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

By Edwin Pears | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X.
DEPARTURE TO, CONQUEST OF, AND STAY IN ZARA.

THE expedition against Zara left Venice in two divisions, one which started on the 1st and the other on the 8th of October. The whole fleet consisted of four hundred and eighty sail. The departure of the second and great division, containing the army of Crusaders, was one of the most picturesque sights which even Venice can ever have seen. The Republic of the lagoons has always cherished a love of artistic display, and nowhere can any spectacle be set amid surroundings which more completely enhance its beauty than amid the waters where the Queen of the Adriatic rises from the sea. The time had not yet come when her rulers thought it necessary to check lavish display of colour and undue extravagance. The dwellings and storehouses of her people were already palaces. Her citizens had already grouped themselves into guilds, each with its own characteristic dress, so that brilliancy of colour was already a striking feature of a Venetian crowd. The silks and velvets of the East were set off with precious stones and jewelry, while over all the southern sun shed a light which, reflected from the waters, did not make their gorgeousness seem out of place. Robert de Clari describes with evident enjoyment the scene as Dandolo and the Crusaders left. Each of the nobles had a ship for himself and his esquires, while attending it was, the sailing barge for the horses. Each ship was girt around by the bucklers of the knights, and looked as if it had a belt of steel. The Doge had fifty galleys, which had been fitted out at his own cost or at that of the city. The one in which Dandolo voyaged was vermilion coloured, like that of an emperor. Four trumpeters

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