What was the Mitaton Mosque in Constantinople

Conquest and sack of Constantinople

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. Niketas Choniates, most important dates of life and work

3. The conquest and sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders
3.1. The attack on the city and the fire of July 17/18, 1203
3.2. The events after Alexios III's escape and the second fire on August 18-19, 1203
3.3. The conquest of Constantinople and the third fire on April 12-13, 1204

4. The booty of the crusaders

5. Conclusion

6. Literature

1 Introduction

On July 5th, 1203 the army of the crusaders landed in front of Constantinople, captured the tower of Galata and destroyed the chain that protected the port entrance to the Golden Horn.

On July 17, 1203, the crusaders attacked the city to Alexios IV, son of Alexios III. disempowered Isaac II as the new emperor. In the course of the fighting, the crusaders set fire in the city, which quickly spread over a large area due to strong winds and led to the first fire in the course of the fighting for Constantinople.[1]

On August 19, 1203, there was another attack on Constantinople which, however, could be repulsed. To secure their retreat, the retreating crusaders set fires in some places in the city. A very strong north wind caused the individual fires to develop into a great inferno. This second fire spread to the east of the city, the most beautiful and also the most densely populated part.

Constantinople was finally conquered on April 12, 1204 by a small, poorly equipped crusader army and then plundered for three days. The Crusaders set the city on fire again, but this third fire only destroyed a small part of the city compared to the previous fires. According to Madden, the fires destroyed 243 hectares of the area within the city walls.[2]

Apparently, Constantinople was very poorly prepared for a siege. This

can be recognized by the fact that, according to Niketas, Choniates[3] Emperor Alexios III[4] only then began with the repair of the fleet and the inspection of the city wall, when he heard that the crusaders were already camped at Epidamnos and that the inhabitants of this city his nephew Alexios IV[5] had proclaimed emperor of the Rhomeans.

Niketas Choniates writes about the state of the Byzantine Empire before the conquest by the Crusaders: “But when they found the fortress difficult to conquer, they unfolded their sails in order to sail to Constantinople without stopping, because the men from the west also knew from far away that the empire of the Rhomeans had become nothing more than a staggering drunkard and that Byzantium was not inferior to the notorious Sybaris in indulgence "[6]

The events that led to the conquest and plunder of Constantinople are presented on the basis of the report by Niketas Choniates, whose life and work are also discussed. Furthermore, the extent of the destruction caused by the fires as well as the amount of booty the crusaders were to be given, in order to finally give a comprehensive picture of the events.

2. Niketas Choniates, most important dates of life and work

Niketas Choniates was born around 1155 in Chonai in Phrygia Pacatiana. According to van Dieten, his place of birth is attested by the headings of his works, in which he calls himself Niketas Choniates. In his works, too, he often speaks about his origins.[7]

His parents are almost completely unknown, but probably belonged to the better-off, if lower nobility, Chonais. After all, the family was wealthy and ambitious enough to support Niketas and his older brother Michael[8] to enable adequate training in Constantinople.[9]

In addition to his own works, the most helpful sources about the life of Niketas Choniates are also the letters of his brother Michael and a monody that Michael wrote on the death of his brother Nicetas.[10]

He received careful training in Constantinople and began under Emperor Alexios II Komnenos[11] his career as a subordinate tax clerk in the civil service. First

he worked in this function in the province of Paphlagonia, but then returned to the capital Constantinople and held the position of imperial secretary there. His career was briefly interrupted by the seizure of power by Andronikos, whom Niketas Choniates did not want to serve as a tyrant hater.[12]

Around this time Nicetas married the sister of Joannes Belissariotes. Under Emperor Isaac II Angelus, Niketas Choniates re-entered the civil service and became a high official in the financial administration. In 1189 he was governor of Philippupolis, and towards the end of the year he returned to Constantinople. Here, until shortly before the conquest of Constantinople in 1204, he held high offices such as judge of the highest court, superintendent of the entire tax and finance system, as well as Grand Logothet in the highest office of the Byzantine administration.[13] In this position he was at the height of his career.

How strong his influence was on the government of the empire remains unclear, as he does not report anything about it. According to van Dieten, the reason here could be that Niketas Choniates wanted to distance himself from the fateful government of the Angeloi, or really could not exert any influence, since the real power at that time lay with the emperor's favorites.[14] When Alexios V Murtzuphlos came to power[15] at the beginning of 1204 he had to cede his office to a favorite of the Murtzuphlos.

When Constantinople was sacked by the Crusader army, Niketas Choniates lost his home and all of his property. But with the help of Venetian friends he was able to flee to Selymbria with his family. After another short stay in Constantinople, he finally settled in Nikaia in late 1206 or early 1207. Here he devoted himself almost exclusively to his writing activities and died at the age of around 60 in 1216 or 1217.[16]

Niketas Choniates main work is a chronologically structured, but with some deviations and additions provided imperial history (Chronike Diegesis), written in 21 books. It covers the period from 1118 to 1206.[17] As an eyewitness, he is considered to be a good expert on the events in Constantinople for the period from 1180 to 1206. In his work, Choniates writes objectively, apart from his portrayal of the Latins he hated extraordinarily. This objectivity is also shown in a very sharp criticism of Byzantine emperors and dignitaries. In their weakness he sees the cause of the fall of the empire.[18] To give more emphasis to statements he often uses quotations from the Bible.

Other works that have survived are: speeches and letters, a poem about the marriage of the Byzantine emperor Isaac Angelos to the daughter of the Hungarian king Bela III. written around 1185 and his theological work (Thesauros Orthodoxias) created between 1204 and 1210.


[1]. H. E. Mayer, History of the Crusades. Stuttgart, Berlin, Cologne 2000, 172-188

[2]. Th. F. Madden, The Fires of the Fourth Crusade in Constantinopel, 1203-1204: A Damage Assesment. Byzantine Journal 84/85, 1992, 72-93

[3]. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. by A. Kazhdan & al. 3 vol., New York, Oxford 1991, 428

[4]. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Kashdan (see note 3), 64, Alexios III Angelos, Emperor 1195 - 1203, born approx. 1153, died approx. 1211/12 in Nikaia

[5]. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Kazhdan (see note 3), 65, Alexios IV Angelos, Emperor 1203/04, born approx. 1182/83, died February 8, 1204

[6]. Niketas Choniates: German translator: F. Grabler, The Crusaders conquer Constantinople (Byzantine historians 9). Graz 1971, 116

[7]. J. - L. van Dieten, Niketas Choniates Explanations of the speeches and letters together with a biography. Supplementa Byzantina Vol. 2, Berlin, New York, 1971, 15

[8]. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Kazhdan (see note 3), 428, Bishop of Athens 1182-1204, born approx. 1138, died approx. 1222

[9]. van Dieten, Niketas Choniates Explanations of the speeches and letters together with a biography (see note 7), 9

[10]. van Dieten, Niketas Choniates Explanations of the speeches and letters together with a biography (see note 7), 1

[11]. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Kazhdan (see note 3), 64, Alexios II Komnenos, Emperor 1180 - 83, born September 14th, 1169, died approx. September 1183

[12]. van Dieten, Niketas Choniates Explanations of the speeches and letters together with a biography (see note 7), 24

[13]. Lexicon of the Middle Ages, ed. by R.-H. Bautier & al. 10 vols., Munich 1980–1999, 1876

[14]. van Dieten, Niketas Choniates Explanations of the speeches and letters together with a biography (see note 7), 38

[15]. Lexicon of the Middle Ages, Bautier (see note 13), 387, Alexios V Dukas Murtzuphlos, Kaiser 05.02.1204 - 11.04.1204, d. Dec. 1204

[16]. Lexicon of the Middle Ages, Bautier (see note 13), 1876 and van Dieten, Niketas Choniates explanations of the speeches and letters together with a biography (see note 7), 19

[17]. Lexicon of the Middle Ages, Bautier (see note 13), 1876

[18]. Lexicon of the Middle Ages, Bautier (see note 13), 1877

End of the reading sample from 15 pages