By Georgios Theotokis
Rosetta Journal, Issue 11 (2012)
Introduction: On the 9th October 1107, Bohemond the Count of Taranto and eldest son of Duke Robert Guiscard, crossed the Adriatic Sea to attack the Byzantine Empire and besieged the Illyrian city-port of Dyrrachium for almost a year. Three years before, having been released from captivity by the Seljuks of Melitene, he had returned to his crusader principality of Antioch only to find his troops hard-pressed by the Byzantine Army. What followed was a decision that was to have a significant impact, not only on Norman-Byzantine relations, but also on the whole controversy between the Eastern and Western churches. Bohemond took the decision to return to Europe and raise an army for a new Crusade, this time not against the Muslims of the Holy Land, but rather in the words of Anna Comnena against the ‘pagan, who was helping pagans wholeheartedly’, the Emperor Alexius Comnenus. Bohemond’s expedition can be seen as an important and early example of a crusade’s manipulation towards political objectives against fellow Christians, anticipating by a century the deviation of the Fourth Crusade in 1204.
This paper will address a number of issues: whether modern historians can characterise Bohemond’s expedition in 1107-8 as a crusade; what were the deeper political reasons that drove the Count of Taranto to invade Illyria; what was the pretext that Bohemond used to escape to France and preach for his imminent expedition and, more importantly, what was the terminology which the sources use to record his appeals? How did this relate to that of the First Crusade ten years earlier? How and to what extent did the people of France, Italy and Germany respond to his call? Was he able to forge any important alliances?