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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 36

sad remnants of what, only three days before, had been the proud army of
the king of Sicily. Only a small force of three hundred knights, entrenched
on a hill near the city, continued the fight, until the very last of them
was either killed or taken. 
 William was not discouraged. He sent two expeditions in 1175- 1 176 to attack
the commercial center of Tinnis near the Nile delta. These were mere raids
for plunder, however, with hardly forty ships involved in either action.
William also launched three expeditions against the Balearic islands between
1180 and 1186, aimed at eliminating the constant threat to Sicilian and Italian
commerce from corsairs through the conquest of Majorca (Mallorca), the largest
of the islands.42 None of these expeditions achieved its goal, and the forces
engaged in the third cannot have been very substantial, for by this time
Sicily was caught up in a major war with the Byzantines. 
 The troubles that followed the death of the emperor Manuel in 1180 provided
William with an opportunity to intervene in Byzantine affairs. The usurpation
of the Byzantine throne by Andronicus Comnenus precipitated rebellions in
many parts of the empire. Several of the nobles whose power Andronicus was
trying to curb fled to Italy to seek help from William and others. Among
them was one of the pretenders to the Byzantine throne, Alexius Comnenus,
nephew of the late emperor Manuel. Alexius urged William to conquer the Byzantine
empire on his behalf. Because of the final failure of the great plan, historians
have reproached William with wanton waste of manpower and material, and with
lack of political foresight. But Chalandon convincingly points out that the
enterprise was not only politically sound but also promising of success,
and that, in fact, William came very close to "consummating triumphantly
the heroic epic of his house which the sons of Tancred of Hauteville had
started in Italy." 
 The land phase of the war with the Byzantines began in June 1185 with the
taking of Durazzo, reached its climax in August with a spectacular success,
the sack of Thessalonica, and ended in September with the no less spectacular
defeat of the Sicilian army at the Strymon river.43 The Sicilian navy, on
the other hand, under the 
 42 On the historical background, see the article on the Balearic Islands
in The Encyclopaedia of Islam. On William's expeditions to the Baleares,
see Chalandon, Domination normande, II, 398, and Amari, Storia dei musulmani,
III, 527-530. The sources are contradictory and vague. 
 43 The most important source for the expedition against Constantinople that
led to the sack of Thessalonica is Eustathius of Thessalonica, Dc capta Thessalonica
liber (CSHB, Bonn, 1842). See also Nicetas Choniates, Historia; De Andronico
Comneno, I (CSHB), pp. 386-401. For the 

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