Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book III, lines 429-588

Refusing to tolerate such an insolent reply, the angry duke marched on Salerno with a gigantic army and besieged it by land and sea. [430] After this siege had lasted for some four months, the inhabitants of the unhappy city were afflicted by terrible famine and the population was barely able to survive by eating dogs, horses, rats and the corpses of donkeys. One of the citizens escaped from the city, in which he had left his father, and reached the camp. [435] His dog, which lived in his father’s house, searched for and found him thanks to its keen nose. He gave it food, and after its appetite had been satisfied by the meal he used to attach a sack to its chest filled with enough bread to feed someone for a day. [440] Amazing to relate, the dog ran back without stopping and carried it straight home, and in this way the wise animal secured nourishment both for himself and for his master. In the eighth month the citizens went out and, making a breach in the walls on the side offering the easiest entry, [445] threw the town open to Duke Robert. Gisulf was terrified by Robert’s capture of the city. He fled to the tower built on top of the mountain overlooking the city, access to which had been made difficult both by nature and by [human] art. There seemed to be no more defensible stronghold in the whole of Italy. [450] Robert besieged this citadel with a strong force. But one day the duke was struck on the breastplate by a stone thrown with great force from on high, and a piece unluckily chipped off and injured his noble chest. Not long afterwards however, with the help of God, [455] his wound was cured and he was restored to health. Once recovered, he pressed the attack on Gisulf even harder. The latter saw his fortunes become desperate, and, with no hope of relief, surrendered himself and all he possessed to the duke’s mercy. [460] He asked only that he himself might have liberty to depart, and in this way, leaving all his possessions to the duke, he left a free man. Deprived of the honour of Salerno he went first of all to Pope Gregory.[1] On his arrival the pope received him kindly and entrusted to him rule over the Campania.[2]

[465] Robert rejoiced in having overcome both the city and the citadel. He garrisoned the upper citadel with trustworthy guards in case there should in the future be a revolt by the populace. He [also] built an impregnable fortress in a lower spot to secure the safety of his subjects. [470] There is not a city in Italy more delightful than this one, filled with fruit, trees and wine, and with abundant water. It lacks neither apples nor nuts, nor fine palaces, nor indeed beautiful women and honourable men. Part of it is sited in the plain and part in the mountain and whatever one could wish for is furnished by land and sea. [475] At the same time he acquired Amalfi, a wealthy city seemingly filled with people. None is richer in silver, gold and textiles from all sorts of different places. [480] Many sailors live in this city who are skilled in the ways of the sea and the heavens, and many different things are brought here from the royal city of Alexandria and from Antioch. Its people cross many seas. They know the Arabs, the Libyans, the Sicilians and Africans. This people are famed throughout almost the whole world, [485] as they export their merchandise and love to carry back what they have bought.

After these people had been made subject to him and he had finished everything that had to be done, the duke returned to Troia.[3] While he dwelt within the walls of that city there came to him a noble north Italian [Lambardus, sic] margrave called Azo, [490] who was accompanied by many nobles from his country. He brought with him his illustrious son Hugh and requested the duke to grant the latter his daughter in marriage. The duke summoned his counts and barons to the town to discuss what should be done about this. [500] On their advice Robert gave his daughter to Azo’s son, and they celebrated the marriage as was customary with feasting and giving many presents. After all the marriage celebrations had been completed, the duke demanded that the counts and all the other powerful men there give presents to the husband and wife, to send them away rejoicing. However, when previously his other daughter[4] had entered the house of Michael’s son, they had not given an aid [auxilium]. [505] They were all of them saddened and amazed that the duke should demand such a levy from them. But they were unable to resist, and offered mules, horses and other presents. The duke gave these to his son-in-law and added other presents of his own, then he sent him and his father back to their own land with great honour on the fleet which had been prepared for them.

The Norman counts frequently complained amongst themselves of such bad [510] and infuriating behaviour by the duke towards them, but for a long time they kept their anger and disloyalty concealed. But finally they admitted Jordan son of Richard to their plans, and at the same time they revealed all to the latter’s uncle Count Rainulf. [515] Trusting in their assistance, Peter and Geoffrey[5] revealed their treachery and made war on the duke. The latter’s nephew Abelard son of Humphrey, mindful of the loss of his lands, tried with all the means at his disposal to harm the duke, [520] allied with Gradilon to whom he had given his sister as wife. Nor did they lack the aid of Baldwin, a most eloquent and warlike man. Among their other associates were Counts Henry[6] and Amicus[7], and the clever Count Robert of Montescaglioso [525] who was Geoffrey’s brother, both of them being sons of the duke’s sister. His wish to rule over them inflamed the anger of his nephews against him and they all did their best to deprive him of the ducal honour.

This revolt was not confined only to Apulia but sprang up in Calabria and Lucania and even in Campania. [8] [530] The enemy was everywhere to be feared and the ravages of brigands struck all over the place. A host of thieves sprang up all over Italy. The Normans were split into different factions. But although the duke’s enemies were more numerous than his own forces, the most warlike men remained consistently faithful to Robert. [535] The city of Trani surrendered to Peter and Argyritzos, whom Robert had entrusted with the great city of Bari, gave it to Abelard to whom he married his daughter. However, while these cities fell away during this crisis, [540] the faithful people of Giovinazzo[9] did not desert the duke. Argyritzos summoned them to surrender the town to Amicus, who was to have it, threatening them that if they refused to surrender he would give Amicus as hostages their sons, [545] whom the duke had confided to his charge. They did not however sacrifice their loyalty to their paternal feelings, declaring that they would always serve the duke. Amicus marched to seize the city with Count Peter and a large army. [550] Argyritzos too joined in the siege, along with the people of Bari, Trani and Corato, as well as those of Andria and Bisceglie.[10] The people of Giovinazzo remained steadfast, [555] deterred neither by the siege nor by the arms [of their enemies]; they took every precaution to defend their walls, posted guards, and fiercely repulsed those surrounding them. The latter attacked, but the defenders drove them off, and although the siege was pressed both by land and sea it did not succeed in capturing the city.

An envoy was sent from the city of Bitonto under orders to spread false rumours, [560] a scheme astutely devised by William Fitz Ivo to whom the duke had granted the city. The envoy said that, ‘Look, Robert’s son Roger [Borsa] is coming with a huge force of knights and infantry which the duke has entrusted to his command’. [565] Thinking that this army was drawing near, all the troops that Amicus had brought to besiege the city in the hope of taking it then fled.[11]

Although he had heard that a great many rebels had joined together, the duke was not a bit afraid.[12] He overcame them all by force of arms [570] or by cunning; attaching some to him by soft words and defeating others in battle. Astute and brave, he knew both methods. He seized the castles of some and with honeyed words persuaded others, who would never have yielded to force, to surrender. Thus he left his cavalry at the River Bradano [575] and went with part of his forces to Calabria. There he pacified the people of Cosenza, who were particularly good infantrymen, and then returned bringing them along with him. But before he left with this escort he gave these people everything that he possibly could. [580] He was in haste to fight all those who were disloyal. The faithful city of Giovinazzo was sent some knights. He sought first to make a powerful attack on Bari, where he knew Abelard was. The people of Bari trusted in their numbers and in their leader, who was a mighty warrior, and engaged the duke in battle. [585] But Abelard’s hauberk was pierced by a lance and failed to protect him. Wounded by this thrust in the chest he was unable to continue amid the shock of battle and his troops fled back to the city walls.


[1] Cowdrey, H. E. J., Gregory VII, (Oxford University Press), 1998 and his edition of the letters of Gregory VII The Register of Gregory VII, (Oxford University Press), 2002 is the best starting-point. Delarc, O., Gregoire VII et la reforme de l’Eglise au XIe siecle, Paris, 1889 remains useful. Robinson, I. S., (ed.), The Papal Reform of the Eleventh Century, (Manchester University Press), 2004 includes contemporary biographies of Gregory VII.

[2] Gisulf was forced to surrender the citadel in the spring of 1077 because of starvation on condition he was set free. He went first to Richard of Capua and then to Pope Gregory VII

[3] Success at Salerno did not mark the end of Norman attempts to extend their authority. Richard of Capua, with Robert’s support attacked the papal Campagna in 1076. Bad weather and problems with food supplies meant this achieved little other than the excommunication of Richard and Robert by Pope Gregory VII. In May 1077, Richard began his siege of Naples with the city blockaded with Duke Robert’s ships and the city was still resisting when he died on 5th April 1078. His son Jordan, who had been in dispute with his father for several years and had already made his peace with the pope with his uncle Rainulf de Caiazzo, then abandoned the siege on the payment of tribute and a de facto Capuan protectorate over Naples. In December 1077, Duke Robert attempted to seize Benevento after the death of Prince Landulf IV on 17th November. This ended in failure after five months. The city was saved by the intervention of Jordan of Capua who was anxious to cement his good relations with the papacy but was also determined not to allow Guiscard to extend his power any further. Further revolts in Apulia in the winter of 1078-1079, his preoccupation with the Byzantine Empire and his reconciliation with the papacy in 1080, all combined to prevent Robert from threatening Benevento again.

[4] One of Guiscard’s daughters had been sent to Constantinople and engaged, under the name Helena, to Constantine the young son of Michael VII: the contract of marriage is dated August 1074 and there are two letters (1071-1072, 1072-1073) in which Michael proposed the marriage alliance. Amatus suggests that there were three Byzantine embassies to Guiscard before he agreed to the match.

[5] Geoffrey de Conversano.

[6] Henry of Monte Santa’ Angelo.

[7] Amicus II de Giovinazzo, grandson of Amicus I and second cousin of Geoffrey of Taranto and Peter II of Trani.

[8] William of Apulia is the major source for this, the most serious rebellion against Guiscard. Malaterra mentions it, almost in passing and Amatus’ history ends in April 1078. However, Amatus does write of the revolt of Abelard between 1073 and 1076 and mentions Jordan among the conspirators in 1073.

[9] Giovinazzo had been returned to Guiscard on 7th February 1073.

[10] Guiscard had captured Trani, Bisceglie and Corato in 1073 but had returned all the towns he took to Peter II apart from Trani.

[11] William of Apulia is the only source for this event.

[12] Guiscard was in Calabria when the revolt started.

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