THE WAR BEGINS - THE GREEKS ENDEAVOUR TO SET FIRE TO THE FLEET OF THE CRUSADERS
Thus did the war begin; and each side did to the other as much harm as they could, by sea and by land. The Franks and the Greeks fought often; but never did they fight, let God be praised therefor I that the Greeks did not lose more than the Franks. So the war lasted a long space, till the heart of the winter.
Then the Greeks bethought themselves of a very great device, for they took seven large ships, and filled them full of big logs, and shavings, and tow, and resin, and barrels, and then waited until such time as the wind should blow strongly from their side of the straits. And one night, at midnight, they set fire to the ships, and unfurled their sails to the wind. And the flames blazed up high, so that it seemed as if the whole world were a-fire. Thus did the burning ships come towards the fleet of the pilgrims; and a great cry arose in the host, and all sprang to arms on every side. The Venetians ran to their ships, and so did all those who had ships in possession, and they began to draw them away out of the flames very vigorously. And to this bears witness Geoffry the Marshal of Champagne, who dictates this work, that never did people help themselves better at sea than the Venetians did that night; for they sprang into the galleys and boats belonging to the ships, and seized upon the fire ships, all burning as they were, with hooks, and dragged them by main force before their enemies, outside the port, and set them into the current of the straits, and left them to go burning down the straits. So many of the Greeks had come down to the shore that they were without end and innumerable, and their cries were so great that it seemed as if the earth and sea would melt together. They got into barges and boats, and shot at those on our side who were battling with the flames, so that some were wounded.
All the knights of the host, as soon as they heard the clamour, armed themselves; and the battalions marched out into the plain, each according to the order in which they had been quartered, for they feared lest the Greeks should also attack them on land.
They endured thus in labour and anguish till daylight; but by God's help those on our side lost nothing, save a Pisan ship, which was full of merchandise, and was burned with fire. Deadly was the peril in which we stood that night, for if the fleet had been consumed, all would have been lost, and we should never have been able to get away by land or sea. Such was the guerdon which the Emperor Alexius would have bestowed upon us in return for our services.