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Thursday, November 30, 2006

I love The Curt Jester. I really do.

It is a great blog you should read every day. This, though--not so much. It's a failed attempt to make light (been there, done that and will probably do it again tomorrow), and I'm not going to open a six-pack on Jeff over it.

The most serious problem with it is that provoked what is, hands down, the most ignorant (I'm using it in the most neutral possible sense) historical commentary of 2006, by a Mr. Shaw:

Having misspent many LIRR commuting hours reading various books, some on the Crusades, I want to coment on the Byzantines' actions throughout the Crusades.

Fact is the Byzantine emperors 'used' the Crusaders to fight Turks, and 'stabbed the western yokels' in their collective backs whenever it suited them.

That's...inaccurate. When Alexius I asked the west for help, he was expecting mercenary forces from the Western royals, not mass armies headed by ambitious lesser nobles. He made do with what he got, and yes, he did "use" them: he agreed to help them get through Anatolia, but they had to swear an oath to turn over any former Byzantine territories to the Empire along the way.

To their credit, the Westerners did this--until they got to Antioch. There, one of the Crusade's leaders, Bohemund, reneged on his promise and took the city as his own. Another of the Crusade's leaders, Raymond of Poitiers, protested vehemently, but was overruled. In other words, the "yokels" were no strangers to backstabbing.

The sack of Constantinople that should be lamented took place in 1453, when the Turk did exponentially more evil and horribly defiled the city, its churches and its inhabitants. Now the city is 99% pagan, and the Hagia Sofia is a filthy mosque.

No lament over the 1204 rape of the city? None? At least the Turks had a religious motivation. The Fourth Crusade was a money-grub from the start (with a Byzantine pretender along as window dressing). Too bad Mr. Shaw wasn't around to set Pope Innocent straight, who described the unholy crusade in these terms:

How, indeed, is the Greek church to be brought back into ecclesiastical union and to a devotion for the Apostolic See when she has been beset with so many afflictions and persecutions that she sees in the Latins only an example of perdition and the works of darkness, so that she now, and with reason, detests the Latins more than dogs? As for those who were supposed to be seeking the ends of Jesus Christ, not their own ends, whose swords, which they were supposed to use against the pagans, are now dripping with Christian blood ­ they have spared neither age nor sex. They have committed incest, adultery, and fornication before the eyes of men. They have exposed both matrons and virgins, even those dedicated to God, to the sordid lusts of boys. Not satisfied with breaking open the imperial treasury and plundering the goods of princes and lesser men, they also laid their hands on the treasures of the churches and, what is more serious, on their very possessions. They have even ripped silver plates from the altars and have hacked them to pieces among themselves. They violated the holy places and have carried off crosses and relics.

Too bad also that he wasn't able to advise Pope John Paul II back in 2004, who still saw fit, even 800 years later, to offer an apology for the atrocity.

Oh, and by the way--Hagia Sophia is a museum these days, not a mosque. Has been for decades. And it was never "filthy"--except when it was desecrated by invaders and stained with the blood of the Christian residents of Constantinople.

Of note: the Crusaders took the place with much fewer men and much more quickly than did the Sultan, probably because Venicians and other western crusaders comprised over half of the 1453 defensive forces.

Ah, yes: The Westerners were Manly Men, Muscular and Strong! And hairy, too! Unlike the unworthy Byzantines, who no doubt spent their time fussing over their hair and reading the medieval version of Men's Health.

So, don't lament the Crusaders one-time sack and immediate ransom of the effete and corrupt Byzantines while ignoring the fact that the murderous Turk apostacized and destroyed the once-great Christian city.

Don't lament it--the Byzantines were effete and corrupt. They deserved it. They had ferns at their pubs.

No further comment necessary--some s--t just fisks itself.

If you have time to misspend reading, try Liutprand's narrative of his embassy to the Byzantines. It's a good overview of corruption and effeminacy. Where did you think the adjective 'byzantine' came from?

Yes: "corrupt," "effeminate," and "effete." Leaving aside that (1) it's warmed over Lecky served with a side order of rancid Gibbon, and (2) it boils down to "the b***h had it coming," is it really an appropriate and accurate summation of the greatest Christian civilization of the Middle Ages?

[Answers other than "No" are null and void.]

This is the same society that birthed the builders of Hagia Sophia, Hosias Loukas and the Walls of Theodosius. The nation of the fresco painters of Monreale and Santa Maria Assunta. The scribe-preservers of Greek antiquity. The priests and monks who introduced Christian civilization to the Slavic peoples of the East. The martyrs who preserved Christian iconography in the face of persecution. The empire of the generals and soldiers who successfully withstood the Arab military avalanche. The same empire which in its steep decline managed to do the same against the Turkish onslaught--with minimal and always grossly-insufficient help from the West.

Byzantium deserves much better than a Catholic version of the Black Legend.

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