THE FOURTH CRUSADE AND THE SACK OF CONSTANTINOPLE
While the first three Crusades were launched in an effort to reclaim Jerusalem from Muslims, the Fourth Crusade, begun in 1202, pitted Christians against Christians: Roman Catholics against Orthodox. In this authoritative and vivid account, historian and BBC commentator Phillips (Defenders of the Holy Land ) uses monastic chronicles, letters and even the songs of court troubadours to reconstruct the brutal sacking of the Byzantine capital and its underlying causes. Although the enmity between East and West went back 150 years before the Crusade, the crusaders might never have sailed to Constantinople if Emperor Alexius III hadn't requested Pope Innocent to send troops to help him secure Eastern Christendom. When the French and Venetian soldiers arrived, however, they found themselves unwelcome and forced to camp outside Constantinople. As religious and political tensions evolved, the crusaders—already prepared to sacrifice themselves for their faith—grew restless and attacked the city, killing thousands, destroying churches and Constantinople itself. As Phillips points out, the destruction was so embedded in the collective memory of Christianity that in 2001 Pope John Paul II apologized to Greek Orthodox Christians. Phillips's book provides a first-rate narrative of this significant episode in medieval history. Illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Catherine Clarke. (On sale Oct. 25)
Forecast: A PBS special on the Fourth Crusade, written by Phillips, could boost sales beyond the usual history buffs.