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The campaigns of the Norman dukes of southern Italy against Byzantium, in the years between 1071 and 1108 AD

The campaigns of the Norman dukes of southern Italy against Byzantium, in the years between 1071 and 1108 AD

By Georgios Theotokis

PhD Dissertation, University of Glasgow, 2010

Robert Guiscard is claimed by Pope Nicholas II as a Duke (Illustration of the Nuova Cronica des Giovanni Villani)

Abstract: The topic of my thesis is “The campaigns of the Norman dukes of southern Italy to Byzantium, in the years between 1071 and 1108 A.D.” As the title suggests, I am examining all the main campaigns conducted by the Normans against Byzantine provinces, in the period from the fall of Bari, the Byzantine capital of Apulia and the seat of the Byzantine governor (catepano) of Italy in 1071, to the Treaty of Devol that marked the end of Bohemond of Taranto’s Illyrian campaign in 1108.

My thesis, however, aims to focus specifically on the military aspects of these confrontations, an area which for this period has been surprisingly neglected in the existing secondary literature. My intention is to give answers to a series of questions, of which only some of them are presented here: what was the Norman method of raising their armies and what was the connection of this particular system to that in Normandy and France in the same period (similarities, differences, if any)? Have the Normans been willing to adapt to the Mediterranean reality of warfare, meaning the adaptation of siege engines and the creation of a transport and fighting fleet? What was the composition of their armies, not only in numbers but also in the analogy of cavalry, infantry and supplementary units? While in the field of battle, what were the fighting tactics used by the Normans against the Byzantines and were they superior to their eastern opponents?

However, as my study is in essence comparative, I will further compare the Norman and Byzantine military institutions, analyse the clash of these two different military cultures and distinguish any signs of adaptations in their practice of warfare. Also, I will attempt to set this enquiry in the light of new approaches to medieval military history visible in recent historiography by asking if any side had been familiar to the ideas of Vegetian strategy, and if so, whether we characterise any of these strategies as Vegetian?

In my thesis The campaigns of the Norman dukes of southern Italy against Byzantium, in the period between 1071-1108 A.D, I intend to examine all the main campaigns conducted by the Normans in the Byzantine Empire’s western Balkan provinces, in the period from the fall of Bari, the capital of Byzantine Longobardia (Italy) and the seat of the Byzantine governor of Italy in 1071, to the Treaty of Devol that marked the end of Bohemond of Taranto’s Illyrian campaign in 1108.

It aims to focus specifically on the military aspects of the Norman infiltration in the south, a research area which for this period has been relatively neglected by existing scholarship. Two of the classic publications for this period are Ferdinand Chalandon’s Histoire de la Domination Normande en Italie et en Sicile and his Essai sur le Règne d’Alexis Ier Comnène (1081-1118). Even after more than a century of its publication, Chalandon’s Domination Normande remains one of the best accounts of the Norman establishment in southern Italy, with the first volume examining the political and social developments in the dukedom of Apulia up to Roger II’s accession in 1128. Chalandon’s Essai sur le Règne d’Alexis Ier Comnène examines the reign of Alexius Comnenus from his accession to the throne to his death, with the third chapter of this study dealing with Robert Guiscard’s 1081-5 invasion of Illyria. Chalandon’s works, along with R.B. Yewdale’s Bohemond I, Prince of Antioch, are two of the oldest and most useful works I was able to use in my research.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Glasgow

 

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