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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)

Page 21

men and 1,000 horses), under the command of the admiral Christodoulus and
his assistant George of Antioch, landed on the small island of Ahasi off
the coast of Mahdia. They found unorganized but formidable and enthusiastic
forces ready to repel them. The unity and determination of Berber and Arab
led to the defeat of the Normans after they had occupied the little island
and the mainland fortress of Dimas for only four days. True, the Norman navy
was not yet fully integrated; sea and land forces did not work well together;
the marines especially failed to carry out landing operations under enemy
attack. Roger's force seems to have lacked enthusiasm and fighting spirit,
while the enemy, on the defensive against Christian invaders, "knew
what they were fighting for", and of course represented their victory
as a triumph of Islam over Christianity. Christian chroniclers do not even
mention the expedition of 1123, and their silence is eloquent evidence of
the dismay that prevailed at the court of Palermo.28 
 The war dragged on for several years, the initiative now with the Moslems.
But in July 1127 Roger reconquered the Mediterranean islands of Malta, Gozo,
and Pantelleria, lost by the Normans soon after his father's death, a success
that proved its importance at a later stage in his African exploits. On the
other hand, he could neither prevent nor avenge the terrible raids carried
out in the same month against Patti and Syracuse. Most Christian sources
attribute these raids to the Balearic corsair captain Ibn-Maimün, but
William of Tyre, usually well informed about events in southern Italy, says
that the raids against Patti and "the noble and ancient city of Syracuse"
had been launched from the African coast and had been touched off by the
sudden appearance of Sicilian raiders there.29 
 Whatever the truth of the matter, Roger was unable to cope with the situation.
In 1128 he responded, however, to the request of count Raymond Berengar III
of Barcelona for help against the Moors of Spain, promising to send in the
summer of that year fifty galleys and an army "in servitium Dei".30
The plan never materialized, probably because of the war against the pope
and the Apulian barons. But he prepared for his future role as lord of the
African sea by concluding a treaty with Savona, a client city of Genoa, containing
 28 Al-Hasan's official report is included in at-TijänI, Rihiak (Amari,
BAS, II), pp. 71 ff. All the Arab authors drew from it. A passage from a
poem by Ibn-Hamdis in praise of al Hasan's victories may be found in Amari,
BAS, II, 400. See Caspar, Roger II, p. 49. 
 29 William of Tyre, XIII, 22 (RHC, 0cc., I), pp. 590-591. For other sources,
see Amari, Storia dei musulmani, III, 384-385, note 5. 
 30 Caspar, Roger II, Regesten, no. 53. On the content of the documents containing
the treaties, see ibid., pp.50-51,70-78; also Amari, Storia dei musulmani,
III, 396-398, and Cohn, Geschichte der . . . Flotte, pp. 23 ff. 

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