Synopses & Reviews
In 1202, zealous western Christians gathered in Venice determined to liberate Jerusalem from the grip of Islam. But the crusaders never made it to the Holy Land. Steered forward by the shrewd Venetian doge, they descended instead on Constantinople, wreaking devastation so terrible and inflicting scars so deep that as recently as 2001 Pope John Paul II offered an apology to the Greek Orthodox Church.
The crusaders spared no one: They raped and massacred thousands, plundered churches, and torched the lavish city. A prostitute danced on the altar of the ravaged Hagia Sophia. And by 1204, barbarism masquerading as piety had shattered one of the great civilizations of history. Here, on the eight hundredth anniversary of the sack, is the extraordinary story of this epic catastrophe, told for the first time outside of academia by Jonathan Phillips, a leading expert on the crusades.
Knights and commoners, monastic chroniclers, courtly troubadours, survivors of the carnage, and even Pope Innocent III left vivid accounts detailing the events of those two fateful years. Using their remarkable letters, chronicles, and speeches, Phillips traces the way in which any region steeped in religious fanaticism, in this case Christian Europe, might succumb to holy war.
"While the first three Crusades were launched in an effort to reclaim Jerusalem from Muslims, the Fourth Crusade, begun in 1202, pitted Christians against Christians: Roman Catholics against Orthodox. In this authoritative and vivid account, historian and BBC commentator Phillips (Defenders of the Holy Land) uses monastic chronicles, letters and even the songs of court troubadours to reconstruct the brutal sacking of the Byzantine capital and its underlying causes. Although the enmity between East and West went back 150 years before the Crusade, the crusaders might never have sailed to Constantinople if Emperor Alexius III hadn't requested Pope Innocent to send troops to help him secure Eastern Christendom. When the French and Venetian soldiers arrived, however, they found themselves unwelcome and forced to camp outside Constantinople. As religious and political tensions evolved, the crusaders already prepared to sacrifice themselves for their faith grew restless and attacked the city, killing thousands, destroying churches and Constantinople itself. As Phillips points out, the destruction was so embedded in the collective memory of Christianity that in 2001 Pope John Paul II apologized to Greek Orthodox Christians. Phillips's book provides a first-rate narrative of this significant episode in medieval history. Illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Catherine Clarke. (On sale Oct. 25) Forecast: A PBS special on the Fourth Crusade, written by Phillips, could boost sales beyond the usual history buffs." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Using remarkable letters, chronicles, and speeches of various witnesses to the violent destruction of Constantinople by Christian crusaders in 1202, Phillips traces the way any region steeped in religious fanaticism might succumb to holy war.
About the Author
Jonathan Phillips, a senior lecturer in medieval history at Royal Holloway, University of London, is the author of a number of books on the crusades, including Defenders of the Holy Land and The Crusades: 1095andndash;1197. Phillipsandrsquo;s articles have appeared in BBC History, History Today, and the Independent.and#160; Phillips is a frequent guest on Radio 4 and BBC World Service, as well as Englandandrsquo;s Channel 4, the BBC, The History Channel, and PBS.