Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Chapter 9

Bohemond, prince of Antioch

Around that time, the distinguished prince of Antioch, Bohemond[1], came to visit France. Because of his valour, the fortifications of Antioch had been given into his special charge after the long hard siege. This famous man, outstanding among the Orientals, performed one exploit of such generosity that it could never have been achieved without divine assistance and which is still talked about among the Saracens .

With his father Robert Guiscard he had crossed the sea to besiege Durazzo[2] and the riches of Thessalonica, the treasures of Constantinople and even the whole of Greece proved inadequate to make them withdraw. Suddenly legates arrived there from Pope Alexander[3], who had crossed the sea after them to summon them, for the love of God and the loyalty owed by vassals, to assist and rescue the Roman church and the pope who were being besieged by the emperor[4] in the tower of Crescentius[5]. They begged them desperately and declared on oath that if they did not come at once, the city, the church and even the pope himself would be shipwrecked.

The prince hesitated before choosing whether to put an end for good to such a great and costly expedition, or to bear the responsibility for the enslavement or total ruin of the pope, the city and the church. When they had anxiously thought about it, they made an excellent decision, to help the pope without renouncing the expedition. Leaving Bohemund at the siege, his father set sail for Apulia, collected men and arms from wherever he could, from Sicily, Apulia, Calabria and Campania, and hastened swiftly and boldly to Rome. And so it happened by the will of God and as a marvellous portent, that while he was at Rome the emperor of Constantinople, hearing of his absence, brought up an army of Greeks to attack Bohemund in Durazzo by land and by sea; so, on exactly the same day as his father Guiscard came to grips with the emperor at Rome[6], he fought valiantly against the Greek emperor[7], and each prince, marvellous to relate, triumphed over his emperor.[8]

Bohemund came to France[9] to seek by any means he could the hand of the Lord Louis’ sister Constance[10], a young lady of excellent breeding, elegant appearance and beautiful face[11]. So great was the reputation for valour of the French kingdom and of the Lord Louis that even the Saracens were terrified by the prospect of that marriage. She was not engaged since she had broken off her agreement to wed Hugh, count of Troyes[12], and wished to avoid another unsuitable match. The prince of Antioch was experienced and rich both in gifts and promises; he fully deserved the marriage, which was celebrated with great pomp by the bishop of Chartres in the presence of the king, the Lord Louis, and many archbishops, bishops and noblemen of the realm[13].

Among those present was the papal legate, Lord Bruno, bishop of Segni[14], who had accompanied Bohemond at the instigation of Pope Paschal to call for and encourage an expedition to the Holy Land.[15] So at Poitiers[16] he held a full and solemn council, at which I was present because I had just finished my studies, where he dealt with various synodal matter and especially with the Jerusalem journey, lest zeal for the project should cool; and both he and Bohemond inspired many people to go there. Strengthened by this sizeable company of knights, Bohemund, the lady Constance and the legate all returned happily and gloriously to their home[17]. Lady Constance bore Lord Bohemund two sons, John and Bohemund. John died in Apulia before he was old enough to be knighted. But Bohemund[18], a graceful young man, made for chivalry, became prince of Antioch. One day when he was attacking the Saracens, heedless of their zeal and bravery, he rashly followed them, fell into the trap they set and was beheaded along with a hundred knights for having displayed too much courage. Thus he lost Antioch, Apulia and his life.


[1] Bohemond c.1056–1111, prince of Antioch (1099–1111) was a leader in the First Crusade and the son of Robert Guiscard by his first marriage. He was with his father he fought (1081–85) against the Byzantine emperor Alexius I. When his father’s duchy of Apulia passed to his younger brother Roger, Bohemond made war against him and obtained Taranto as a fief. In 1096, he joined the Crusaders, swore the oath of fealty to Alexius at Constantinople (1097) and in 1098 at the siege of Antioch devised the stratagem by which the city was captured. He subsequently made himself prince of Antioch, in defiance of his oath to Alexius, and over the opposition of Raymond IV of Toulouse, leader of the crusade. He was captured by Muslims in 1100 and was not released until 1103. Returning to Europe, he married the daughter of Philip I of France and secured papal support for a crusade against Alexius. However, he was defeated in 1108 and as a result was forced to reaffirm his vassalage. In 1109, he was defeated by the Muslims at Harran. He did not return to Antioch, and his nephew Tancred acted as his regent. For Bohemond’s career see Cardini, Franco, Lozito, Nunzio and Vetere, Benedetto, (eds.), Boemondo: Storia di un principe Normanno, (Mario Congedo Editore), 2003 and for his activities in France, Yewdale, R.B., Bohemond I, Prince of Antioch, (Princeton University Press), 1924, pp. 106-112 and Flori, Jean, Bohemond d’Antioche: Chevalier d’Aventure, (Payot), 2007, pp. 265-273.

[2] Durazzo was the principal port for those travelling from Italy to Constantinople. The Norman campaign in the Epirus was in 1081 and 1082 and the siege of Durazzo lasted from 17th June 1081 until its surrender on 21st February 1082. ‘Greece’ here refers to the Byzantine Empire.

[3] Suger is incorrect here. The pope who appealed to Robert Guiscard for help in the early 1080s was Gregory VII (1073-1085) not Alexander II (1061-1073). Pope Nicholas II’s (1059-1061) relations with the Normans, firmly entrenched in southern Italy, were friendly. By the Treaty of Melfi (August 23rd 1059) he appointed Robert Guiscard as duke of Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily (with papal suzerainty over these lands) and Richard of Aversa as prince of Capua, in return for allegiance. It was as ‘protector of the Catholic church’, Guiscard returned from Durazzo.

[4] Robinson, I.S., Henry IV of Germany 1056-1106¸ (Cambridge University Press), 1999, pp. 211-236 considers his second Italian expedition 1081-1084. There had been negotiations between the emperor and Robert Guiscard in early 1081 but these were soon overshadowed by a Byzantine approach to Henry. The Alexiad, book iii, p. 160-161 gives the Byzantine perspective: ‘In a letter Alexius urged the emperor to delay no longer and invade Lombardy…thus Robert would be kept busy and Alexius could collect his armies with impunity and drive the Normans from Illyricium.’

[5] Gregory VII was besieged in the Castel San’ Angelo in early 1084. It was called the tower of Crescentius in the chansons de geste after the Crescenti, an important Roman family.

[6] Robert Guiscard forced his way into Rome from the east on 28th May 1084, four days after he arrived at the city. He rescued Gregory VII from Castel S. Angelo and brought him back to the Lateran palace. Continued Roman resistance led to widespread destruction of the city. This led to considerable resentment among the Romans preventing Gregory from staying in the city and he was obliged to leave in July when Guiscard withdrew to the south and he died at Salerno on 25th May 1085.

[7] Alexius Comnenus I 1048-1118 was Byzantine emperor from 1081 to 1118. Under the successors of his uncle, Isaac I, the empire had fallen prey to anarchy and foreign invasions. In 1081, Alexius, who had become popular as a general, overthrew Nicephorus III and was proclaimed emperor. The most immediate danger besetting the empire was the Norman invasions (1081-1085) under Robert Guiscard and his son, Bohemond. Alexius obtained Venetian help at the price of valuable commercial privileges. This and a truce with the Seljuk Turks enabled him to defend the Balkan Peninsula until the death of Robert Guiscard, when the Normans temporarily withdrew (1085).

[8] Suger is mistaken. Bohemond had already returned to Italy from Greece in the spring of 1083 largely because there was no money available to continue the campaign against Alexius. His victory over Alexius took place in May 1082 in the course of the siege of Joannina just as his father was leaving for Italy.

[9] A marriage alliance with France would have been an attractive option for Bohemond and the initiative appears to have been entirely his: Orderic Vitalis 4: 213. Never one to refer to Bertrade and her children when not necessary, Suger fails to mention that king Philip also gave Cecilia, his daughter by Bertrade in marriage to Tancred, Bohemond’s nephew.

[10] Constance (1078-1124) was the daughter of Philip I of France.

[11] Bohemond had other reasons for coming to France. When he was held captive by the emir Doniman in 1101 and 1102, he swore he would make a pilgrimage to St-Leonard-de-Noblat. According to Orderic Vitalis 4: 212, he also brought with him a pretender who claimed to be the son of the emperor Romanus IV Diogenes to try and get French support against Alexius Comnenus.

[12] Constance had married Hugh I, count of Troyes and Champagne in 1094 or 1095 when aged sixteen. On the intervention of Ivo of Chartres the marriage was ended by the assembly at Soissons 25th December 1104 on the grounds of consanguinity. Suger’s comment that Hugh was not worthy of her is rather harsh but may help to explain Hugh’s later hostility to Louis.

[13] After Easter, which in 1106 fell on 25th March, Bohemond returned to Limousin.

[14] Born in Asti, Italy, in 1049, Bruno became a Benedictine monk while still young and in 1080, Pope Gregory VII appointed him bishop of Segni. He re-entered the monastic life in 1102, becoming the abbot of Monte Cassino five years later without resigning from his episcopal position. Bruno served as librarian to the Holy Roman See and as a cardinal legate. He was canonised in 1183.

[15] Bohemond planned to make a frontal attack on the Byzantine Empire through Albania, as his father, Robert Guiscard, with Bohemond as second-in-command, had done in 1081-5.  His experience convinced him that he might succeed, particularly if he could channel the mounting anti-Byzantine prejudices of the west into support of his venture. These prejudices were born of the friction and misunderstanding engendered by the passage of the hungry and ill-disciplined forces of the First Crusade through the Byzantine empire, and by the disaster of the Crusade of 1101, which Alexius was widely suspected of sabotaging. The wily Norman, therefore, decided to promote a new ‘crusade’, directed not against the Moslems but against the Byzantines. Its real purpose was not to protect the Holy Sepulchre, but to increase his own power. To start a crusade he needed the sanction of pope Paschal II. He saw the pope in 1105. As a result, Paschal appointed bishop Bruno of Segni as legate to preach a new crusade. Although the reports of the Council of Poitiers where the crusade was formally launched in 1106 mention the ‘way to Jerusalem’ rather than Byzantium, it seems likely that Paschal succumbed to the anti-Byzantinism of the day and fell in with Bohemond’s plans. There is no record that the pope denounced Bohemond’s purpose when it became publicly apparent. Indeed, in his relations with the Norman, Paschal does not emerge as a strong character.


[16] The council of Poitiers was held on 26th May 1106.



[17] ‘Home’ in this context refers to Bohemond’s possessions in southern Italy rather than the crusader territories in the east.



[18] Bohemond II Guiscard, prince of Antioch (1126-1130) was born in 1107 and died in 1130. He married Alice de Rethel (1110-1153) and had a daughter Constance, princess of Antioch (1127-1163). On the death of Tancred in 1112, his relative Roger of the Principate was named regent for the still-young heir and namesake of Bohemond I. Direct rule of Antioch by Jerusalem was achieved in 1119 with the death of Roger at the battle of Ager Sanguinis and the subsequent naming of Baldwin II of Jerusalem as regent in Roger’s stead. Baldwin II’s regency was to last, with the exception of his time in captivity from 1123 to 1124, until the arrival from Apulia of Bohemond II in 1126. The younger Bohemond was to carry on the policies of his father and cousin, dying just four years after his arrival while fighting in Cilicia, and bequeathing to the principality a two-year-old female heiress, Constance. Antioch was then ruled by regency, initially by Baldwin II again. With the king’s death in 1130, Alice, widow of Bohemond II and mother of his daughter Constance, contrived, with the aide of both Tripoli and Edessa (both of which wished to abolish the overlordship of Jerusalem) to take power. King Fulk, husband to Baldwin’s heiress Melesende, was obliged to march north to take control of the situation, claiming the regency for himself. In 1133, the king chose Raymond of Poitiers as groom for Constance, thus ensuring an Antiochene leadership more amenable to the interests of Jerusalem. The marriage between the 36-year-old Raymond and the 10-year-old Constance took place in 1136.

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