1204 (The People's Chronology)
The blind Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelus is deposed again in January after a 6-month reign with his son Alexius IV Angelus (see 1203). Isaac's general Mourzouphles usurps the throne in a coup d'état, has the son put to death February 8, Isaac himself dies a few days later, and Mourzouples is proclaimed emperor with the title Alexius V Ducas. He tries to defend Constantinople against the Fourth Crusaders, but the city falls April 12 and is mercilessly sacked and pillaged. The crusaders slaughter some 100,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians, they strip the church of Santa Sophia of its costly icons and other works of art, send them back to Venice to be sold to pay their debts, and install a common prostitute on the cathedral's throne, allowing her to hurl imprecations at representations of Jesus and perform lewd dances. Alexius V is driven out of the city, arrested in Morea, and executed. The aged Venetian doge Dandolo has stood fully armed in the bow of his galley during the attack on the city; he remains at Constantinople to look out for his interests and direct operations there, taking for himself and future doges the title "lord of the fourth part and half of the whole empire of Romania," which gives him and his successors suzerainty over territories that correspond exactly to those apportioned to the Venetians as their share of the spoils. The Byzantines will continue to hold Constantinople until 1453 but their days of glory are ended.
A Latin empire is established at Constantinople, and the count of Flanders Baldwin IX, 33, is elected first emperor. He begins a brief reign as Baldwin I and in October distributes to 600 of his knights large parcels of land that have previously belonged to Greek nobles. Thomas Morotinople, a Venetian, is made patriarch of Constantinople, and Venice's Doge Enrico Dandolo receives "a quarter and a half" of the Eastern Empire, adding numerous islands and coastal ports to expand Venetian territory and influence.
The empire of Trebizond that will survive until 1461 is founded by Byzantine refugees who establish themselves under Alexius Comnenus on the northern coast of Anatolia at Trebizond. David Comnenus is at Sinope, Theodore Lascaris (son of the titual Byzantine emperor Constantine XI Lascaris) is in Bithynia, Theodore Mancaphas is at Philadelphia, Manual Maurozomes is in the Meander Valley, while Leo Gabalas takes over the island of Rhodes.
An independent Greek empire is founded by Michael Angelus Comnenus, who makes himself despot of Epirus and will reign until 1214.
Thessalonica is sacked by Boniface III, count of Montferrat, who has been chosen leader of the Fourth Crusade following the death of Thibaut III, count of Champagne. Boniface will rule Greece and Macedonia as king of Thessalonica until 1207.
Hungary's Emeric I dies after an 8-year reign and is succeeded by his infant son, who will reign briefly as Ladislas III.
Denmark's Valdemar II gains recognition as king of Norway following the death of Haakon III Sveresson (see 1202). Erik X Cnutsson will succeed to the Norwegian throne in 1208 but will survive only 8 years.
Eleanor of Aquitaine dies at Fontevrault, Anjou, April 1 at age 83 after a notable career in which she has been queen both of France and England. The bulk of her Aquitanian domains go to France's Philippe II Augustus.
The Japanese shun Yorii is assassinated along with his wife and son on orders from Tokimasa Hojo, who has found Yorii to be unstable; Yorii's younger brother Sanetomo, 12, will be shun until 1219, with Hojo acting as regent (shikken) (see 1205).
Bubonic plague reduces the ranks of the Fourth Crusaders, prevents them from reaching Jerusalem, and ends the crusade.
A hospital of the Holy Spirit is founded at Rome by Pope Innocent III.
The Jewish physician-philosopher-jurist Maimonides dies at Cairo December 13 at age 69.
Arab words introduced to Europe by returning crusaders will include admiral, alchemy, alembic, alfalfa, algebra, alkali, amalgam, checkmate, cube, lemon, orange, soda, and tariff.
Knights and soldiers returning from the Fourth Crusade plant Damson plum trees from Damascus in France and will hasten the spread to Europe of such Arabic agricultural products as alfalfa and cotton, as well as food products that include rice, sugar, lemons, and oranges.