chapter  2
26 Pages

Latin Crusaders, Byzantine Herbals

ByAlain Touwaide

On 12 April 1204, the Western military forces of the Fourth Crusade seized and sacked Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine empire, which they held for more than half a century, until 1261.1 The Devastatio Constantinopolitana – as a chronicle of that time called it – was dramatic.2 According to Charles Homer Haskins’s classic study, the Fourth Crusade was simply “a ‘crime against civilization’ by its wanton destruction of the material remains of Byzantine culture.”3 In the words of Donald E. Queller and Thomas F. Madden, “the victorious Latins feasted on the bloated corpse of New Rome … Soldiers stripped the homes of all wealth, took up quarters here, and, after forcing them to reveal their buried treasures, expelled the owners … Imperial palaces were occupied by

* It is a pleasure to thank my two fellow co-editors, especially Jean Givens for initiating the sessions from which the present volume derives and for the invitation to contribute an article, as well as Karen Reeds for her masterful editing of what I thought to be the final version of my text. A first draft of it was discussed with both and greatly improved thanks to our repeated interdisciplinary exchanges. Nevertheless, neither of the two should take responsibility for the lacunas of this first study, which, I hope, will be followed by a more exhaustive analysis.