Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book II, line 1-65

When Maniakes left Italy, Argyrus went to Otranto with a strong army. The city surrendered to him and the citizens rejoiced in him as their ruler. From there he went back to Bari and allowed the Gauls to depart. They went to Salerno to serve Guaimar.[1] [5] Trusting in their prowess, Prince Guaimar led them to Bari and besieged it. He ordered Argyrus to surrender to him, leave the city and retire to the Greeks. Argyrus refused to obey these instructions; but with his forces [10] too weak to fight he did not dare to give battle and shut himself up in the city.[2] Guaimar ravaged the fields and suburbs of Bari and then retraced his steps to the walls of his own city.

[15] Constantine, who was at that time ruling the empire, ordered Argyrus to hasten to him.[3] He obeyed these imperial orders. Crossing the waves of the Adriatic he reached the imperial capital. That gentle man who ruled over the city received the arrival with great ceremony and honour.

[20] Meanwhile the people over whom he ruled associated themselves some with Count Peter[4], and some with Drogo the son of Tancred, since the latter’s brother, William, known as the Iron Arm, had died young.[5] [25] Had life been permitted him no poet would have been able [adequately] to celebrate his praises, such was his steadfastness of mind and mighty courage. All the people of Italy feared Drogo[6] and his brother Humphrey[7], although at this time Peter[8], their blood relative, was richer than they. He founded Andria and Corato, [30] and fortified Bisceglie and Barletta on the sea coast. His fame surpassed that of the other counts. But Count Humphrey with his brother Drogo humbled his proud spirit, [35] for, while he made preparations to march against them, the unhappy man saw his luck change and was defeated and captured. The wheel of fortune had turned and began to raise up the sons of Tancred.[9]

The ruler of the empire, mentioned above, questioned Argyrus as to how he might drive the Gauls from Italy, [40] for he knew that it was now impossible to do this by force. So he conceived other plans to remove them. Since he knew them to be expert at war and unconquerable by force, he hoped to trick them with promises. He had heard that the Norman people were always prone to avarice, [45] loving greatly that which greatly benefited them. He ordered Argyrus to bring them great sums of money, silver, precious vestments and gold, that the Normans might be persuaded to leave the frontiers of Italy, hasten across the sea [50] and mightily enrich themselves in imperial service. He also ordered that if they refused to depart then those bribes destined for them should be given to others, with whom he should launch a savage attack on the Gauls.

[55] Argyrus obeyed.[10] He returned to Apulia, summoned the counts of the French and promised to give them rich gifts if they would leave Italy and cross over to the land of the Greeks, who were locked in combat with the Persians. He swore to them that the emperor would receive them [60] joyfully and promised that the latter would endow them with great wealth. The astute promises of the Greeks did not deceive the [equal] astuteness of this people, who, wishing to conquer Italy, replied that they would not leave Apulia until they had conquered it, unless an army mightier [65] than theirs should come to defeat them and drive them out[11].


[1] After raising the siege of Troina in August 1042, the Apulian Normans made William Iron Arm their count and recognised the suzerainty of Guiamar IV of Salerno.

[2] The unsuccessful siege of Bari in 1043 showed that the Normans had yet to develop effective siege tactics for attacking large towns.

[3] Argyrus was replaced in 1045 or 1046 by the catepan Eustathios Palatinos and remained in Constantinople until 1050. He became a close advisor to the emperor especially during the revolt of Leo Tornikios in 1047.

[4] Peter was the son of Amicus.

[5] William de Hauteville was born in Hauteville-la-Guichard, Normandy and died in the winter of 1045-1046. He was a Norman adventurer, the eldest of twelve Hauteville brothers, a soldier of fortune who led the first contingent of his family from Normandy to southern Italy. William and his brothers Drogo and Humphrey responded (c. 1035) to an appeal for reinforcements in Italy by the Norman Rainulf of Aversa. William earned his nickname ‘Iron Arm’ during the Norman-Byzantine siege of Muslim-occupied Syracuse in Sicily when he charged and killed the emir of the city. He served as a captain of the Norman army that joined the Lombards in invading Apulia, in southern Italy, and was proclaimed count of Apulia in 1042. Guaimar IV, the Lombard prince of Salerno, confirmed the title later that year. Guaimar arranged a marriage between William and his own niece, daughter of the Duke of Sorrento. Emerging as the most powerful leader in southern Italy, William allied with Guaimar, invaded Calabria two years later. After his death, his brother Drogo became count of Apulia.

[6] Drogo was born in Hauteville-la-Guichard, Normandy and died on August 10th 1051 at Salerno. He was the Norman count of Apulia (1046-1051), half brother of the conqueror Robert Guiscard. He led the Norman conquest of southern Italy after the death of his older brother William Iron Arm, whom he succeeded as count of Apulia. Arriving in Italy about 1035 with William and his younger brother Humphrey, Drogo fought first for the Byzantines against the Muslims in Sicily, then in alliance with the Lombards in Apulia against the Byzantines. In 1042, prince Guaimar IV of Salerno made William count of Apulia and distributed the territories of Apulia among the Normans, giving Venosa, eighty miles east of Naples, to Drogo. When William died in the winter of 1045-1046, Drogo succeeded him as count of Apulia, marrying Guaimar’s daughter. Drogo’s title was confirmed in 1047 by the Holy Roman emperor Henry III. He was assassinated, along with several of his followers, in an anti-Norman conspiracy as he entered the chapel of his castle at Monte Ilario to attend a mass on St. Lawrence’s Day, 1051 (9th or 10th August 1051).

[7] Humphrey was born in Hauteville-la-Guichard, Normandy and died in 1057 at Melfi in Apulia. He led the Norman conquest of southern Italy after the deaths of his older brothers William and Drogo and succeeded them as count of Apulia (1051). Arriving in Italy c. 1043, Humphrey fought in Sicily and Apulia, in southern Italy, becoming count of Lavello in 1045. Six years later, as count of Apulia, he married the sister of Guaimar IV of Salerno. In 1052, after pro-Byzantine forces murdered Guaimar and seized Salerno, Humphrey helped Guaimar’s brother, the Duke of Sorrento, to recover the throne for Guaimar’s young son. Humphrey also played an important role in the decisive battle of Civitate (1053), in which the Normans defeated a papal army. Pope Leo IX was taken prisoner, and on his release and return to Rome in 1054, Humphrey escorted him as far as Capua, north of Naples. Humphrey designated his half brother Robert Guiscard as successor and guardian of his infant son Abelard, but on Humphrey’s death Robert seized Abelard’s lands becoming the greatest landholder in southern Italy and laying the foundation for his own power.

[8] Count Peter was the son of Amicus and had been assigned Trani in the partition of 1042.

[9] The succession of Drogo who was elected in his place as overall leader of the Apulian Normans and who adopted a title that indicated the change of status of the Norman mercenaries and the ambitions of the Hautevilles: ‘duke and master of Italy, count of the Normans and the whole of Apulia and Calabria’ (‘comes Normannorum totius Apuliae et Calabriae’) was challenged by Count Peter and there appears to have been some fighting between the two factions.

[10] Argyrus had spent some five years in Constantinople and played a prominent role in suppressing a rebellion in 1047. He was now a trusted Byzantine official.

[11] William of Apulia has little to say on events between 1041-1042 and 1053. In 1044, count William led an expedition into northern Calabria and established a base at Scribla: on this issue see Héricher-Flambard, Anne-Marie, ‘Un instrument de la conquête et du pouvoir: les châteaux normands de Calabre, L’exemple de Scribla’, ibid, Les Normands en Méditerraneé, pp. 98-110. In 1045, Drogo captured Bovino and the Normans began to penetrate into the Capitinate. By 1045, the Normans were making incursions into the principality of Benevento and by the early 1050s much of the southern part of the principality had been secured by the Normans. However, Abbot Richer of Montecassino pursued a vigorous policy of confronting the Normans and fortifying the abbey’s lands. This combined with a degree of restraint exercised by Guaimar IV over the Normans of Aversa proved effective and the abbey lands remained largely safe from Norman attacks. In the autumn of 1042, Rainulf of Aversa, with Guaimar’s approval took over Gaeta after the Gaeteans had rejected their prince’s rule. This proved short-lived and in 1045 the citizens took advantage of Rainulf’s death to invite the Lombard count of Aquino to become their lord. His rule was unchallenged until the final take-over of the principality of Capua by the Normans in the early 1060s.

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