Page 1389

1389 THE CRUSADES-FALL OF THE CROSS.

of state were convened, and afterwards the

citizens were called together in the great

square of St. Mark. Here in the presence

of the assembled state of Venice the French

barons knelt before the majesty of the people,

and besought with all the fervor of eloquence

the aid of the Republic in the recovery of the

holy places of the East.

The Venetians heard the petitions with

favor, and agreed to furnish a navy for the

required service for the sum of eighty-five

thousand silver marks. For this sum it

was stipulated that Venice should transport to any designated coast of the East

four thousand five hundred knights, nine

thousand esquires and men-at-arms, twenty

thousand infantry with horses and accouterments, and provisions for nine months.

The fleet set apart for this service numbered

fifty galleys, being perhaps the best vessels

then afloat in the Mediterranean.

Great was the joy of the gathering Crusaders of France on learning that the Venetians had agreed to transport them to

Palestine. Soon, however, the ardor of the

chivalry was cooled by the untoward circumstance of the death of their chosen

leader, Count Thibaut, of Champagne. This

positive loss, moreover, was greatly aggravated by the jealousy and heart-burnings of the French barons, whose mutual

rivalries prevented a choice of any one of

their own number to the command of the

expedition. It thus happened that a foreign prince, the Marquis Boniface of Montferrat, was chosen as leader of the Fourth

Crusade; and thus it happened, also, that

what with the embassy to Venice, and what

with the delays incident to the bickerings

and disputes of the barons, the space of

two years elapsed from the tournament of

Champagne to the gathering of the Crusaders at Venice, preparatory to their departure for Syria.

When at last, in the year 1202, the warriors of the Cross were mustered in the

Place of St. Mark, it was found that many,

through the abatement of zeal, had remained

at home, and that others were less willing,

or, perhaps, less able, than in the first glow

of their enthusiasm, to pay the subscriptions which they had made to meet the

Venetian indebtedness. Less than fifty thousand marks of the whole sum could now be secured. The dog and citizens of the Republic refused to permit the departure of the

fleet until the entire amount should be paid.

At length, however, the dead-lock was

broken in a manner which radically changed

the whole character of the enterprise. When

it became apparent that the Crusade, even

after two years of preparation, must be

abandoned because of non-compliance with

the contract made by the French ambassadors, the dog himself came forward with

a measure of relief. He proposed that

instead of the present payment of the remaining thirty thousand marks, the Crusaders should assist him in reducing the

revolted city of Zara, on the coast of Dalmatia. If they would do so, the residue of

their indebtedness might remain unpaid until

the close of the Crusade; and, in that event,

he would himself assume the cross, become

a soldier of Christ, and conduct the Venetian fleet against the seaports of the Syrian

Infidels.

This advantageous proposition, though

it seemed to divert the Crusaders from

their original purpose, was gladly accepted

by them. Indeed, such was the situation

of affairs that they had no alternative. At

this juncture, however, a new complication arose which threatened to annul the

whole compact. The inhabitants of Zara

had, after their revolt, made haste to put

themselves under the protection of the

Hungarians. The king of Hungary was

himself one of the promoters of the Crusade, and had taken the cross. Pope Innocent

III now interfered, and forbade the Crusaders to turn their arms against a people

who were under the protection of a Christian king, engaged in war with Infidels.

But the Venetian republicans stood less in

awe of the papal authority than did the

feudal barons from beyond the Alps. Not

caring whether their action was pleasing

or displeasing to His Holiness, they went

ahead with the enterprise, and prevailed with

most of the leaders to join them in the expedition. The Marquis of Montferrat, however, would not, on account of conscientious

scruples, accompany the expedition. The fleet

of Venetians and Crusaders departed under

command of the blind old dog, who, though

seeing not with his eyes, perceived with the

inner sight the exigencies of the campaign,