University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

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 32

by Frederick Barbarossa. But such political realism could only be misunderstood
by "honor"-conscious Norman knights and zealous priests. It is
certain that the fall of Mahdia added to Maio's unpopularity and helped to
rekindle the flames of rebellion against the king, who was now believed to
be the helpless victim of his minister. Nevertheless, the immediate antecedents
of the rebellion that broke out in March 1161, a little more than a year
after the fall of Mahdia, are obscure. We know only that during the summer
of 116o Maio had the Moslems of Palermo disarmed, perhaps in the hope of
silencing his critics. The rebels, however, assassinated him, imprisoned
the king in his palace, and then turned on the Moslems of Palermo, the court
eunuchs, the officials, the taxcollectors, and the merchants, slaughtering
a considerable number. When later, after a successful counter-revolution,
Moslem officials and courtiers made their comeback, they took a terrible
revenge upon the Christians who had participated in the rebellion. 
 With the exception of occasional raids, neither William I nor his son William
II(1166-1189) resumed Roger's policy of conquest and occupation in North
Africa. The Berber rebellions which had led to the loss of the cities in
the 115o's were sufficient warning of the risks involved. In William II's
time the Muwahhid ruler himself, Yüsuf ibn-'Abd-al-Mu'min, had to struggle
against revolts staged by the tribes and princes of the same Berbers of Tunisia
who had once hailed the coming of the new caliph with so much enthusiasm.
William II was inclined to open negotiations with the Muwahhid. Sicilian
interests urgently required an end of the hostilities that exposed the Italian
coasts to African corsairs and closed the African markets to Sicilian grain.
Plagued by anarchy and. famine, Tunisia also needed peace. Therefore, when
William's ambassadors arrived in Mahdia in 1180, the African ruler was ready
to make concessions. We have contradictory reports about the terms of the
peace ratified in Palermo the same year, but it is certain that they dealt
primarily with economic questions. Yüsuf agreed to pay a yearly sum
to the Sicilian treasury. This did not involve any political dependence,
but was the price of protection for Moslem merchants buying wheat and other
commodities in Sicily for the suffering people of their homeland. The Sicilians
also probably received the privilege of establishing warehouses in African
cities. Both sides kept the agreements even beyond the stipulated ten years.
Even William's frequent interference in the political affairs of the Balearic
islands, where he occasionally sup- 

Go up to Top of Page