Imitatio basilei? The ideological and political construction of the norman Kingdom of Sicily in the 12th century

Imitatio basilei? The ideological and political construction of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily in the 12th century

By Stergios Laitsos

The Eastern Roman Empire and the Birth of the Idea of State in Europe, edited by Spyridon Flogaitis and Antoine Pantélis (London, 2005)


Introduction: The history of Byzantine culture in the 12th-century Norman Kingdom of Sicily has attracted the attention of a number of scholars. A number of noteworthy treatises were published a few decades ago, as a result of this scholarly endeavor. These treatises referred to Byzantine presence and “Byzantinism” in Norman Sicily as a whole, yet others were of a more particular nature and regarded Greek literary production and education in the Norman state. It would be an oversight not to mention that Byzantine contribution is examined and presented on important works on the history of art in Sicily and Southern Italy of the 12th century. It should be noted here that Byzantine influence and other related issues have been covered by other scholars. It is not, however, possible to expand to a thorough discourse of the issues regarding the whole of Byzantine influences on the Norman Kingdom of Sicily in the 12th century in the confines of this study. We will limit ourselves to the examination of one issue that in our view primarily concerns the level of ideological expression during the period of the Norman state’s self-awareness construction period under Roger II (1130-1154) and consequently refers to it. In particular, we will study the appearance and use of the terms basileus (emperor) and basileia in the court of Roger II and his Norman heirs. In order to interpret their use in the complex mesh that were the political conditions of the period, we will examine it on one hand in relation to internal political necessity in the newly formed regnum of “Sicily, Apulia and Calabria” and on the other hand in relation to political thought in the West as well as in relation to the Eastern Roman Empire.

Click here to read this article from

We thank Stergios Laitsos for his permission to republish this article