The Norman conquest of southern Italy, also known as The Kingdom In The Sun, lasted from 999 to 1139, involving many battles and independent conquerors. In 1130, the territories in southern Italy united as the Kingdom of Sicily, which included the island of Sicily, the southern third of the Italian Peninsula (except Benevento, which was briefly held twice), the archipelago of Malta, and parts of North Africa.
The earliest reported date of the arrival of Norman knights in southern Italy is 999, although it may be assumed that they had visited before then. In that Year, according to some traditional sources of uncertain origin, Norman pilgrims returning from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem via Apulia stayed with Prince Guaimar III in Salerno. The city and its environs were attacked by Saracens from Africa demanding payment of an overdue annual tribute. While Guaimar began to collect the tribute, the Normans ridiculed him and his Lombard subjects for cowardice, and they assaulted their besiegers. The Saracens fled, booty was confiscated and a grateful Guaimar asked the Normans to stay.
In 1024, Norman mercenaries under Ranulf Drengot were in the service of Guaimar III when he and Pandulf IV besieged Pandulf V in Capua. In 1026, after an 18-month siege, Capua surrendered and Pandulf IV was reinstated as prince. During the next few years Ranulf would attach himself to Pandulf, but in 1029 he joined Sergius IV of Naples (whom Pandulf expelled from Naples in 1027, probably with Ranulf's assistance).
Ranulf and Sergius recaptured Naples. In early 1030 Sergius gave Ranulf the County of Aversa as a fief, the first Norman lordship in southern Italy.
Norman reinforcements and local miscreants, who found a welcome in Ranulf's camp with no questions asked, swelled Ranulf's numbers.
In 1035, the same Year William the Conqueror would become Duke of Normandy, Tancred of Hauteville's three eldest sons (William "Iron Arm", Drogo and Humphrey) arrived in Aversa from Normandy.
In 1038 Byzantine Emperor Michael IV launched a military campaign into Muslim Sicily, with General George Maniaches leading the Christian army against the Saracens. The future king of Norway, Harald Hardrada, commanded the Varangian Guard in the expedition and Michael called on Guaimar IV of Salerno and other Lombard lords to provide additional troops for the campaign.
Wars between the Normans and the Byzantine Empire were fought from c. 1040 until 1185, when the last Norman invasion of the Byzantine Empire was defeated. At the end of the conflict, neither the Normans nor the Byzantines could boast much power as by the mid-13th century exhaustive fighting with other powers had weakened both, leading to the Byzantines losing Asia Minor to the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century, and the Normans losing Sicily to the Hohenstaufen.
The Battle of Civitate was fought on 18 June 1053 in southern Italy, between the Normans, led by the Count of Apulia Humphrey of Hauteville, and a Swabian-Italian-Lombard army, organised by Pope Leo IX and led on the battlefield by Gerard, Duke of Lorraine, and Rudolf, Prince of Benevento. The Norman victory over the allied papal army marked the climax of a conflict between the Norman mercenaries who came to southern Italy in the eleventh century, the de Hauteville family, and the local Lombard princes.
After 250 years of Arab control, Sicily was inhabited by a mix of Christians, Arab Muslims, and Muslim converts at the time of its conquest by the Normans. Arab Sicily had a thriving trade network with the Mediterranean world, and was known in the Arab world as a luxurious and decadent place. It had originally been under the rule of the Aghlabids and then the Fatimids, but in 948 the Kalbids wrested control of the island and held it until 1053. During the 1010s and 1020s, a series of succession crises paved the way for interference by the Zirids of Ifriqiya. Sicily was racked by turmoil as petty fiefdoms battled each other for supremacy. Into this, the Normans under Robert Guiscard and his younger brother Roger Bosso came intending to conquer; the pope had conferred on Robert the title of "Duke of Sicily", encouraging him to seize Sicily from the Saracens.
The Battle of Cerami was fought in June 1063 and was one of the most significant battles in the Norman conquest of Sicily, 1060–1091. The battle was fought between a Norman expeditionary force and a Muslim alliance of Sicilian and Zirid troops. The Normans fought under the command of Roger de Hauteville, the youngest son of Tancred of Hauteville and brother of Robert Guiscard. The Muslim alliance consisted of the native Sicilian Muslims under the Kalbid ruling class of Palermo, led by Ibn al-Hawas, and Zirid reinforcements from North Africa led by the two princes, Ayyub and 'Ali.The battle was a resounding Norman victory that utterly routed the opposing force, causing divisions amongst the Muslim aristocracy which ultimately paved the way for the eventual capture of the Sicilian capital, Palermo, by the Normans and subsequently the rest of the island.
The fall of Amalfi and Salerno to Robert Guiscard were influenced by his wife, Sichelgaita. Amalfi probably surrendered as a result of her negotiations, and Salerno fell when she stopped petitioning her husband on behalf of her brother (the prince of Salerno). The Amalfitans unsuccessfully subjected themselves to Prince Gisulf to avoid Norman suzerainty, but the states (whose histories had been joined since the 9th century) ultimately came under Norman control.
Led by the formidable Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemund of Taranto (later, Bohemund I of Antioch), Norman forces took Dyrrhachium and Corfu, and laid siege to Larissa in Thessaly (see Battle of Dyrrhachium)
In 1085, he was finally able to undertake a systematic campaign. On 22 May Roger approached Syracuse by sea, while Jordan led a small cavalry detachment 15 miles (24 km) north of the city. On 25 May, the navies of the count and the emir engaged in the harbour—where the latter was killed—while Jordan's forces besieged the city. The siege lasted throughout the summer, but when the city capitulated in March 1086 only Noto was still under Saracen dominion. In February 1091 Noto yielded as well, and the conquest of Sicily was complete.
During the time of the First Crusade, the Byzantines were able to utilize, to some extent, Norman mercenaries to defeat the Seljuk Turks in numerous battles. These Norman mercenaries were instrumental in the capture of multiple cities. It is speculated that, in exchange for an oath of loyalty, Alexios promised land around the city of Antioch to Bohemond in order to create a buffer vassal state and simultaneously keep Bohemond away from Italy. However, when Antioch fell the Normans refused to hand it over, although in time Byzantine domination was established
In 1147 the Byzantine empire under Manuel I Comnenus was faced with war by Roger II of Sicily, whose fleet had captured the Byzantine island of Corfu and plundered Thebes and Corinth. However, despite being distracted by a Cuman attack in the Balkans, in 1148 Manuel enlisted the alliance of Conrad III of Germany, and the help of the Venetians, who quickly defeated Roger with their powerful fleet
Although the last invasions and last large scale conflict between the two powers lasted less than two years, the third Norman invasions came closer still to taking Constantinople. Then Byzantine Emperor Andronicos Komnenos had allowed the Normans to go relatively unchecked towards the Tessalonica. While David Komnenos had made some preparations in anticipation of the encroaching Normans, such as ordering reinforcement of the cities walls' and assigning four divisions to the cities' defense, these precautions proved insufficient. Only one of the four divisions actually engaged the Normans, resulting in the city being captured with relative ease by Norman forces. Upon gaining control of the city Norman forces sacked Thessalonica. The following panic resulted in a revolt placing Isaac Angelus on the throne. In the aftermath of the fall of Andronicus, a reinforced Byzantine field army under Alexios Branas decisively defeated the Normans at the Battle of Demetritzes. Following this battle Thessalonica was speedily recovered and the Normans were pushed back to Italy.
The Battle of Demetritzes in 1185 was fought between the Byzantine army and the Normans of the Kingdom of Sicily, who had recently sacked the Byzantine Empire's second city, Thessalonica. It was a decisive Byzantine victory, which ended the Norman threat to the Empire.
Brown, Gordon S. (2003). The Norman Conquest of Southern Italy and Sicily. McFarland & Company Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-1472-7.
Brown, Paul. (2016). Mercenaries To Conquerors: Norman Warfare in the Eleventh and Twelfth-Century Mediterranean, Pen & Sword.
Gaufredo Malaterra (Geoffroi Malaterra), Histoire du Grand Comte Roger et de son frère Robert Guiscard, édité par Marie-Agnès Lucas-Avenel, Caen, Presses universitaires de Caen, 2016 (coll. Fontes et paginae). ISBN 9782841337439.
Gaufredo Malaterra, De rebus gestis Rogerii Calabriae et Siciliae comitis et Roberti Guiscardi ducis fratris eius
Norwich, John Julius. The Kingdom in the Sun 1130-1194. London: Longman, 1970.
Theotokis, Georgios, ed. (2020). Warfare in the Norman Mediterranean. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell and Brewer. ISBN 9781783275212.
Theotokis, Georgios. (2014). The Norman Campaigns in the Balkans, 1081-1108, Boydell & Brewer.
Van Houts, Elizabeth. The Normans in Europe. Manchester, 2000.
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