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Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / Volume I: The first hundred years
(1969)

II: Conflict in the Mediterranean before the First Crusade,   pp. [30]-[79] PDF (10.8 MB)


Page 61

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. 


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