The Fall of Constantinople: Being the Story of the Fourth Crusade

By Edwin Pears | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II.
WEAKENING OF THE EMPIRE BY ATTACKS OF THE SELJUKIAN TURKS.

CONSTANTINOPLE during the century and a half preceding its conquest was an island amid a sea of peoples. On every side peoples were in motion, new races coming in, old ones being pushed aside. The Normans, who were troubling our fathers at this very period, were likewise troubling the Byzantine empire. The great wave of population from Central Asia, which was rushing westward, spent its force in the Balkan peninsula and in Asia Minor. Constantinople was the strong barrier at once against Asia and Arabia. Since the time of Mahomet all Western Asia had been in motion, and had been hurling itself on Europe. The Byzantine empire had furnished the strongest line of defence, and had hitherto held its own with a consummate ability to which Western Europe has never yet done justice. Huns, Bulgarians, Patchinaks, Avars, Comans, Uzes had passed to the north of the Black Sea, and had maintained a hold, for a time at least, over some portions of the Balkan peninsula or neighbouring territories. The Wallachs, the Croats, and the Scythians had repeatedly given trouble. Men of our own race, the Warings, had come with Russians, and had at an early period tried and proved the strength of Micklegard, the imperial city. The great movement, however, from Central Asia was principally felt in Asia Minor. Again and again during the nine centuries from Constantine was the empire able to beat off its enemies, but again and again was the attack renewed. During the last one hundred and fifty years preceding her fall, Constantinople was almost continually fighting the battle of civilisation against barbarism, and during that period she was afflicted by almost every ill that can distress a nation. She had defeated

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