Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The later Crusades, 1189-1311
I: The Norman Kingdom of Sicily and the Crusades, pp. 2-43 PDF (16.9 MB)
Ch. I NORMAN KINGDOM OF SICILY AND THE CRUSADES 5 place at the disposal of crusaders a large navy and merchant marine, and could provide markets, equip expeditions with money and grain, and keep the armies and colonies in the east supplied with materials and men. The cosmopolitan population of Sicily, with its Greek and oriental elements, had much to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the religions, languages, and customs of the east, and in general could serve as a bridge between east and west. And yet, the promise inherent in all this was only partly fulfilled. The Second Crusade would come and go without Roger II, the first king of Sicily, and the contributions of his grandson William II to the Third Crusade would be canceled out by his death in 1189. Not that Sicily lacked a strong crusading heritage. Six members of the house of Hauteville had gone on the First Crusade. Two of them, Bohemond, son of Robert Guiscard, and his nephew Tancred, had written brilliant pages in its history and in that of "Outremer". For a time, Bohemond's leadership in the First Crusade was unrivaled. When he returned to Europe in 1104 to seek help for the principality of Antioch, he was hailed in Italy and France as the hero of the Crusade, and great contingents of Christian knights enlisted in the expedition which he planned to lead through Greece to assault Constantinople. Roger II, then in his early teens and still under the regency of his mother Adelaide, watched this new "crusade" get under way. Admittedly, Bohemond's saga came to an abrupt end with his surrender to emperor Alexius I Comnenus. Yet he may well have impressed his young cousin as a model of shrewdness and bravery. Bohemond's actions directed the eyes of the Norman princes of Sicily toward the conquest of the Byzantine Empire. Within a quarter-century, in the campaigns of Robert Guiscard and Bohemond's attack in 1107-1108, the Normans twice had bid for Constantinople, and twice had failed. The Byzantine emperors, of course, had never even recognized Norman rule over Apulia, much less tolerated any Norman expansion into the eastern Mediterranean. They suspected Norman aims, and plotted against them in Italy and Antioch alike. Thus the ambition to seize Constantinople itself, inherited from Guiscard and Bohemond, involved great danger, despite the fact that the project of a "crusade" against the Byzantines appealed to many western Europeans and sometimes received the approval of the pope.2 2 On Bohemond's last war with the Byzantine Empire, see volume I of this work, chapter XII, pp. 390-391 (bibliography in note 30); also Monti, La Espansione mediterranea, pp.58-60.
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