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1204: The Capture of Constantinople
- Text in English

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Eustathius Of Thessalonika

Norman Atrocities and Devastation in Thessalonika

[From La Espugnazione de Tessalonica, ed.V. Rotolo, tr. S. Kyriakedes, Palermo, 1961, pp. 112-14]

The [Latin] barbarians, having entered every part of the city, beginning from the eastern gates, cut down our men and piled them on the ground, those thick maniples [a Roman army unit] of human crops that Hades loves to feed on. Those who fled through the streets fell in them and were stripped and robbed. Thus the streets took on the sorrowful look of cemeteries and the sun witnessed what it should not. Nor could those who remained in their houses leave them. It was not possible to find a house in which any person might have been spared, except in the houses where many people lived. Some died in their domestic surroundings, their houses becoming their tombs, to speak in the words of the psalmist. Others who fled outside were at the mercy of the violence. At first, the fallen ones lay each in his place, but then the enemy, after slackening in their relentless drive and taking vengeance on the mute earth, so to say, behold, there were added to them cadavers of animals. And so the cadaver of a human was coupled with the carcass of an ass; another had lying next to him a dog. And the greater part of the bodies of men and animals were placed in the position of embracing or kissing. One man was placed together with a domestic cat. The barbarians spared no animals of any kind, not even small dogs, which were running around and yelping. So that our city now almost lacked any animal life. And if any dog was spared, when a Greek passed, it barked at him and ran behind him, but if it were a Latin, it withdrew whimpering. Even these understood in what evil circumstances they found themselves. And someone was able to compare them with the silent frogs in Serifos [Greek island] and to some Italian grasshoppers of the same character. Thus even the dogs among us are silent.

The incursion through the streets of the city and the devastation of the houses cannot, of course, be considered anything new in wartime. But the profanation of the holy churches -that may be viewed as waging war on God. Indeed the barbarians, breaking into each church, committed such impieties as to provoke divine reaction. And how many priests, who held up their sacred stoles as cuirasses, did they not strike, some on the divine altar itself, still others outside, where it happened that the assassins found them attending to the divine service. How many laymen, who invoked in a loud voice the Kyrie eleison ["Lord have mercy"] were decapitated, while the barbarians demanded of them what was this Kyrie eleison, and derided them. Chaste women were contaminated in the sanctuaries by the lust of the enemy, and offences against their purity were carried out against married women, and against virgins not required to lead a chaste life and against the spouses [nuns] of God who are witnesses against the guilty. If this had happened to only one of them, the evil would of course have been less, but it became so common among these women, one might say like a urinal used by all, that one cannot lament them enough.

Yet I can say one good thing of the barbarians -that some of them who rushed to kill the faithful as they stood in the churches, first carried them outside and killed them there, thus rendering the evil less wicked. But in truth the majority profaned the objects of the divine cult, destroying the sacred images that had no material value.

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