Edward Gibbon.

The life and letters of Edward Gibbon, with his History of the Crusades online

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the papas, enjoy the conjugal society of the wives whom they have
married before their entrance into holy orders. A question concerning
the Azyms was fiercely debated in the eleventh century, and the essence
of the Eucharist was supposed, in the East and West, to depend on
the use of leavened or unleavened bread. Shall I mention in a serious
history the furious reproaches that were urged against the Latins, who,
for a long while, remained on the defensive ? They neglected to ab-
stain, according to the apostolic decree, from things strangled, and
from blood : they fasted, a Jewish observance ! on the Saturday of each
week : during the first week of Lent they permitted the use of milk
and cheese ; their infirm monks were indulged in the taste of flesh ;
and animal grease was substituted for the want of vegetable oil : the
holy chrism or unction in baptism, was reserved to the episcopal order :
the bishops, as the bridegrooms of their churches, were decorated with
rings ; their priests shaved their faces, and baptized by a single im-
mersion. Such were the crimes which provoked the zeal of the patri-
archs of Constantinople, and which were justified with equal zeal by the
doctors of the Latin church.

Bigotry and national aversion are powerful magnifiers of every ob-
ject of dispute ; but the immediate cause of the schism of the Greeks
maybe traced in the emulation of the leading prelates, who maintained
the supremacy of the old metropolis superior to all, and of the reigning
capital, inferior to none, in the Christian world. About the middle of
the ninth century, Photius, an ambitious layman, the captain of the
guard and principal secretary, was promoted (a.D. 857 — 886) by merit
and favour to the more desirable office of patriarch of Constantinople.
In science, even ecclesiastical science, he surpassed the clergy of the
age ; and the purity of his morals has never been impeached : but his
ordination was hasty, his rise was irregular ; and Ignatius, his abdi-
cated predecessor, was yet supported by the public compassion and


the obstinacy of his adherents. They appealed to the tribunal of
Nicholas the first, one of the proudest and most aspiring of the Roman
pontiffs, who embraced the uclcome opportunity of judging and con-
demning his rival of the East. Their quarrel was embittered by a
conflict of jurisdiction over the king and nation of the Bulgarians ;
nor was their recent conversion to Christianity of much avail to either
prelate^ unless he could number the proselytes among the subjects ol
his power. With the aid of his court the Greek patriarch was victo-
rious ; but in the furious contest he deposed in his turn the successor
of St. Peter, and involved the Latin church in the reproach of heresy
and schism. Photius sacrificed the peace of the world to a short and
precarious reign : he fell with his patron, the Csesar Bardas ; and
Basil the Macedonian performed an act of justice in the restoration
of Ignatius, whose age and dignity had not been sufficiently respected.
From his monastery, or prison, Photius solicited the favour of the
emperor by pathetic complaints and artful flattery ; and the eyes of
his rival were scarcely closed, when he was again restored to the throne
of Constantinople. After the death of Basil, he experienced the vicis-
situdes of courts and the ingratitude of a royal pupil : the patriarch
was again deposed, and in his last solitary hours he might regret the
freedom of a secular and studious life. In each revolution, the
breath, the nod, of the sovereign had been accepted by a submissive
clergy ; and a synod of 300 bishops was always prepared to hail the
triumph, or to stigmatise the fall, of the holy, or the execrable Photius.
By a delusive promise of succour or reward, the popes were tempted to
countenance these various proceedings ; and the synods of Constan-
tinople were ratified by their epistles or legates. But the court
and the people, Ignatius and Photius, were equally adverse to their
claims ; their ministers were insulted or imprisoned ; the proces-
sion of the Holy Ghost was forgotten ; Bulgaria was for ever an-
nexed to the Byzantine throne ; and the schism was prolonged by the
rigid censure of all the multiplied ordinations of an irregular patriarch.
The darkness and corruption of the tenth century suspended the in-
tercourse, without reconciling the minds, of the two nations. But
v.hen the Norman sword restored the churches of Apulia to the juris-
diction of Rome, the departing flock was warned, by a petulant epistle
of the Greek patriarch, to avoid and abhor the errors of the Latins.
The rising majesty of Rome could no longer brook the insolence of a
rebel ; and Michael Cerularius was excommunicated in the heart
of Constantinople by the pope's legates. Shaking the dust from their
feet, they (a.d. 1054. July 16) deposited on the altar of St. Sophia a
direful anathema, which enumerates the seven mortal heresies of the
Greeks, and devotes the guilty teachers, and their unhappy sectaries,
to the eternal society of the devil and his angels. According to the
emergencies of the church '"^d state, a friendly correspondence was

f/rsTORy OP Tiin crusades. 4-55

sometimes resumed ; the language of charity and concord was some-
times affected ; but the Greeks have never recanted their errors ;
the popes have never repealed their sentence : and from this thund'er-
bolt we may date the consummation of the schism. It was en-
larged by each ambitious step of the Roman pontiffs : the emperors
blushed and trembled at the ignominious fate of their royal bretnrcn
of Germany ; and the people were scandalized by the temporal power
and military life of the Latin clergy.

The aversion of the Greeks and Latins was nourished and mani-
fested (a.d, 1 100 — 1200) in the three first expeditions to the Holy
Land. Alexius Comnenus contrived the absence at least of the
formidable pilgrims : his successors, Manuel and Isaac Angelus, con-
spired with the Moslems for the ruin of the greatest princes of the
Franks ; and their crooked and malignant policy was seconded by the
active and voluntary obedience of every order of their subjects. Ot
this hostile temper, a large portion may doubtless be ascribed to the
difference of language, dress, and manners, which severs and alienates
the nations of the globe. The pride, as well as the prudence, of the
sovereign was deeply wounded by the intrusion of foreign armies, that
claimed a right of traversing his dominions and passing under the
walls of his capital : his subjects were insulted and plundered by the
rude strangers of the West ; and the hatred of the pusillanimous
Greeks was sharpened by secret envy of the bold and pious enter-
prises of the Franks. But these profane causes oi national enmity
were fortified and inflamed by the venom of religious zeal. Instead
of a kind embrace, an hospitable reception, from their Christian
brethren of the East, every tongue was taught to repeat the names oi
schismatic and heretic, more odious to an orthodox ear than those oi
pagan and infidel : instead of being loved for the general conformity
of faith and worship, they were abhorred for some rules of discipline,
some questions of theology, in which themselves or their teachers
might differ from the Oriental church. In the crusade of Louis the
seventh, the Greek clergy washed and purified the altars which had
been defiled by the sacrifice of a French priest. The companions ol
Frederic Barbaiossa deplore the injuries which they endured, both in
word and deed, from the peculiar rancour of the bishops and monks.
Their prayers and sermons excited the people against the impious
Barbarians ; and the patriarch is accused of declaring, that the faith-
ful might obtain the redemption of all their sins by the extirpation ol
the schismatics. An enthusiast, named Dorotheus, alarmed the fears,
and restored the confidence, of the emperor, by a prophetic assurance,
that the German heretic, after assaulting the gate of Blachernes,
would be made a signal example of the divine vengeance. The
passage of these mighty armies were rare and perilous events ; but the
crusades introduced a frequent and familiar intercourse between the


two nations, which enlarged their knowledge without abating iheir
v?rejudices. The wealth and luxury of Constantinople demanded the
productions of every climate : these imports were balanced by the art
and labour of her numerous inhabitants ; her situation invites the
commerce of the world ; and, in every period of her existence, that
commerce has been in the hands of foreigners. After the decline of
Amalphi, the Venetians, Pisans, and Genoese, introduced their fac-
tories and settlements into the capital of the empire : their services
were rewarded with honours and immunities ; they acquired the pos-
session of lands and houses ; their families were multiplied by mar-
riages with the natives ; and, after the toleration of a Mahometan
mosque, it was impossible to interdict the churches of the Roman
rite. The two wives of Manuel Comnenus were of the race of the
Franks ; the first, a sister-in-law of the emperor Conrad ; the second,
a daughter of the prince of Antioch : he obtained for his son Alexius a
daughter of Philip Augustus king of France ; and he bestowed his
own daughter on a marquis of Montferrat, who was educated and dig-
nified in the palace of Constantinople. The Greek encountered the
arms, and aspired to the empire, of the West ; he esteemed the valour,
and trusted the fidelity, of the Franks ; their military talents were un-
fitly recompensed by the lucrative offices of judges and treasurers ; the
policy of Manuel had solicited the alliance of the pope ; and the popu-
lar voice accused him of a partial bias to the nation and religion of the
Latins. During his reign, and that of his successor Alexius, they were
exposed at Constantinople to the reproach of foreigners, heretics, and
favourites ; and this triple guilt was severely expiated in the tumult,
which announced the return and elevation of Andronicus. The people
rose (A-D. 1 1 83) in arms ; from the Asiatic shore the tyrant dispatched
his troops and galleys to assist the national revenge ; and the hopeless
resistance of the strangers served only to justify the rage, and sharpen
the daggers, of the assassins. Neither age, nor sex, nor the ties of
friendship or kindred, could save the victims of national hatred, and
avarice, and religious zeal : the Latins were slaughtered in their
houses and in the streets ; their quarter was reduced to ashes ; the
clergy were burnt in their churches, and the sick in their hospitals ;
and some estimate may be formed of the slain from the clemency
which sold above 4000 Christians in perpetual slavery to the Turks,
The priests and monks were the loudest and most active in the de-
struction of the schismatics ; and they chaunted a thanksgiving to the
Lord, when the head of a Roman cardinal, the pope's legate, was
severed from his body, fastened to the tail of a dog, and dragged, with
savage mockery, through the city. The more diligent of the strangers
had retreated, on the first alarm, to their vessels, and escaped through
the Hellespont from the scene of blood. In their flight, they burnt
and ravaged 200 miles of the sea-coast ; inflicted a severe revenge on


the guiltless subjects of the empire ; marked the priesls and monks as
their peculiar enemies ; and compensated, by the accumulation of
plunder, the loss of their [Property and friends. On their return, they
exposed to Italy and Europe the wealth and weakness, the perfidy
and malice, of the Greeks, whose vices were painted as the genuine
characters of heresy and schism. The scruples of the first crusaders
had neglected the fairest opportunities of securing, by the possession
of Constantinople, the way to the Holy Land : a domestic revolution
invited, and almost compelled, the French and Venetians to achieve
the conquest of the Roman empire of the east.

In the series of the Byzantine princes, I have exhibited the hypocrisy
and ambition, the tyranny and fall, of An i!ronicus, the last male of the
Comnenian family who reigned at Conr.tantinople. The revolution,
which cast him headlong from the throne, saved and exalted Isaac
Angelus (a.d. j 185— i 195, Sept. 12), who descended by the females
from the same imperial dynasty. The successor of a second Nero
might have found it an easy task to deserve the esteem and affection
ot his subjects : they sometimes had reason to regret the administra-
tion ol Andronicus. The sound and vigorous mind of the tyrant was
capable ol discerning the connexion between his own and the public
interest ; and while he was feared by all who could inspire him with
fear, the unsuspected people, and the remote provinces, might bless
the inexorable justice of their master. But his successor was vain
and jealous of the supreme power, which he wanted courage and
al)i!ities to exercise ; his vices were pernicious, his virtues (if he pos-
sessed any virtues) were useless to mankind ; and the Greeks, who
imputed their calamities to his negligence, denied him the merit of
any transient or accidental benefits of the times. Isaac slept on the
throne, and was awakened only by the sound of pleasure : his vacant
hours were amused by comedians and buffoons, and even to these
buffoons the emperor was an object of contempt ; his feasts and build-
ings exceeded the examples of royal luxury ; the number of his
eunuchs and domestics amounted to 20,000 ; and a daily sum of 4000
pounds of silver would swell to four millions sterling the annual
expcnce of his household and table. His poverty was relieved by
oppression ; and the public discontent was inflamed by equal abuses
in the collection, and the application, of the revenue. While the
(Irceks numbered the days of their servitude, a flattering prophet,
whom he rewarded with the dignity of patriarch, assured him of a
long and victorious reign of thirty-two years ; during which he should
extend his sway to mount Libanus, and his conquests beyond the
Euphrates. But his only step towards tJv> accomplishment of the
prediction, was a splendid and scandalo'.a embassy to Saladin, to
demand the restitution of the holy sepulchre, and to propose an
offensive and defensive leagut with the enemy oi the Cliristian name,



In these unworthy hands, of Isaac and his brother, the remains of the
Greek empire crumbled into dust. The island of Cyprus, whose
name excites the ideas of elegance and pleasure, was usurped by his
namesake, a Comnenian prince : and by a strange concatenation of
events, the sword of our Richard bestowed that kingdom on the house
of Lusignan, a rich compensation for the loss of Jerusalem.

The honour of the monarchy, and the safety of the capital, were
deeply wounded by the revolt (a.d. 1186) of the Bulgarians and Wal-
lachians. Since the victory of the second Basil, they had supported,
above 170 years, the loose dominion of the Byzantine princes ; but no
effectual measures had been adopted to impose the yoke of laws and
manners on these savage tribes. By the command of Isaac, their
sole means of subsistence, their flocks and herd'*, were driven away,
to contribute towards the pomp of the royal nuptials : and their fierce
warriors were exasperated by the denial of equal rank and pay in the
military service. Peter and Asan, two powerful chiefs, of the race of
the ancient kings, asserted their own rights and the national freedom :
their demoniac impostors proclaimed to the crowd that their glorious
patron St. Demetrius had for ever desec ted the cause of the Greeks ;
and the conflagration spread from the banks of the Danube to the
hills of Macedonia and Thrace, After some faint efforts, Isaac An-
gclus and his brother acquiesced in their independence ; and the Im-
perial troops were soon discouraged by the bones of their fellow-
S'jldiers, that were scattered along the passes of mount Haemus. By
the arms and policy of John or Joannices, the second kingdom of Bul-
garia was firmly established. The subtle Barbarian sent an embassy
to Innocent the third, to acknowledge himself a genuine son of Rome
in descent and religion ; and humbly received from the pope the
licence of coining money, the royal title, and a Latin archbishop or
patriarch. The Vatican exulted in the spiritual conquest of Bulgaria,
the first object of the schism ; and if the Greeks could have preserved
the prerogatives of the church, they would gladly have resigned the
rights of the monarchy.

The Bulgarians were malicious enough to pray for the long life of
Isaac Angelus, the surest pledge of their freedom and prosperity.
Yet their chiefs could involve in the same indiscriminate contempt,
the family and nation of the emperor. " In all the Greeks," said
Asan to his troops, " the same climate, and character, and education,
will be productive of the same fruits. Behold my lance," continued
the warrior, " and the long streamers that float in the wind. They
differ only in colour ; they are formed of the same silk and fashioned
by the same workman ; nor has the stripe that is stained in purple
any superior price or value above its fellows." Several of these
candidates for the purple successively rose and fell under the empire
of Isaac : a general who had repelled the fleets of Sicily, was drivea


to revolt and ruin by the ingratitude of the prince ; and his luxurious
repose was disturbed by secret conspiracies and popular insurrections.
The emperor was saved by accident, or the merit of his servants : he
u'as at length oppressed by an ambitious brother, who, for the hope
of a precarious diadem, forgot the obligations of nature, of loyalty,
and of friendship. While Isaac in the Thracian valleys pursued the
idle and solitary pleasures of the chase, his brother, Alexius Angekis,
was (a.d. 1203, April 8) invested with the purple, by the unanim-
ous suffrage of the camp : the capital and the clergy subscribed to
their choice ; and the vanity of the new sovereign rejected the name
of his fathers, for the lofty and royal appellation of the Comnenian
race. On the despicable character of Isaac I have exhausted the
language of contempt ; and can only add, that in a reign of eight
\ cars, the baser Alexius was supported by the masculine vices of his
Arife Euphrosyne. The first intelligence of his fall was conveyed to
the late emperor by the hostile aspect and pursuit of the guards, no
longer his own : he fled before them above fifty miles as far as Stagyra
in Macedonia ; but the fugitive, without an object or a follower, was
arrested, brought back to Constantinople, deprived of his eyes, and
confined in a lonesome tower, on a scanty allowance of bread and
v.atcr. At the moment of the revolution, his son Alexius, whom he
educated in the hope of empire, was twelve years of age. He was
spared by the usurper, and reduced to attend his triumph both in
I cace and war ; but as the army was encamped on the sea-shore, an
Italinn vessel facilitated the escape of the royal youth ; and, in the
disguise of a common sailor, he eluded the search of his enemies,
passed the Hellespont, and found a secure refuge in the isle of Sicily.
Afier saluting the threshold of the apostles, and imploring the pro-
tection of Pope Innocent the third, Alexius accepted the kind invita-
tion of his sister Irene, the wife of Philip of Swabia, king of the
Romans. But in his passage through Italy he heard that the flower
of Western chivalry was assembled at Venice for the deliverance of
the Holy Land ; and a ray of hope was kindled in his bosom, that
their invincible swords might be employed in his father's restoration.

About ten or twelve years after the loss of Jerusalem, the nobles of
France were (a.d. 1198) again summoned to the holy war by the voice
of a third prophet, less extravagant, perhaps, than Peter the hermit,
but far below St. Bernard in the merit of an orator and a statesman.
An illiterate priest of the neighbourhood of Paris, Fulk of N/^My,
f ;TSOok his parochial duty, to assume the more flattering character of a
popular and itinerant missionary. Thefam.e of his sanctity and miracles
war «pread over the land ; he declaimed, with severity and vehemence,
against live vices of the age ; and his sermons, which he preached ia
the streets of Paris, converted the robbers, the usurers, the prostitutes,
and even the doctors and scholars of the university. No sooner did Inno«


cent the third ascend the chair of St. Peter, than he proclaimed in
Italy, Germany and France, the obhgation of a new crusade. The
eloquent pontiff described the ruin of Jerusalem, the triumph of the
Pagans, and the shame of Christendom : h's liberality proposed the
redemption of sins, a plenary indulgence to all who should serve in
Palestine, either a year in person, or two years by a substitute ; and
among his legates and orators who blew the sacred trumpet, Fulk of
Neuilly was the loudest and most successful. The situation of the
principal monarchs was averse to the pious summons. The emperor
Frederic the second was a child ; and his kingdom of Germany was
disputed by the rival houses of Brunswick and Swabia, the memorable
factions of the Guelphs and Ghibelines. Philip Augustus of France
had performed, and could not be persuaded to renew, the perilous
vow ; but as he was not less ambitious of praise than of power, he
cheerfully instituted a perpetual fund for the defence of the Holy
Land. Richard of England was satiated with the glory and mis-
fortunes of his first adventure, and he presumed to deride the exhorta-
tions of Fulk of Neuilly, who was not abashed in the presence of
Icings. "You advise me," said Plantagenet, "to dismiss my three
cUughters, pride, avarice, and incontinence : I bequeath them to the
most deserving ; my pride to the knights-templars, my avarice to the
monks of Cisteaux, and my incontinence to the prelates." But the
preacher was heard and obeyed by the great vassals, the princes of the
second order ; and Theobald, or Thibaut, count of Champagne, was
the foremost in the holy race. The valiant youth, at the age of twenty-
two years, was encouraged by the domestic examples of his father,
who marched in the second crusade, and of his elder brother, who
had ended his days in Palestine with the title of king of Jerusalem :
two thousand two hundred knights owed service and homage to his
peerage : the nobles of Champagne excelled in all the exercises of
war ; and by his marriage with the heiress of Navarre, Thibaut
could draw a band of hardy Gascons from either side of the Pyrcnaean
mountains. His companion in arms was Louis, count of Blois and
Chartres ; like himself of regal lineage, for both the princes were
nephews, at the same time, of the kings of France and England, In
a crowd of prelates and barons, who imitated then" zeal, I distinguish
the birth and merit of Matthew of Montmorency ; the famous Simon
of Montfort, the scourge of the Albigeois ; and a valiant noble, Jeffrey
of Villehardouin, marshal of Champagne, who has condescended, in
tlie rude idiom of his age and country, to write or dictate an original
narrative of the councils and actions, in which he bore a memorable
liart. At the same time, Baldwin count of Flanders, who had married
tlie sister of Thibaut, assumed the cross at Bruges, with his brother
Henry and the principal knights and citizens of that rich and in-
dustrious province. The vow which the chiefs had pronounced in


churches, they ratified in tournaments . the operations of the war were
dcliated in full and frequent assemblies ; and it was resolved to seek
the deliverance of Palestine in Egypt, a country, since Saladin's death,
which was almost ruined by famine and civil war. But the fate ot
so many royal armies displayed the toils and perils of a land expedi-
tion ; and, if the Flemings dwelt along the ocean, the French barons
were destitute of ships and ignorant of navigation. They embraced
the wise resolution of chusing six deputies or representatives, of whom
Villehardouin was one, with a discretionary trust to direct the motions,
and to pledge the faith, of the whole confederacy. The maritime
states of Italy were alone possessed of the means of transporting the
holy warriors with their arms and horses ; and the six deputies pro-
ceeded to Venice to solicit, on motives of piety or interest, the aid ot

Online LibraryEdward GibbonThe life and letters of Edward Gibbon, with his History of the Crusades → online text (page 59 of 69)