Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Jay Rubenstein

Committee Members

Matthew B. Gillis, Maura K. Lafferty, Anne-Helene Miller, Brett E. Whalen


Histories of the Fourth Crusade have long revolved around the so-called “Diversion Question,” or the process by which a crusading army sworn to liberate the Levant from Muslim control ultimately found itself laying siege, not once but twice, to the largest city in Christian Europe. Competing answers to the Diversion Question have have tended to focus on the economic and diplomatic motivations of the crusade leadership. Scant attention, however, has been paid to the religious and intellectual motivations at play within the minds of these thirteenth-century Latin Christians. This dissertation examines intellectual trends in twelfth-century Latin Europe and the ways in which these trends affected not only the mentalities of the Fourth crusaders themselves but also the imaginations of their subsequent narrators. It argues that twelfth-century understandings of sacred and secular time contributed to a mindset which allowed contemporary audiences to both pre-emptively envision and retroactively accept the Latin conquest of Constantinople as an integral component of God’s providential plan. Because twelfth-century understandings of sacred history frequently involved discussions about religious difference within Christendom, Latin exegetes implicitly came to link the reunion of the Greek and Latin churches with the imminent apocalypse. At the same time, twelfth-century discussions of translatio imperii regularly used the language of Troy to fashion a Frankish identity which implicitly placed the Latin West at odds with the Greek East. As a result of these two separate yet interconnected intellectual trends, the actors and the narrators of the Fourth Crusade alike approached the Greek East from a self-consciously historical perspective.

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