Frontiers and Neighbours

  • John Haldon


Confined since the definitive loss of Sicily to the Saracens in the last years of the ninth century to the southern provinces of Calabria, imperial forces began the reconquest of Sicily and southern Italy from Saracen and Lombard masters during the last years of the reign of the Emperor Basil II. By the 1020s southern Italy was firmly administered under an imperial military governor, a katepano, and the recovery of western Sicily was under way. Basil’s death in 1025 slowed the process, however, which eventually ground to a halt in the 1030s. In southern Italy pressure from the German emperors was fended off through an alliance with the papacy, but new enemies soon appeared on the scene in the shape of the Normans, first appearing inc. 1016 in Gaeta as pilgrims en route for the Holy Land, shortly thereafter employed as mercenary troops in large numbers by both Lombards and Byzantines. Drawn by the pay and by the possibility of rich pickings through warfare, their numbers rapidly swelled, and by the 1030s some had succeeded well enough to gain local lordships and titles and establish a permanent territorial foothold. The most successful was Robert Guiscard of the Hauteville family: by 1059 he had defeated and driven out Byzantine troops from Apulia and Calabria, and had defeated and captured the Pope, Leo IX, and had been awarded the title of Duke of Apulia and Calabria.


Ninth Century Twelfth Century Eleventh Century Balkan State Byzantine Empire 
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© John Haldon 2005

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  • John Haldon

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