Page 1393

1393 THE CRUSADES-FALL OF THE CROSS.

city before whose walls the men of the West

were now come with hostile purpose. There

rose the massive ramparts of stone; there

the lofty turrets of palaces and basilica-a

splendid show of beauty, magnificence, and

strength, such as the Crusaders had never

before beheld.

At first the fleet was brought to anchor

on the Asiatic side of the channel. For a

few days after the landing the forces of the

dog and the Marquis of Montferrat, who

may be regarded as the commanders of the

army, were allowed to rest in Scutari, and

while they were here reposing, negotiations

were opened by the Emperor. He offered to

expedite the march of the Crusaders into

Asia Minor! They were not going in that

direction. He warned them against any disturbance in his dominions. It was for the

express purpose of disturbing his dominions

that they had come. He threatened them

with the Pope. The Pope had already

done his worst. On the other hand, the

dog and barons warned him to come down

from the throne which he had usurped under

penalty of such punishment as the soldiers of

the Cross were wont to visit upon the opposers of the will and cause of offended

heaven.

After these mutual fulminations the Crusaders prepared to cross to the other side of

the strait. They ranged themselves in six divisions, and, passing across the channel, scattered the Byzantine forces which were drawn

up to resist their landing, and captured the

suburb Galata. The great chain which had

been stretched across the mouth of the harbor

was broken, and the few ships remaining to

the Greeks captured and destroyed.

The assailants now found themselves before

the huge walls of the city. Constantinople

was at this time the most strongly fortified

metropolis in the world. The act of the Crusaders in undertaking the siege of such a place

is perhaps without a parallel in the annals of

audacity. Their forces were only sufficient to

invest one side of the ramparts. Their provisions were regarded as good for three weeks'

subsistence. If only the physical conditions

of the situation should be considered, then indeed might Alexius and his officers well look

down with indifference and contempt upon the

puny preparations outside the walls. But the

mental conditions were different.

To the Crusaders delay would be fatal.

They accordingly exerted themselves to the

utmost to bring on the crisis of an assault.

In this work the Venetians vied with their

allies in the prodigious activity which they

displayed. It was determined to assail the

walls from the side of the sea and in the

parts adjacent. With herculean endeavor

the Crusaders succeeded in filling up the

ditch and thus were enabled to bring their

engines to bear upon the fortifications. In

a few days the walls had been sufficiently

injured to warrant the hazard of an assault.

The blind old dog of Venice took his station on the raised deck of his vessel, and

with the banner of St. Mark above his head,

directed his men in the attack by sea. The

Venetian galleys were brought to the beach

immediately under the walls. Drawbridges

were thrown from the masts to the tops

of the ramparts, and for the foot soldiers' scaling ladders were planted, and then with

a rush and a shout the battlements were

surmounted. Twenty-five towers were carried by the marines of Venice, and the banner of the Republic was planted on the

summit.

The Crusaders in making the attack

from the land-side had met with poor success. The breaches made by their engines

proved to be less complete than had been

thought, and those who had been set to

defend this part of the walls were (if the

history may be credited), a body of Angio-Saxon and Danish guards whom the Emperor had taken into his service. Very

different were these brave and stalwart

warriors of the North from the supple and

degenerate Greeks, who had inherited all the

vices without any of the virtues of their ancestors. The Crusaders were confronted in their

impetuous charge by these resolute and powerful soldiers, and were unable to break into

the city.

As soon, however, as the dog was victorious from the side of the sea, he made

haste to fire the part of the city which was

in his power, and then hurried to the succor

of his allies. On the appearance of the Venetians, the guards and Greek cavalry who,

by sheer force of numbers, had almost surrounded the chivalry, and were assailing the

hard pressed Crusaders in front and on both

flanks, fell back quickly and sought safety