This introductory chapter begins with a brief history of the Fourth Crusade. When Pope Innocent III ascended Peter's throne in 1198, he almost immediately began planning for what was supposed to be the largest crusade to date. What is important to the present study is the fact that the crusaders transformed the very structure of Byzantine society by seizing control of both church and state and by often imposing a Western feudal structure throughout the Balkans that would serve as a beachhead for further Frankish and papal aspirations in the Christian East. By framing the events of the Fourth Crusade as a kind of colonial encounter, this book draws from some of the basic insights of postcolonial critique to look in new ways at the discourse of Orthodox/Roman Catholic difference that took its mature form in the thirteenth century. As such, one of the most important conclusions of this study is that the development of the most vitriolic statements of Orthodox/Catholic religious polemic in the Middle Ages were based in political and cultural alienation, not theological development.
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