Over its thousand-year history the Byzantine Empire had frequent contacts with the West; one need only think of its presence in Italy, where Byzantines ruled from the 6th to the 11th century. Relationships then became more confrontational, especially during the fourth Crusade in 1204, when Venetians and Crusaders took possession of Constantinople. In the 14th century the West, and especially Venice, adopted a more accommodating attitude towards Byzantium, considered an outpost of Christianity against the rising tide of the Ottoman Turks. Military aid was subsequently provided, but disagreements between European states and the Turks inevitably led to the end of the Empire in 1453.
Giorgio Ravegnani teaches Medieval History and History of Byzantine Italy at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice.