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The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople Hardcover – October 21, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (October 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670033502
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670033508
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,575,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
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Review

"Enthralling...Nobody can read it without acquiring a better understanding of the Middle Ages and the medieval mind." -- Allan Massie Literary Review "Persuasively reconstructs the imaginative world of the thirteenth century." -- John Adamson Sunday Telegraph "By far the best book I have read on the Fourth Crusade...learned, comprehensive...well-written...exciting." -- Norman F. Cantor "Stunning" Financial Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in medieval European, Byzantine or Crusade history.
Rainne
Read either way--by itself or with similiar works--Phillips's book is both informative and entertaining, which is always a good combination.
Jordan M. Poss
If you think "The Crusades" is too daunting a topic, try THE FOURTH CRUSADE AND THE SACK OF CONSTANTINOPLE on--I bet you'll like it!
Allen Smalling

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Frank J. Konopka VINE VOICE on November 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a well-written book that gives some background to the crusading movement in medieval Europe, but its primary focus is on the ill-starred Fourth Crusade. This was a crusade not led by monarchs, but rather like the First Crusade, an undertaking of many nobles of good family. The addition of the Venetian seamen with their needed ships, and an ill-advised agreement about men and money led this holy endeavor to attack, not the occupiers of Jerusalem, but rather the also Christian rulers of the Byzantine Empire. It's a somewhat convoluted tale, but the author tells it extremely well, and at no time does the reader feel that he is lost. This book gives some insight into the schism that exists still today between the Orthodox and Roman churches, and is excellent reading for anyone interested in this fractious history.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Darin A. Leviloff on January 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I am not a medievalist in any way, shape, or form. But I decided to give this book a chance and learn about a period of time and event I knew so little about. What I found was an epic story of dramatic purportions. The characters and their motivations seem right out of a fictional drama: The elderly and manipulative Doge of Venice, the brash and ambitious Byzantine pretender, the hypocritical holy men, and the permissive Pope. The author not only provides the historical record, but provides real insight into the thinking of a time so different, and yet so similar, to our own. Replete with modern analogies and references, beyond a mere history book, its a real page-turner.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on April 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Fourth Crusade was a disaster for the unity of Christianity. The rivalry between the Roman Catholic Church (and backed by the various kingdoms) in the West and the Greek Orthodox Church (and backed by the Greek Byzantine Empire) in the East had been simmering for two centuries. A common foe against the Islamist conquest of the Holy Land kept expediency in the forefront for the Latin West and the Greek East until the Fourth Crusade.

Instead of liberating Jerusalem, the knights and seamen of the West became embroiled in financial troubles and internal Byzantine politics. By the time the complex double-dealing was done, the Christian West had sacked Constantinople, the capital of the Christian East. Unity was out of the question forever more.

Mr. Philips has written an impressive and readable account of the Fourth Crusade for the lay reader. A more academic approach is "The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople" (1997) by Donald Queller and Thomas Madden. Of their 357 pages, over half belongs to a detail and lively narrative of medieval politics and the remaining 150 pages are devoted to an extensive bibliography and readable footnotes. A historical sequel is "The Fall of Constantinople" (1965) by Sir Steven Runciman about the conquest of the city of Constantine in 1453 by the Turks.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
At first, it sounds like something out of Monty Python--the best of the best kings' knights arrange yet another Crusade to stop the "infidel" (by which they meant Muslim) from occupying the Holy Land. However, because of routine delays, a chronic shortage of money, and political infighting, the Fourth Crusade never actually meets up with reinforcements and never actually gets to the Holy Land. Looking for SOMEONE to straighten out, the Crusaders lay siege to and then sack Byzantium (Constantinople), most of whose residents are Christian Catholics, though admittedly with a different Holy See.

Jonathan Phillips lays it all out--the triumphs and the tragedies, the idealistic and the sorrily pragmatic--and all in a way general readers like me can warm to. His story--which in a sense is a Murphy's law for the declining success curve of Crusades in general--is well contexted and even better told. Especially detailed and especially enjoyable is his treatment of the venerable Doge of Venice, who, although blind, was a more fearsome warrior than some of the troops; also a more fearsome political infighter. Phillips' fight scenes are detailed and show a good understanding of when to write toward tactics but then show how they do (or do not) contribute to overall strategies. He has a good, economical prose style that makes this kind of reading a dream.

The place-specific maps were a wonderful help, but the overall map of the Mediterranean Region could have been a bit more detailed. The new paperback, which is usually cheaper, is that much more fun to own. If you think "The Crusades" is too daunting a topic, try THE FOURTH CRUSADE AND THE SACK OF CONSTANTINOPLE on--I bet you'll like it!
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52 of 67 people found the following review helpful By David E. Blair on January 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is a quick and fun read. The first problem to be faced is that Donald Queller in 1978 wrote a book that covers almost exactly the same ground except for Phillips last two chapters on the Latin Empire after the Crusade. In 1978 when first published, Queller's thesis regarding the "accidental" nature of the 4th Crusade's final destination was sensational. His conclusions were opposed to Runciman, Norwich and others. Queller offered a persuasive revisionist history of the 4th Crusade. The second problem is that in 1997, Queller and Thomas Madden, updated and reissued the 1978 work under the title, "The 4th Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople," and it a far superior book to this one.

The third problem is that, to the best of my knowledge, there is not an original thought in Phillip's book. So, where do the two stars come from? One of the stars is issued for a generally readable and accurate assessment of the 4th Crusade that is derivative from other secondary sources. The second star is earned for the extensive translated quotes from the actual crusaders, Greeks, and other contemporaries involved with or around this incident. This helps illuminate the thinking of those involved within their own cultures and time. From there it is downhill. The last two chapters on the end of the Crusade and the Latin Empire are weak and weaker. The book occasionally delves off into tenuously related sidetracks. No author should use the same quotes more than once in a book. Phillips manages to do this on at least two occasions. There are other indications of sloppy editorial work, but I will not enumerate them. Phillips uses 21st Century analogies gratuitously and unenlighteningly. Penguin published the paperback on lousy paper, with weak print density, and almost no white space.
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