Choniates, and that the western sources afford no evidence for it. These writers contend that the statement emphasized by Norden, whom Brehier followed, is not authentic; they believe that in 1196 Henry had no serious thought of any attack on Byzantium; that Henry's crusade had nothing to do with the Byzantine policy, and that the foundation of a world monarchy by Henry is to be referred to the realm of fables. But one cannot reject the evidence of the contemporary Nicetas Choniates, who made a clear statement of Henry's aggressive plans against Byzantium. Such a policy, moreover, was an immediate continuation and result of that of his father, Frederick Barbarossa; in the course of the Third Crusade Frederick had been on the point of seizing Constantinople. Therefore the policy of Henry VI was not only the policy of a crusader, but also the policy of a man absorbed in the illusive idea of creating a world monarchy in which Byzantium was to become the most important part

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