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BLOSS C.A. Heroines of the Crusades

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BLOSS C.A.
Heroines of the Crusades
page 271



found a shelter, during the dark and stormy interval that succeeded the downfall of the Roman Empire. There nest-ling in the sedgy banks of the islands that clustered around the Rialto, Commerce, through a long period of incuba-tion, had nourished her venturesome brood, and now the white wings of her full-fledged progeny, like the albatross, skimmed the surface of the seas and found ready entrance to every harbor oh the coast of the Mediterranean. The Venetian republic had owed a nominal allegiance to the Greek empire, but entering the field as a rival to the Genoese and Pisans for the carrying-trade of Europe at the beginning of the crusades, she had displayed from her towering masts the banner of the cross, while she cultivated a friendly intercourse with the Infidels of every clime. To this avaricious but neutral power the 6acred militia deter-mined to apply for a passage to the Holy Land, and six deputies, at the head of whom was Villehardouin, were despatched to the island city to settle the terms of trans-portation. The ambassadors were received with distinction, and a general assembly was convened to listen to their proposals. The stately chapel and place of St. Mark was crowded with citizens. The doge and the grand council of ten sat in solemn dignity while the maréchal of Champagne unfolded thus the purposes of the embassy. " Illustrious Venetians : the most noble and powerful barons of France have sent us to you to entreat you in the name of God to have compassion on Jerusalem which groans under the tyranny of the Turks, and to »id us on this occasion in revenging the injury which has been done to your Lord and Saviour. The peers of France have turn-ed their e}res to you as the greatest maritime power in Europe. They have commanded us to throw ourselves at your feet, and never to change that supplicatory posture till you have promised to aid them in recovering the Holy Land." The eloquence of their words and tears touched the hearts of the people. Cries of "We grant your re-quest," sounded through the hall. The honored Doge Dan- ISABELLA. 283


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