Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book II, commentary

Book II covers the period between 1043 and 1068. William of Apulia made constant use of now lost annals from the region of Bari. An important theme of this book is the attempts by the Byzantine government to neutralise the Norman threat. Initially, Constantine Monomarkos tried tentatively to hire the Normans as mercenaries to fight against the Turks in Asia Minor. In this process, Argyrus played a key, if unsuccessful role. Argyrus also acted as intermediary between the emperor and pope Leo IX in the events leading up to the battle of Civitate. William of Apulia is the only chronicler who knew of Argyros’ exile (II: 275-280) though he believed this was immediately after and a consequence of the defeat of the Byzantine-papal alliance at Civitate while Argyrus continued to have a major political role until at least 1058. His account of Civitate contained the most complete list of those involved on both sides (II: 131-135).

His account of the conquest of Calabria by Robert Guiscard is brief, fragmentary and sometimes legendary and he does not mention the capture of its capital, Reggio. His narrative makes clear the depradations of the Normans on Calabria and this is confirmed in contemporary Calabrian documents (II: 297-363, 381-383 and 406-15). He provides original information of the rivalry between the families of Amicus and de Hauteville (II: 20-37) and, unlike Amatus or Malaterra of the synod of Melfi 1059 in which he preserved the substance of its lost acts.

The narrative does, however, agree with Amatus and Malaterra on the marriage of Robert to Sikelgaita (II: 426-430) and on the rebellion against Guiscard between 1064 and 1068 (II: 444-478). His long account of the siege of Bari in 1068 (II: 478-573) contained several original details not found in the narrative by Amatus. He is especially useful on the factions that existed inside Bari and which divided the town over how best to deal with the Norman threat and on the attempt to assassinate Guiscard (II: 495-502).

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book I, lines 350-575

[350] Exaugustus addressed the troops who had been entrusted to him as follows: ‘Men, have pride in your manhood, and don’t allow yourselves to have the hearts of women! What cowardice makes you always run away? Remember your forefathers whose courage made the whole world subject to them. Hector, the bravest of men, fell before the arms of Achilles. Troy was reduced to flames by the Mycenean fury. India knew of the gallantry of Philip. Did not his son Alexander through his bravery make the strongest of kingdoms submit to the Greeks? [360] The west and indeed every part of the world were once in fear of us. What people, hearing the name of the Greeks, dared to stand before them in the field? Towns, fortresses and cities could scarcely render their enemies safe from their power. Be valiant, I pray you, remember the courage of your ancestors, and don’t disgrace them by placing your trust in your feet [alone]! He who dares to fight like a man will overcome the strength of the enemy. Try to follow in the footsteps of your [370] ancestors, and abandon now any idea of flight. The entire world should know that you are men of courage. One should not fear the Frankish people in battle, for they are inferior both in numbers and in courage’.

With these words he kindled the Greeks’ spirits, ordering them to march down from the mountains and pitch their camp in the plain. After they had done this the Gauls sent out scouts to see what the Greeks were doing. They reported that they were ready for battle, but that while the general had changed the people had not; [so] they feared nothing. The Greeks had left many allies in the mountains, to the safety of which they [380] could return if it should be necessary. These natives came down to help them. The two peoples encountered each other in the plain. There was then heavy fighting. Both strove to be the victors. First one, then the other, fled and then forced the enemy to flee. After the Gauls had resisted for a long time, the Greeks made a fierce attack and had come close to victory, when Gautier[1] rushed forward into the midst of the enemy, [390] encouraging the retreating Normans to return to the fight. He was one of the counts who had been elected, the son of a distinguished man, Amicus. The Greeks had certainly never suffered heavier losses, most of their soldiers were killed and many nobles perished as well. The wretched Exaugustus was led in chains to Atenulf’s city, walking before the victor’s horse, since his enemy wanted to highlight the scale of his triumph.

This was the third victory in a year secured by the Gauls.[2] The Greeks were routed and had no further hope of victory. All the fortified towns of Apulia, Bari (the most important), [400] Monopoli, Giovenazzo and several other cities abandoned their alliance with the Greeks and came to an agreement with the Franks.

God being unwilling that he should reign longer, Michael now died, and was succeeded by his nephew Michael, who was also called by the name Constantine.[3] He sent one Sidonianos[4] to bring help to the people of Apulia. The latter arrived and disembarked at Otranto, from where he sent envoys to those cities which had allied with the Franks, [410] asking them to receive him. They refused to agree to this. He sought to rebuild his army, but many of the soldiers had been killed or fled and he was able to raise only a few. Because of this Sinodianos remained within the city walls. He was then recalled on the emperor’s orders.

At this time the Norman race received many promises from Prince Guaimar of Salerno and [some of them] abandoned the service of Atenulf. But only the inhabitants of Aversa recognised Guaimar’s authority; [420] those who held land in Apulia preferred to serve Argyrus[5], the son of Melus, for his father had been the first to lead the Gauls in Italy and had there rewarded them. Initially Argyrus, who was brave and generous but poor, refused to lead so great a race since he had neither silver nor gold to give them. They, however, declared that it was not gold that they loved but him, since his father had been their patron. He gave way to the people’s request; one night he brought the oldest and wisest among them to Bari and took them to the church of [430] St. Apollinaris, and he spoke to them as follows: ‘Since I have no money with which to reward you, I am surprised that so great a people as yours should wish to have me lead them, for I know that you are lacking in all sorts of things which I cannot give you, and I am unhappy because I cannot provide them’. They replied to him: ‘If you should be our prince, then none of us will be poor or in need. With your leadership fortune will favour us and you as our prince will guide us in the ways of good counsel, as we were accustomed to be guided by your father’. After saying this they immediately and [440] unanimously raised him on high and with one voice made him their prince.

Meanwhile Maniakes[6], a man full of wickedness ordered by Michael to take command in Italy, arrived at Otranto accompanied by a large army of Greeks. Nothing in him was worthy of praise except for his handsome appearance. He was proud of mind and brimming with terrifying cruelty. He left his fleet at Otranto and encouraged his evil army to attack the towns that had made agreements with the Franks. His forces first invaded the Monopoli district. Maniakes had many people executed, having some hanged from trees, and [450] others beheaded. The tyrant [even] dared to commit a hitherto unheard of crime; he buried captured infants alive, leaving only their heads above ground. Many perished like this, and he spared no one. After this, Maniakes marched on Matera, which was the site, so it was said, of the camp of the Punic general Hannibal, when he made Italy subject to the Africans. Maniakes in his anger murdered two hundred peasants who had been captured in the fields there. Neither boy nor old man, [460] monk nor priest, was safe; this wicked man gave mercy to none.[7]

Meanwhile Michael, who had sent out Maniakes, was arrested, blinded and dethroned on the orders of the sisters Zoe and Theodora. The former had been the wife of Michael’s uncle, whom he had succeeded. As he had refused to share the empire with her and intended to disinherit her despite the Senate’s opposition, he was seized and deprived of the light [of his eyes]. Zoe then married Constantine Monomarkos[8]. Maniakes was an [470] enemy to him, and he to Maniakes, because one had violated the other’s mistress.[9] The accession of the jealous Monomarkos to the imperial throne filled the tyrant’s mind with terror. Remembering the outrage he was carried away by his hatred and rage. He ordered the Greeks under his command not to obey Monomarkos but to make him their prince. The traitor took the imperial dress for himself and did not hesitate to usurp the sacred name of emperor.[10]

After Monomarkos had received the imperial title, he ordered that Argyrus should attempt to win over the [480] Gauls and do his best to make them obedient to himself. He promised that they would be given huge rewards. Not wanting to lose the emperor’s favour, Argyrus led the Normans away from the siege of Trani[11], the only town that supported the Greeks’ cause and stopped them ravaging the surrounding area. Meanwhile an imperial emissary had arrived, bringing with him rich gifts.[12] This unfortunate man was captured by Maniakes, who inflicted various tortures upon him and then had his [490] nose, ears and mouth stuffed with horse dung, and thus had him put horribly to death in a stable. Once Maniakes saw the amount of gold that he now had in his possession, he became very bold indeed. He returned to Taranto, and distributed much of the gold to the Greeks to ensure their loyalty to him still further. He assumed the imperial purple, and clad his right foot in the red leather that is the sole prerogative of those who rule the empire. Then he came to Bari, accompanied by a large army, hoping to [500] persuade Argyrus with promises to join him in his revolt against Monormarkos. He also tried to come to an agreement with the Gauls, hoping that with their help his forces would be enough to defeat his enemy, and that he would easily be able to seize Constantine’s crown and keep it for himself. His hope was in vain, for he was unable to influence either the Normans or their leader and on their refusal he retired. Full of anger at being thus repulsed, he divided his troops into four groups and sent them out to pillage. They spread out over the land, and brought back a large number of both men and of animals to [510] Taranto.

At this time, Argyrus gave the Normans many talents of gold and silver that he had been sent by Constantine, requesting their assistance, that with their help he might destroy Maniakes, the enemy of the sacred empire. He promised them great rewards for their loyalty once the enemy had been conquered. However, what rendered most of the Normans hostile to Maniakes was not the prospect of gain but their love for their leader Argyrus. The counts from [520] Aversa also came to join him with many of their men. Of these the man of whom they hoped most was William, son of Tancred, a most skilled warrior, and along with him there was Radulfus Trincanocte, who became count of the city after the death of Rainulf. William’s great reputation terrified the Greeks; for his mighty bravery and strength had led him to be called ‘the Iron Arm’. He was the brother of Robert, who later became duke, known as Guiscard, the cunning. With such mighty counts in his company [530] Argyrus hastened to meet the enemy. Maniakes had at this time advanced to the River Tara and pitched his camp there. But, hearing of the arrival of this great army which he could not resist, he took refuge in Taranto. The Gauls reached the river and found the Greek camp deserted. They advanced as far as a bridge which crossed the water to the other side. [540] However, the route across the bridge that led to the city was overlooked by high cliffs and although the distance there would have seemed short to a traveller, it appeared long to those who had to go round along the coast. For Taranto is almost entirely surrounded by sea and would indeed very nearly be an island if there was not a little hill opposite it.

William challenged the Greeks who were hiding behind their walls to battle. But they kept their forces safe and never went out from their defences. A river in flood could not inspire greater fear in anyone than the lance of this mighty chief. It was as if a snake charmer eager to catch an asp was trying in every conceivable way to make him rise up from the bowels of the earth in which he dwelt safely hidden. But the [550] snake blocks one ear with his tail and presses the other to the ground, that he might hear nothing. [So it was that] the Greeks refused to hear the Gauls summoning them to battle and remained in the city behind closed doors.

Once the Gauls saw that the Greeks refused to come out and fight [560] and that there was no real hope of capturing the city since it was so strongly sited, they withdrew. Maniakes remained in the town for a little while and then went once again to Otranto. On the emperor’s orders, Argyrus and Theodorokanos [13] set out once more to attack him[14], the former with a substantial army and the latter with a large fleet. Their enemy’s resolution was shaken by a number of fears; his mind fluctuated irresolutely between one plan and another. Finally he was forced in his fear to leave the city and placed his camp in a position hidden among the steep crags overlooking the sea, which was inaccessible by land. He had his ships tied in rows to these rocks. To calm the sea which he was to cross, he had some [570] witches, who were believed to have stirred up the waves, burned. Then, without waiting for the rolling waves to calm down, he took ship and set sail. However, this voyage brought no profit to this wretched man. He was attacked by the armies of Monomarkos, defeated and killed, thus paying for his crimes with his life.


[1] Gautier (Walter), son of Amicus had received Civitate when land had been divided up at Melfi earlier in the year. Geoffrey Malaterra attributes this action of William Iron-Arm. William of Apulia sems to have had a particular interest in the ‘sons of Amicus’, mentioning the family on several occasions especially as rivals of Robert Guiscard in the 1060s and 1070s.

[2] The campaign began again in September 1041 with the Normans routing a Byzantine army near Montepeloso (modern-day Irsina) on the River Bradano and capturing the catepan. He was first taken to Melfi and then to Benevento by Adenulf, who freed him without ransom. It was this that led to the rift between the Normans and Adenulf at the beginning of 1042.

[3] Constantine VIII reigned from 1025 until 1028) and his daughters, Eudokia (a nun), Zoe, and Theodora (who became a nun), were the last members of the Macedonian house. Zoe (born c. 978-980) married successively Romanos III Argyros (1028-1034) and Michael IV the Paphlagonian (1034-1041), then adopted the latter’s nephew, Michael V Calaphates (‘the Calker’ 1041-1042). When he attempted to force Zoe into a convent, the mob overthrew him and brought Theodora from her nunnery. He was dethroned after a brief reign of four months, blinded and relegated to a monastery. His unpopularity seems largely due to his attempts at administrative reforms that were strongly resented by the dominant classes. Zoe and Theodora briefly held joint sovereignty (April-June 1042). Zoe then married Constantine IX Monomachos (1042-1055), during whose reign she died (c. 1050).

[4] Basil Sidonianos was strategus of Durazzo in 1040 and campaigned against Peter Deljan, the chief rebel of the Bulgars. Accused of tyranny, he was removed from his command.

[5] Argyrus was sent to Constantinople after the first rebellion of his father, probably on 1010-1011 and did not return to Bari probably until 1029. His role in the problems that developed in Apulia in the late 1030s is interpreted in different ways. Some historians, especially Chalandon suggest that he was already at the head of the rebellion in 1040 while others argue that initially he acted as a Byzantine administrator against the Normans.

[6] George Maniakes first became prominent during a campaign in 1031, when the Byzantines were defeated at Aleppo but went on to capture Edessa from the Seljuk Turks the following year. His greatest achievement was the partial re-conquest of Sicily from the Arabs beginning in 1037. Although the Arabs soon took the island back, Maniakes’ successes there later inspired other Normans to invade Sicily themselves.

[7] The death of the Emperor Michael IV in December and the accession of his nephew Michael V led to the return to favour of George Maniakes who returned to mainland Italy with orders to crush the Lombard rebellion in Apulia. The former prince of Capua, Pandulf IV was allowed to return to Italy presumably to destabilise the Lombard principalities. Maniakes arrived at Taranto in April 1042 regaining the towns that had thrown off Byzantine rule with some brutality but refused a pitched battle with Argyrus and the Normans.

[8] Constantine IX Monomarkos (c. 1000-1054) reigned as Byzantine emperor from 1042-1054. He had been chosen by Zoë as a husband and co-emperor in 1042, although he had been exiled for conspiring against her previous husband Michael IV. They ruled together until Zoë died in 1050. In 1043, he relieved George Maniakes from his command in Italy, and Maniakes declared himself emperor. His troops were about to defeat Constantine in battle, but he was wounded and died on the field, ending the crisis. Immediately after the victory, Constantine was attacked by a fleet from the Kievan Rus that had probably been hired by Maniakes. They too were defeated, with the help of Greek fire. In 1046, the Byzantines came into contact for the first time with the Seljuks. They met in battle in Armenia in 1048 and settled a truce the following year. However, Constantine was forced to disband the Armenian troops for financial reasons in 1053, leaving the eastern frontier poorly defended. In 1054, the centuries-old differences between the Greek and Roman churches led to their final separation. Legates from Pope Leo IX excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius when Cerularius would not agree to adopt western church practices and in return Cerularius excommunicated the legates. This ended Constantine’s attempts to ally with the Pope against the Normans. Constantine tried to intervene, but he fell ill and died later that year. Theodora, the elderly daughter of Constantine VIII who had previously ruled briefly with her sister Zoë, was recalled and named empress.

[9] Byzantine sources suggest that it was the rape of Maniakes’ wife by Romanus Skleros, a favourite of Constantine Monomarchus and brother of his mistress and Constantine’s failure to act against Romanus that led to the hostility between them.

[10] This placed Maniakes in a difficult position as he was disliked by the new emperor Constantine IX. Maniakes soon after declared himself emperor and began preparations for an expedition to Constantinople. This took place in early 1043 but was short-lived and Maniakes was killed soon after he landed in the Balkans. Michael Psellus, the contemporary Byzantine historian maintained that Maniakes was the victim of the emperor’s jealousy and his ingratitude and that Constantine IX was largely responsible for the revolt.

[11] The siege of Trani by Argyrus and the Normans began in the second week of July 1042. In August 1042, Argyrus was bribed to return to the imperial side and he abandoned his Norman allies and retired to Bari. Argyrus’ decision may also have been motivated by a realisation that the Normans were potentially more of a threat to the coastal towns than were the Byzantines. The emperor was prepared to give these towns a considerable degree of autonomy and consequently especially Bari and Brindisi remained attached to Byzantium and opposed to the Normans. This did not, however, prevent Argyrus from seeking Norman assistance against Maniakes and their willingness to support him suggests that the mercenary spirit was not entirely dead.

[12] The imperial embassy arrived at Otranto in September 1042 and consisted of Pardos, who may have come to relieve Maniakes of his command and the protospatherius Toubakis and Archbishop Nicholas. Maniakes immediately killed Pardos and imprisoned Toubakis whom he killed the following month.

[13] There were two Theodorokanos, Basil and Constantine. It is likely that it was Constantine since Basil, a friend of Maniakes was imprisoned at this time.

[14] The Lupus Protospatharius dated this to February 1043.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book I, lines 255-350

Hearing that Michael had returned from Sicily[1] the Normans prepared themselves for battle; although the forces of the Greeks were many and their own people few, for they had an army of but five hundred infantry and seven hundred knights. [260] Only a few were protected by hauberks and shields. The foot soldiers were advised to station themselves on the left and right flanks; a few horsemen were posted with them to provide a reinforcement to stiffen the footmen. They were absolutely forbidden to leave the field. If they were forced to retire by the enemy they were to regroup. After these troops had been thus instructed and placed on each flank, a column of cavalry advanced a little way forward. A column of Greeks was sent out against them, for it is not their custom to engage all their forces at the first shock, [270] they rather send another troop after the first, so that as the enemy weakens their own strength increases and their troops are emboldened. So, when their cavalry commander sees the enemy resisting, he makes a sudden attack with the bulk of the remaining crack troops, thus restoring the morale of his own men and usually driving the enemy back in flight.

The two armies faced each other and a great battle was fought next to the fast-flowing River Olivento[2]. The Greeks were [280] defeated and the army of the Gauls pursued them vigorously. Many dead bodies lay on this Apulian plain, but more were engulfed by the river. Some of the Greeks were seized by panic and fled quivering with fear; neither rough ground nor the river’s flood stopped their headlong flight. More of the Greeks drowned in the river than died by the sword. The Gauls speared some and cut down others with their swords, and in various ways a huge number of Greeks were killed. Michael escaped with a few men and went to a mountain, from the summit of which one could overlook the neighbouring hills. [290] This victory greatly strengthened the morale of the Gauls, and from now on they no longer feared to fight the Greeks. In the same way a hawk which is accustomed to seize small birds hesitates to attack one bigger than itself, but if it should succeed in conquering a crane then henceforth it no longer fears [even] a swan nor is in awe of any big bird.

Raising a new Greek army, Michael led all the men he could collect with him to the river of Canne, which is called the Ofanto.[3] [300] The Gauls returned to the fight. Michael was defeated by them as he had been before. The Greeks were conquered and many of them were killed. Dokianos was thrown from his horse during his flight and his life was only saved through the assistance of his groom. His horse rushed madly into the river and Michael all but fell into the hands of his enemies, but for his servant giving him his own horse. With their good fortune in battle becoming even greater, the Normans grew more confident still. Michael retired to the heights of Montepeloso, [310] from where he sent a message to the army which the Greeks had then in Sicily, telling them to come and replace the troops that he lacked after his defeat at the enemy’s hands.

The victorious Normans decided to return to Melfi[4]. They remained there for a while in peace and quiet with the booty which they had gained from the Greeks. Twelve squares were laid out, one for each of the counts, and the same number of houses was built for them in the city. But since earthly honours always rouse humans to envy, the fierce Gauls [soon] refused to obey the orders of the counts whom they themselves had selected. [320] They preferred rather to have as their head a native Italian rather than one of their own race. He was called Atenulf, Prince of Benevento.[5] He had perhaps given them gold or silver and thus led them to go back on the prior agreement. What will a desire for money not compel men to do, for it can change the mind of the trustworthy and overturn the bond of the law-abiding?[6]

After the Sicilian army had received the messages from [330] Dokianos demanding reinforcements, and realised that he was in need of their help, they hastened to recruit men from every part of Calabria, that they might revenge their men whose bodies lay unburied in field or river. With the Greeks were some madmen who profess the dreadful error, from which they derive their name, of saying that the Father had suffered with the Son, and they make the sign of the Cross on their forehead with a single finger. They teach that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one and the same person.[7] These hastened together to battle, all driven by one thought, to replace the forces which Michael had lost. However the ruler to whose care the Roman Empire was entrusted forbade [340] Michael to lead his army any longer, since he had been unable to secure any sort of success against the Normans. The Emperor ordered Exaugustus to undertake this office and to lead the Greeks in battle. It was said that his father was the victorious Basil, who had forced the Gauls to flee when Melus had led them. Michael Dokianos meanwhile returned to Sicily.[8]


[1] He returned before March 1041.

[2] The battle took place on 17th March 1041 and after the battle Michael fled to Montepeloso. The Annales Barenses, sub anno 1041 said that there were 18,000 Greeks and 2,000 Normans while Geoffrey Malaterra provides more inflated figures of 60,000 Greeks and 500 Normans.

[3] On 4th May 1041 the Normans defeated a much larger Greek army at Canne, not far from the coastal town of Barletta. Some two thousand Greeks were killed including Angelus Presbyter, bishop of Troia and Stephen, bishop of Acherontius. Michael again retreated to Montepeloso but returned to Sicily once Maniakes arrived in Apulia in April 1042: Annales Barensis, sub anno 1041.

[4] Fresh from their triumphs the Norman conquerors met at Melfi, captured in March 1041 at the beginning of the rebellion, to discuss the division of the land that from Monte Gargano to Monopoli, they claimed as theirs by the right of the sword. Twelve counts were chosen to govern and the country was divided among the twelve: thus Rainulf received Monte Gargano; Drogo, Venosa; and, William, Ascoli. The fortified hill of Melfi was chosen as the common capital of the Apulian Normans. William, the eldest son of Tancred was later elected Count of Apulia, with power to make or propose new baronies as the land was further conquered. The Normans conferred the empty title of Duke of Apulia and Calabria on Guaimar. He was to give his name to the land grants of the new Count, and might exact military service; on his part he gave his niece, daughter of the Count of Sorrento to William in marriage, and the son of Tancred, like Rainulf, entered into a valuable marital relationship with one of the established Lombard families.

[5] Arduin enlisted the support of Rainulf of Aversa and Adenulf of Benevento was ‘elected’ (he almost certainly used bribes) to become leader of the Normans. However, conflict between the Normans and prince Atenulf over ransoming prisoners taken at Montepeloso resulted in the Normans electing Argyrus their leader at Bari in February 1042.

[6] There is a difference between William of Apulia’s account that dated the establishment of the counts in Melfi in 1041 and those of Leo Marsicanus and Amatus of Montecassino who dated it in September the following year. A plausible chronology that may help to resolve this problem is: September 1041 Adenulf of Benevento ‘elected’ as leader of the Normans; February 1042 Argyrus replaced Adenulf; in September 1042; following the desertion of Argyrus to the Byzantine side, William is elected count; and, the following February 1043 the Normans accepted the tacit lordship of Guaimar IV of Salerno to obtain official recognition of their concquest.

[7] The Paulicians were regarded as heretical and were persecuted in the ninth and tenth centuries. Under the emperor Nichephorus Phocas, some Armenians were settled in Calabria and it is almost certain that William of Apulia is referring to them at this point.

[8] The Byzantines now only controlled the southern part of Apulia but the rebel campaign appears to have stalled and both sides devoted the summer of 1041 to building up their strength. The Greeks transferred troops from Sicily and Calabria; Michael Dokeianos was replaced as catepan by Exaugustus, the son of the former governor Basil Boiannes. Martin, Jean-Marie, ‘L’attitude et le role des Normands dans l’Italie méridionale Byzantine’, Les Normands en Méditerraneé, (University of Caen), 1994, pp. 111-122 provides some valuable comments on this issue.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book I, lines 170-250

[170] Some years later, the army of the Gauls[1], secure in Rainulf’s[2] leadership, founded the city of Aversa. This was in a most suitable spot, rich and fertile, lacking neither crops nor fruits, nor meadows nor woods. There was nowhere in this world more pleasant. This noble leader chose most wisely. From this distinguished kin came Richard[3], who later succeeded him, than whom nobody was braver or more generous. He had a son Jordan, who was no less gallant than he, who had [as his son] Richard. This last, though now only a young man, already shows courage worthy of an adult.[4]

[180] After surrounding Aversa with walls, Rainulf sent envoys back to his homeland to recruit Normans to come there.[5] These envoys recounted how delightful and fertile Apulia was, promising wealth to the poor, and to the rich that their wealth would be still further enhanced. Hearing this, both poor and rich flocked there, the poor man that he might relieve his poverty through plunder, the rich seeking to become richer still. [190] Meanwhile, a long time had elapsed since the Catepan Basil had defeated Melus, the empire’s enemy and forced the Normans to retire.[6] The Gauls no longer inspired fear throughout Italy. Suddenly a north Italian [Lambardus, sic] called Arduin came to Aversa, there recruited many men and spread terror to all in Apulia, from which he wished to drive out the Greeks. I shall explain why he hated them and why he led the Gauls. While Michael the Epileptic[7] held the imperial throne, he ordered troops to be sent against its Sicilian[8] enemies who were continuously raiding the coasts of Calabria. [200] He sent Michael Dokianos to lead this expedition, and the latter, after raising a large force of cavalry and infantry from all sorts of different places, defeated these Sicilian enemies[9]. Among the men enrolled was Arduin[10], whose followers were partly Lombards[11], as well as Gauls who had survived the defeat by the Greeks and who had fled from the battle against Basil. Returning after his triumph over the enemy, Dokianos had distributed the booty to his Greek troops at the city of Reggio, [210] but Arduin had received nothing and the poor man had remained unrewarded. He angrily summoned his men and denounced the Greeks for their sordid greed, who gave to cowards the booty due to men, since the Greeks were like women. Michael[12] was angry at these insults and ordered Arduin to be stripped and flogged, as is the custom of the Greeks, to shame by this punishment the man who has been flogged for committing such a crime. Furious at the indignity of this treatment, and determined not to leave the wrong that had been done him unrevenged, Arduin and his men left the camp of the Greeks in secret. [220] A band of Greeks sent in pursuit caught up with him in open country, but when they engaged in battle the Greeks were defeated and fifty of them killed.

He hurried[13] to Aversa and told the Normans all that had happened to him, blaming them sternly for permitting the effeminate Greeks to possess a land as valuable in so many ways as Apulia, when the latter were a cowardly race lost in drunken depravity, who often fled before a handful of enemies and even whose dress, he claimed, was unsuitable for battle. [230] Although they had previously been forced to leave Apulia because of the valour of the Greeks, with this encouragement the Normans were now prepared to return there once again, with larger and more powerful forces. They all met together and chose twelve noblemen distinguished by their descent, good character and age as their leaders. The others raised these to the rank of count: the name ‘count’ was given to them. They divided all the lands everywhere among themselves [which would be theirs] unless ill fortune prevent them, proposing which places should belong to which leader and to whom tribute should be rendered. [240] After settling this they hurried to do battle.

There was at this time no imperial army in Italy, for all was quiet among the Greeks, and at this time of peace the only war spoken about was that against the Sicilians.[14] The Normans entered Apulia and Melfi was swiftly captured.[15] Whoever secured some booty brought it to that city. Basil, whom I mentioned above, had realised that this was a place of unusual strength and had constructed [250] some modest buildings there. With people coming in to settle, it is now a notable city, very well-known in Italy and rich in a fertile and pleasant countryside, lacking neither wheat nor water. It belongs to the ducal honour of the region in which it is sited.


[1] Having served various lords for ten years, for which there is little evidence Rainulf Drengot was enlisted by the duke of Naples, Sergius IV, himself forced to flee by the Lombard prince of Capua, Pandulf IV in 1027. Back on his throne in 1030, the duke of Naples granted the title of ‘count’ to Rainulf, the town of Aversa and its lands, the important strategic centre of Liburia, and the rich Terra del Lavarro (a vast plain between Naples and Caserta). Rainulf Drengot also married the duke of Naples’ daughter in 1028. Thus, the Normans, by a complex game of opportunity and alliances succeeded in a few years to reinforce his position and establish his county in Aversa. This settlement was the first real base that the Normans possessed in southern Italy that was under their control.

[2] Many people had been expelled from their land in Normandy, a frequent event at this time of ducal justice at the beginning of the 11th century. After declaring them outlaws, the duke got rid of these lords, such as Osmond Drengot who fled around 1017 with his brothers, Gilbert Buatère, Osmond, Asketil, Raoul and Rianulf after committing a crime of honour. Gilbert Buatère was killed at Canne in 1018.

[3] Richard I was Count of Aversa from 1049 and prince of Capua from 1058. Aversa became a principality in 1062.

[4] Jordan I was prince of Aversa between 1078 and 1090 and was succeeded by his son Richard II (1090-1106). This sentence provides some evidence for dating the Gesta to 1092-1093.

[5] After taking control of Aversa in 1030, Rainulf Drengot accelerated the process of immigration from Normandy, a necessary step to maintain order and govern a population judged unreliable. He integrated easily into the local political order of southern Italy yet did not hesitate to change sides if that served his interests. Thus, when his wife died in 1034, he rebuffed his brother-in-law and protector, the duke of Naples, by marrying another Lombard princess, Pandulf IV of Capua’s niece, the daughter of the duke of Amalfi. From this alliance, Rainulf of Aversa gained territory taken from the possessions of the abbey of Montecassino. Soon after, in 1039, he was on the side of Guaimar IV of Salerno, supported by the troops of the German Empire led by Emperor Conrad II. Rainulf of Aversa defeated Pandulf of Capua, annexed his land, and with the approval of Conrad II, reunited the two principalities under one crown, thereby becoming the ruler of the largest political entity in Mezzogiorno. Thereafter, the county of Aversa, the first long-lasting Norman principality in southern Italy, rapidly became a real force that could only be rivalled by that other great Norman dynasty, the Hautevilles.

[6] In 1038, the situation in southern Italy was transformed by two events: the expedition to southern Italy by the emperor Conrad II and renewed attempts by the Byzantines to reconqueror Sicily. Both were to have profound consequences. Conrad II wished to reassert his control over the Lombard principalities but his expedition appears to have been in response to complaints about the activities of Pandulf IV. Pandulf sought to limit the damage by offering Conrad hostages and paying a substantial tribute and it was not until he failed to fulfil his promises that Conrad acted against him. In May 1038, he invested Guaimar IV of Salerno with the principality of Capua. Pandulf sought aid from the Byzantine court at Constantinople but was disappointed and remained in exile for two years. Guaimar rapidly extended his authority over the neighbouring city states: he took over Amalfi in April 1039 and Sorrento four months later. In 1040, he briefly controlled Gaeta. Count Rainulf certainly aided Guaimar in his annexation of Sorrento but the latter’s success cannot be entirely put down to Norman military aid: there were internal disputes in the ruling families in both Amalfi and Sorrento. Guaimar’s control over the Normans appears to have been limited. When Richer, the new imperial-appointed abbot of Montecassino complained to Guaimar about Norman attacks on the abbey’s lands, he was advised to seek aid from the emperor.

[7] Michael IV, the Paphlagonian, meaning ‘from the province of Paphlagonia’ (in Anatolia) was Byzantine emperor from April 11th 1034 to December 10th 1041. He owed his elevation to Empress Zoë, daughter of Constantine VIII and wife of Romanus III, who became enamoured with Michael, her chamberlain, poisoned her husband and immediately married her attendant, both in 1034. Michael, however, being of a weak character and subject to epileptic fits, left the government in the hands of his brother, John the Eunuch, who had been first minister of Constantine and Romanus. John’s reforms of the army and financial system revived temporarily the military strength of the Empire. On the eastern frontier, the important city of Edessa was relieved after a prolonged siege. The western Muslims were almost driven out of Sicily by George Maniakes between 1038 and 1040 but after his recall most of the Sicilian conquests were lost in 1041. In the north, the Serbs successfully revolted in 1040, but a dangerous rising by the Bulgarians and Slavs that threatened the cities of Thrace and Macedonia was repressed in a successful campaign that the decrepit emperor undertook in person shortly before his death on December 10th 1041.

[8] In the late summer of 1038, Michael IV organised an expedition against the Saracens of Sicily, who were divided and weakened by dynastic quarrels. It was led by George Maniakes who appealed to the Italians, who were on good terms with the emperor. Guaimar IV of Salerno sent a contingent of three hundred Normans including William Iron-Arm and his brother Drogo de Hauteville. Its task was to reinforce the imperial army, and also to get rid of mercenaries, always a possibly dangerous nuisance during periods of peace. In the battle, the Normans of Italy encountered Scandinavian warriors from the Byzantine imperial guard, the Varangian guard led by Harold Hardrada, later king of Norway in 1047 and rival of Harold of England and William of Normandy in 1066. Other Norman adventurers such as Roussel de Bailleul were part of the expeditionary corps around Reggio in Calabria before the embarkation. The expedition lasted more than two years. Messina was taken in autumn 1038; victorious campaigns followed in the north, west and centre of the island. The audacious reputation of the Normans was maintained. But they remained simple mercenaries. The relations with their superiors deteriorated after the recall of George Maniakes and unhappy with their pay and spoils, the Normans and the Varangians abandoned the Greek army in 1040. The Byzantines were forced to retreat and soon only Messina was left under their control.

[9] Two great battles marked Maniakes’ campaign. Abu Abdallah al-Husayn, the Muslim leader was twice defeated, once at Rametta, once at Troina, his troops scattered by charges of the Greek troops in which William Tancredson gained his name of ‘Iron Arm’ for his courage and strength. But quarrels broke out between the commander and his troops; the Normans and Norsemen, dissatisfied over the question of pay and plunder, went back to Apulia, and Maniakes’ recall left Sicily to the Muslims again.  Their acquaintance with the Greeks gave the Normans little respect for their military qualities.

[10] Arduin had probably taken part in the aristocratic rebellion against the archbishop of Milan in 1035. Although William of Apulia said that Arduin led the Norman contingent, both Amatus of Montecassino and Geoffrey Malaterra said that he acted as a translator or intermediary between the Normans and the Greeks. Arnulf of Milan, The Book of Recent Deeds, translated from the edition of ibid, Zey, Claudia, MGH Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum, vol. 67, Book II, 9-19 deals with events in Milan in the 1030s though Arduin is not mentioned by name.

[11] The presence of Lombards from northern Italy as well as Normans in Sicily is only mentioned by William of Apulia. However, John Skylitzes a Byzantine historian stated that after the defeat of the Greeks near Canne in 1042 was achieved by Normans and Italians from the Pô and Piedmont regions.

[12] Only William of Apulia and the Greek sources blamed Michael Dokianos for the breakdown of relations between the Greeks and the Normans. The other Latin sources held George Maniakes responsible.

[13] Geoffrey Malaterra said that the Normans who had gone to Sicily accompanied Arduin to Apulia.

[14] The rebels took advantage of the death of the catepan Nikephorus Dokeianos, who had died at Ascoli in January 1040 and the leaderless province, was then affected by a revolt in the Taranto region in May.

[15] The Normans occupied Melfi in March 1041 according to the Annales of Lupus Protospatharius.

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.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book I, lines 56-105

Rumour of the coming of the fiercesome Gauls, led by Melus, came at length to the ears of Tornikios, who [60] was the Catepan of the Greeks, sent from the city to which its founder Constantine had given his name that was then ruled jointly by Basil[1] and Constantine[2]. In his rebellion against these two, Melus advised the Normans to ravage Apulia.[3] When news of this was recounted to him Tornikios hastened to send Greek troops against the enemy. In the first battle he did not indeed lead them himself, but rather appointed as his lieutenant a man named Leo Pakianos, who led a large Greek force to a place called Arenula on the banks of the River Fortore. [70] This was during the month of May, a season most suitable for making war, and in which kings are accustomed to march to battle. The first encounter gave neither side the victory. Tornikios brought fresh troops to join his subordinates, but then was defeated, turned tail and fled. In this battle[4] Pakianos was killed. This victory greatly encouraged the Normans, for they realised that the Greeks lacked bravery and preferred flight to resistance.

[80] News came to the rulers of the empire that the Normans, with Melus as their leader, were ravaging Apulia. On hearing this, the court adjudged him to be an outlaw and ordered that on capture he should be beheaded. The next year Basil, called Boiannes[5], was appointed Catepan, and sent out with a strong force of Greeks. He was a man valiant in war. We think that Catepan means, in Greek, ‘before all’. Whoever holds that office among the Greeks acts as the people’s governor, [90] arranging everything and dealing ‘before all’ with each person as they deserve.

The two sides met in battle near Canne, where the River Ofanto flows, towards the beginning of October. Melus, with only a small force, could not prevail and fled, losing most of his men[6]. After this defeat, he was ashamed to remain in his native land; he went to the Samnite territory and stayed there for a time. After this he sought the help of King Henry of the Germans.[7] The latter received his plea with his accustomed kindness, promising to give him speedy help. [100] But Melus died unexpectedly and thus could not return. [8] King Henry buried him in a manner fit for a king, he followed the funeral procession to the graveside and had his tomb decorated with a royal epitaph.


[1] Basil II (976-1025). For Byzantine and modern historians alike the reign of Basil II marks the apogee of the Middle Byzantine Empire. Between 976 and 1025, Byzantine territorial and cultural frontiers expanded considerably. Bulgaria was annexed in 1018. In the east, Basil also absorbed the Georgian princedom of Tao and the Armenian state of Vaspurakan. Towards the end of his reign, Byzantine forces became more active in southern Italy, consolidating and expanding Byzantine authority in the face of a variety of powers including the Ottonian emperors of Germany. At the time of his death, the emperor was planning to invade Muslim Sicily. For a comprehensive narrative of the reign, see Schlumberger, G., L’Épopée byzantine à la fin du dixième siècle, three vols. Paris, 1896-1905, vol. i, pp. 327-777 and vol. ii; see also Ostrogorsky, G., History of the Byzantine State, translated by J. Hussey, 3rd edition, Oxford, 1968, pp. 298-315; Treadgold, W., A History of the Byzantine State and Society, Stanford, California, 1997, pp. 513-533; and, Whittow, M., The Making of Orthodox Byzantium, Oxford, 1996, pp. 358-390. Holmes, Catherine, Basil II and the Governance of Empire (976-1025), (Oxford University Press), 2005 considers the problems Basil faced in governing a large, multi-ethnic empire that stretched from southern Italy to Mesopotamia.

[2] There were other signs that the end of Basil’s reign was characterised by worries about who was going to succeed when the emperor died. According to the Armenian historian Aristakes Lastivert, so great was the uncertainty that the emperor went on parade through the city of Constantinople to reassure the citizens that he was still alive. One obvious reason for such uncertainty was the fact that Basil had no heir except his brother Constantine, who himself had three unmarried, childless, and middle-aged daughters. More important, few of Basil’s senior advisors wanted Constantine to become emperor (1025-1028). They even discouraged Basil from summoning Constantine to the imperial palace when he was on his deathbed.  The extent to which Constantine played an active role in imperial governance during Basil’s reign is unclear. Psellus suggests that he was removed from power at some point in the first half of Basil’s reign.  Modern historians, however, sometimes suggest that Constantine may have exercised considerable authority particularly in Constantinople and the imperial palace. My own view is that Constantine had rarely fulfilled more than a ceremonial role. He certainly did not control the palace at the end of Basil’s reign.

[3] The attack on Apulia began in May 1017 with the invasion of the Capitanata, the area where Byzantine rule was least firmly established. The initial engagements were won by Melus and his supporters but, in contrast to the earlier rebellion in 1009, the Byzantines kept control of the coastal towns. Both sides sought reinforcements and both Glaber and Amatus imply that a second and larger group of Normans joined the original forces.

[4] This can be dated on June 22nd according to the Lupus Protospatharius that alone recorded the battle as a Greek victory.

[5] The surviving chronicles indicate that the worst of the Arab raids in southern Italy were over after the first decade of the eleventh century. Yet, after this the Byzantines faced a new problem: internal revolt, especially the insurrection led by Melus, a rich citizen from Bari. The first mention of this revolt comes in 1009 when Melus led a local conspiracy against the catepan John Curcuas. This revolt was suppressed within a year by Curcuas’ successor Basil Mesardonites, possibly with support from a fleet led by Basil Argyrus, the strategus of Samos. Six years later, however, revolt broke out again, after Melus had built an alliance of outside supporters including the Lombard rulers (Landulf V of Capua and his brother Pandulf IV of Benevento) and a motley assortment of Norman mercenaries and pilgrims. Together they defeated a Byzantine army led by the catepan Contoleo Tornicius. In December 1017, reinforcements arrived led by a new catepan, Basil Boiannes. Melus was soon defeated.   In 1025, Boiannes took part in a campaign against Sicily and was joined by the eunuch commander Orestes, a veteran of the Bulgar campaign, who had sailed with an advance party of troops and landed in Messina. Basil II’s death, however, meant that the main expeditionary force did not set off and the mission against Sicily failed.

[6] According to Leo Marsicanus, only eighty of perhaps three hundred Normans survived the battle. They took service with the Lombard princes, the abbot of Montecassino or even with the Byzantines.

[7] The arrival of Boiannes in southern Italy is usually seen as the beginning of a more offensive Byzantine policy. Boiannes was particularly active in consolidating Byzantine authority in the Troia, the area bordering the territories of the Lombard princes to the north. A series of fortified settlements was built across northern Apulia: at Troia, Fiorento, Montecorvino, Dragonara and Civitate and garrisons were installed; further south he built a new town at Melfi on the border of Apulia and the principality of Salerno. Pandulf IV, the Lombard prince of Capua, became a Byzantine client (Boiannes also confirmed the property rights of the abbey of Montecassino in Apulia, ruled by Atenulf, his younger brother) and participated in joint Lombard-Byzantine military actions. Nonetheless, while Constantinople may have taken a greater interest in southern Italy as Basil’s reign progressed, it is important not to overstate the case. It is clear that when the region came under sustained attack, as was the case in 1021-1022 during an invasion by the German emperor Henry II, there was very little that the Byzantine senior commanders could do except wait patiently in Bari until the enemy’s alliances with local Lombard princes fell apart and concerns beyond the Alps diverted their energies northwards again. It was Byzantine success in 1017-18 that led to German intervention in 1022 since the emperors had long claimed overlordship of southern Italy. Pandulf IV of Capua was deposed and narrowly escaped execution; his brother Atenulf, the abbot of Montecassino drowned in the Adriatic as he fled to Constantinople. Pandulf IV was replaced by his cousin count Pandulf of Teano and a pro-imperial abbot, Theobald was installed at Montecassino. German military action in Apulia in the summer of 1022 stalled before the new fortress of Troina and Henry soon began his withdrawal north. Henry II died in 1024 and his successor Conrad II released Pandulf IV who, within a few years had regained control of Capua.

This period also saw the enhanced power and prestige of the Byzantine Empire in southern Italy. With the Apulian border secure, Byzantine influence stretched into the Lombard areas. Basil Boiannes provided troops to assist Pandulf IV’s siege of Capua in 1025-1026. There was a serious attempt to defuse relations with Rome. In 1025, the jurisdiction of the papacy over the ecclesiastical province of Bari was conceded followed five years later by the new bishopric of Troia. The Byzantine governors maintained strict control over the Latin churchmen in areas under their rule. This was essential as there were still some tensions in Apulia, where a Lombard population was under Greek rule and it is clear that in southern Italy as on other Byzantine frontiers during Basil’s reign, imperial authority had to adapt to local administrative practices, indigenous bureaucrats and provincial power structures. Even in the Troia, Byzantine authority was based as much on encouraging local Lombards to settle as on building new fortifications. Yet the wisdom of this outlook was soon visible. Local charters record a surge in economic activity in the Troia including the excavation of irrigation canals, the erection of mills and cultivation of vines: see Martin, J-M., ‘Une frontière artificielle: la Capitanate italienne’, Acts of the 14th International Congress 1971, Bucharest, 1974, vol. ii, pp. 379-385.

[8] Melus died at Bamberg on 23rd April 1020.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Revisiting MPs’ expenses

It’s the beginning of a a new year in Parliament and MPs have received their letters from Sir Thomas Legg asking them to respond to his audit.  No problem with this then!  It’s what the public wanted…public accountability and pay-back time.  It may be very reasonable to accept this as the party leaders have done in an attempt to draw a line under the issue but many MPs, with some justification, think that the retrospective application of rules (decided by Legg it seems to me) is unjust and breaches the natural law of justice.  Are his conclusions reasonable? Probably.  Whether they are just is another thing.  I suspect the general public will be less than sympathetic feeling that MPs have got their comeuppance.  The problem is that Legg’s judgement sets an unfortunate precedent: that a retrospective modification of the rules is justifiable if someone thinks the rules were wrong in the first place and that circumstances have now changed.  Imagine the following: a decision is made by Parliament to reduce income tax by one pence but, five years down the line, an individual (say a prime minister) decides that because circumstances have changed and that the rules should be applied differently that we should all repay the income tax we should have paid, you can imagine the public’s reaction.  Now, I am not defending the appalling record of MPs on expenses but merely suggesting that they do have a point!

This brings me back to a point that I made in a previous blog.  Get rid of all MPs expenses except where they are approved in advance and replace them with a salary that takes into account the cost of travel to and from constituencies and the cost of housing in London during the parliamentary sessions.  All MPs should have the same basic salary (say £65,000 per year).  All, except those living within a thirty mile radius of Westminster should also have an allowance for housing costs (say £50 a night for eight months five days a week; or £250 a week).  Transport costs should be calculated on the basis of distance from Westminster with Inner London MPs getting nothing with a progressive increase the further you are from London.  This should be based on second class off-peak rail travel and if MPs want to upgrade to first class or fly then they make up the difference.  Office costs in the constituencies should be the financial responsibility of local party associations and in London should be paid out of public funds (say £300 a week maximum).  So an MP’s salary would consist of basic pay + housing costs + travel to constituency and individuals would be expected to pay everything out of this figure (perhaps £80,000 per year).  This solution would eliminate the question of expenses in virtually all areas. If MPs want to pay for cleaning or gardening then, like the rest of us, they pay for it out of their salaries. 

Expenses would only be allowed when they are in pursuance of their role as an MP and where approved in advance by an independent auditor.  I remember when I was teaching that, when I wanted to go on a course I had to justify why and explain why it would be of value not simply for me but to the institution as a whole.  This applies equally in business and should apply to MPs.  So no fact-finding visits to the Bahamas or Mauritius! 

As it is clear that MPs are incapable of regulating themselves, a system is needed that leaves no room for equivocation and where salaries and expenses claimed (and rejected) and any addition income from ‘outside sources’ are published monthly.  This should eliminate duck houses, moats and new lawns!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book I, lines 1-55

After it pleased God who orders the seasons as well as kingdoms that the shores of Apulia[1], for so long possessed by the Greeks, should no longer be occupied by them, the people of the Normans, distinguished by their warlike knights, should enter and rule Italy, after expelling the Greeks. In the language of their native country the wind that carried them from the northern [boreas region] regions from which they have departed to seek the frontiers of Italy is called ‘north’, and the word ‘man’ is used among them to signify homo; thus they are called ‘Normans’, that is ‘men of the north wind’ [homines boreales].

[10] Some of these men had climbed to the summit of Monte Gargano[2], to you, Michael the Archangel[3], to fulfil a vow that they had made. There they saw a man clad in the Greek manner, called Melus[4]. They were amazed at the peculiar costume of this stranger, one which they had never seen before, with his head tied up in a bonnet wrapped around it. On seeing him they asked who he was and where he came from. He replied that he was a Lombard, a citizen of noble birth from Bari, [20] and that he had been forced to flee from his native land by the cruelty of the Greeks. When the Gauls sympathised with his fate he said, ‘If I had the help of some of your people, it would be easy for me to return, provided that you were willing’. Indeed he assured them that with their help the Greeks could rapidly and with no great effort be put to flight. They promised him that they would swiftly provide this help, along with others from their country, to which they were about to return.[5]

[30] So after they had returned to their native land, they immediately started to encourage their relatives to come with them to Italy. They talked of the fertility of Apulia and of the cowardice of those who lived there[6]. They advised them to carry with them only what was necessary for the journey; for they promised that once there they would find a wise patron, under whose leadership they would gain an easy victory over the Greeks. By such means they persuaded many to go; some because they possessed little or no wealth, others because they wished to make the great fortune they had greater still. All of them were greedy for gain.[7] They started their journey, each of them carrying what supplies they felt necessary, so far as was possible, for the road they were travelling. [40] After the party of Normans had passed through Rome, unarmed, they made a halt in Campania, worn out by the rigours of their journey. The news of the Normans’ arrival spread quickly in Italy. When Melus learned that the Gauls had arrived there he hurried to them. He gave them the arms that they lacked and then ordered them to follow him.

At this time the Italians were astounded by the fall of an extraordinary and up to then unprecedented quantity of snow[8] that killed the bulk of the wild animals and cut down trees, never to grow again. [50] In the spring following this portent, after buying arms in Campania, Melus led the Normans bravely in the invasion of Apulia. He was the first leader of the Norman race in Italy. All Apulia trembled before the Gauls, whose cruelty caused the deaths of many.


[1] Apulia or the theme of Longobardia was established in 882-3. It was reunited with the theme of Calabria in 975 under the title of the catepanate of Italy.

[2] Monte Gargano was already a centre of pilgrimage for the Normans before 1000 either on the way to or the return from Jerusalem; its proximity to the ports of Bari and Brindisi (both were used for crossing the Adriatic Sea to Greece and the land route to Palestine) made access relatively easy. The earliest expressions of a Michaeline cult are found in the ancient Near East. The migration of Michael’s cult was from from East to West and there were three centres of Michaeline devotion: in western Asia Minor, southern Italy, and in northern Gaul. Special attention is devoted to Italy since the foundation legend of the centre at Monte Gargano had a significant impact on Anglo-Saxon devotion to Michael. In at least two of these regions (the Near East and Italy) the Archangel took over an existing cultic site and assumed some of the healing characteristics associated with the site. After a series of apparitions and earthly interventions, each of the three great regional powers, Constantine’s empire, the Lombards, and the Carolingians, adapted and adopted St. Michael, Commander of the Heavenly Host in battle, as the patron saint of its imperial ambition.

[3] Well known is the apparition of St. Michael in 494 or 530-540 at his sanctuary on Monte Gargano, where his original glory as patron in war was restored to him. The Lombards of Sipontum attributed his intercession for their victory over the Greek Neapolitans on 8th May 663. In commemoration of this victory the church of Sipontum instituted a special feast in honour of the archangel, on 8th May, which has spread over the entire Latin Church and is now called ‘Apparitio S. Michaelis’, although it originally did not commemorate the apparition, but the victory. In Normandy, St. Michael is the patron of mariners in the sanctuary at Mont-Saint-Michel in the diocese of Coutances. He is said to have appeared there, in 708, to St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches. In Normandy his feast ‘S. Michaelis in periculo maris’ or ‘in Monte Tumba’ was universally celebrated on 18th October the anniversary of the dedication of the first church in 710. Martin, J.-M., ‘La culte de saint Michel en Italie mérodionale d’ après les actes de practique’ in Carletti, C. and Otranto, G., (eds.), Culto e insediamenti michaelici nell’Italia meridionale fra tarda antichita e medioevo, Bari, 1994, pp. 375-404 is especially useful on this subject.

[4] The precise chronology here is difficult but is likely to be between 1012 and 1017. Melus first rebelled against the Byzantine Empire in 1009 and sought refuge successively in Ascoli, Benevento and Capua.

[5] The notion of an invitation to come to Italy plays an important part in the alternative explanations for the Norman presence in the south and is relatively common in other traditions; for example, the British inviting the Anglo-Saxons to come to Britain in Gildas De Excidio Britonum, see Winterbottom, Michael, (ed.), Gildas The Ruin of Britain and other works, Phillimore, 1978, pp. 25-27. Amatus of Montecassino identified a group of Norman pilgrims who delivered Salerno from a Muslim siege around 1000 and who were invited by prince Guaimar III of Salerno to remain in Italy. William of Apulia identified the initial meeting with Melus after which the Norman pilgrims returned to Normandy only to come back to Italy later to support Melus in his rebellion in 1016-1017. The third tradition has a group of Normans, exiled by Duke Richard II coming to Rome and being used by Pope Benedict VIII, in alliance with some Lombard princes to attack the Greeks in the mid-1020s: Radulfus Glaber Opera, edited by J. France, N. Bulst and P. Reynolds, Oxford Medieval Texts, Oxford, 1989, pp. 96-101 and Arnoux, M., (ed.), Raoul Glaber, Histoires, III, 3, Brepols, 1996, pp. 145-147. Glaber’s suggestion that the pope was the instigator of or at least party to, the attack on Apulia in 1017 is supported by the near contemporary French chronicler Adehemar de Chabannes: Chronicon, edited by J. Chavanon, Paris, 1897, pp. 178 and Pon, Georges, (ed.), Ademar de Chabannes: Chronique, III, 58, Brepols, 2003, pp. 269-270. Hoffmann, Hartmut, ‘Die Anfange der Normannen in Unteritalien’, Quellen und Fortschungen aus italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken, vol. xlix, (1969), pp. 95-144 remains the best study but there are also papers in English: France, J., ‘The Occasion of the Coming of the Normans to Southern Italy’, Journal of Medieval History, vol. xvii, (1991), pp. 185-205 and Joranson, E., ‘The inception of the career of the Normans in Italy’, Speculum, vol. xxiii, (1948), pp. 353-396 consider the arguments for the chronology of the ‘adventus normannorum’.

[6] Arnulf of Milan, The Book of Recent Deeds, translated from the edition of Zey, Claudia, MGH Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum vol. 67, Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1994, Book 1:17 stated: ‘It was in those days that the first of the Normans came into Apulia, after they had been summoned on the advice of the princes of the land, when the Greeks were weighing heavy upon the region with innumerable acts of oppression. When the Greeks had been subdued and put to flight upon the furrowed sea, the Normans — although few — invaded part of the province, after considering the inertia of the Apulians and the region’s richness in all things. Legates were sent back home to encourage others to do this and, as their numbers grew little by little, they eventually filled the entire province of Apulia, took possession of it as if by right of ownership (iure proprio) and became crueler than the Greeks and more ferocious than the Saracens. Indeed, after all the former princes had been cast down, they rose up as princes themselves.’

[7] This suggests important reasons why the Normans were attracted by southern Italy. First, the fertility of Apulia and its wealth are identified; and, secondly, the cowardice of the Apulians and the possibility of an easy victory over them. The passage also provides good reasons for leaving Normandy itself especially land hunger.

[8] Both the Bari and Benevento annals dated this climatic disaster to 1009 not 1016-1017.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book I, Commentary

Book I covers the period from 1017 to 1043. It narrates the arrival of the Normans in Italy; their battles in northern Apulia under the command of Melus, leader of the rebellion against the Byzantine Empire in 1017; their defeat by the catepan Basil Boiannes in 1018; their settlement in the Campagnia between 1018 and 1038; their revolt in Sicily against Michael Dokianos where they served as mercenaries in the Byzantine army; their battles in Apulia against the Greeks in 1041-1042; the revolt of the Greek general George Maniakes and the resistance to this in Italy led by Argyrus aided by the Normans; and the death of Maniakes in 1043.

William of Apulia used contemporary historical works produced in Apulia especially the Annales Bariensis and the chronicles of the Anonymous of Bari and Lupus Protospatarius for the years 1017-1018 and 1041-1043. This may account for the detailed account of this period in the Gesta and slight discussion of the establishment of the first Norman settlements in and around Aversa. Perhaps, in a selective biography of Robert Guiscard, this is not surprising since William of Apulia’s focus was the de Hauteville family not the Drengots of Aversa and Capua. William of Apulia often copied the contemporary sources word for word but he did make some modifications especially to their chronologies: this can be seen in the error in the initial date of the invasion of Apulia in 1017 and the chronology of the operations of Maniakes in Apulia in 1042-1043. He also supplemented these sources with additional material: for example, the order of the Senate to behead Melus (I: 83); the presence of Armenians from Calabria who were Monophysites in the army of Dokianos (I: 334); the role of Gautier, son of Amicus at the battle of Montepeloso (I: 387); the election of Argyrus as leader of the Normans (I: 418) and the atrocities of Maniakes (I: 488, 499 and 569). He provided several precise pieces of topographical information like the site of Arenula (I: 66-73) and chronological details like the date of the battle of Cannae on the kalends of October (I: 92).

The author established an ‘Apulian’ tradition for the arrival of the Normans in southern Italy and parallels the views of Amatus of Montecassino of a ‘legend of invitation’ as a means of explaining the Norman presence there. It is possible to use William of Apulia to explain Melus’ presence on Monte Gargano[1]: it appears likely that the area remained under Beneventan control until 1018 when the catepan Basil Boiannes fortified the Byzantine frontiers as far as Fortore. However, his discussion of the early Norman settlement in the Campagnia is brief and vague generally following popular traditions. Malaterra and Amatus are far more detailed and accurate on these two decades. The poet also omitted the part played by Guiamar IV in the partition of Apulia in 1042 or that he legitimated the authority of the new count William and there is a similar lacuna in his discussion of relations between the Normans and Adenulf of Benevento.

The degree to which William of Apulia used Byzantine sources for his discussion of the revolt of the Norman mercenaries in 1040-1041 and for the part played by Argyrus between 1041 and 1043 is a matter of some debate. Delarc[2] suggested that there was a certain resemblance between the Gesta and the writings of John Skylitzes especially on the parts played by Michael Dokianos and the son of Basil Boiannes. However, it is not possible to establish a direct connection between the Greek sources and the Gesta. What is clear from the text is that the poet had a precise grasp of events in the Byzantine Empire during the reigns of Michael IV, Michael V and Constatine IX Monomarkos and that he consequently had access either to unspecified Greek sources or to an individual(s) with detailed knowledge of near-contemporary Byzantine history.


[1] Joranson, E., ‘The inception of the career of the Normans in Italy’, Speculum, vol. xxiii, (1948), p. 353 argued that Monte Gargano was under Greek control at this time and that it would have been impossible for Melus, an exile from Bari to have stayed there between 1010 and 1016.

[2] Delarc, O., Les Normands en Italie, Paris, 1883, p. 110, no 1.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Prologue

 

The poets of old have sung of the deeds of the leaders of old; as a modern poet I shall attempt to publish the deeds of contemporaries. It is my intention to recount by whom the Norman people [gens normannica] was led when it came to Italy, why it came to stay there, and under which leaders it defeated the Italians. Pardon your poet who sings of these great deeds as best he can, illustrious Roger[1], worthy son of Duke Robert; it is my wish to serve your rule that makes me daring, since pure devotion provides the skill that [natural] talent and art denies. The request of the reverend father Urban[2] forbids me to be slothful, since I fear that I shall sin more by refusing so great a pontiff than by following his kindly instructions.


[1] Roger Borsa, son of Robert Guiscard was duke of Apulia between 1085 and 1111.

[2] Urban II was pope between 12th March 1088 and 29th July 1099. This reference gives a terminal point for the production of the poem at July 1099, the date of the pope’s death. Urban II, né Otho of Lagery (or Otto or Odo) (1042-29th July 1099), was a pope from 1088 to 1099. He is most known for starting the First Crusade and setting up the modern day Roman Curia, in the manner of a royal court, to help run the Church. He was born into nobility in France at Lagery (near Châtillon-sur-Marne) and was church-educated. He was archdeacon of Reims when, under the influence of St. Bruno his teacher, he resigned and entered the cloister at Cluny where he rose to be prior. In 1078, Gregory VII summoned him to Italy and made him cardinal-bishop of Ostia. He was one of the most prominent and active supporters of the Gregorian reforms, especially as legate in Germany in 1084, and was among the few whom Gregory nominated as possible successors to be Pope. Desiderius, abbot of Montecassino (who took the name Victor III) was chosen Pope initially, but after his short reign Odo was elected by acclamation (March 1088) at a small meeting of cardinals and other prelates held in Terracina. He took up the policies of Pope Gregory VII, and while pursuing them with determination showed greater flexibility and diplomatic finesse. At the outset he had to reckon with the presence of the powerful Antipope Clement III in Rome; but a series of well-attended synods held in Rome, Amalfi, Benevento, and Troia supported him in renewed declarations against simony, lay investiture, and clerical marriages, and a continued opposition to Henry IV. Becker, Alfons, Papst Urban II (1088-1099), two vols. Stuttgart 1964-1988 is the most recent detailed study.