Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book II, lines 66-140

During this time of crisis an admirable man, Leo[1], ruled over the Roman see. Hearing of the arrival of this great pope[2], the people of Apulia started to bring all sorts of grievances to him and accused the Gauls of many crimes, mixing together both truth and falsehood.[3] [70] Argyrus sent emissaries to the pope, beseeching him with frequent prayers to grant Italy its lost liberty and to force that wicked people who were crushing the Apulian coast under their yoke to leave its shores[4].

[75] At this time Drogo and Guaimar, the leaders of the Normans, died; the latter treacherously killed by the citizens of Salerno and his own relatives, the former murdered by the local people at Montilari, whom he trusted too much. [80] The Gallic people lamented the loss of their chief.[5]

When they heard that the pope had arrived with a large force of Italians, supported by innumerable Swabians and Germans[6], ready for battle, they came to meet him with as many cavalry and infantry as they could raise. [85] Although famous for their deeds of arms, the Normans were, on seeing so many columns, afraid to resist them. They sent envoys who requested a peace treaty and asked the pope benevolently to receive their submission; they all declared that they were ready to obey the pope [90] that they did not wish to offend him, but to hold title to what they had acquired from him. They requested that he be willing to be their lord and that they might be his vassals [fideles].

The Germans, notable for their long hair, good looks and height, mocked the Normans, [95] who seemed small [to them], and derided the messages of a people whom they considered their inferiors both in numbers and strength. They surrounded the pope and arrogantly addressed him, [100] ‘Command the Normans to leave the land of Italy, to lay down their arms and return to their native land. If they refuse this, we do not wish to receive their peace overtures nor should you pay any attention to their messages. They have not yet experienced German swords. If they do not leave willingly they should be forced to go, [105] and failing that they will perish by the sword’. Although the pope opposed their arrogance with a variety of counter-arguments, he was unable to calm the minds of this proud people. He [also] relied on the dregs of Italy, a most unworthy people, the men of the Marches, rightly held in low esteem by the Italians. [110] Many of the Italians pretended great courage, but fear, trembling and corruption were their basic instincts, for the Germans were not present in great numbers. The Normans returned upset at the rejection of their peace proposals and reported the arrogant response of the Germans.

[115] Harvest time was now approaching. But before the farmers could gather in their bundles of crops, the French, who lacked bread, had dried the green corn over the fire and eaten the burnt grains. Such was the life they led because the rebel castra everywhere helped the [120] Germans and gave them no provisions or material help.

Humphrey, who had survived while his brother Drogo had died, [125] was one of the overall commanders of the French, then there was Richard[7] who had been chosen a little time before as Count of the city of Aversa. Robert, who had followed his brothers out a little while earlier and who surpassed them in his mighty courage, was also present at this battle. He was called Guiscard, for his cunning was greater than that of [130] Cicero or the crafty Ulysses. Among the others present were Peter and Walter, the illustrious sons of Amicus, Aureolanus, Hubert[8], Rainald Musca[9], and Count Hugh and Count Gerard[10], who commanded respectively the Beneventans [Normans] and the men of Telese. [135] They were accompanied by Count Radulfus of Boiano[11], distinguished both by his wise counsel and skill at arms. These leaders were followed by almost three thousand horsemen and a few infantry. After three days without bread they resorted to arms, [140] all preferring to die honourably in battle rather than perish miserably through hunger.[12]


[1] La Vie du Pape Leon IX, edited and translated by Michel Parisse and Monique Goullet, Paris, 1997 is a useful, if hagiographical biography of Leo IX, the loser at Civitate.   There is an English translation in Robinson, I. S., (ed.), The Papal Reform of the Eleventh Century, (Manchester University Press), 2004.  Munier, Charles, Le Pape Léo et la Réforme de L’Eglisle 1002-1054, Strasbourg, 2002, especially pp. 193-216 looks specifically at relations with th Normans. Sittler, L. and Stintzi, P., Saint Léon IX, Le pape alsacien, Colmar, 1950 remains useful.

[2] Pope Leo IX (1048-1054) came to southern Italy in the early months of 1051, visited Salerno and Capua before going to the shrine of St Michael on Monte Gargano. He was profoundly shocked by what he saw. The Normans were cordially detested by the native population largely because of their brutal and destructive warfare. Leo begged the Normans to abandon their oppression of the poor and also accused them of attacking churches. It was, however, events in Benevento that brought matters to a head. The city and its rulers refused to submit to the emperor Henry III in 1047 and Pandulf III proved equally unwilling when Leo came to the city in 1050 seeing him as an imperial ally (the emperor was his cousin). Leo then renewed his predecessor’s excommunication of the Beneventans. Norman attacks near the city itself led to the townspeople expelling Pandulf and his officials and asked the pope to take on the rule of the city. In April 1051, the citizens swore fealty to the pope and in July Leo visited Benevento and removed its excommunication taking over the city in the emperor’s name. Drogo and prince Guaimar were summoned by the pope who insisted that the Norman attacks on Benevento should stop. Drogo agreed but he was unable to control his fellow Normans and the attacks continued. This shows how limited Drogo’s authority was as count of Apulia. Drogo was assassinated on 10th August 1051 at Montillaro, near Bovino by some local inhabitants and was succeeded as leader of the Apulian Normans by his brother Humphrey.

[3] The continued expansion of the Normans in the late 1040s to the north into the duchy of Benevento and south in the direction of Calabria led by Robert Guiscard resulted in growing opposition. Benevento was vulnerable to Norman advances and by the early 1050s two powerful leaders had established themselves not far from Benevento: Count Hugh led the ‘Beneventan Normans’ and Gerald de Buonalbergo led the ‘men of Telese’ in an area to the north-west and west of Benevento. A third Norman, Radulfus des Moulins had established himself further north in the vicinity of Boiano, in an upland valley to the north of the Monti del Matese. Gerald de Buonalbergo proved an important ally of Robert Guiscard: he offered his aunt Alberada (his father’s presumably much younger sister) in marriage (this probably occurred in 1048-1049) and then proposed to serve with him to some 200 knights. With these substantial reinforcements, Robert made immediate gains in Calabria.

[4] Drogo’s assassination demonstrated both the unpopularity of the Normans and how far the situation in southern Italy was, from Leo’s perspective, out of control. Drastic action was needed to restore order and Leo decided that a military solution was needed. The Byzantine empire, equally affected by the Normans had sought an alliance with the German court in 1049. In March 1051, Argyrus[4] returned to Bari as the new catepan and opened negotiations with the pope for an anti-Norman alliance. Pressure on the northern Byzantine border from the Pechenegs and attacks by the Turks from the east made it unlikely that Argyrus brought military reinforcements with him in 1051 and William of Apulia suggests that he may have tried to hire the Normans as mercenaries against the Turks.

[5] It took a further two years for the anti-Norman coalition to come to fruition. Guaimar IV of Salerno was still closely linked with the Normans and flatly refused to co-operate and, as yet, support from the imperial court was not forthcoming. However, Guaimar’s rule was rocked by a revolt in his subject city of Amalfi and then on 3rd June he was assassinated along with his younger brother Pandulf. His death appears to have had little to do with his links with the Normans; rather he was the victim of a conspiracy at his own court led by his four brothers-in-law. However, they made the mistake of allowing the prince’s brother Guido to escape and he appealed to Humphrey de Hauteville for support. Within a fortnight, the dead prince’s son Gisulf had been installed as prince and forty of the rebels including the four ring-leaders had been killed. Amatus of Montecassino says that the Normans ‘became Gisulf’s knights and were invested by his hand with the land that they held’. This did not mean that the Apulian Normans recognised Gisulf as their lord but was recognition that a number of Normans either already held or were now granted land in the principality of Salerno. More importantly, it meant that in the short-term Salerno remained neutral in the approaching showdown with the pope. Despite the potential threat facing them, the Normans continued their attacks. In 1052, Richard of Aversa besieged Capua but allowed himself to be bought off. Count Humphrey launched a pre-emptive strike against the forces of Arygrus and decisively defeated them at Siponto. This strengthened Leo’s determination to do something about the ‘Norman problem’ and he spent Christmas 1052 with the German emperor at Worms. The campaign of 1053 was the only concerted attempt to defeat the Normans in southern Italy. The anti-Norman coalition may have been broad but it was the failure fully to combine its forces that led to its defeat.

[6] In 1052, Leo met Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor and his relative, in Saxony and asked for aid in curbing the Normans. Leo returned to Rome in March 1053 but the substantial force the emperor Henry III had dispatched was recalled. The only German reinforcements were some several hundred Swabian troops, drawn from Leo’s own relations and connections. Indeed, there is evidence that the expedition was not popular in Germany.

[7] Count Rainulf died in May 1045 and his nephew and successor Asclettin not long after. This led to a disputed succession between Rainulf, another of the old count’s nephews supported by Pandulf IV and Rodulf supported by Guaimar of Salerno. Rainulf was successful but matters were then complicated by the arrival of yet another nephew, Richard with a substantial following and some support in Aversa for his claim. Captured by Drogo, Richard was a prisoner when his cousin died and it was the influence of Guaimar than enabled his release and eventual succession as count of Aversa. However, either count Asclettin or Rainulf II had left a young son called Herman who nominally ruled Aversa between 1046 and 1050 helped by William Bellabocca, a relative of the Hautevilles. Subsequently, the Aversans expelled this William and invited Richard to become their count. This probably occurred no earlier than November 1050 and there is no further mention of the child Herman. Whether Drogo deliberately kept Richard in Apulia so his relative could act as effective ruler of Aversa is possible and certainly in the early 1050s Richard married Drogo’s sister Fressenda (perhaps as part of the agreement that secured Drogo’s consent to the succession), the period of instability in Aversa had lasted nearly six years.

[8] Malaterra said the Hubert was the fifth son of the second marriage of Tancred de Hauteville.

[9] The Muscas were one of the most important families in Aversa. Rainald, son of Turold Musca witnessed a diploma of Jordan of Capua in 1080 and is mentioned in diplomas in 1091 and 1094 and died before 1111.

[10] Gerald de Buonalbergo, Robert Guiscard’s brother-in-law.

[11] The Lombard county of Boiano was the core of the Norman county of Molise.

[12] Leo returned to Rome in March 1053 with around 700 Swabian infantry and levied a force of Italians and Lombards from the south; he also arranged an alliance with the Byzantines to recapture Siponto. At the end of May 1053, Leo travelled to southern Italy with a substantial army composed of troops from the principality of Capua, from the Abruzzi, the Lombard counties in the northern Capitanata as well as some troops from Benevento. William of Apulia also suggests that Leo had recruited troops from the marches and duchy of Spolento. The intention was to march into Apulia and join forces with the Byzantine troops under Argyrus. Leo led his army south and west to Siponto but was intercepted by the Norman force at the bridge over the River Fortore at Civitate in Capitanate, to the northwest of Foggia. This threat compelled the Normans to unite under the overall command of count Humphrey. William of Apulia estimated some 3,000 cavalry but little infantry. They confronted the pope’s army near the river Fortore, not far from Civitate, in Capitanata as it was vital to prevent Leo’s army joining up with the Byzantine forces and their Apulian auxiliaries further south. Initially, the Normans tried to negotiate: the size of the papal army, a reluctance to fight against the pope and a serious shortage of food made negotiation seem attractive. Their main ploy was to offer to hold their lands as papal vassals. These broke down according to William of Apulia through the arrogance of the Germans and especially the papal chancellor Frederick of Lorraine. The delegation was dismissed but neither side was willing to fight, the Pope hoped that the Byzantine force under Argyrus would soon arrive, and only after a few days, as their supplies failed. The Normans, short of food had either to fight or disperse. They chose to fight. The Pope had around 6,000 men and the Norman force was around 3,500, mostly cavalry. The Norman army was in three parts; the main body was commanded by Richard, Count of Aversa; the right wing by Humphrey of Hauteville, Count of Apulia; and the left wing by Robert Guiscard. The Papal army was commanded by Geoffrey, Duke of Lorraine and Rudolph, Prince of Benevento. The Pope observed the battle from Civitate. The Norman cavalry came down from a hill onto the plain in front of the town. On accepting the initial Norman cavalry charge the majority of the levy fled, leaving only the Swabian infantry to fight to the death. The Pope was taken prisoner by the victorious Normans. There is some uncertainty over how this happened. Papal sources say that Leo left Civitate and surrendered himself to prevent further bloodshed. Other sources indicate that the inhabitants of Civitate handed the Pope over. He was treated respectfully but was imprisoned at Benevento for almost nine months and forced to ratify a number of treaties favourable to the Normans. The papal army was annihilated. Like Hastings thirteen years later, Civitate was a decisive military victory.

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