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After some initial success, 80 Crusader knights drove the Byzantines to the safety of their defensive positions. The Crusaders managed to follow the retreating Byzantine soldiers straight into their defenses and overtake them. To take the major part of the city, however, they were going to need to cross the strait in boats.

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The Byzantine army and navy were in shabby condition due to the incompetent leadership of Alexios III and Isaac before him. The envoy carried a communication from the Emperor to the nobles of the Crusade, "Lords, the Emperor Alexius would have you know that he is well aware that you are the best people uncrowned, and come from the best land on earth. And he marvels much why, and for what purpose, you have come into his land and kingdom. For you are Christians, and he is a Christian, and well he knows that you are on your way to deliver the Holy Land overseas and the Holy Cross, and the Sepulchre.

If you are poor and in want, he will right willingly give you of his food and substance, provided you depart out of his land. Neither would he otherwise wish to do you any harm, though he has full power therein, seeing that if you were twenty times as numerous as you are, you would not be able to get away without utter discomfiture if so be that he wished to harm you. The Marquis Monteferrat and Doge Dandolo loaded aboard a ship with Alexios IV and sailed him along the sea walls of the city for the Greek citizens to see.

The citizens were noticeably unenthused, apparently lacking any motivation to cause such a disruption as unseating the illegitimate but seemingly adequate Alexios III. Montferrat, Dandolo and Alexios IV returned to the far side of the strait determined to attack. The Byzantine Greeks abandoned the port.

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On July 17th, the Crusaders launched a coordinated attack against the walled city. Four divisions of the Crusaders attacked the land walls as the Venetians under Dandolo attacked the sea walls by ship. The Byzantines managed to hold the Crusaders at bay but fierce attacks by the Venetians managed to capture a section of the city wall.

The Venetians managed to start a raging 3-day fire that tore through the city destroying homes, churches and businesses. An estimated 20, people were left homeless. Frustrated military leaders finally inspired the cowering Alexios III to action. Alexios led an army of 17 divisions, which vastly outnumbered the 7 divisions of Crusaders, out the St. Romanus Gate of the city. However, Alexios III could not muster the courage to attack the Crusaders and led his army back into the city. On the 18th, the Crusaders launched an all-out onslaught of the city.

Alexios III immediately gathered all the treasure he could handle and fled the city leaving behind his people, his army and his own family. The next morning the Crusaders were surprised to discover that the citizens had released and re-instated the blind Isaac II as emperor. After reviewing the situation, Isaac and Alexios had bad news for the Crusaders.

The years of imperial mismanagement meant that they could not offer anything Alexios had promised in Europe. The Crusaders were no further ahead than they had been back in Venice. Alexios IV stripped the wealth of his enemies, taxed his churches, melted down treasured artifacts over objections and drew from the imperial treasury to raise only half the promised compensation. He ventured off for a year to Thrace under the guise of generating more funds but returned with nothing. The embittered Crusaders dug in with no intention of leaving without their full compensation having been used so blatantly.

They would put thee in mind of the great service they have done to thee-a service known to the people and manifest to all men. Thou hast sworn, thou and thy father, to fulfill the promised covenants, and they have your charters in hand. But you have not fulfilled those covenants well, as you should have done. Many times have they called upon you to do so, and now again we call upon you, in the presence of all your barons, to fulfill the covenants that are between you and them.

Should you do so, it shall be well.


If not, be it known to you that from this day forth they will not hold you as lord or friend, but will endeavour to obtain their due by all the means in their Power. And of this they now give you warning, seeing that they would not injure you, nor any one, without first defiance given; for never have they acted treacherously, nor in their land is it customary to do so.

You have heard what we have said. It is for you to take counsel thereon according to your pleasure. Never before had the Byzantine Emperor been so insulted within his own court, they argued.

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The Byzantines attempted to burn the Venetian fleet but were out done by the skilled Venetian sailors. Alexios IV was strangled in prison on the 8th and Isaac died a few days later, it was said, of shock.

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So ended the Angelos dynasty. But the Crusaders were having none of it, informing Alexios V that they still held Byzantium to the deal that the previous emperor had given them. The Old Roman Empire was about to make a return. Crusader attacks on the massive city walls were getting them nowhere. The Venetian ships were unable to get close enough to the defensive towers of the walls to raise ramps from their ships in order to scale over them. On April 9th, , they rushed their boats across the strait.

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Crusaders quickly pulled their siege engines ashore but were slowed in the muddy flats. Byzantine catapults smashed the siege engines to pieces and then turned on the Venetian ships. The Crusaders were forced to fall back to the far side of the strait. After two days spent repairing their ships, the wind turned northward. This pushed the ships in closer to the city walls.

Two ships, the Pilgrim and the Paradise, were able to raise one ramp to a defensive tower. Crusader knights charged up the ramp crashing straight into the Imperial Varangian Guard — an elite guard of recruited Vikings long used by the Byzantine Emperor.

As the small contingent of knights managed to drive the Varangian Guard back, Crusaders on the ground managed to finally broke through the city walls at a small gate. Others continued to burrow through the great walls. So when they came to the postern they began to hew and pick at it very hardily; but the bolts flew at them so thick, and so many stones were hurled at them from the wall, that it seemed as if they would be buried beneath the stones-such was the mass of quarries and stones thrown from above.

And those who were below held up targes and shields to cover those who were picking and hewing underneath; and those above threw down pots of boiling pitch, and Greek fire, and large rocks, so that it was one of God's miracles that the assailants were not utterly confounded; for my Lord Peter and his men suffered more than enough of blows and grievous danger. However, so did they hack at the postern, both above and below, with their axes and good swords, that they made a great hole therein; and when the postern was broken through, they all swarmed to the aperture, but saw so many people above and below, that it seemed as if half the world were there, and they dared not be so bold as to enter.

Now when Aleaume, the cleric, saw that no one dared to go in, be sprang forward, and said that go in he would. And there was there present a knight, a brother to the cleric the knight's name was Robert of Clari ,who-forbade him, and said he should not go in.

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  • And the cleric said he would, and scrambled in on his hands and feet. And when the knight saw this, he took hold upon him, by the foot, and began to drag him back. But in his brother's despite, and whether his brother would or not, the cleric went in.

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    And when he was within, many were the Greeks who ran upon him, and those on the walls cast big stones upon him. And the cleric drew his knife, and ran at them; and he drove them before him as if they had been cattle, and cried to those who were without, to the Lord Peter of Amiens and his folk, 'Sire, come in boldly, I see that they are falling back discomfited and flying[fleeing]. And when those who were on the wall at that place saw them, they had such fear that thev did not dare to remain there, but avoided a great space on the wall, and fled helter-skelter.

    Now the Emperor [Alexios V] Mourzuphles, the traitor, was near by, at less than a stone's throw of distance, and he caused the silver horns to be sounded, and the cymbals, and a great noise to be made. And when he saw my Lord Peter, and his people, who had entered in on foot, he made a great show of falling upon them, and spurring forward, came about half-way to where they stood.

    But mv Lord Peter, when he saw him coming, began to encourage his people, and to say: 'Now, Lord God, grant that we may do well, and the battle is ours.