HISTORICAL SKETCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE. IX
foreign assistance, and he applied to the leaders of the crusade to aid his cause. They
affected to say, that the recovery of the lime and stone of the holy sepulchre was too
important an object to be postponed for one of justice and humanity ; but, tempted by
large pecuniary offers, and calculating on the pretext of taking possession of the great
city, avarice and ambition soon silenced the claims of superstitious piety. Dandolo was
then doge of Venice ; he was totally blind, yet he embarked with the crusaders. Their
immense fleets literally covered the narrow waters of the Adriatic, and they arrived in
safety at Chalcedon, under the convoy of the skilful mariners that now conducted them.
They mounted to the heights of Scutari, and from thence contemplated, with longing
eyes, the wealth and splendour of the magnificent city on the opposite shore, spread out
on the seven hills before them.
Constantinople was at this time the emporium of every thing that was grand and
beautiful in the arts, science, and literature of the world. The city contained, it is said,
two millions of inhabitants, and was adorned with the noblest specimens of statuary and
architecture, either the productions of its owrn artists, or the spoils of Egypt and other
The usurper, Alexius, arrogant in safety, but abject in danger, after a feeble resistance, fled from the city with such treasure as he could hastily collect, and the feeble
Isaak was taken from the prison in which he had been immured. It was a singular and
affecting sight, to behold the blind and venerable doge of Venice leading to the throne
the equally blind and venerable emperor of Constantinople.
It was now that the real character of the crusaders developed itself. They claimed
the promised reward for this act of justice and humanity; but it was in vain the young
Alexius attempted to raise the sum he proposed to pay: the present state of his empire
rendered it impossible; so his Christian guests were glad to avail themselves of his
inability, and pay themselves. In the language of the historian, " their rude minds,
insensible to the fine arts, were astonished at the magnificent scenery; and the poverty
of their native towns, enhanced the splendour and richness of this great metropolis of
Christendom;" they longed, therefore, for the pretext and opportunity of its pillage.
A rude but vigorous Greek, named Mourzoufle, who saw their design, assisted by his
countrymen, deposed the weak monarch and his son, who was now associated with him,
and their deaths soon followed. With his iron mace, Mourzoufle stood the defender of
Constantinople against the rapacity of the crusaders, and attempted to burn their galleys.
He was, however, repulsed; and, after various struggles, the imperial city, the head of
the Christian world, was taken by storm, and given up to plunder, by the pious pilgrims of
the Cross, and its fierce defender was dragged to the summit of the pillar of Theodosius,
and from thence cast down and dashed to pieces.
The scenes of carnage that followed are revolting to humanity. The Roman pontiff
himself, who had granted a plenary indulgence to all who engaged in the expedition,
was compelled to denounce their brutality. He accused them of " sparing neither age
nor sex, nor religious profession, of the allies they came to assist; deeds of darkness
were perpetrated in the open day; noble matrons and holy nuns suffered insult in the