Campaign of the Month: August 2014
The Concord of Ashes
Great Fire of 1203
Shortly after dawn on the 25th of October, 1203, a mysterious fire broke out in Constantinople, just south of the Grand Bazaar. Driven by the prevailing winds, it tore through the city and lay waste to much of its heart. Palaces, churches, shops and homes alike were ruined. It burned quite close to Hagia Sophia and the Great Palace, reduced the homes of thousands of the native Romaioi to charred rubble, and ruined much of the Genoese and Pisan quarters and the southern reaches of the Amalfitan and Genoese districts as well.
At its worst, the front of the fire is 3 miles wide and it burns for more than 60 hours in the heart of the city. Although it is impossible for an accurate tally to be made, it is said that as many as 30 000 people die in the disaster, which the Romaioi blame on a gang of Venetian brawlers trying to set up a wall of fire to cover their retreat from a foray against Greek rivals. The Venetians in turn blame Greek brawlers, who were attempting to drive the Latins from the city. The truth of its cause is never known, and few with an eye to searching out have the chance to do so.
Rioting immediately followed, as Latin and Greek quickly fell to blaming each other for the conflagration. Ultimately the greater numbers of the Romaioi mob prevails; they rob, pillage, rape and murder their way through much of the remaining Latin Quarter (and a good part of the rest of the city) for several days before the Tzakones manage to return order to the city. Meanwhile, many thousands of furious, brutalised, grieving Latins take to boats and flee across the Golden Horn to the imagined safety and succor of the Fourth Crusade and Galata District. Perhaps 20 000 Latins make this crossing, many of whom are itching to take revenge.
The crusaders can ill afford the extra mouths to feed, but they attempt to do so anyway. Those with skills or wealth to offer the pilgrimage are given a place inside the walls, providing they agree to take the cross. For those with little to offer, a refugee camp is established outside the damaged northern walls of the district. It is a place of disease, starvation and desperation. Not a few Latin vampires with skills or ties useless to the Fourth Cainite Crusade are forced to exist among them, and many of the crusading vampires take the opportunity to hunt there as well.
Untold wealth in art, trade goods, property and riches were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1203; resources neither the Crusade nor the Dream could afford to lose. The consequences of the destruction wrought over these few days echoed across the months, adding further peril still to those who dwell in the Queen of Cities.