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Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume II: The later Crusades, 1189-1311

I: The Norman Kingdom of Sicily and the Crusades,   pp. 2-43 PDF (56.8 KB)

Page 25

tachments to conquer other cities along the North African coast. By the end
of July, within a month after the landing in Mahdia, all the cities and minor
castles along the littoral had been taken, among them the great ports and
trade centers of Gabes, Susa, and, despite considerable resistance, Sfax.
An attack on Kelibia, probably with Tunis the ultimate objective, was stopped
by the determined resistance of the Arabs. It is probable that Tunis, ruled
by members of the Arab house of the Banü-Khurasän, voluntarily
submitted to the overlordship of the Sicilian king. Ibn-al-Athir describes
the territory in Africa now ruled by Roger II as extending from Tripoli to
Cape Bon and from the desert to Kairawan. Apparently Roger had not planned
to extend his conquests farther west into the territory of the Hammadids,
whose position was stronger than that of the Zirids. He could not spare additional
men for further conquest or for garrison service. The emperor Manuel was
preparing feverishly for the reconquest of Corfu and for an invasion of the
Italian mainland. Had it not been for the war between "the prince of
Sicily and the king of the Romans in Constantinople," says Ibn-al-Athir,
Roger would have conquered "all Africa". 
 Christians in the age of the crusades could not but hail Roger's African
conquests as a great Christian victory in the Mediterranean. In a short obituary
for Roger a French chronicler praised them as outstanding triumphs over the
Saracens, and along with another annalist places Roger's campaign with the
crusading events in the east. On the other hand, the two court historians
of the Norman dynasty of Sicily, archbishop Romuald Guarna of Salerno and
Hugo Falcandus, do not impute religious motives to Roger. Both speak of Roger's
desire for territorial aggrandizement, and Romuald emphasizes the king's
ambition (cor magnificum) and his lust for power (dominandi animus) which
was not satisfied with the rule of Sicily and Apulia.32 Nor do Arab historians
interpret as an expression of religious zeal Roger's "cruelty"
in exploiting the calamities 
 32 Roger's obituary is in Sigeberti continuatio Praemonstratensis, ad ann.
1154 (MGH, SS., VI), p. 455; "Princeps utilis et strenuus et actibus
clarus Rogerius rex Siciliae post insignes de Saracenis victorias et terras
eorum occupatas obit..." His African campaign is associated, in the
Context, with the Second Crusade in the same chronicle (p. 454) and in Robert
of Torigny's Chronicon (ibid., p. 503). See also Annales Casinenses (MGH,
SS., XIX), p. 3 10; Andrea Dandolo, Chronicon, ad ann. 1147-1148 (RISS, XII),
p. 243; Romuald Guarna of Salerno, Chronicon (RISS, VII), p. 227; and Hugo
Falcandus, Liber de regno Siciliae (FSI, XXII), pp. 5-6. All Latin sources
except Robert of Torigny mention the capture of Mahdia, which they call Africa
(Aifrica or Africax), but only Romuald Guarna mentions all the important
Cities: "Africa" (Mahdia), Susa, Bona, Gabes, Sfax, and Tripoli.
Robert of Torigny speaks of the capture of "Tonita" (Tunis), for
which there is otherwise only indirect evidence. See Cerone, L'Opera . .
. di Ruggiero II in Africa ed in Oriente, pp. 63 ff., and Constable, "Second
Crusade," Traditio, IX, 235-237. 

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