Historians continue to debate the exact reason why the Crusaders then turned on Constantinople instead of Jerusalem, but one crucial ingredient in the troublesome mix of mutual suspicions between the western powers and Byzantium was the Republic of Venice and one man, in particular, the Doge Enrico Dandolo (r. Intent on winning Venetian domination of the trade in the east, Dandolo well remembered his undignified expulsion from Constantinople when he had served there as an ambassador.
This seemed as good an opportunity as ever to install a new sympathetic emperor. 1203-1204 CE), whose father Isaac II Angelos had been deposed as emperor seven years earlier, had been touting for western support for some time.
It may not, as some conspiracy-theory historians have claimed, have all been so cynically planned beforehand by all parties, but in the end, it is exactly what happened with the exception that the Fourth Crusade ended with the fall of the Byzantine capital and Jerusalem was left for a later date.
The Crusader army arrived outside Constantinople on 24 June 1203 CE.
Perhaps significantly, given future events, Boniface also had family connections with the Byzantine Empire, one of his brothers marrying the daughter of Byzantine emperor Manuel I (r.
1143-1180 CE) and another brother marrying the sister of the deposed Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelos (r. In October 1202 CE the army was finally ready to set sail from Venice to Egypt - seen as the soft underbelly of the enemy - or at least, that was the original plan.In August 1201 CE the leader of the expedition, after the untimely death of Theobald of Champagne, was selected.The choice was an immensely rich and chivalrous Italian with an impressive Crusader pedigree in his family, Marquis Boniface of Montferrat.However, in a bizarre combination of cock-ups, financial constraints, and Venetian trading ambitions, the target ended up being Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire and the greatest Christian city in the world.Sacked on 12 April 1204 CE, Constantinople was stripped of its riches, relics, and artworks, and the Byzantine Empire was divided up between Venice and its allies.Still, a good number of second-tier nobles were inspired to join up or ‘take the cross’, as it was known, especially from northern France.There were the counts of Champagne and Blois (although the former would die before the expedition got underway), Geoffrey of Villehardouin (who would later write his an important record of the Crusade), Count Baldwin of Flanders, and Simon de Montfort.There were also more concrete sources of division, the historical rivalry between popes and emperors, and the rising ambition of western states to wrest from Byzantium the remnants of its empire in Italy were fuelled by the failures of the crusades in permanently securing the Holy Land for Christendom.Blame was apportioned to either side for the lack of success.Given the recent history of rebellions and takeovers in Byzantium, this was perhaps a rather simplified view of possible events.Certainly, things turned out to be a whole lot more difficult for everyone involved.