By William E. Welsh Dawn broke clear and hot over Constantinople on July 17, 1203. All manner of war machines were clustered around the Latin crusaders’ fortified camp on a hill where the Monastery of Saints Cosmas and Damian was located. Giant stones flung by mangonels inside the city flew through the air toward the crusader’s camp. The crusaders made final preparations for an advance. Their objective was the Palace of Blachernae in the northeastern quadrant of the imperial city. Using hide-covered tortoise shells to protect infantry and sappers, the crusaders advanced. Others marched toward the walls with scaling ladders under the protection of crossbowmen and archers who showered the tops of the walls with quarrels and arrows to keep the defenders pinned down. When the crusaders reached the wall, ladders were raised and placed against the wall. From the tops of the walls, the defenders hurled stones and poured hot sand and oil on the attackers. “By dint of strenuous efforts two knights and two sergeants managed to scale the ladders and make themselves masters of the wall,” wrote Geoffrey of Villehardouin, Marshal of Champagne, who witnessed the attack. “A good 15 of our men got up on top, and were quickly involved in a hand-to-hand contest of battle-axes against swords. The [Varangian Guard] inside the barbican plucked up courage and fought back so savagely that they drove our men out.” A short distance away, the Venetian navy began to assail the shorter


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