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

By Edwin Pears | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.
WEAKENING OF THE EMPIRE BY THE CRUSADES.

THE Crusades, and especially the third, contributed not a little to the weakening of the Empire. When the continual inroads of the Saracens, and, at a later date, of the Turks, had begun to tell upon the strength of the Empire, Western Europe grew alarmed at Mahometan progress. Although the Pope had summoned Christian princes to take up the cross, yet the movement of which he made himself the head, and which resulted in the first crusade, was in great part spontaneous. The first crusade, which was also the most successful, was the one with the least careful organisation, and is in this sense correctly described by Michaud, the historian of the Crusades, as a republican movement. Its members were inspired by a religious fervour which formed an excellent basis for discipline.

At an early period the Emperors of the East were glad to take advantage of the religious movement in the West, in order to inflict a defeat upon the common enemy of Christendom. I have already traced the history of the first and second crusades in so far as they affected the Empire, and have shown that the soldiers of the West found the Seljukian Turks of Asia Minor the most formidable enemies they had to encounter. In 1137 the Emperor, John Comnenos, took an active part in the crusade and captured several cities. His intention was to make Antioch his base of operations against the Mahometans. But the old spirit of jealousy between the members of the Eastern and Western Churches soon displayed itself. John considered that as the cities and countries taken from the Saracens had been captured by them from the Empire, they ought to be placed under his rule.

Diffficulties in way of co-operation between Crusaders and Empire.

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