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The Fourth Crusade (The Crusades)

The Fourth Crusade (1201-1204) occurred shortly after the Third Crusade. Pope Innocent III succeeded to the papacy in 1198 and decided to launch a new crusade against the Egyptians who were now united and had Jerusalem under their control. The Third Crusade had severely hurt the hopes of reclaiming the Holy Land, but Pope Innocent III was determined to recover what he believed was Christian territory.

In 1199, the Pope ordered a crusade, though his call was mostly ignored by European monarchs: The English were at war with the French, the Germans were struggling for papal power and many other nations simply didn't want to participate after the Third Crusade's failure. However, in 1199 the Pope was finally listened to and many recruits, mostly from French territory, decided to march all the way to Venice where a transport was waiting for them. Their destination was Cairo, the heart of Egypt.

Unfortunately, the crusaders couldn't afford paying Venice for their service. The Venetians demanded a full payment, 85,000 silver marks, or the crusaders wouldn't be allowed to leave. Because they didn't meet the requirements, the Venetians asked for their help to capture a Byzantine port, Zara, as a form of payment.

The crusaders agreed and a large army of 15,000 thousand crusaders and several thousand Venetians sailed to the port. Easily capturing it, they marched to the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. Even though the city had a garrison of more than 30,000 men, they were mostly leaderless and under great turmoil because of recent events. It took the crusaders until April 1204 to capture Constantinople.

The sack that ensued after the capture of Constantinople is often considered one of the most profitable and disgraceful in history. Thousands of paintings, works of art, statues and treasures were either destroyed or stolen. The Byzantine Empire never fully recovered.


The Crusaders attacked their own fellow Christians and even though Pope Innocent III forbid it, they carried on - giving little weight to the Pope's word. This greatly infuriated him and created a series of conflicts that would last for many years. The Crusaders were now more despised than ever and the primary objective, that of conquering Jerusalem, didn't occur. In fact, very few crusaders ever set foot in the Holy Land. After the pillage of Constantinople most returned home, with their new spoils of war.

Because of this great failure, the Fifth Crusade was promptly called.

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