Chapter XXXV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 1 page 2
Robert the Monk, one of his contemporaries, who was present at the siege of Jerusalem, speaks of Godfrey in the following terms: - "He was of beautiful countenance, tall of stature, agreeable in his discourse, of excellent morals, and at the same time so gentle that he seemed better fitted for the monk than for the knight; but when his enemies appeared before him, and the combat was at hand, his soul became filled with a mighty daring: like a lion, he feared not for his own person; and what shield, what buckler, could withstand the fall of his sword?"
Long before the Crusade had been preached at Clermont, Godfrey had heard the tales of the sufferings of the Christians in Palestine, and had said that he desired to travel to Jerusalem, not with scrip and staff, but with spear and shield. At the time when the standard of the cross was raised throughout Europe, he was suffering from a bad fever, but "immediately he shook disease from his limbs, and rising, as it were, with expanded breast, from years of decrepitude, he shone with renovated vigour." (William of Malmesbury.) In order to furnish money for the expedition he had undertaken, he sold to the Church of Liege his beautiful domain and castle of Bouillon; and the standard which he raised was joined by his brother Baldwin, his relation, Baldwin de Bourg. and many other knights of fame.
The army of Godfrey commenced its march from the Moselle in August, 1096, and followed the course previously taken by Peter the Hermit. The order and moderation which marked the conduct of the disciplined troops of Godfrey was as remarkable as the violence and excesses committed by the rabble which had preceded them. The march was conducted peaceably, and without incident, to the frontiers of Hungary, where the army came in sight of the unburied corpses of the multitude slain near Merseburg.
Godfrey called a halt, and proceeded to investigate the causes of the spectacle which lay before him. He wrote a firm but temperate letter to the King of Hungary, demanding an account of the carnage, and Carloman sent envoys with a reply which proved satisfactory. An interview subsequently took place between the duke and the king, at the fortress of Posen. Godfrey went towards this place, accompanied by an escort of 300 knights, and conversed with the Hungarian monarch on the reconciliation of the Christians. The rights of hospitality, which were respected among the most savage nations, were also enforced by the laws of chivalry; and therefore, at the invitation of Carloman, Godfrey dismissed his retinue without hesitation, and, accompanied by a few of his knights, entered the capital.
The king entertained his guests with various festivities, and an agreement was effected that the army of the cross should pass freely from the north to the south of Hungary, that they should purchase provisions from the inhabitants, and that Baldwin should remain with the king as a hostage for the good conduct of the Franks. Baldwin, whose character bore no resemblance to that of his brother, objected to this arrangement; but Godfrey declared indignantly that he himself would be the hostage, if the other persisted in his refusal. Thus reduced to the alternative of compliance, or a loss of honour, Baldwin entered the city with his family, and was received by the king and the people with the greatest hospitality.
The hostages were released on the banks of the Save, near Semlin, and the Crusaders continued their march through Bulgaria and Thrace to Philippopoli, where they reposed themselves, Deputies arrived from the Emperor Alexius, and with their assistance the army was supplied with the necessary provision.
While Godfrey was pursuing his course through Hungary, another body of Crusaders, headed by Hugh, Count of Vermandois, were proceeding towards Constantinople by way of Italy. Joined to this expedition, though probably not marching in the same body, were the troops of Robert, Duke of Normandy, and Stephen, Count of Blois.
Robert of Normandy was not altogether destitute of chivalrous qualities; and therefore it is no matter for surprise that this man, whose reckless and licentious character was notorious, should take up the cause of the cross. The most irreligious men are often superstitious. The crusade was a pilgrimage, with all the pomp of war, and the temptation of earthly aggrandisement was mingled with the hope of a recompense beyond the grave. Fame in this world and happiness in the next were the prizes for which the nobles forsook their feasts a ad dances, and the poor their homes and their children.
Robert was eloquent in speech, and, when his indolence was overcome, skilful and energetic in action; but his deeds were the result of impulse rather than of principle, and were unrestrained by prudence or good sense. He, however, possessed the popular virtue of lavish generosity, and large bands of troops, both Norman and English, attached themselves to his standard. Several independent lords also accompanied him, among whom were Eustace of Boulogne, Stephen, Earl of Albemarle, and Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux.
The army of Hugh of Vermandois crossed the Alps with the intention of proceeding by sea to the Holy Land. The old chroniclers describe in glowing terms the brilliant appearance of the troops - the splendour of their equipments - the multitude of knights with shining armour, and of banners glistening in the sun. Such a sight had never before been seen in Europe, and it seemed as though this gorgeous array had been destined for pleasure rather than for war.
Robert of Normandy and Stephen of Chartres dispersed their forces among the towns of Barri and Otranto, and passed the autumn in gaiety and dissipation. Hugh of Vermandois, however, determined to embark without delay, and he wrote to the Emperor Alexius, demanding haughtily that preparations should be made for his reception.
The position of affairs at Constantinople had changed considerably since the emperor had applied to the princes of the West for assistance against the infidel. The power of the Seljuk chiefs at Rhoum was declining, and no longer threatened the safety of the Greek capital; while their rule in Asia Minor was become familiar to the people, and had ceased to be regarded as a disgrace.
The attentions which Godfrey had received from the emperor were, probably, due to the respect inspired by the character of the Lord of Lorraine, rather than to motives of policy; and when Alexius heard of the vast extent of the force which was advancing towards his capital, he became suspicious, and determined to seize every opportunity of weakening a power which might be attended with danger to himself.
The first act of hostility on the part of the emperor appeared in a command issued to the navy in the Adriatic to prevent the Latin fleet from quitting the Italian ports, and to take prisoners any of the Crusaders who might arrive on the coast.
The vessels of the Count of Vermandois were scattered in a storm, and Hugh himself, having landed at Durazzo, was detained in captivity, and sent to Constantinople. Here he was received with great civility by Alexius, who exerted himself by flatteries and attentions to gain the good-will of his prisoner.
The news of the imprisonment of Hugh reached the army stationed at Philippopoli, and Godfrey sent messengers to the emperor, demanding that the Count of Vermandois should be immediately liberated. Alexius refused to comply with the request, and Godfrey commenced hostilities by giving up to pillage the beautiful province of Thrace. This course of action had its effect, and the emperor found himself compelled to liberate the prisoners. Godfrey then, at once, repressed further acts of violence among his soldiers, and marched peaceably to Constantinople, where he arrived two days before Christmas.
The Count of Vermandois advanced from the city to meet his friend, and at that moment a messenger from the emperor approached Godfrey and invited him to visit the palace. The Lord of Bouillon, however, had been warned against the treachery probably intended by Alexius, and therefore refused to enter the walls. The inhabitants of the city were then prohibited from traffic with the Crusaders, and the army of Godfrey laid waste the surrounding country. During the festival of Christmas these offensive measures were suspended, and at the end of that time the emperor recalled his edict.
Once more Alexius sent deputies to induce Godfrey to enter the city, and his refusal was followed by a second prohibition of traffic, and by further acts of retaliation on the part of the Crusaders. A body of troops then issued from the town, and attacked the camp of the Latins. The Greeks from the walls hurled darts and shot arrows upon the soldiers below, but the Crusaders, who were protected by their coats of mail, inflicted great damage upon their assailants before night closed in, and put an end to the combat. Alexius was compelled, by the sufferings of his people, to give up all thoughts of hostile measures, and traffic and intercourse were resumed between the inhabitants and the army of the cross. Hugh of Vermandois, upon whom the blandishments of Alexius had produced their Impression, exerted himself to establish a peace, and to prevail upon Godfrey to take the oath of fealty to the emperor.
The Lord of Lorraine at first refused to bend the knee before this treacherous prince, but at length the arguments of Hugh produced their effect, and a son of Alexius having been sent to the Latin camp as a hostage, Godfrey entered Constantinople with his friends.
Since the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christianity (a.d. 323), a city of spacious squares, gorgeous palaces, and churches had been gradually growing up upon the site of the little town of Byzantium. This place was selected by Constantine as the seat of his empire, and the removal may be regarded as one of the causes which hastened the fall of Rome. After the death of Constantine, the vast empire over which his sway had extended was separated into distinct sovereignties for his sons and nephews. That portion of the Roman territory of which Constantinople was the capital gradually acquired strength and importance, and became an empire which has since been known, as the Greek, the Eastern, or the Byzantine empire.
Of those splendours of the Byzantine court which had exerted so marked an influence upon the mind of the Count of Vermandois, and were now employed to dazzle the eyes of his companions in arms, we have fall records in the writings of that period. Benjamin of Tudela, a Spanish Jew, who travelled through the East in the twelfth century (a.d. 1159 or 1160), has given a description of what he saw at Constantinople, and speaks in glowing terms of the magnificence of the buildings and the wealth and luxury of the inhabitants.
"The King Emanuel," (Manuel Comnenus.) says he, "has built a grand palace for the throne or the seat of his empire, on the borders of the sea, in addition to those which were built by his ancestors. In this palace the columns and their capitals are covered with pure gold and silver, and he has caused to be graven on them all the wars which he and his ancestors have made (The traveller here seems to be describing some confused recollection of the column of Areadius.). There also has been erected a throne of gold and precious stones, above which hangs, by a golden chain, a crown of gold, which comes exactly upon his head when he is seated. In this crown are stones of such great price as cannot be estimated. In the night there is no need of candles, for every one is able to see by the sparkling of these jewels. There are also many other wonders, which no man could recount.
"Thither are carried every year the tributes of all Greece, whose castles are filled with dresses of silk, of purple, and gold. Nowhere else in the world do we see such buildings and such great riches. It is said that the tribute of Constantinople alone amounts to twenty thousand pieces of gold a day (Having a regard to the value of money at that period, there can be no doubt that this account is exaggerated), derived from imposts upon the shops, markets, and taverns, as well as that paid by merchants who repair thither from all quarters, both by land and sea. The Greek inhabitants of the country are very rich in gold and jewels. They go about in dresses of silk, fringed with gold and embroidery. To see them in this attire, mounted on their horses, one would say that they are like the sons of kings." (Speaking of the Peloponnesus, a province, or theme, of the Byzantine monarchy, Gibbon says that the embroidery there produced was raised either in silk or gold; and the more simple ornament of stripes or circles was surpassed by the nicer imitation of flowers. The vestments that were fashioned for the palace or the altar often glittered with precious stones, and the figures were delineated in strings of Oriental pearls. Until the twelfth century, Greece alone, of all the countries of Christendom, possessed the silkworm. - Decline and Fall)
In spite of the luxury which prevailed, the subjects of the Byzantine empire were the most dexterous and laborious of nations. Their country was blessed by nature with every advantage of soil, climate, and situation; and in the support and restoration of the arts their patient and peaceful temper produced results which were not to be attained amidst the warlike spirit and feudal anarchy of Europe. In the preparation of those costly dresses described by the Jewish traveller, the colours most in use were the Tyrian purple, the brilliant scarlet, and the softer lustre of the green. These colours were also used to adorn the buildings.
"There is also at Constantinople" (continues Benjamin of Tudela) "the Temple of St. Sophia, and the Pope of the Greeks, who are not subject to the Pope of Rome. You may count as many altars in the Temple of St. Sophia as there are days in the year. Thither are gathered immense riches from the isles, country houses, and towns of the country. There is no temple in the universe where we find such riches as are there. In the midst of this temple there are columns of gold and silver, and chandeliers of the same metals, in such numbers, that we cannot count them." A church dedicated to the Divine Wisdom (Santa Sophia) was built by Constantine in the twentieth year of his reign. This building was burnt down in the year 404, and having been rebuilt by Theodosius. was again destroyed by fire. The vast pile, which still remains one of the chief ornaments of Constantinople, and which is now used as a Mahometan mosque, dates from the reign of Justinian. That magnificent prince determined to build "the grandest monument ever erected by the hand of man." Seven years were occupied in collecting materials from every part of the world, and nine were employed in the actual building. Columns of marble from the Temples of the Sun at Palmyra, and that of Diana at Ephesus; bricks of perfect form and remarkable durability, from the island of Rhodes, were brought at immense cost to complete the edifice. Gold and mosaics were spread over the surface, and paintings on gold and costly marbles covered the walls.
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