Claiming Byzantium: Papal Diplomacy, Biondo Flavio, and the Fourth Crusade

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2013


The humanist Biondo wrote three different narratives of the Fourth Crusade aimed at establishing the legitimacy of western claims to lands in the east. Biondo had played an integral part in the ephemeral reunification of the Greek and Latin Churches at the Council of Florence in July 1439. Biondo blamed the Greeks for the failure and thus did not mourn the loss of their empire to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. However, Biondo did urge several states in the Italian Peninsula to set out en mass to fight the Turks. He viewed the fall of Constantinople as an opportunity for the Latin West to reestablish its rightful empire in the east. He explicated this opinion in at least two different treatises dedicated to rulers shortly after the fall of the ancient city. To Alfonso of Aragon, Biondo argued that the King could establish a peaceful and prosperous extension of his maritime holdings to include a fallen empire with no legal ruler. To the Venetians, he presented the Fourth Crusade as a glorious victory that established their legal claim to rule the now-lost remnants of the Byzantine Empire. Biondo shaped his source material of the Fourth Crusade into an historical narrative that made this primary argument and urged powerful rulers in the Italian peninsula to take back what was rightfully theirs.

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