Page images

Constantinople had been taken by storm; and no restraints chaP. except those of religion and humanity, were imposed on the . conquerors by the laws of war. Boniface, marquis of Montferrat, still acted as their general; and the Greeks, who revered Pillage of his name as that of their future sovereign, were heard to ex-nople. claim in a lamentable tone, “Holy marquis-king, have mercy upon us !" His prudence or compassion opened the gates of the city to the fugitives; and he exborted the soldiers of the cross to spare the lives of their fellow Christians. The streams of blood that flow down the pages of Nicetas, may be reduced to the slaughter of two thousand of his unresisting countrymen ; 85 and the greater part was massacred, not by the strangers but by tbe Latins, who had been driven from the city, and who exercised the revenge of a triumphant faction. Yet of these exiles, some were less mindful of injuries than of benefits; and Nicetas himself was indebted for his safety to the generosity of a Venetian merchant. Pope Innocent the Third accuses the pilgrims of respecting, in their lust, neither age nor sex, nor religious profession; and bitterly laments that the deeds of darkness, fornication, adultery, and incest, were perpetrated in open day; and that noble matrons and holy nuns were polluted by the grooms and peasants of the Catholic camp.86 It is indeed probable that the license of victory prompted and covered a multitude of sins: but it is certain, that the capital of the East contained a stock of venal or willing beauty, sufficient to satiate the desires of twenty thousand pilgrims; and female prisoners were no longer subject to the right or abuse of doinestic slavery. The marquis of Montserrat was the patron of discipline and decency; the count of Plauders was the mirror of chastity : they had forbidden, under pain of death, the rape of married women or virgins, or nuns; and the proclamation was sometimes invoked by the vanquished and respected by the victors. Their cruelty and lust were moderated by the authority of the chiefs, and feelings of the soldiers; for we are no longer describing an irruption of the northern savages; and however ferocious they might still appear, time, policy, and religion, had civilized the manners of the French, and still more of the Italians. But a free scope was allowed to their avarice, which was glutted, even in the holy week, by the pillage of Constantino

$5 Ceciderunt tamen eâ die civium quasi dno millia, &c. (Gunther, c. 18.) Arithmetic is an excellent touchstone to try the amplifications of passion and rhetoric.

* Quidam (says Innocent III. Gesta, c. 94, p. 538,) nec religioni, nec ætati, nec sexui pepercerunt: sed fornicationes, adulterin, et incestus in occulis omnium exercentes, non solùm maritatas et viduas, sed et matronas et virgines Deoque dicatas, exposuerunt spurcitiis garcionum. Villebardouin takes no notice of these common incideots.

87 Nicetas saved, and afterward married, a noble virgin (p. 380,) whom a soldier 1πι μαρτυσι πολλοις ουηδον επιβρωμιωμενος, had almost violated in spite of the στoλαι, ενταλματα υγγενοτων.


CHAP. ple. The right of victory, unshackled by any promise or treaty,

had confiscated the public and private wealth of the Greeks ; and every hand, according to its size and strength, might lawfully execute the sentence and seize the forfeiture. A portable and universal standard of exchange was found in the coined and uncoined metals of gold and silver, which each captor at home or abroad might convert into the possessions most suitable to bis temper and situation Of the treasures, wbich trade and luxury had accumulated, the silks, velvets, furs, the gems, spices, and rich moveables, were the most precious, as they

could not be procured for money in the ruder countries of Division of Europe. An order of rapine was instituted; nor was the share the spoil. of each individual abandoned to industry or chance. Under

the tremendous penalties of perjury, excommunication, and death, the Latins were bound to deliver their plunder into the common stock ; three churches were selected for the deposit and distribution of the spoil: a single share was allotted to a foot-soldier; two for a sergeant on horseback; four to a knight; and larger proportions according to the rank and merit of the barons and princes. For violating this sacred engagement, a knight belonging to the count of St. Pol was banged with bis shield and coat of arms round his neck; his example might render similar offenders more artful and discreet ; but avarice was more powerful than fear; and it is generally believed, that the secret far exceeded the acknowledged plunder. Yet the magnitude of the prize surpassed the largest scale of experi. ence or expectation. *8 After the whole had been equally divided between the French and Venetians, fifty thousand narks were deducted to satisfy the debts of the former and the demands of the latter. The residue of the French amounted to four hundred thousand marks of silver,89 about eight hundred thousand pounds sterling ; nor can I better appreciate the value of that sum in the public and private transactions of the age, than by defining it as seven times the annual revenue of the kingdom of England.90

In this great revolution we enjoy the singular felicity of the lireeks comparing the narratives of Villehardouin and Nicetas, the op

posite feelings of the marshal of Champagne and the Byzantine

Misery of

88 of the general mass of wealth, Gunther observes, ut de pauperibus et advenis cives ditissimi redderentur (Hist. C. P. c. 18,) Villebardouin (No. 132) that since the creation, ne fu tant gaaginit dans une ville ; Baldwin (Gesta, ca 92,) ut tantum tota non videatur possidere Latinitas,

69 Villehardouin, No. 133—135. Instead of 400,000 there is a various reading of 500,000. The Venetians bad offered to take the whole booty, and to give 400 marks to each knight, 200 to each priest and horseman, and 100 to each foot-soldier : they would have been great losers (Le beau, Hist. du BasEmpire, tom. XX. p. 506, I know not from whence.)

90 At the council of Lyons (A. D. 1245,) the English ambassadors stated the revenue of the crown as below that of the foreign clergy, which amounted to 60,000 marks a year (Matthew Paris, p. 451. Hume's History of England, vol. ii. p. 170.)


senator. 91
At the first view it would seem that the wealth of

CHAP. Constantinople was only transferred from one nation to another; and that the loss and sorrow of the Greeks are exactly balanced by the joy and advantage of the Latins. But in the miserable account of war, the gain is never equivalent to the loss, the pleasure to the pain : the smiles of the Latins were transient and fallacious ; the Greeks for ever wept over the ruins of their country; and their real calamities were aggrarated by sacrilege and mockery. What benefits accrued to the conquerors from the three fires which annihilated so vast a portion of the buildings and riches of the city? What a stock of such things, as could neither be used nor transported, was maliciously or wantonly destroyed? How much treasure was idly wasted in gaming, debauchery, and riot? And what precious objects were bartered for a vile price by the impatience or ignorance of the soldiers, whose reward was stolen by the base industry of the last of the Greeks? These alone, who had nothing to lose, might derive some profit from the revolution ; but the misery of the upper ranks of society is strongly painted in the personal adventures of Nicetas himself. His stately palace had been reduced to ashes in the second conflagration; and the senator, with his family and friends, found an obscure shelter in another house which he possessed near the church of St. Sophia. It was the door of this mean habitation that his friend the Venetian merchant guarded in the disguise of a soldier, till Nicetas could save, by a precipitate flight, the relics of his fortune and the chastity of his daughter. In a cold wintry season, these fugitives, nursed in the lap of prosperity, departed on foot; his wife was with child; the desertion of their slaves compelled them to carry their baggage on their own shoulders ; and their women, whom they placed in the centre, were exhortest to conceal their beauty with dirt, instead of adorning it with paint and jewels. Every step was exposed to insult and danger: the threats of the strangers were less painful than the taunts of the plebeians, with whom they were how levelled; nor did the exiles breathe in safety till their mournful pilgrimage was concluded at Selymbria, above forty miles from the capital. On their way they overtook the patriarch, without attendance and almost without apparel, riding on an ass, and reduced to a state of apostolical poverty, which, had it been voluntary, might perhaps have been meritorious. In the mean while, his desolate churches were profaned by the licentiousness and party zeal of the Latins. After stripping the Sacrilege gems and pearls, they converted the chalices into drinkingcups; their tables, on which they gamed and feasted, were


9. The disorders of the sack of Constantinople, and his own adventures, are feelingly described by Nicetas, p. 367—-369, and in the Status Urh, C. P. p. 375 -384 His complaints even of sacrilege are justified by Innocent ill. (Gesta, c. 92,) but Villebar douin does not betray a symptom of pity or remorse.

CHAP. covered with the pictures of Christ and the saints; and they Lx. trampled under foot the most venerable objects of the Christian

worship. In the cathedral of St. Sophia, the ample veil of the sanctuary was rent asunder for the sake of the golden fringe ; and the altar, a monument of art and riches, was broken in pieces and shared among the captors. Their mules and horses were laden with the wrought silver and guilt carvings, which they tore down, from the doors and pulpit; and if the beasts stumbled under the burden, they were stabbed by their impatient drivers, and the holy pavement streamed with their impure blood. A prostitute was seated on the throne of the patriarch; and that daughter of Belial, as she is styled, sung and danced in the church, to ridicule the hymns and processions of the Orientals. Nor were the repositories of the royal dead secure from viola. tion : in the church of the apostles, the tombs of the emperors were rifled: and it is said, that after six centuries the corpse of Justinian was found without any signs of decay or putrefaction. In the streets, the French and Fleinings clothed themselves and their horses in painted robes and flowing headdresses of linen; and the coarse intemperance of their feasts'. insulted the splendid sobriety of the East. To expose the arms of a people of scribes and scholars, they affected to display a pen, and inkhorn, and a sheet of paper, without discerning that the instruments of science and valour were alike feeble and useless in the hands of the modern Greeks.

Their reputation and their language encouraged them, however, to despise the ignorance, and to overlook the progress, of the Latins. In the love of the arts, the national difference was still more obvious and real; the Greeks preserved with reverence the works of their ancestors, which they could not imitate; and, in the destruction of the statues of Constantinople, we are provoked to join in the complaiuts and invectives of the Byzantine historian.94 We have seen how the rising city was adorned by the vanity and despotism of the Imperial founder: in the ruins of paganism, some gods and heroes were saved from the axe of superstition; and the forum and hippodrome were dignified with the relics of a better age.

Destruction of the sta

92 If we rightly apprehend the Greek of Nicetas's receipts, their favourite dishes were boiled buitocks of beef, salt pork and pease, and soup made of garlic and sharp or sour berbs (p. 382.)

98 Nicetas uses very harsh expressions, παραγραμματους Βαρβαροις, και TEA8C ava1pxOnto (Fragment. apud Fabric. Bibliot. Græc. tom. vi. p. 414.) This reproach, it is true, applies most strongly to their ignorance of Greek and of Homer. In their own language, the Latins of the xiith and xiiith centuries were not destitute of literature. See Harris's Philological Inquiries, p. iii. c. 9, 10, 11,

94 Nicetas was of Chonæ in Phrygia (the old Colossæ of St. Paul :) he raised himself to the honours of senator, judge of the veil, and great logothete ; beheld the fall of the empire, retired to Nice, and composed an elaborate history from the death of Alexius Comnenus to the reiga of Henry.


Several of these are described by Nicetas, %5 in a florid and char. affected style; and, from his descriptions, I shall select some interesting particulars. 1. The victorious charioteers were cast in bronze, at their own, or the public charge, and fitly placed in the hippodrome; they stood aloft in their chariots, wheeling round the goal; the spectators could admire their attitude, and judge of the resemblance : and of these figures, the most perfect might have been transported from the Olympic stadium. 2. The sphynx, river horse, and crocodile, denote the climate and manufacture of Egypt, and the spoils of that ancient province. 3. The she wolf suckling Romu. lus and Remus ; a subject alike pleasing to the old and the new Romans; but which could rarely be treated before the decline of the Greek sculpture. 4. An eagle holding and tearing a serpent in his talons ; a domestic monument of the Byzantines, which they ascribed, not to a human artist, but to the magic power of the philosopher Appollonius, who, by his talisman, delivered the city from such venomous reptiles. 5. An ass and his driver; which were erected by Augustus in his colony of Nicopolis, to commemorate a verbal omen of the victory of Actium. 6. An equestrian statue ; which passed, in the vulgar opinion, for Joshua, the Jewish conqueror, stretching out his hand to stop the course of the descending sun. A more classical tradition recognised the figures of Bellerophon and Pegasus; and the free attitude of the steed seemed to mark that he trod on air rather than on the earth. 7. A square and lofty obelisk of brass; the sides were embossed with a variety of picturesque and rural scenes: birds singing; rustics labouring, or playing on their pipes; sheep bleating ; lambs skipping; the sea, and a scene of fish and fishing ; little naked cupids laughing, playing, and pelting each other with apples; and, on the summit, a female figure turning with the slightest breath, and thence deno. minated the wind's attendant. 8. The Phrygian shepherd pre. senting to Venus the prize of beauty, the apple of discord. 9, The incomparable statue of Helen: wbich is delineated by Nicetas in the words of admiration and love: her well turned fect, snowy arms, rosy lips, bewitching smiles, swimming eyes, arched eyebrows, the harmony of her shape, the lightness of her drapery, and her flowing locks that waved in the wind; a beauty that might have moved her barbarian destroyers to pity and remorse. 10. The manly or divine form of Hercules, as he was restored to life by the master-band of

95 A manuscript of Nicetas in the Bodleian library, contains this curious fragment on the statues of Constantinople, which fraud or shame, or rather carelessdess has dropped in the common editions. It is published by Fabricius (Bibliot. Græc. tom. vi. p. 403–416,) and immoderately praised by the late ingenious Mr. Harris of Salisbury (Philological Inquiries, p. ii. c. 5, p. 301-312.)

96 To illustrate the statue of Hercules, Mr. Harris quotes a Greek epigram, and engraves a beautiful gem, which does not however copy the attitude of the

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »