Mosaics of Hagia Sophia

by Geoffrey de Villehardouin

Now give ear to one of the greatest marvels, and most wonderful adventures that you have ever heard tell of. At that time there was an emperor in Constantinople, whose name was Isaac, and he had a brother, Alexius by name, whom he had ransomed from captivity among the Turks. This Alexius took his brother the emperor, tore the eyes out of his head, and made himself emperor by the aforesaid treachery. He kept Isaac a long time in prison, together with a son whose name was Alexius. This son escaped from prison, and fled in a ship to a city on the sea, which is called Ancona. Thence he departed to go to King Philip of Germany, who had his sister for wife; and he came to Verona in Lombardy, and lodged in the town, and found there a number of pilgrims and other people who were on their way to join the host.

And those who had helped him to escape, and were with him, said: “Sire, here is an army in Venice, quite near to us, the best and most valiant people and knights that are in the world, and they are going overseass Cry to them therefore for mercy, that they have pity on thee and on thy father, who have been so wrongfully dispossessed. And if they be willing to help thee, thou shalt be guided by them. Perchance they will take pity on thy estate.” And Alexius said he would do this right willingly, and that the advice was good.

Thus he appointed envoys, and sent them to the Marquis Boniface of Montferrat, who was chief of the host, and to the other barons. And when the barons saw them, they marvelled greatly, and said to the envoys: “We understand right well what you tell us. We will send an envoy with the prince to King Philip, whither he is going. If the prince will help to recover the land overseass we will help him to recover his own land, for we know that it has been wrested from him and from his father wrongfully.” So were envoys sent into Germany, both to the heir of Constantinople and to King Philip of Germany.

Before this happened, of which I have just told you, there came news to the host which greatly saddened the barons and the other folk, viz., that Fulk, the good man, the holy man, who first preached the Crusade, had made an end and was dead.

And after this adventure, there came to the host a company of very good and worthy people from the empire of Germany, of whose arrival they of the host were full fain. There came the Bishop of Halberstadt, Count Berthold of Katzenelenbogen, Gamier of Borland, Thierri of Loos, Henry of Orme, Thierri of Diest, Roger of Suitre, Alexander of Villers, Ulric of Tone, and many other good folk, whose names are not recorded in this book.


Then were the ships and transports apportioned by the barons. Ah, God I what fine war-horses were put therein. And when the ships were fulfilled with arms and provisions, and knights and sergeants, the shields were ranged round the bulwarks and castles of the ships, and the banners displayed, many and fair.

And be it known to you that the vessels carried more than three hundred petraries and mangonels, and all such engines as are needed for the taking of cities, in great plenty. Never did finer fleet sail from any port. And this was in the octave of the Feast of St. Remigius (October) in the year of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ twelve hundred and two. Thus did they sail from the port of Venice, as you have been told.

On the Eve of St. Martin (10th November) they came before Zara in Sclavonia, and beheld the city enclosed by high walls and high towers; and vainly would you have sought for a fairer city, or one of greater strength, or richer. And when the pilgrims saw it, they marvelled greatly, and said one to another, “How could such a city be taken by force, save by the help of God himself?”

The first ships that came before the city cast anchor, and waited for the others; and in the morning the day was very fine and very clear, and all the galleys came up with the transports, and the other ships which were behind; and they took the port by force, and broke the chain that defended it and was very strong and well-wrought; and they landed in such sort that the port was between them and the town. Then might you have seen many a knight and many a sergeant swarming out of the ships, and taking from the transports many a good war-horse, and many a rich tent and many a pavilion. Thus did the host encamp. And Zara was besieged on St. Martin’s Day (11th November 1202).

At this time all the barons had not yet arrived. Thus the Marquis of Montferrat had remained behind for some business that detained him. And Stephen of Perche had remained at Venice sick, and Matthew of Montmorency. When they were healed of their sickness Matthew of Montmorency came to rejoin the host at Zara; but Stephen of Perche dealt less worthily, for he abandoned the host, and went to sojourn in Apulia. With him went Rotrou of Montfort and Ives of la Jaille, and many others, who were much blamed therein; and they journeyed to Syria in the following spring.*


They rested thus that night. And in the morning, on the day of the feast of our Lord St. John the Baptist in June (24th June 1203), the banners and pennants were flown on the castles of the ships, and the coverings taken from the shields, and the bulwarks of the ships garnished. Every one looked to his antis, such as he should use, for well each man knew that full soon he would have need of them.

The sailors weighed the anchors, and spread the sails to the wind, and God gave them a good wind, such as was convenient to them. Thus they passed before Constantinople, and so near to the walls and towers that we shot at many of their vessels. There were so many people on the walls and towers that it seemed as if there could be no more people (in the world).

Then did God our Lord set to naught the counsel of the day before, and keep us from sailing to the islands: that counsel fell to naught as if none had ever heard thereof. For lo, our ships made for the mainland as straight as ever they could, and took port before a palace of the Emperor Alexius, at a place called Chalcedon. This was in face of Constantinople, on the other side of the straits, towards Turkey. The palace was one of the most beautiful and delectable that ever eyes could see, with every delight therein that the heart of man could desire, and convenient for the house of a prince.

The counts and barons landed and lodged themselves in the palace; and in the city round about, the main part pitched their tents. Then were the horses taken out of the transports, and the knights and sergeants got to land with all their arms, so that none remained in the ships save the mariners only. The country was fair, and rich) and well supplied with all good things, and the sheaves of corn (which had been reaped) were in the fields, so that all—and they stood in no small need—might take thereof.

They sojourned thus in that palace the following day; and on the third day God gave them a good wind, and the mariners raised their anchors, and spread their sails to the wind. They went thus up the straits, a good league above Constantinople, to a palace that belonged to the Emperor Alexius, and was called Scutari. There the ships anchored, and the transports, and all the galleys. The horsemen who had lodged in the palace of Chalcedon went along the shore by land.

The host of the French encamped thus on the straits of St. George, at Scutari, and above it. And when the Emperor Alexius saw this, he caused his host to issue from Constantinople, and encamp over against us on the other side of the straits, and there pitched his tents, so that we might not take land against him by force. The host of the French sojourned thus for nine days, and those obtained supplies who needed them, and that was every one in the host.


During this time, a company of good and trustworthy men issued (from the camp) to guard the host, for fear it should be attacked, and the foragers searched the country. In the said company were Odo of Champlitte, of Champagne, and William his brother, and Oger of Saint-Chéron, and Manasses of l’Isle, and Count Girard, a count of Lombardy, a retainer of the Marquis of Montferrat; and they had with them at least eighty knights who were good men and true.

And they espied, at the foot of a mountain, some three leagues distant from the host, certain tents belonging to the Grand Duke of the Emperor of Constantinople, who had with him at least five hundred Greek knights. When our people saw them, they formed their men into four battalions, and decided to attack. And when the Greeks saw this, they formed their battalions, and arrayed themselves in rank before their tents, and waited. And our people went forward and fell upon them right vigorously.

By the help of God our Lord, this fight lasted but a little while, and the Greeks turned their backs. They were discomfited at the first onset, and our people pursued them for a full great league. There they won plenty of horses and stallions, and palfreys, and mules, and tents and pavilions, and such spoil as is usual in such case. So they returned to the host, where they were right well received, and their spoils were divided, as was fit.


The next day after, the Emperor Alexius sent an envoy with letters to the counts and to the barons. This envoy was called Nicholas Roux, and he was a native of Lombardy. He found the barons in the rich palace of Scutari, where they were holding council and he saluted them on the part of the Emperor Alexius of Constantinople, and tendered his letters to the Marquis of Montferrat-who received them. And the letters were read before all the barons; and there were in them words, written after various manners, which the book does not (here) relate, and at the end of the other words so written, came words of credit, accrediting the bearer of the letters, whose name was Nicholas Roux.

“Fair Sir,” said the barons, “we have seen your letters, and they tell us that we are to give credit to what you say, and we credit you right well. Now speak as it pleases you.”

And the envoy was standing before the barons, and spoke thus: “Lords,” said he, “the Emperor Alexius would have you know that he is well aware that you are the best people uncrowned, and come from the best land on earth. And he marvels much why, and for what purpose, you have come into his land and kingdom. For you are Christians, and he is a Christian, and well he knows that you are on your way to deliver the Holy Land overseass and the Holy Cross, and the Sepulchre. If you are poor and in want, he will right willingly give you of his food and substance, provided you depart out of his land. Neither would he otherwise wish to do you any hurt, though he has full power therein, seeing that if you were twenty times as numerous as you are, you would not be able to get away without utter discomfiture if so be that he wished to harm you.”

By agreement and desire of the other barons, and of the Doge of Venice, then rose to his feet Conon of Béthune, who was a good knight, and wise, and very eloquent, and he replied to the envoy: “Fair Sir, you have told us that your lord marvels much why our signors and barons should have entered into his kingdom and land. Into his land they have not entered, for he holds this land wrongfully and wickedly, and against God and against reason. It belongs to Ws nephew, who sits upon a throne among us, and is the son of his brother, the Emperor Isaac. But if he is willing to throw himself on the mercy of his nephew, and to give him back his crown and empire, then we will pray his nephew to forgive him, and bestow upon him as much as will enable him to live wealthily. And if you come not as the bearer of such a message, then be not so bold as to come here again.” So the envoy departed and went back to Constantinople, to the Emperor Alexius.


The barons consulted together on the morrow, and said that they would show the young Alexius, the son of the Emperor of Constantinople, to the people of the city. So they assembled all the galleys. The Doge of Venice and the Marquis of Montferrat entered into one, and took with them Alexius, the son of the Emperor Isaac; and into the other galleys entered the knights and barons, as many as would.

They went thus quite close to the walls of Constantinople and showed the youth to the people of the Greeks, and said, “Behold your natural lord; and be it known to you that we have not come to do you harm, but have come to guard and defend you, if so be that you return to your duty. For he whom you now obey as your lord holds rule by wrong and wickedness, against God and reason. And you know full well that he has dealt treasonably with him who is your lord and his brother, that he has blinded his eyes and reft from him his empire by wrong and wickedness. Now behold the rightful heir. If you hold with him, you will be doing as you ought; and if not we will do to you the very worst that we can.” But for fear and terror of the Emperor Alexius, not one person on the land or in the city made show as if he held for the prince. So all went back to the host, and each sought his quarters.

On the morrow, when they had heard mass, they assembled in parliament, and the parliament was held on horseback in the midst of the fields. There might you have seen many a fine war-horse, and many a good knight thereon. And the council was held to discuss the order of the battalions, how many they should have, and of what strength. Many were the words said on one side and the other. But in the end it was settled that the advanced guard should be given to Baldwin of Flanders, because he had a very great number of good men, and archers and crossbowmen, more than any other chief that was in the host.

And after, it was settled that Henry his brother, and Matthew of Wallincourt, and Baldwin of Beauvoir, and many other good knights of their land and country, should form the second division.

The third division was formed by Count Hugh of St. Paul, Peter of Amiens his nephew, Eustace of Canteleu, Anseau of Cayeux, and many good knights of their land and country.

The fourth division was formed by Count Louis of Blois and Chartres, and was very numerous and rich and redoubtable; for he had placed therein a great number of good knights and men of worth.

The fifth division was formed by Matthew of Montmorency and the men of Champagne. Geoffry the Marshal of Champagne formed part of it, and Oger of Saint-Chéron, Manasses of l’Isle, Miles the Brabant, Macaire of Sainte-Menehould, John Foisnous, Guy of Chappes, Clerembaud his nephew, Robert of Ronsoi; all these people formed part of the fifth division. Be it known to you that there was many a good knight therein.

The sixth division was formed by the people of Burgundy. In this division were Odo the Champenois of Champlitte, William his brother, Guy of Pesmes, Edmund his brother, Otho of la Roche, Richard of Dampierre, Odo his brother, Guy of Conflans, and the people of their land and country.

The seventh division, which was very large, was under the command of the Marquis of Montferrat. In it were the Lombards and Tuscans and the Germans, and all the people who were from beyond Mont Cenis to Lyons on the Rhone. All these formed part of the division under the marquis, and it was settled that they should form the rearguard.


The day was fixed on which the host should embark on the ships and transports to take the land by force, and either live or die. And be it known to you that the enterprise to be achieved was one of the most redoubtable ever attempted. Then did the bishops and clergy speak to the people, and tell them how they must confess, and make each one his testament, seeing that no one knew what might be the will of God concerning him. And this was done right willingly throughout the host, and very piously.

The term fixed was now come; and the knights went on board the transports with their war-horses; and they were fully armed, with their helmets laced, and the horses covered with their housings, and saddled. All the other folk, who were of less consequence in battle, were on the great ships; and the galleys were fully armed and made ready.

The morning was fair a little after the rising of the sun; and the Emperor Alexius stood waiting for them on the other side, with great forces, and everything in order. And the trumpets sound, and every galley takes a transport in tow, so as to reach the other side more readily. None ask who shall go first, but each makes the land as soon as he can. The knights issue from the transports, and leap into the sea up to their waists, fully armed, with helmets laced, and lances in hand; and the good archers, and the good sergeants, and the good crossbowmen, each in his company, land so soon as they touch ground.

The Greeks made a goodly show of resistance; but when it came to the lowering of the lances, they turned their backs, and went away flying, and abandoned the shore. And be it known to you that never was port more proudly taken. Then began the mariners to open the ports of the transports, and let down the bridges, and take out the horses; and the knights began to mount, and they began to marshal the divisions of the host in due order.


Count Baldwin of Flanders and Hainault, with the advanced guard, rode forward, and the other divisions of the host after him, each in due order of march; and they came to where the Emperor Alexius had been encamped. But he had turned back towards Constantinople, and left his tents and pavilions standing. And there our people had much spoil.

Our barons were minded to encamp by the port before the tower of Galata, where the chain was fixed that closed the port of Constantinople. And be it known to you, that any one must perforce pass that chain before he could enter into the port. Well did our barons then perceive that if they did not take the tower, and break the chain, they were but as dead men, and in very evil case. So they lodged that night before the tower, and in the Jewry that is called Stenon, where there was a good city, and very rich.

Well did they keep guard during the night; and on the morrow, at the hour of tierce, those who were in the tower of Galata made a sortie, and those who were in Constantinople came to their help in barges; and our people ran to arms. There came first to the onset James of Avesnes and his men on foot; and be it known to you that he was fiercely charged, and wounded by a lance in the face, and in peril of death. And one of his knights, whose name was Nicholas of Jenlain, gat to horse, and came to his lord’s rescue, and succoured him right well, and so won great honour.

Then a cry was raised in the host, and our people ran together from all sides, and drove back the foe with great fury, so that many were slain and taken. And some of them did not go back to the tower, but ran to the barges by which they had come, and there many were drowned, and some escaped. As to those who went back to the tower, the men of our host pressed them so hard that they could not shut the gate. Then a terrible fight began again at the gate, and our people took it by force, and made prisoners of all those in the tower. Many were there killed and taken.


So was the tower of Galata taken, and the port of Constantinople won by force. Much were those of the host comforted thereby, and much did they praise the Lord God; and greatly were those of the city discomforted. And on the next day, the ships, the vessels, the galleys and the transports were drawn into the port.

Then did those of the host take council together to settle what thing they should do, and whether they should attack the city by sea or by land. The Venetians were firmly minded that the scaling ladders ought to be planted on the ships, and all the attack made from the side by the sea. The French, on the other hand, said that they did not know so well how to help themselves on sea as on land, but that when they had their horses and their arms they could help themselves on land right well. So in the end it was devised that the Venetians should attack by sea, and the barons and those of the host by land.

They sojourned thus for four days. On the fifth day, the whole host were armed, and the divisions advanced on horseback, each in the order appointed, along the harbour, till they came to the palace of Blachernæ; and the ships drew inside the harbour till they came over against the self-same place, and this was near to the end of the harbour. And there is at that place a river that flows into the sea, and can only be passed by a bridge of stone. The Greeks had broken down the bridge, and the barons caused the host to labour all that day and all that night in repairing the bridge. Thus was the bridge repaired, and in the morning the divisions were armed, and rode one after the other in the order appointed, and came before the city. And no one came out from the city against them; and this was a great marvel, seeing that for every man that was in the host there were over two hundred men in the city.

Then did the barons decide that they should quarter themselves between the palace of Blachernæ and the castle of Boemond, which was an abbey enclosed with walls. So the tents and pavilions were pitched-which was a right proud thing to look upon; for of Constantinople, which had three leagues of front towards the land, the whole host could attack no more than one of the gates. And the Venetians lay on the sea, in ships and vessels, and raised their ladders, and mangonels, and petraries, and made order for their assault right well. And the barons for their part made ready their petraries and mangonels on land.

And be it known to you that they did not have their time in peace and quiet; for there passed no hour of the night or day but one of the divisions had to stand armed before the gate, to guard the engines, and provide against attack. And, notwithstanding all this, the Greeks ceased not to attack them, by this gate and by others, and held them so short that six or seven times a day the whole host was forced to run to arms. Nor could they forage for provisions more than four bow-shots’ distance from the camp. And their stores were but scanty, save of flour and bacon, and of those they had a little; and of fresh meat none at all, save what they got from the horses that were killed. And be it known to you that there was only food generally in the host for three weeks. Thus were they in very perilous case, for never did so few people besiege so many people in any city.


Then did they bethink themselves of a very good device; for they enclosed the whole camp with good lists, and good palisades, and good barriers, and were thus far stronger and much more secure. The Greeks meanwhile came on to the attack so frequently that they gave them no rest, and those of the host drove them back with great force; and every time that the Greeks issued forth they lost heavily.

One day the Burgundians were on guard, and the Greeks made an attack upon them, with part of the best forces that they had. And the Burgundians ran upon the Greeks and drove them in very fiercely, and followed so close to the gate that stones of great weight were hurled upon them. There was taken one of the best Greeks of the city, whose name was Constantine Lascaris; William of Neuilly took him all mounted upon his horse. And there did William of Champlitte have his arm broken with a stone, and great pity it was, for he was very brave and very valiant.

I cannot tell you of all the good strokes that were there stricken, nor of all the wounded, nor all the dead. But before the fight was over, there came into it a knight of the following of Henry, the brother, of Count Baldwin of Flanders and Hainault, and his name was Eustace of Marchais; and he was armed only in padded vest and steel cap, with his shield at his neck; and he did so well in the fray that he won to himself great honour. Few were the days on which no sorties were made; but I cannot tell you of them all. So hardly did they hold us, that we could not sleep, nor rest, nor eat, save in arms.

Yet another sortie was made from a gate further up; and there again did the Greeks lose heavily. And there a knight was slain, whose name was William of Gi; and there Matthew of Wallincourt did right well, and lost his horse, which was killed at the drawbridge of the gate; and many others who were in that fight did right well. From this gate, which was beyond the palace of Blachernæ, the Greeks issued most frequently, and there Peter of Bracieux gat himself more honour than any, because he was quartered the nearest, and so came most often into the fray.


Thus their peril and toil lasted for nearly ten days, until, on a Thursday morning (17th July 1203) all things were ready for the assault, and the ladders in trim; the Venetians also had made them ready by sea. The order of the assault was so devised, that of the seven divisions, three were to guard the camp outside the city, and other four to give the assault. The Marquis Boniface of Montferrat guarded the camp towards the fields, with the division of the Burgundians, the division of the men of Champagne, and Matthew of Montmorency. Count Baldwin of Flanders and Hainault went to the assault with his people, and Henry his brother; and . Count Louis of Blois and Chartres, and Count Hugh of St. Paul, and those who held with them, went also to the assault.

They planted two ladders at a barbican near the sea; and the wall was well defended by Englishmen and Danes; and the attack was stiff and good and fierce. By main strength certain knights and two sergeants got up the ladders and made themselves masters of the wall; and at least fifteen got upon the wall, and fought there, hand to hand, with axes and swords, and those within redoubled their efforts and cast them out in very ugly sort, keeping two as prisoners. And those of our people who had been taken were led before the Emperor Alexius; much was he pleased thereat. Thus did the assault leave matters on the side of the French. Many were wounded and many had their bones broken, so that the barons were very wroth.

Meanwhile the Doge of Venice had not forgotten to do his part, but had ranged his ships and transports and vessels in line, and that line was well three crossbow-shots in length; and the Venetians began to draw near to the part of the shore that lay under the walls and the towers. Then might you have seen the mangonels shooting from the ships and transports, and the crossbow bolts flying, and the bows letting fly their arrows deftly and well; and those within defending the walls and towers very fiercely; and the ladders on the ships coming so near that in many places swords and lances crossed; and the tumult and noise were so great that it seemed as if the very earth and sea were melting together. And be it known to you that the galleys did not dare to come to the shore.


Now may you hear of a strange deed of prowess; for the Doge of Venice, who was an old man, and saw naught (seeing he was blind), stood, fully armed, on the prow of his galley, and had the standard of St. Mark before him; and he cried to his people to put him on land, or else that he would do justice upon their bodies with his hands. And so they did, for the galley was run aground, and they leapt therefrom, and bore the standard of St. Mark before him on to the land.

And when the Venetians saw the standard of St. Mark on land, and the galley of their lord touching ground before them, each held himself for shamed, and they all gat to the land; and those in the transports leapt forth, and landed; and those in the big ships got into barges, and made for the shore, each and all as best they could. Then might you have seen an assault, great and marvellous; and to this bears witness Geoffry of Villehardouin, who makes this book, that more than forty people told him for sooth that they saw the standard of St. Mark of Venice at the top of one of the towers, and that no man knew who bore it thither.

Now hear of a strange miracle: those who are within the city fly and abandon the walls, and the Venetians enter in, each as fast and as best he can, and seize twenty-five of the towers, and man them with their people. And the Doge takes a boat, and sends messengers to the barons of the host to tell them that he has taken twenty-five towers, and that they may know for sooth that such towers cannot be retaken. The barons are so overjoyed that they cannot believe their ears; and the Venetians begin to send to the host in boats the horses and palfreys they have taken.

When the Emperor Alexius saw that our people had thus entered into the city, he sent his people against them in such numbers that our people saw they would be unable to endure the onset. So they set fire to the buildings between them and the Greeks; and the wind blew from our side, and the fire began to wax so great that the Greeks could not see our people who retired to the towers they had seized and conquered.


Then the Emperor Alexius issued from the city, with all his forces, by other gates which were at least a league from the camp; and so many began to issue forth that it seemed as if the whole world were there assembled. The emperor marshalled his troops in the plain, and they rode towards the camp; and when our Frenchmen saw them coming, they ran to arms from all sides. On that day Henry, the brother of Count Baldwin of Flanders, was mounting guard over the engines of war before the gate of Blachernæ, together with Matthew of Wallincourt, and Baldwin of Beauvoir, and their followers. Against their encampment the Emperor Alexius had made ready a great number of his people, who were to issue by three gates, while he himself should fall upon the host from another side.

Then the six divisions issued from our camp as had been devised, and were marshalled in ranks before the palisades: the sergeants and squires on foot behind the horses, and the archers and crossbowmen in front. And there was a division of the knights on foot, for we had at least two hundred who, were without horses. Thus they stood still before the palisades. And this showed great good sense, for if they had moved to the attack, the numbers of the enemy were such that they must have been overwhelmed and (as it were) drowned among them.

It seemed as if the whole plain was covered with troops, and they advanced slowly and in order. Well might we appear in perilous case, for we had but six divisions, while the Greeks had full forty, and there was not one of their divisions but was larger than any of ours. But ours were ordered in such sort that none could attack them save in front. And the Emperor Alexius rode so far forward that either side could shoot at the other. And when the Doge of Venice heard this, he made his people come forth, and leave the towers they had taken, and said he would live or die with the pilgrims. So he came to the camp, and was himself the first to land, and brought with him such of his people as he could.

Thus, for a long space, the armies of the pilgrims and of the Greeks stood one against the other; for the Greeks did not dare to throw themselves upon our ranks, and our people would not move from their palisades. And when the Emperor Alexius saw this, he began to withdraw his people, and when he had rallied them, he turned back. And seeing this, the host of the pilgrims began to march towards him with slow steps, and the Greek troops began to move backwards, and retreated to a palace called Philopas.

And be it known to you, that never did God save any people from such peril as He saved the host that day; and be it known to you further that there was none in the host so hardy but he had great joy thereof. Thus did the battle remain for that day. As it pleased God nothing further was done. The Emperor Alexius returned to the city, and those of the host to their quarters-the latter taking off their armour, for they were weary and overwrought; and they ate and drank little, seeing that their store of food was but scanty.


Now listen to the miracles of our Lord-how gracious are they whithersoever it pleases Him to perform them! That very might the Emperor Alexius of Constantinople took of his treasure as much as he could carry, and took with him as many of his people as would go, and so fled and abandoned the city. And those of the city remained astonied, and they drew to the prison in which lay the Emperor Isaac, whose eyes had been put out. Him they clothed imperially, and bore to the great palace of Blachernæ, and seated on a high throne; and there they did to him obeisance as their lord. Then they took messengers, by the advice of the Emperor Isaac, and sent them to the host, to apprise the son of the Emperor Isaac, and the barons, that the Emperor Alexius had fled, and that they had again raised up the Emperor Isaac as emperor.

When the young man knew of this he summoned the Marquis Boniface of Montferrat, and the marquis summoned the barons throughout the host. And when they were met in the pavilion of the Emperor Isaac’s son, he told them the news. And when they heard it, their joy was such as cannot be uttered, for never was greater joy in all this world. And greatly and most devoutly was our Lord praised by all, in that He had succoured them within so short a term, and exalted them so high from such a low estate. And therefore well may one say: “Him whom God will help can no man injure.”

Then the day began to dawn, and the host to put on their armour; and all gat them to their arms throughout the host, because they did not greatly trust the Greeks. And messengers began to come out from the city, two or three together, and told the same tale. The barons and counts, and the Doge of Venice had agreed to send envoys into the city, to know how matters really stood; and, if that was true which had been reported, to demand of the father that he should ratify the covenants made by the son; and, if he would not, to, declare that they on their part should not suffer the son to enter into the city. So envoys were chosen: one was Matthew of Montmorency, and Geoffry the Marshal of Champagne was the other, and two Venetians on the part of the Doge of Venice.

The envoys were conducted to the gate, and the gate was opened to them, and they dismounted from their horses. The Greeks had set Englishmen and Danes, with their axes, at the gate and right up to the palace of Blachernæ. Thus were the envoys conducted to the great palace. There they found the Emperor Isaac, so richly clad that you would seek in vain throughout the world for a man more richly apparelled than he, and by his side the empress, his wife, a most fair lady, the sister of the King of Hungary; and of great men and great ladies there were so many, that you could not stir foot for the press, and the ladies were so richly adorned that richer adornment might not be. And all those who, the day before, had been against the emperor were, on that day, subject in everything to his good pleasure.


The envoys came before the Emperor Isaac, and the emperor and all those about him did them great honour. And the envoys said that they desired to speak to him privily, on the part of his son, and of the barons of the host. And he rose and entered into a chamber, and took with him only the empress, and his chancellor, and his dragoman (interpreter) and the four envoys. By consent of the other envoys, Geoffry of Villehardouin, the Marshal of Champagne, acted as spokesman, and he said to the Emperor Isaac: “Sire, thou seest the service we have rendered to thy son, and how we have kept our covenants with him. But he cannot come hither till he has given us surety for the covenants he has made with us. And he asks of thee, as thy son, to confirm those covenants in the same form, and the same manner, that he has done.” “What covenants are they?” said the emperor. “They are such as we shall tell you,” replied the envoys: “In the first place to put the whole empire of Roumania in obedience to Rome, from which it has been separated this long while; further to give 200,000 marks of silver to those of the host, with food for one year for small and great; to send 10,000 men, horse and foot—many on foot as we shall devise and as many mounted—in his own ships, and at his own charges, to the land of Babylon, and keep them there for a year; and during his lifetime to keep, at his own charges, five hundred knights in the land overseass so that they may guard that land. Such is the covenant that your son made with us, and it was confirmed by oath, and charters with seals appended, and by King Philip of Germany who has your daughter to wife. This covenant we desire you to confirm.”

Certes said the emperor, “this covenant is very onerous, and I do not see how effect can be given to it; nevertheless, you have done us such service, both to my son and to myself, that if we bestowed upon you the whole empire, you would have deserved it well.” Many words were then spoken in this sense and that, but, in the end, the father confirmed the covenants, as his son had confirmed them, by oath and by charters with gold seals appended. These charters were delivered to the envoys. Then they took their leave of the Emperor Isaac, and went back to the host, and told the barons that they had fulfilled their mission.


Then did the barons mount their horses, and led the young man, with great rejoicings, into the city, to his father; and the Greeks opened the gate to him, and received him with very much rejoicing and great feasting. The joy of the father and of the son was very great, because of a long time they had not seen one another, and because, by God’s help and that of the pilgrims, they had passed from so great poverty and ruin to such high estate. Therefore the joy was great inside Constantinople; and also without, among the host of the pilgrims, because of the honour and victory that God had given them.

And on the morrow the emperor and his son also besought the counts and the barons, for God’s sake, to go and quarter themselves on the other side of the straits, toward Estanor and Galata; for, if they quartered themselves in the city, it was to be feared that quarrels would ensue between them and the Greeks, and it might well chance that the city would be destroyed. And the counts and barons said that they had already served him in so many ways that they would not now refuse any request of his. So they went and quartered themselves on the other side, and sojourned there in peace and quiet, and with great store of good provisions.

Now you must know that many of those in the host went to see Constantinople, and the rich palaces and great churches, of which there were many, and all the great wealth of the city-for never was there city that possessed so much. Of relics it does not behove me to speak, for at that day there were as many there as in all the rest of the world. Thus did the Greeks and French live in good fellowship in all things, both as regards trafficking and other matters.

By common consent of Franks and Greeks it was settled that the new emperor should be crowned on the feast of our Lord St. Peter (1st August 1203). So was it settled, and so it was done. He was crowned full worthily and with honour according to the use for Greek emperors at that time. Afterwards he began to pay the moneys due to the host; and such moneys were divided among the host, and each repaid what had been advanced in Venice for his passage.


The new emperor went oft to see the barons in the camp, and did them great honour, as much as he could; and this was but fitting, seeing that they had served him right well. And one day he came to the camp, to see the barons privily in the quarters of Count Baldwin of Hainault and Flanders. Thither were summoned the Doge of Venice, and the great barons, and he spoke to them and said: “Lords, I am emperor by God’s grace and yours, and you have done me the highest service that ever yet was done by any people to Christian man. Now be it known to you that there are folk enough who show me a fair seeming, and yet love me not; and the Greeks are full of despite because it is by your help that I have entered into my inheritance.

“Now the term of your departure is nigh, and your fellowship with the Venetians is timed only to last till the feast of St. Michael. And within so short a term I cannot fulfil our covenant. Be it known to you therefore, that, if you abandon me, the Greeks hate me because of you: I shall lose my land, and they will kill me. But now do this thing that I ask of you: remain here till March, and I will entertain your ships for one year from the feast of St. Michael, and bear the cost of the Venetians, and will give you such things as you may stand in need of till Easter. And within that term I shall have placed my land in such case that I cannot lose it again; and your covenant will be fulfilled, for I shall have paid such moneys as are due to you, obtaining them from all mi lands; and I shall be ready also with ships either to go with you myself, or to send others, as I have covenanted; and you will have the summer from end to end in which to carry on the war against the Saracens.”

The barons thereupon said they would consult together apart; knowing full well that what the young man said was sooth, and that it would be better, both for the emperor and for themselves, to consent unto him. But they replied that they could not so consent save with the common agreement of the host, and that they would therefore lay the matter before the host, and then give such answer as might be devised. So the Emperor Alexius departed from them, and went back to Constantinople. And they remained in the camp and assembled a parliament the next day. To this parliament were summoned all the barons and the chieftains of the host, and of the knights the greater part; and in their hearing were repeated all the words that the emperor had spoken.


Then was there much discord in the host, as had been oft times before on the part of those who wished that the host should break up; for to them it seemed to be holding together too long. And the party that had raised the discord at Corfu reminded the others of their oaths, and said: “Give us ships as you swore to us, for we purpose to go to Syria.”

And the others cried to them for pity and said: “Lords, for God’s sake, let us not bring to naught the great honour that God has given us. If we go to Syria at this present, we shall come thither at the beginning of winter and so not be able to make war, and the Lord’s work will thus remain undone. But if we wait till March, we shall leave this emperor in good estate, and go hence rich in goods and in food. Thus shall we go to Syria, and over-run the land of Babylon. And the fleet will remain with us till Michaelmas, yes, and onwards from Michaelmas to Easter, seeing it will be unable to leave us because of the winter. So shall the land overseas fall into our hands.”

Those who wished the host to be broken up, cared not for reasons good or bad so long as the host fell to pieces. But those who wished to keep the host together, wrought so effectually, with the help of God, that in the end the Venetians made a new covenant to maintain the fleet for a year, reckoning from Michaelmas, the Emperor Alexius paying them for so doing; and the pilgrims, on their side, made a new covenant to remain in the same fellowship as theretofore, and for the same term. Thus were peace and concord established in the host.

Then there befell a very great mischance in the host; for Matthew of Montmorency, who was one of the best knights in the kingdom of France, and of the most prized and most honoured, took to his bed for sickness, and his sickness so increased upon him that he died. And much dole was made for him, for great was the loss-one of the greatest that had befallen the host by any man’s death. He was buried in a church of my Lord St. John, of the Hospital of Jerusalem.


Afterwards, by the advice of the Greeks and the French the Emperor Alexius issued from Constantinople, with a very great company, purposing to quiet the empire and subject it to his will. With him went a great part of the barons; and the others remained to guard the camp. The Marquis Boniface of Montferrat went with him, and Count Hugh of St. Paul, and Henry, brother to Count Baldwin of Flanders and Hainault, and James of Avesnes, and William of Champlitte, and Hugh of Colerni, and many others whom the book does not here mention by name. In the camp remained Count Baldwin of Flanders and Hainault, and Count Louis of Blois and Chartres, and the greater part of the pilgrims of lesser note.

And you must know that during this progress all the Greeks, on either side of the straits, came to the Emperor Alexius, to do his will and commandment, and did him fealty and homage as to their lord—all except John, who was King of Wallachia and Bulgaria. This John was a Wallachian, who had rebelled against his father and uncle, and had warred against them for twenty years, and had won from them so much land that he had become a very wealthy king. And be it known to you, that of the land lying on the west side of the Straits of St. George, he had conquered very nearly the half. This John did not come to do the will of the emperor, nor to submit himself to him.


While the Emperor Alexius was away on this progress, there befell a very grievous misadventure; for a conflict arose between the Greeks and the Latins who inhabited Constantinople, and of these last there were many. And certain people—who they were I know not—out of malice, set fire to the city; and the fire waxed so great and horrible that no man could put it out or abate it. And when the barons of the host, who were quartered on the other side of the port, saw this, they were sore grieved and filled with pity-seeing the great churches and the rich palaces melting and falling in, and the great streets filled with merchandise burning in the flames; but they could do nothing.

Thus did the fire prevail, and win across the port, even to the densest part of the city, and to the sea on the other side, quite near to the church of St. Sophia. It lasted two days and two nights, nor could it be put out by the hand of man. And the front of the fire, as it went flaming, was well over half a league broad. What was the damage then done, what the possessions and riches swallowed up, could no man tell-nor what the number of men and women and children who perished-for many were burned.

All the Latins, to whatever land they might belong, who were lodged in Constantinople, dared no longer to remain therein; but they took their wives and their children, and such of their possessions as they could save from the fire, and entered into boats and vessels, and passed over the port and came to the camp of the pilgrims. Nor were they few in number, for there were of them some fifteen thousand, small and great; and afterwards it proved to be of advantage to the pilgrims that these should have crossed over to them. Thus was there division between the Greeks and the Franks; nor were they ever again as much at one as they had been before, for neither side knew on whom to cast the blame for the fire; and this rankled in men’s hearts upon either side.

At that time did a thing befall whereby the barons and those of the host were greatly saddened; for the Abbot of Loos died, who was a holy man and a worthy, and had wished well to the host. He was a monk of the order of the Cistercians.


The Emperor Alexius remained for a long time on progress, till St. Martin’s Day, and then he returned to Constantinople. Great was the joy at his home-coming, and the Greeks and ladies of Constantinople went out to meet their friends in great cavalcades, and the pilgrims went out to meet their friends, and had great joy of them. So did the emperor re-enter Constantinople and the palace of Blachernæ; and the Marquis of Montferrat and the other barons returned to the camp.

The emperor, who had managed his affairs right well and thought he had now the upper hand, was filled with arrogance towards the barons and those who had done so much for him, and never came to see them in the camp, as he had done aforetime. And they sent to him and begged him to pay them the moneys due, as he had covenanted. But he led them on from delay to delay, making them, at one time and another, payments small and poor; and in the end the payments ceased and came to naught.

The Marquis Boniface of Montferrat, who had done more for him than any other, and stood better in his regard, went to him oftentimes, and showed him what great services the Crusaders had rendered him, and that greater services had never been rendered to any one. And the emperor still entertained them with delays, and never carried out such things as he had promised, so that at last they saw and knew clearly that his intent was wholly evil.

Then the barons of the host held a parliament with the Doge of Venice, and they said that they now knew that the emperor would fulfil no covenant, nor ever speak sooth to them; and they decided to send good envoys to demand the fulfilment of their covenant, and to show what services they had done him; and if he would now do what was required, they were to be satisfied; but, if not, they were to defy him, and right well might he rest assured that the barons would by all means recover their due.


For this embassy were chosen Conon of Béthune and Geoffry of Villehardouin, the Marshal of Champagne, and Miles the Brabant of Provins; and the Doge also sent three chief men of his council. So these envoys mounted their horses, and, with swords girt, rode together till they came to the palace of Blachernæ. And be it known to you that, by reason of the treachery of the Greeks, they went in great peril, and on a hard adventure.

They dismounted at the gate and entered the palace, and found the Emperor Alexius and the Emperor Isaac seated on two thrones, side by side. And near them was seated the empress, who was the wife of the father, and stepmother of the son, and sister to the King of Hungary-a lady both fair and good. And there were with them a great company of people of note and rank, so that well did the court seem the court of a rich and mighty prince.

By desire of the other envoys Conon of Béthune, who was very wise and eloquent of speech, acted as spokesman: “Sire, we have come to thee on the part of the barons of the host and of the Doge of Venice. They would put thee in mind of the great service they have done to thee-a service known to the people and manifest to all men. Thou hast swom, thou and thy father, to fulfil the promised covenants, and they have your charters in hand. But you have not fulfilled those covenants well, as you should have done. Many times have they called upon you to do so, and now again we call upon you, in the presence of all your barons, to fulfil the covenants that are between you and them. Should you do so, it shall be well. If not, be it known to you that from this day forth they will not hold you as lord or friend, but will endeavour to obtain their due by all the means in their power. And of this they now give you warning, seeing that they would not injure you, nor any one, without first defiance given; for never have they acted treacherously, nor in their land is it customary to do so. You have heard what we have said. It is for you to take counsel thereon according to your pleasure.”

Much were the Greeks amazed and greatly outraged by this open defiance; and they said that never had any one been so hardy as to dare defy the Emperor of Constantinople in his own hall. Very evil were the looks now cast on the envoys by the Emperor Alexius and by all the Greeks, who aforetime were wont to regard them very favourably.

Great was the tumult there within, and the envoys turned about and came to the gate and mounted their horses. When they got outside the gate, there was not one of them but felt glad at heart; nor is that to be marvelled at, for they had escaped from very great peril, and it held to very little that they were not all killed or taken. So they returned to the camp, and told the barons how they had fared.


Thus did the war begin; and each side did to the other as much harm as they could, by sea and by land. The Franks and the Greeks fought often; but never did they fight, let God be praised therefor I that the Greeks did not lose more than the Franks. So the war lasted a long space, till the heart of the winter.

Then the Greeks bethought themselves of a very great device, for they took seven large ships, and filled them full of big logs, and shavings, and tow, and resin, and barrels, and then waited until such time as the wind should blow strongly from their side of the straits. And one night, at midnight, they set fire to the ships, and unfurled their sails to the wind. And the flames blazed up high, so that it seemed as if the whole world were a-fire. Thus did the burning ships come towards the fleet of the pilgrims; and a great cry arose in the host, and all sprang to arms on every side. The Venetians ran to their ships, and so did all those who had ships in possession, and they began to draw them away out of the flames very vigorously.

And to this bears witness Geoffry the Marshal of Champagne, who dictates this work, that never did people help themselves better at sea than the Venetians did that night; for they sprang into the galleys and boats belonging to the ships, and seized upon the fire ships, all burning as they were, with hooks, and dragged them by main force before their enemies, outside the port, and set them into the current of the straits, and left them to go burning down the straits. So many of the Greeks had come down to the shore that they were without end and innumerable, and their cries were so great that it seemed as if the earth and sea would melt together. They got into barges and boats, and shot at those on our side who were battling with the flames, so that some were wounded.

All the knights of the host, as soon as they heard the clamour, armed themselves; and the battalions marched out into the plain, each according to the order in which they had been quartered, for they feared lest the Greeks should also attack them on land.

They endured thus in labour and anguish till daylight; but by God’s help those on our side lost nothing, save a Pisan ship, which was full of merchandise, and was burned with fire. Deadly was the peril in which we stood that night, for if the fleet had been consumed, all would have been lost, and we should never have been able to get away by land or sea. Such was the guerdon which the Emperor Alexius would have bestowed upon us in return for our services.


Then the Greeks, being thus embroiled with the Franks, saw that there was no hope of peace; so they privily took counsel together to betray their lord. Now there was a Greek who stood higher in his favour than all others, and had done more to make him embroil himself with the Franks than any other. This Greek was named Mourzuphles.

With the advice and consent of the others, one night towards midnight, when the Emperor Alexius was asleep in his chamber, those who ought to have been guarding him and specially Mourzuphles-took him in his bed and threw him into a dungeon in prison. Then Mourzuphles assumed the scarlet buskins with the help and by the counsel of the other Greeks (January 1204). So he made himself emperor. Afterwards they crowned him at St. Sophia. Now see if ever people were guilty of such horrible treachery!

When the Emperor Isaac heard that his son was taken and Mourzuphles crowned, great fear came upon him, and he fell into a sickness that lasted no long time. So he died. And the Emperor Mourzuphles caused the son, whom he had in prison, to be poisoned two or three times; but it did not please God that he should thus die. Afterwards the emperor went and strangled him, and when he had strangled him, he caused it to be reported everywhere that he had died a natural death, and had him mourned for, and buried honourably and as an emperor, and made great show of grief.

But murder cannot be hid. Soon was it clearly known, both to the Greeks and to the French, that this murder had been committed, as has just been told to you. Then did the barons of the host and the Doge of Venice assemble in parliament, and with them met the bishops and the clergy. And all the clergy, including those who had powers from the Pope, showed to the barons and to the pilgrims that any one guilty of such a murder had no right to hold lands, and that those who consented thereto were abettors of the murder; and beyond all this, that the Greeks had withdrawn themselves from obedience to Rome. “Wherefore we tell you,” said the clergy, “that this war is lawful and just, and that if you have a right intention in conquering this land, to bring it into the Roman obedience, all those who die after confession shall have part in the indulgence granted by the Pope.” And you must know that by this the barons and pilgrims were greatly comforted.


Dire was the war between the Franks and the Greeks, for it abated not, but rather increased and waxed fiercer, so that few were the days on which there was not fighting by sea or land. Then Henry, the brother of Count Baldwin of Flanders rode forth, and took with him a great part of the good men in the host. With him went James of Avesnes, and Baldwin of Beauvoir, Odo of Champagne of Champlitte, William his brother, and the people of their country. They started at vesper time and rode all night, and on the morrow, when it was full day, they came to a good city, called Phile, and took it; and they had great gain, beasts, and prisoners, and clothing, and food, which they sent in boats down the straits to the camp, for the city lies on the sea of Russia.

So they sojourned two days in that city, with food in great plenty, enough and to spare. The third day they departed with the beasts and the booty, and rode back towards the camp. Now the Emperor Mourzuphles heard tell how they had issued from the camp, and he left Constantinople by night, with a great part of his people, and set himself in ambush at a place by which they must needs pass. And he watched them pass with their beasts and their booty, each division, the one after the other, till it came to the rearguard. The rear-guard was under the command of Henry, the brother of Count Baldwin of Flanders, and formed of his people, and the Emperor Mourzuphles fell upon them at the entrance to a wood; whereupon they turned against him. Very fiercely did the battle rage there.

By God’s help the Emperor Mourzuphles was discomfited, and came near to being taken captive; and he lost his imperial banner and an Eikon that was home before him, in which he and the other Greeks had great confidence—it was an Eikon that figured our Lady—and he lost at least twenty knights of the best people that he had. Thus was discomfited the Emperor Mourzuphles, as you have just heard and fiercely did the war rage between him and the Franks; and by this time a great part of the winter had already passed, and it was near Candlemas (2nd February 1204), and Lent was approaching.


Now we will leave off speaking of the host before Constantinople, and speak of those who sailed from other ports than Venice, and of the ships of Flanders that had sojourned during the winter at Marseilles, and had all gone over in the summer to the land of Syria; and these were far more in number than the host before Constantinople. Listen now, and you shall hear what a great mischance it was that they had not joined themselves to the host, for in that case would Christendom have been for ever exalted. But because of their sins, God would not so have it, for some died of the sickness of the land, and some turned back to their own homes. Nor did they perform any great deeds, or achieve aught of good, in the land oversea.

And there started also a company of very good men to go to Antioch, to join Boemond, prince of Antioch and Count of Tripoli, who was at war with King Leon, the lord of the Armenians. This company was going to the prince to be in his pay; and the Turks of the land knew of it, and made an ambuscade there where the men of the company needs must pass. And they came thither, and fought, and the Franks were discomfited, so that not one escaped that was not killed or taken.

There were slain Villain of Neuilly, who was one of the best knights in the world, and Giles of Trasegnies, and many others; and were taken Bernard of Moreuil, and Renaud of Dampierre, and John of Villers, and William of Neuilly. And you must know that eighty knights were in this company, and every one was either killed or taken. And well does this book bear witness, that of those who avoided the host of Venice, there was not one but suffered harm or shame. He therefore must be accounted wise who holds to the better course.


Now let us leave speaking of those who avoided the host, and speak of those before Constantinople. Well had these prepared all their engines, and mounted their petraries, and mangonels on the ships and on the transports, and got ready all such engines of war as are needful for the taking of a city, and raised ladders from the yards and masts of the vessels, so high that they were a marvel to behold.*

[Note: This passage is obscure in the original.]

And when the Greeks saw this, they began, on their side, to strengthen the defences of the city which was enclosed with high walls and high towers. Nor was any tower so high that they did not raise thereon two or three stages of wood to heighten it still more. Never was city so well fortified. Thus did the Greeks and the Franks bestir themselves on the one side and the other during the greater part of Lent.

Then those of the host spoke together, and took counsel what they should do. Much was advanced this way and that, but in the end, they devised that if God granted them entry into the city by force, all the booty taken was to be brought together, and fittingly distributed; and further, if the city fell into their power, six men should be taken from among the Franks, and six from among the Venetians, and these twelve should swear, on holy relics, to elect as emperor the man who, as they deemed, would rule with most profit to the land. And whosoever was thus elected emperor, would have one quarter of whatever was captured, whether within the city or without, and moreover would possess the palace of Bucoleon and that of Blachernæ; and the remaining three parts would be divided into two, and one of the halves awarded to the Venetians and the other to those of the host.

And there should be taken twelve of the wisest and most experienced men among the host of the pilgrims, and twelve among the Venetians, and those twenty-four would divide fiefs and honours, and appoint the service to be done therefor to the emperor.

This covenant was made sure and sworn to on the one side and the other by the Franks and the Venetians; with provision that at the end of March, a year thence, any who so desired might depart hence and go their way, but that those who remained in the land would be held to the service of the emperor in such mariner as might be ordained. Thus was the covenant devised and made sure; and such as should not observe it were excommunicated by the clergy.


The fleet was very well prepared and armed, and provisions were got together for the pilgrims. On the Thursday after mid-Lent (8th April 1204), all entered into the vessels, and put their horses into the transports. Each division had its own ships, and all were ranged side by side; and the ships were separated from the galleys and transports. A marvellous sight it was to see; and well does this book bear witness that the attack, as it had been devised, extended over full half a French league.

On the Friday morning the ships and the galleys and the other vessels drew near to the city in due order, and then began an assault most fell and fierce. In many places the pilgrims landed and went up to the walls, and in many places the scaling ladders on the ships approached so close, that those on the towers and on the walls and those on the ladders crossed lances, hand to hand. Thus lasted the assault, in more than a hundred places, very fierce, and very dour, and very proud, till near upon the hour of nones.

But, for our sins, the pilgrims were repulsed in that assault, and those who had landed from the galleys and transports were driven back into them by main force. And you must know that on that day those of the host lost more than the Greeks, and much were the Greeks rejoiced thereat. And some there were who drew back from the assault, with the ships in which they were. And some remained with their ships at anchor so near to the city that from either side they shot at one another with petraries and mangonels.

Then, at vesper time, those of the host and the Doge of Venice called together a parliament, and assembled in a church on the other side of the straits—on the side where they had been quartered. There were many opinions given and discussed; and much were those of the host moved for the mischief that had that day befallen them. And many advised that they should attack the city on another side—the side where it was not so well fortified. But the Venetians, who had fuller knowledge of the sea, said that if they went to that other side, the current would carry them down the straits, and that they would be unable to stop their ships. And you must know that there were those who would have been well pleased if the current had home them down the straits, or the wind, they cared not whither, so long as they left that land behind, and went on their way. Nor is this to be wondered at, for they were in sore peril.

Enough was there spoken, this way and in that; but the conclusion of their deliberation was this: that they would repair and refit on the following day, which was Saturday, and during the whole of Sunday, and that on the Monday they would return to the assault; and they devised further that the ships that carried the scaling ladders should be bound together, two and two, so that two ships should be in case to attack one tower; for they had perceived that day how only one ship had attacked each tower, and that this had been too heavy a task for the ship, seeing that those in the tower were more in number than those on the ladder. For this reason was it well seen that two ships would attack each tower with greater effect than one. As had been settled, so was it done, and they waited thus during the Saturday and Sunday.


Before the assault the Emperor Mourzuphles had come to encamp, with all his power, in an open space, and had there pitched his scarlet tents. Thus matters remained till the Monday morning, when those on the ships, transports, and galleys were all armed. And those of the city stood in much less fear of them than they did at the beginning, and were in such good spirits that on the walls and towers you could see nothing but people. Then began an assault proud and marvellous, and every ship went straight before it to the attack. The noise of the battle was so great that it seemed to read the earth.

Thus did the assault last for a long while, till our Lord raised a wind called Boreas which drove the ships and vessels further up on to the shore. And two ships that were bound together, of which the one was called the Pilgrim and the other the Paradise, approached so near to a tower, the one on the one side and the other on the other—so as God and the wind drove them—that the ladder of the Pilgrim joined on to the tower. Immediately a Venetian, and a knight of France, whose name was Andrew of Urboise, entered into the tower, and other people began to enter after them, and those in the tower were discomfited and fled.*

[Note: [pp. 61–63]: I should like to quote here another feat of arms related by Robert of Clari, one of those feats that serve to explain how the Crusaders obtained mastery—the mastery of perfect fearlessness—over the Greeks. Robert of Clari, then, relates how a small body of the besiegers, ten knights and nine sergeants, had come before a postem which had been newly bricked up. “Now there was there a clerk, Aleaume of Clari by name, who had shown his courage whenever there was need, and was always first in any assault at which he might be present; and when the tower of Galata was taken, this same clerk had performed more deeds of prowess with his body, man for man, than any one in the host, save only the Lord Peter of Bracuel; for the Lord Peter it was who surpassed all others, whether of high or low degree, so that there was none other that performed such feats of arms, or acts of prowess with his body, as the Lord Peter of Bracuel. So when they came to the postern they began to hew and pick at it very hardily; but the bolts flew at them so thick, and so many stones were hurled at them from the wall, that it seemed as if they would be buried beneath the stones—such was the mass of quarries and stones thrown from above. And those who were below held up targes and shields to cover those who were picking and hewing underneath; and those above threw down pots of boiling pitch, and Greek fire, and large rocks, so that it was one of God’s miracles that the assailants were not utterly confounded; for my Lord Peter and his men suffered more than enough of blows and grievous danger. However, so did they hack at the postern, both above and below, with their axes and good swords, that they made a great bole therein; and when the postern was broken through, they all swarmed to the aperture, but saw so many people above and below, that it seemed as if half the world were there, and they dared not be so bold as to enter.
    “Now when Aleaume, the clerk, saw that no one dared to go in, be sprang forward, and said that go in he would. And there was there present a knight, a brother to the clerk (the knight’s name was Robert of Clari), who forbade him, and said he should not go in. And the clerk said he would, and scrambled in on his hands and feet. And when the knight saw this, he took hold upon him, by the foot, and began to drag him back. But in his brother’s despite, and whether his brother would or not, the clerk went in. And when he was within, many were the Greeks who ran upon him, and those on the walls cast big stones upon him. And the clerk drew his knife, and ran at them; and he drave them before him as if they had been cattle, and cried to those who were without, to the Lord Peter of Amiens and his folk, ‘Sire, come in boldly, I see that they are falling back discomfited and flying.’ When my Lord Peter heard this, he and his people who were without, they entered in; and there were no more than ten knights with him, but there were some sixty sergeants, and they were all on foot. And when those who were on the wall at that place saw them, they had such fear that they did not dare to remain there, but avoided a great space on the wall, and fled helter-skelter.
    “Now the Emperor Mourzuphles, the traitor, was near by, at less than a stone’s throw of distance, and he caused the silver horns to be sounded, and the cymbals, and a great noise to be made. And when he saw my Lord Peter, and his people, who had entered in on foot, he made a great show of falling upon them, and spurring forward, came about half-way to where they stood. But my Lord Peter, when he saw him coming, began to encourage his people, and to say: ‘Now, Lord God, grant that we may do well, and the battle is ours. Here comes the emperor! Let no one dare to think of retreat, but each bethink himself to do well’ Then Mourzuphles, seeing that they would in no wise give way, stayed where he was, and then turned back to his tents.”
    After this, according to Robert of Clari, Lord Peter’s men break open a gate, and the Crusaders enter into the city. See Li Estoires de chiaus qus conquisent Constantinoble, de Robert de Clari en aminois, chevalier, pp. 60–62. The volume in the British Museum is undated, and there is this note in the catalogue, “No more printed.” The volume itself is noteless, though there are printed marks here and there which would suggest that notes were intended. The Chronicle of Robert of Clari win also be found in Hopf’s Chroniques Gréco-romanes inédites ou peu connues, etc., pp. 1–85, Berlin, 1873.]

When the knights see this, who are in the transports, they land, and raise their ladders against the wall, and scale the top of the wall by main force, and so take four of the towers. And all begin to leap out of the ships and transports and galleys, helter-skelter, each as best he can; and they break in some three of the gates and enter in; and they draw the horses out of the transports; and the knights mount and ride straight to the quarters of the Emperor Mourzuphles. He had his battalions arrayed before his tents, and when his men see the mounted knights coming, they lose heart and fly; and so goes the emperor flying through the streets to the castle of Bucoleon.

Then might you have seen the Greeks beaten down; and horses and palfreys captured, and mules, and other booty. Of killed and wounded there was neither end nor measure. A great part of the Greek lords had fled towards the gate of Blachernæ. And vesper-time was already past, and those of the host were wear of the battle and of the slaying,. And they began to assemble in a great open space that was in Constantinople, and decided that they would take up their quarters near the walls and towers they had captured. Never had they thought that in a whole month they should be able to take the city, with its great churches, and great palaces, and the people that were in it.


As they had settled, so was it done, and they encamped before the walls and before the towers by their ships. Count Baldwin of Flanders and Hainault quartered himself in the scarlet tents that the Emperor Mourzuphles had left standing, and Henry his brother before the palace of Blachernæ; and Boniface, Marquis of Montferrat, he and his men, towards the thickest part of the city. So were the host encamped as you have heard, and Constantinople taken on the Monday after Palm Sunday (12th April 1204).

Now Count Louis of Blois and Chartres had languished all the winter with a quartan fever, and could not bear his armour. And you must know that this was a great misfortune to the host, seeing he was a good knight of his body; and he lay in one of the transports.

Thus did those of the host, who were very weary, rest that night. But the Emperor Mourzuphles rested not, for he assembled all his people, and said he would go and attack the Franks. Nevertheless he did not do as he had said, for he rode along other streets, as far as he could from those held by the host, and came to a gate which is called the Golden Gate, whereby he escaped, and avoided the city; and afterwards all who could fled also. And of all this those of the host knew nothing.

During that night, towards the quarters of Boniface Marquis of Montferrat, certain people, whose names are unknown to me, being in fear lest the Greeks should attack them, set fire to the buildings between themselves and the Greeks. And the city began to take fire, and to burn very direfully; and it burned all that night and all the next day, till vesper-time. And this was the third fire there had been in Constantinople since the Franks arrived in the land; and more houses had been burned in the city than there are houses in any three of the greatest cities in the kingdom of France.

That night passed and the next day came, which was a Tuesday morning (13th April 1204); and all armed themselves throughout the host, both knights and sergeants, and each repaired to his post. Then they issued from their quarters, and thought to find a sorer battle than the day before, for no word had come to them that the emperor had fled during the night. But they found none to oppose them.


The Marquis Boniface of Montferrat rode all along the shore to the palace of Bucoleon, and when he arrived there it surrendered, on condition that the lives of all therein should be spared. At Bucoleon were found the larger number of the great ladies who had fled to the castle, for there were found the sister* of the King of France, who had been empress, and the sister** of the King of Hungary, who had also been empress, and other ladies very many. Of the treasure that was found in that palace I cannot well speak, for there was so much that it was beyond end or counting.

[* Agnes, sister of Philip Augustus, married successively to Alexius II., to Andronicus, and to Theodore Branas]

[** Margaret, sister of Emeric, King of Hungary, married to the Emperor Isaac, and afterwards to the Marquis of Montferrat.]

At the same time that this palace was surrendered to the Marquis Boniface of Montferrat, did the palace of Blachernæ surrender to Henry, the brother of Count Baldwin of Flanders, on condition that no hurt should be done to the bodies of those who were therein. There too was found much treasure, not less than in the palace of Bucoleon. Each garrisoned with his own people the castle that had been surrendered to him, and set a guard over the treasure. And the other people, spread abroad throughout the city, also gained much booty. The booty gained was so great that none could tell you the end of it: gold and silver, and vessels and precious stones, and samite, and cloth of silk, and robes vair and grey, and ermine, and every choicest thing found upon the earth. And well does Geoffry of Villehardouin the Marshal of Champagne, bear witness, that never, since the world was created, had so much booty been won in any city.

Every one took quarters where he pleased and of lodgings there was no stint. So the host of the pilgrims and of the Venetians found quarters, and greatly did they rejoice and give thanks because of the victory God had vouchsafed to them—for those who before had been poor were now in wealth and luxury. Thus they celebrated Palm Sunday and the Easter Day following (25th April 1204) in the joy and honour that God had bestowed upon them. And well might they praise our Lord, since in all the host there were no more than twenty thousand armed men, one with another, and with the help of God they had conquered four hundred thousand men, or more, and in the strongest city in all the world—yea, a great city—and very well fortified.


Then was it proclaimed throughout the host by the Marquis Boniface of Montferrat, who was lord of the host, and by the barons, and by the Doge of Venice, that all the booty should be collected and brought together, as had been covenanted under oath and pain of excommunication. Three churches were appointed for the receiving of the spoils, and guards were set to have them in charge, both Franks and Venetians, the most upright that could be found.

Then each began to bring in such booty as he had taken, and to collect it together. And some brought in loyally, and some in evil sort, because covetousness, which is the root of all evil, let and hindered them. So from that time forth the covetous began to keep things back, and our Lord began to love them less. Ah God! how loyally they had borne themselves up to now! And well had the Lord God shown them that in all things He was ready to honour and exalt them above all people. But full oft do the good suffer for the sins of the wicked.

The spoils and booty were collected together, and you must know that all was not brought into the common stock, for not a few kept thin-s back, maugre the excommunication of the Pope. That which was brought to the churches was collected together and divided, in equal parts, between the Franks and the Venetians, according to the sworn covenant. And you must know further that the pilgrims, after the division had been made, paid out of their share fifty thousand marks of silver to the Venetians, and then divided at least one hundred thousand marks between themselves, among their own people. And shall I tell you in what wise? Two sergeants on foot counted as one mounted, and two sergeants mounted as one knight. And you must know that no man received more, either on account of his rank or because of his deeds, than that which had been so settled and ordered—save in so far as he may have stolen it.

And as to theft, and those who were convicted thereof, you must know that stem justice was meted out to such as were found guilty, and not a few were hung. The Count of St. Paul hung one of his knights, who had kept back certain spoils, with his shield to his neck; but many there were, both great and small, who kept back part of the spoils, and it was never known. Well may you be assured that the spoil was very great, for if it had not been for what was stolen, and for the part given to the Venetians, there would if have been at least four hundred thousand marks of silver and at least ten thousand horses—one with another. Thus were divided the spoils of Constantinople, as you have heard.


Then a parliament assembled, and the commons of the host declared that an emperor must be elected, as had been settled aforetime. And they parliamented so long that the matter was adjourned to another day, and on that day would they choose the twelve electors who were to make the election. Nor was it possible that there should be lack of candidates, or of men covetous, seeing that so great an honour was in question as the imperial throne of Constantinople. But the greatest discord that arose was the discord concerning Count Baldwin of Flanders and Hainault and the Marquis Boniface of Montferrat; for all the people said that either of those two should be elected.

And when the chief men of the host saw that all held either for Count Baldwin or for the Marquis of Montferrat, they conferred together and said: “Lords, if we elect one of these two great men, the other will be so filled with envy that he will take away with him all his people. And then the land that we have won may be lost, just as the land of Jerusalem came nigh to be lost when, after it had been conquered, Godfrey of Bouillon was elected king, and the Count of St. Giles became so fulfilled with envy that he enticed the other barons, and whomsoever he could, to abandon the host. Then did many people depart, and there remained so few that, if God had not sustained them, the land of Jerusalem would have been lost. Let us therefore beware lest the same mischance befall us also, and rather bethink ourselves how we may keep both these lords in the host. Let the one on whom God shall bestow the empire so devise that the other is well content; let him grant to that other all the land on the further side of the straits, towards Turkey, and the Isle of Greece, and that other shall be his liegeman. Thus shall we keep both lords in the host.”

As had been proposed, so was it settled, and both consented right willingly. Then came the day for the parliament, and the parliament assembled. And the twelve electors were chosen, six on one side and six on the other; and they swore on holy relics to elect, duly, and in good faith, whomsoever would best meet the needs of the host, and bear rule over the empire most worthily.


Before the time appointed for the coronation, the Marquis Boniface of Montferrat espoused the empress who had been the wife of the Emperor Isaac, and was sister to the King of Hungary. And within that time also did one of the most noble barons of the host, who bore the name of Odo of Champlitte of Champagne, make an end and die. Much was he mourned and bewept by William his brother, and by his other friends; and he was buried in the church of the Apostles with great honour.

The time for the coronation drew near, and the Emperor Baldwin was crowned with great joy and great honour in the church of St. Sophia, in the year of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ one thousand twelve hundred and four. Of the rejoicings and feasting there is no need to speak further, for the barons and knights did all they could; and the Marquis Boniface of Montferrat and Count Louis of Blois and Chartres did homage to the emperor as their lord. After the great rejoicings and ceremonies of the coronation, he was taken in great pomp, and with a great procession, to the rich palace of Bucoleon. And when the feastings were over he began to discuss his affairs.

Boniface the Marquis of Montferrat called upon him to carry out the covenant made, and give him, as he was bound to do, the land on the other side of the straits towards Turkey and the Isle of Greece. And the emperor acknowledged that he was bound so to do, and said he would do it right willingly. And when the Marquis of Montferrat saw that the emperor was willing to carry out this covenant so debonairly, he besought him, in exchange for this land, to bestow upon him the kingdom of Salonika, because it lay near the land of the King of Hungary, whose sister he had taken to wife.

Much was this matter debated in various ways; but in the end the emperor granted the land of Salonika to the marquis, and the marquis did homage therefor. And at this there was much joy throughout the host, because the marquis was one of the knights most highly prized in all the world, and one whom the knights most loved, inasmuch as no one dealt with them more liberally than he. Thus the marquis remained in the land, as you have heard.

Thus were the twelve chosen, and a day appointed for the election of the emperor; and on the appointed day the twelve electors met at a rich palace, one of the fairest in the world, where the Doge of Venice had his quarters. Great and marvellous was the concourse, for every one wished to see who should be elected. Then were the twelve electors called, and set in a very rich chapel within the palace, and the door was shut, so that no one remained with them. The barons and knights stayed without in a great palace.

The council lasted till they were agreed; and by consent of all they appointed Nevelon, Bishop of Soissons, who was one of the twelve, to act as spokesman. Then they came out to the place where all the barons were assembled, and the Doge of Venice. Now you must know that many set eyes upon them, to know how the election had turned. And the bishop, lifting up his voice—while all listened intently—spoke as he had been charged, and said: “Lords, we are agreed, let God be thanked! upon the choice of an emperor; and you have all sworn that he whom we shall elect as emperor shall be held by you to be emperor indeed, and that it any one gainsay him, you will be his helpers. And we name him now at the self-same hour when God was born, THE COUNT BALDWIN OF FLANDERS AND HAINAULT!”

A cry of joy was raised in the palace, and they bore the count out of the palace, and the Marquis Boniface of Montferrat bore him on one side to the church, and showed him all the honour he could. So was the Count Baldwin of Flanders and Hainault elected emperor, and a day appointed for his coronation, three weeks after Easter (16th May 1204). And you must know that many a rich robe was made for the coronation; nor did they want for the wherewithal.

Meet Bob Atchison - the Creator of this Website

I am an icon painter, Russian Historian and Austin Web Designer formerly of Seattle, Washington and now living in Austin, Texas. My interest in Byzantium and icons began when I was 8 years old and read my first book on Byzantium called "The Fall of Constantinople".

> learn more