Saturday, 17 October 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book I, lines 105-170

After the death of Melus, from whom they had been expecting help, the morale of the Gauls collapsed and they returned downcast to the Campania. But they did not pitch their tents in any one place, for they were terrified of their numerous and powerful enemies, so small were their numbers. [110] Nowhere seemed to them safe, not the mountains or even remote valleys. They could indeed hope for no assistance, for everyone seemed to be hostile to those who had been conquered, while fortune itself is believed to help those victorious. As wanderers, tramps, they went from place to place, having no fixed abode, until finally a dispute among their neighbours gave them the opportunity to stay.[1] For they attached themselves to the Lombard whom they knew to be the most powerful, [120] and they stayed faithfully in his service, that by supporting him they might be protected from others; and by their success in battle they would acquire a reputation. For this reason, they pitched their camp in a most agreeable spot, well-supplied with water, pasture and trees, which provided all that their people might need. They chose as the leader of their troop one of their bravest men, Rainulf, to whose orders all were obedient. [130] But as they started to fortify the site of their first base, the croaking of a crowd of frogs from a dense marsh nearby stopped their work. Not far from there they found another site suitable for their camp, which they tried to render secure through erecting defences, without the help of any of the natives of the country[2].

Once they had fortified this place they happily joined the man who was Prince of Capua.[3] He was then the most powerful and prominent of the princes of Italy. [140] Under his protection, they hastened to plunder the neighbouring places and to harass his enemies. But since human thoughts are inclined to greed and money always triumphs in the end, from time to time they abandoned him, always supporting the one who paid better, serving most willingly him from whom they gained the greatest advantage. They were a people who preferred battles to peace treaties. [150] They sold their services as they could, according to circumstances, offering most to him who gave most. A great desire for rule among these princes gave rise to wars. Each wished to be the most powerful, and one strove to seize the rights of the other. From these disputes came arson, battle and murder; the major part of the evils which arise among mortal men. Alas, the miserable men! What they attempted in this world was in vain; after doing all sorts of deeds in the pursuit of vainglory, they suffered all the more when they left earthly things. The Normans never desired any of the Lombards to win a decisive victory, in case this should be to their disadvantage. But now supporting the one, and then aiding the other, they prevented anyone being completely ruined. [160] Gallic cunning deceived the Italians, for they allowed no one to be at the mercy of a triumphant enemy. So the quarrels of Italy restored hope to the demoralised Normans, in whom it had previously been extinguished. Thus their wealth and power began to grow. If any criminal from the neighbourhood fled to them, they freely received him. They taught their own language and customs to those who joined them, thus creating a single, seemingly united, people.[4]


[1] There were bitter disputes between and within the different principalities and duchies of the west and centre of the peninsula though the principality of Salerno remained considerably more stable than its neighbours. Certain themes can be identified: the struggle of Pandulf IV to reassert his control over Capua, the attempts by the Lombard principalities to absorb the independent coastal duchies and the comtinued ambition of the princes, especially those of Salerno and Capua to assert their dominance within the Lombard territories, something Guaimar IV of Salerno achieved in 1038. In this period, Norman mercenaries served the Lombard princes in the principalities of Capua, Naples, Salerno and Benevento reaping considerable benefits as a result. Pandulf IV proved to be the most disruptive force in southern Italy. His ambitions were initially helped by the succession of his nephew Guaimar IV to the principality of Salerno in March 1027. Guaimar did not interfere when Pandulf seized Naples in 1027, though the Capuans were driven out of the city within three years. This did not prove the end of his ambitions. In 1036, he tried to wrest Benevento from his other nephew Pandulf III and soon after he briefly took over the duchy of Gaeta. However, Pandulf IV faced problems within his principality of Capua. To maintain their authority in the north of the principality, the traditional princely approach was an alliance with, or control over, the wealthy and powerful monasteries of Montecassino and St Vincent on Volturno. Abbot Theobald as the nominee of the emperor was not considered reliable and, though he remained abbot, he was forced to live, effectively as a prisoner at the Cassinese cell in Capua. Though he escaped into the Abruzzi outside the prince’s control and did not die until 1035, effective power with Pandulf’s supporters, a lay official called Theodwin and with Basil, provost of St Benedict, Capua who became abbot in 1035. There were similar complaints about the prince’s oppression of the monastery of St Vincent.

[2] This base was probably in the region of Pantano between Clanio, the sea and the lake of Patria and Casal in the Principate.

[3] The 1020s brought confirmation of the Norman presence in Campania. Some of the survivors of the debacle of 1018 were taken into service by the prince of Benevento. Abbot Atenulf of Montecassino stationed a garrison of Normans in a fortress at Pignetaro to oppose the counts of Aquino and the troops given by Guaimar III to his brother-in-law Pandulf in 1025 were Norman. Both Basil Boiannes and the Normans provided troops to assist Pandulf IV’s siege of Capua in 1025-1026. In 1027, Basil Boiannes was recalled to Constantinople. This proved an enormous mistake and one from which the Greeks did not recover. With Boiannes gone, things soon started to fall apart: several small wars started and the whole country was soon engulfed in conflict.

[4] There are parallels between this passage and Rollo’s dream in Dudo of St Quentin to explain the creation of the Norman race.

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