The Journal of Southeastern European Studies
The Foundation of the Crusader Kingdom of Thessalonica (1204)İsmail Koçuk
The armies of the Fourth Crusade succeeded in capturing Constantinople on 13 April 1204. Following the seizure of the city, the French and the Venetian Crusaders, who formed the armies of the expedition, organized an election according to the March Pact they had signed inter se in March 1204, in order to appoint the first emperor of the newly founded Latin Empire. Marquis Boniface of Montferrat, as the titular commander of the expedition, was the obvious candidate for the imperial throne. But Count Baldwin of Flanders and Hainaut, whom the Venetians favoured in the election, was chosen emperor, receiving a majority of the votes. However, a decision taken on the eve of the election provided Boniface with considerable land, although he lost the imperial throne. Then, Marquis Boniface claimed the lands of Thessalonica from Emperor Baldwin in return for the lands promised to him, and soon this caused problems between both of them. Nonetheless, thanks to the mediation of the barons in the army and Enrico Dandolo, Doge of Venice, this controversy was solved and Boniface took control over Thessalonica, one of the largest and wealthiest cities of the Byzantine Empire. In consideration of source material, the present study will deal the positions of the candidates in the aforementioned election, principal motives that led Boniface to claim Thessalonica and the struggle he launched to possess the city as well as the events that took place during the founding of this kingdom.
Selânik Haçlı Krallığı’nın Kuruluşu (1204)İsmail Koçuk
IV. Haçlı Seferi orduları, 13 Nisan 1204’te Konstantinopolis’i ele geçirerek başarıya ulaştılar. Seferin ordularını oluşturan Fransız ve Venedikli Haçlılar, şehrin zaptını müteakiben, Mart 1204’te kendi aralarında imzaladıkları sözleşmeden hareketle, yeni kurulan Latin İmparatorluğu’nun ilk hükümdarını seçimle belirlemek üzere bir toplantı düzenlediler. Seferin ismen lideri olan Montferrat Markisi Boniface, imparatorluk tahtı için bariz aday olmasına karşın Venediklilerin desteklediği Flandre ve Hainaut Kontu Baudouin oyların çoğunu alarak imparator seçildi. Öte yandan seçim arifesinde alınan bir karar Boniface’ın, imparatorluk tahtını kaybetmesine rağmen önemli bir toprağa sâhip olmasını sağladı. Marki daha sonra kendisine vaat edilen topraklara karşılık olarak İmparator Baudouin’den Selânik topraklarını talep etti ve bu durum kısa bir süre sonra ikisi arasında sorunların oluşmasına sebep oldu. Ancak ordudaki baronlar ve Venedik Doju Enrico Dandolo’nun müdâhalesi sayesinde bu ihtilâf çözüme kavuştu ve Boniface, Bizans İmparatorluğu’nun en müreffeh ve büyük şehirlerinden Selânik’e hâkim oldu. Bu çalışmada, bahsi geçen seçimdeki adayların mevkileri, Boniface’ın Selânik’i talep etmesindeki başlıca âmiller ve adı geçen kenti elde etmek için giriştiği mücadeleyle birlikte bu krallığın kurulması esnasında yaşanan hâdiseler kaynakların verdiği bilgiler ışığında ele alınıp değerlendirilecektir.
Upon the success of the Fourth Crusade, armies composed of French and Venetian soldiers, Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, was captured on 13 April 1204. As a result, this important city came under Latin dominance. Following the seizure of the city, a great plunder was carried out. Then, an election was held to determine the ruler of this new state established in Constantinople. There were two strong candidates in the election. One of them was Boniface, the Marquis of Montferrat, who was the titular leader of the armies of the Fourth Crusade. The other candidate was Baldwin, the Count of Flanders and Hainaut.
Boniface was confident that he would gain the imperial throne as the leader of the army. However, before the election, a bitter rivalry between the supporters of both candidates caused tension in the army. This situation led the barons and counts to worry about the fact that the losing candidate would leave the army along with his own forces. Boniface appeared to be a strong figure with a good reputation. Indeed, he was a member of the house of Montferrat, which had important ties not only with European houses but also both the Byzantine Empire and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. It was considered that in the case of his loss in the election, a deep division would break out in the army and Boniface would leave. As this case would reduce the strength of the Latins in Constantinople, it was not desired by the barons and counts. However, the Venetians did not want the marquis to be chosen as emperor on the grounds that he was not aligned with Venice’s interests. Boniface’s close relationship with Genoa, a rival of Venice, caused the Venetian Doj, Enrico Dandolo, to worry about the privileges Venice had gained yet with the capture of the city. Therefore, he considered the candidacy of the marquis unfavorable. Then, according to terms which set to prevent the disintegration of the crusader army, the winner of the election would give the loser both the Peloponnesos and the Anatolian lands beyond the Bosphorus.
Thus, the intervention of Dandolo changed the fate of the election. As Baudoin was a more suitable candidate for Enrico Dandolo, namely for the Venetians, he was elected emperor with a majority of votes, thanks to the Venetian voters.
However, after Baldwin’s coronation ceremony, held in Hagia Sophia Church on May 16 1204, the marquis changed his opinion about these territories. He asked Baldwin for Thessalonica from emperor Baldwin in return for lands given to him as the consolation prize for his loss in the election. This was probably due to a family claim on Thessalonica and the fact that the marquis did not see a future for the lands of Asia Minor and the Peloponnesos. In fact, some sources state that Emperor Manuel I Komnenos had given Thessalonica as the fief to Renier, the youngest brother of Boniface. According to another account, Boniface, who had married Empress Margaret (Maria), widow of Isaakios II Angelos just before the election, was claiming Thessalonica because of its close proximity to the kingdom of Andrew II, the Hungarian King, Margaret’s brother.
On the other hand, his new decision triggered a short civil war in the newly founded Latin Empire. Soon after Emperor Baldwin’s left from Constantinople, in order to establish his authority over the cities of Thrace and to avoid the threat of Alexios V. Doukas Mourtzouphlos, a conflict broke out between Boniface and Baldwin. Boniface then took Didymoteichon and besieged other cities in the vicinity. Meanwhile, he tried to win the support of the Byzantines in the region by declaring his stepson Manuel, born from Margaret’s previous marriage with Isaakios II, as emperor. However, the people did not trust his movement and did not give him support.
The news about the situation between Boniface and Baldwin eventually reached Constantinople. Dandolo and the other barons, in order to prevent the situation worsening, had a meeting and decided giving Thessalonica to Boniface or not would be determined by a future council. They then sent a legation to both convey this decision and persuade Boniface to lift the siege of Adrianople. However, at about this time Dandolo heard that Boniface was negotiating with the Genoese in order to sell the island of Crete given to him by Aleksios IV. Angelos. Dandolo thereupon sent his own men along with the legation to purchase Crete from the marquis. Thus, while the marquis agreed to sell Crete to the Venetians, he most likely gained the support of Dandolo for Thessalonica.
As a result, in a meeting held in Constantinople, it was decided that Thessalonica was to be handed over to Boniface. In return, the marquis would leave all places he had previously occupied.