Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book III, lines 589-683

After this victory Robert set off immediately for Giovinazzo. [590] The faithful citizens hurried out to meet him. Who could describe all the thanks that he addressed to them? He praised them all for placing their sworn fealty above even their dear children. He embraced them all and then said, [595] ‘Don’t be afraid. Amicus will not harm any of your lads, because he is begging to be allowed to return to my good graces’. The people replied as follows: ‘You may rest assured that we are ready to follow your orders, and to entrust the fate of our children to our lord, [600] for no [other] love is strong enough to deprive us of your love. We ask only that in return for our love you be our preserver and a kindly ruler’. Hearing the people’s prayers the duke agreed to what they asked. He remitted all the tribute [605] that they owed for three years, and half of it in perpetuity.

Once this was done he left them and returned in haste to Salerno. On his way there he gave rebel villages and castra which had been surrendered to his knights. He fought quite a number of battles at different places. [610] Luck was on his side, for while he was attacking rebellious Ascoli Baldwin was captured in a cavalry engagement. He stormed a castellum called Vico[1]. There Gradilon was captured, and deprived both of his eyes and his testicles. Baldwin was allowed to survive unharmed, [615] though as a supporter of Abelard he was kept in prison under guard.

After accomplishing these deeds during his journey the duke arrived at Salerno. Envoys from Jordan met him there asking for a peace treaty.[2] The duke felt that unless the discord was ended [620] he might very soon lose most of the advantages which he had gained, and so he answered the legates kindly and benevolently. He called a truce, arrangements were made for a meeting and the duke fixed a day for this. The envoys returned home very much elated by the gracious way in which he had received them, and reported the good news. [625] Jordan was very pleased by what they told him. At the same time the duke sent some picked knights to Giovinazzo, ordering them not just to help his own men but to work to injure the enemy and to damage them in every way that they could find. [630] These arrived at Giovinazzo after a long detour travelling by side roads, for the direct route was impossible and their adversaries numerous. Once there they began to attack the duke’s enemies with vigour. [635] Those who had previously been used to go out plundering now complained that they were the victims and were unable to venture forth in safety.

On the day appointed the duke and Prince Jordan both went eagerly to Sarno. A peace was concluded between them, and agreed with Rainulf on the same terms. [640] He was Jordan’s paternal uncle, the duke was his maternal one[3]. After dealing with these matters, the duke returned to the fortresses of Apulia[4]. He captured the castrum of Spinazzola, which Amicus had fortified and stocked with arms and in which he had stationed his son with a large force of knights, [645] all of whom the duke captured. Only Amicus’ son[5] was able to run away and escape. Fearful of further losses Amicus begged for peace[6]. The kindly duke granted him this and recovered the hostages. Grieving fathers were made joyful by the return of their children and the mothers of Giovinazzo stilled their weeping.

[650] The conclusion of these treaties terrified the duke’s proud nephews, Counts Robert and Geoffrey.[7] And when they asked for pardon their uncle indulged them, forgetting the harm that they had done him and his own anger. [655] Counting on their alliance, the duke besieged Bari with a large force of knights. Argyritzos, father-in-law of that Abelard who was the only one to avoid making peace, welcomed the duke to the city and was restored to his favour. His son-in-law was excluded from the peace and expelled from the town. Since he would not make peace with the duke, [660] Abelard abandoned the possessions which he had inherited from his father and went as an exile to the land of the Greeks, then ruled by the Emperor Alexius[8]. The latter, a kindly man, received him graciously, treated him honourably and gave him many gifts. But envious death, which spares no one, infected his youthful limbs; [665] and he who believed that he would one day return in triumph to power, bearing the symbols of office [cum fascibus], by contrast died in exile among the Greeks and was buried there.

Irritated by Peter’s rebellion, the duke besieged Trani with his army reinforced by the people of Bari who had now joined him. He left his wife at this siege while he himself with many of his knights went on to Taranto, which he invested by land and sea and very soon captured. After this victory he pitched his camp outside Castellaneta[9] and laid siege to that. [670] Count Peter was by this stage a prey to terrible anxiety, and since he saw that fortune favoured the duke and was hostile to him he now sought pardon and peace. The duke despatched envoys who informed him that he must hand over Trani and Castellaneta to him. [675] Should he fail to do this, he would not be granted peace. Peter went to the [duke’s] camp with his garments in disarray, entered, and asked for pardon and a peace treaty. [680] He summoned the guards of the fortress and ordered them to leave their towers and on his instructions they handed the walls over to Robert. He also surrendered Trani to secure his return to the duke’s good grace, [685] and he swore obedience to him and became his fidelis.

Thus it was that the brave and clever duke made the stiff-necked bend [before him] and knew how to put an end to conflict.


[1] Today, Vico is Revico, in the province of Avellino.

[2] Guiscard was in Salerno in July 1079 and the peace treaty with Jordan was brokered, not without considerable difficulty, by Desiderius, abbot of Montecassino.

[3] Jordan was the son of Fredesende, Guiscard’s sister while Rainulf was the brother of Richard I of Capua.

[4] Guiscard took Monticchio, Carbonara, Pietrapalomba, Monteverde, Genzano and Spinazzola.

[5] Count Geoffrey was the son of Amicus.

[6] It appears that Amicus was reconciled with Guiscard and accompanied him in his expedition against Alexius Comnenus.

[7] Geoffrey de Conversano also appears to have been reconciled with Guiscard and was one of the Norman counts present at his death in 1085.

[8] The precise chronology of Abelard’s exile to Greece needs to be made clear especially as Alexius Comnenus did not become emperor until April 1081 and the rebellion ended in 1078. It seems that Abelard left Italy immediately after the rebellion but that he returned after Guiscard embarked on his campaign in Greece in 1081 and acted as an intermediary between Alexius and the emperor Henry IV. Malaterra states that after the capture of San Agata in 1078 Abeland and his brother Herman left for Greece though Greek sources say it was after the capture of Ascoli.

[9] Castellaneta was captured by Geoffrey de Conversano in 1064. It later came under the control of count Geoffrey of Taranto and then in the possession of his brother Peter II of Trani. The town was recaptured by the Greek admiral Mavrikas in 1067.

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