Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / Volume I: The first hundred years
II: Conflict in the Mediterranean before the First Crusade, pp. - PDF (10.8 MB)
Ch. II THE NORMAN CONQUEST OF SICILY 61 chansons de geste — they were adventurous, fearless, unruly, insatiable, exceedingly gallant to willing and unwilling ladies of any social class, indiscriminately hard on unwarlike peasants and bourgeois of any nation, and frequently very devoted to Christ if not to his commandments. A handful Of Normans, including two of Roger's elder brothers, already had assisted Maniaces in smiting Saracens and scorching the country, but their part had been far less important than certain sagas and chronicles represented it. Now a larger, if still fairly small, number were poised under the command of a ruthless and extremely gifted man of their own race. They outmatched their Moslem counterparts, the ghazis, and overpowered large militias of less martial men fighting for home and liberty. Though the numbers of their adversaries have been multiplied by the same chroniclers who passed by their allies, the very duration of the struggle — thirty years — shows that victory went not to the larger but to the braver army. The background of the Sicilian campaign is more interesting than the campaign itself.'° The war was important for its results, not for its methods; there were innumerable skirmishes, raids, and counter-raids, but few battles, only one memorable siege, and no new weapons or tactics that had not been widely used elsewhere. Even before receiving the invitation of Ibn-a~-Tumnah, Roger had carried out an exploratory raid across the Strait of Messina, which was unsuccessful but may have been instrumental in gaining the invitation (io6o)." A second raid with the armed support of Ibnat-Tumnah was equally unsuccessful; the Normans were driven back to the coast and feared total destruction as a storm prevented them from recrossing the Strait. Happily Roger, as the chroniclers tell us, calmed the waters by dedicating what booty he had taken to the reconstruction of a church in Calabria. Finally, in io6i, more careful preparation, shrewder strategy, and the personal intervention of Robert Guiscard enabled a larger number of Normans to dodge the fleet which Ibn-al-Uauwas had sent to blockade the Strait, capture Messina, obtain the submission of Rametta, and reconquer for Ibn-at-Tumnah a large part of the northeastern region. The count and the emir did not succeed in capturing Enna, the fortress capital of Ibn-al-Ilauwãs, but Palermo made overtures 10 Detailed accounts of the Sicilian campaign are found in Amari (with a pro-Moslem bias), in Chalandon (with a pro-Norman bias) and, for naval history, in Manfroni (with a proItalian bias). These authors discuss at length the sources and their reliability; the writer does not always agree with their judgments. ~1 On the legendary character of the Brevis historia liberationis Messanae, which mentions an Imaginary invitation of Roger by the Christian population of the town, see N. Rodolico, Ii municipalismo nella storiografia siciliana," Nuova Rivista Storica, VII (1923), 57—72.
Copyright 1969 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved. Use of this material falling outside the purview of "fair use" requires the permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. To buy the paperback book, see: http://www.wisc.edu/wisconsinpress/books/1732.htm