Page 1391

1391 THE CRUSADES-FALL OF THE CROSS.

conditions that they should restore to the people of Zara the booty of which they had

been robbed, and that the alliance with the

refractory and perverse Venetians should be

at once broken off. It was, however, in a

manner impossible for the barons to comply

with these conditions. They were so entangled with the Republic, that to break

the league was to give up the Crusade and

violate their knightly vows. Simon de Montfort, however, more fanatic than the

rest, heeded and obeyed the papal injunction. As for the other Crusaders, they went

into winter quarters with their allies at Venice

and Zara.

During the interval between the capture

of the Dalmatian fortress and the opening

of the spring of 1203, circumstances occurred which led to a complete change of

the original purpose of the Crusade. A

new condition of affairs had supervened in

the Eastern Empire which excited the hostility of the Western Christians to the extent of making war on Constantinople instead of the cities of Syria. The Comnenian emperors were now represented in the person of Alexius, who had conspired against his

brother Isaac, whom he had deposed from

the throne, deprived of his eyes, and thrust

into a dungeon. The son of Isaac, who

also bore the name of Alexius, was but

twelve years of age, and was spared by his

victorious uncle.

This young prince made his escape and

fled to Italy, and, when the Crusaders gathered

at Venice, he had sufficient penetration to

see in the host there mustered the possible

means of his own or his father's restoration to the throne of the Eastern Empire.

He accordingly laid his cause before the

Christian princes, and besought their aid.

His petitions were strongly backed by the

influence of his brother-in-law, the Duke

of Suabia. During the interval, when the

barons of the West were lying inactive at

Zara, the negotiations were continued, and

both Crusaders and Venetians were won over

to the idea of a campaign against Constantinople. Indeed, so far as the subjects

of the dog were concerned, not much was

wanting to inflame the motives already existing for war. For a quarter of a century

a rivalry had existed between Venice and

the capital of the East. At one time the Emperor Manuel had confiscated all the

property of the Venetians in the ports of

the Empire. At another, the ships of the

Venetian merchants had made a descent

upon several of the Byzantine islands and

laid them waste. By and by the Emperor

adopted the policy of encouraging the Pisans,

the rivals of the Venetians, by conferring on

them the carrying trade of the East. This

act was wormwood to Venice, and she waited

an opportunity for revenge.

The aged but ambitious Dandolo now

perceived that by espousing the cause of

the young Alexius against the usurping uncle

of the same name the wrongs of the Republic might be avenged and her commercial advantages restored in the Eastern

Mediterranean. It thus happened that the

prayers of the Prince Alexius were supported

not only by the Duke of Suabia, but also by

the still more powerful voice of the dog.

Such was the temper of the age, that

though the attention of both the Crusaders

and Venetians was thus diverted to the

enterprise of a campaign against Constantinople, neither party of the confederates

was disposed to do so without first extorting

every possible advantage from the young

prince in whose interest the expedition was

to be ostensibly undertaken. The Imperial

lad was led on under the stimulus of hope to

make the most flattering promises. He agreed to pay the Crusaders two hundred

thousand marks for the restoration of his

imprisoned and sightless father to the throne

of Constantinople. He also promised to

heal the fatal schism of the Greek and Latin

Churches, to the end that spiritual unity

might be attained throughout Christendom

under the Pope of Rome. He would, moreover, when the affairs of the Empire should

be satisfactorily settled, either himself become a Crusader or else send out a division

of ten thousand men at his own expense to

aid in the recovery of Palestine. Furthermore, he would maintain during his life a

body of five hundred Knights in the Holy

Land, to the end that the Turks might not

again regain their ascendancy.

Meanwhile the usurper, Alexius, had been

on the alert to prevent the impending invasion of his dominions. He at once set about

the work of arraying the Pope against the

scheme of his enemies. The papal sanction