p124 About the year 500 a certain rich man named Garganus possessed a great estate in the land where the city of Manfredonia was afterwards built; and a high hill which is there, and which looks out over the sea, was called by his name, Mons Garganus. It chanced one day that one of the steers of his herd went astray and could not be brought back; and when Garganus and his servants found it, the beast was lying before the mouth of a cavern on the summit of the hill. The creature could not be induced to move, and Garganus, wearied by the long pursuit, and in an ill temper, flung his hunting javelin at the steer's head. To the amazement and terror of all who saw it, the weapon left the steer unhurt, and turning backwards, wounded Garganus himself.
The bishop of that region, having been consulted as to the meaning of this prodigy, commanded a rigid fast of three days, and at the end of that time he himself was favoured by a vision of the Archangel Michael, who appeared to him clothed in a scarlet cloak, and in radiant glory. The saint announced p125that he himself was the author of the miracle, and he ordered that henceforth he should be venerated in the cavern before which the steer had lain down. In obedience to the supernatural command, a basilica, dedicated to Saint Michael, was soon raised upon the spot; the scarlet cloak, which he had left behind him as a proof of his visit, was preserved in the sanctuary, together with treasures of gold and silver; and before long pious pilgrims from all parts of Europe visited the shrine. It has been venerated in like manner p126ever since, and the silver lamps that burn before the dim altar within the cave have been filled, lighted, worn out, and renewed during fourteen hundred years.
More than a thousand miles from Monte Gargano, on the borders of Brittany and Neustria, a bold rock juts out into the sea, and is daily cut off from the mainland by the flowing tide. In the beginning of the eighth century, the Bishop Aubert was visited in a dream by the Archangel Michael, who bade him build a sanctuary on the summit of the rock. By a coincidence more familiar in legend than in reality, Aubert found a steer lying in a cavern when he first visited the summit, and regarding this circumstance as a direct instruction from the archangel, he commanded that the church to be built on the spot should be the counterpart of the sanctuary of Monte Gargano, both in shape and size. It stands to‑day, and has been a place of pilgrimage ever since its foundation. The existence of these two shrines is the link between Normandy and Italy, and all the early chroniclers laid stress upon the affiliation of the more recently founded one to its predecessor.
The rise and spread of Mohammedanism in the East had not deterred devout persons from visiting the holy places in the eighth and ninth centuries, and as the pilgrims who came from Normandy never failed to visit Monte Gargano on their way to the East, or on their p127return, taking back with them to their own shrine in the West full accounts of what they had seen, there was a much more lively interchange of news between the two places than might be imagined. Delarc, whom I shall follow in telling the story of the Normans, points out that the two shrines were pillaged, the one by Norman pirates, the other by Saracen corsairs, at about the same period, that is to say, during the greater part of the ninth century. When Charles the Simple had invested Rollo with the sovereignty of Normandy, — for the very good reason that he was quite unable to do otherwise, — the new duke restored tenfold to this shrine of the archangel the treasures which his countrymen had taken from it; for the Normans had adopted Christianity with the readiness they afterwards showed in changing sides when any advantage was to be gained; and having suddenly transformed themselves into a nation of devout Catholics, speaking a Latin tongue, they also imitated their Neustrian predecessors in making pilgrimages to Southern Italy and the East. Being cautious people, they wore coats of mail under their pilgrims' robes, and though they carried the stout staff of the palmer in their hands, they carried at their belts their long Norman swords, merely on the possibility that they might be needed. They regarded the archangel Michael with most especial veneration, on account of his warlike attributes, and accepted his victory over Lucifer as a satisfactory p128substitute for their Scandinavian hero's destruction of the dragon.
In the year 845, while the Mohammedans were still fighting for the possession of Italy, and were attempting to get possession of the western coast of the mainland, the warning note of their own destruction already sounded in the west of Europe. In that year a party of fair-haired Norman robbers, sailing southward in their long-beaked ships, came upon the mouth of the Seine, and entering the stream, pushed up as far as Paris itself. It was on Holy Saturday, and the chronicler dryly remarks that they had probably not come so far with the object of performing their Easter devotions; and though Charles the Bald came out in time to meet them at the monastery of Saint Denis with a handful of men-at‑arms, the inferiority of his force lent to the opposition he made the appearance of an almost peaceful reception, and that which had promised to be a battle degenerated to the ignominy of a bargain and a ransom.
But the Saracens knew not of these things, and pursued their course with occasional checks. In the same year their motley fleet, sailing up to get possession of Ponza and of the other islands which lie in the same waters, was met by the combined forces of Amalfi, Gaeta and Sorrento, under the valiant Duke of Naples, and suffered signal defeat. Sergius drove them southward before the wind, chasing them past Ischia and p129Capri, and across the wide Gulf of Salerno to the distant islet of Licosa. There the Saracens had gained a foothold, not far from the ancient city of Elea, which was that same Velia where Verres had landed his ill-gotten Sicilian spoils. Thence also the Neapolitans dislodged them and drove them still further down the coast. Soon, however, they repaired their fleet in Palermo, and came back in force; the armament of the Christian allies had already dispersed, and Sergius was unable to prevent the Saracens from taking the strong castle of Misenum, which is Capo Miseno. It was from that point that the young Pliny had watched the stupendous eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii, and the harbour and fortifications, of which Romans had made such an important naval station, became a source of strength to the pirate Moslems.
As an instance of the readiness with which the Norman pilgrims could lay down the staff and draw the sword, I shall translate the following passage from the history of Amatus of Monte Cassino, as it is quoted by Abbé Delarc.
"Before the year 1000 of the Incarnation of our Lord, there appeared in the world forty valiant pilgrims; they came from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and reached Salerno just at the moment when the city, being vigorously besieged by the Saracens, was about to surrender. Before that time Salerno had been tributary to the Saracens, and when the payment p130of the tribute was in arrears the Saracens immediately appeared with a numerous fleet, collected the sums due, slew the inhabitants, and ravaged the countryside. On learning this, the Norman pilgrims were angered by the injustice of the said Saracens, and because the Christians were subject to them; they therefore went before the most serene prince Guaimar, who ruled Salerno in the spirit of justice, and they asked arms and horses of him that they might fight against the Saracens. They told him that they did not this thing for the hope of any recompense but because the pride of the Saracens was intolerable to them. When they had attained what they asked, these forty Northmen fell upon the Saracen host and slew a great many of them, so that the rest took to flight both by sea and land; and the Normans had the victory, and the Salernitans were delivered from the bondage of the Pagans. But these Normans, having acted only for love of God, would accept nothing in return. Then the Salernitans gave the Normans lemons, and almonds, and preserves of nuts, and scarlet mantles, and iron instruments adorned with gold, that they might induce their fellow countrymen to come and inhabit a land flowing with milk and honey, and rich in good things. So the victorious pilgrims, when they returned to Normandy, bore witness as they had promised, and invited all Norman nobles to come into Italy, and some took p131courage to go thither on account of the riches that were there."
From the year 996 Normandy was under the rule of Duke Richard the Second, whose vassals were generally in revolt against him, and at war among themselves. About the year 1015 two Norman gentles, Gilbert Buatère and Guillaume Répostelle, quarrelled about the latter's daughter, and Gilbert, who was the better man of his hands, settled the difficulty by throwing his adversary over a precipice. Fearing duke Richard, however, Gilbert joined himself to certain other Normans, who were also at odds with their sovereign, and with their men-at‑arms they departed together to go into Italy. Among these men was Raoul de Toëni, who at once became their leader.
At that time Pope Benedict the Eighth was alarmed by the growing influence of the Eastern Empire in the south of Italy, and was doing his best to reconcile the Lombard princes of Capua, Benevento, and Salerno, in order that they might lay aside their private enmities and join forces with him against the Greeks.
Entrance to church
It was at this time that Raoul de Toëni and his companions came to Rome, craving the blessing of Pope Benedict the Eighth; and the Pope, on granting it, strongly advised them to join forces with Meles against the Greeks. They did so, and met him at Capua, and became the nucleus of a little army of freebooter patriots who lost no time in devouring whatsoever the Greeks had left untouched throughout the p133south. The Emperor of Constantinople sent his troops against them, but the wily little Greeks were not a match for the colossal Northmen at hand to hand, and the allies of Meles carried everything before them. More pilgrims and adventurers reached Italy from the north, while Constantinople sent legions upon legions, so that the lances of the Greek army seemed as close and thick as canes in the brake, and its camp was like a hive of bees. At last the Byzantines were so many that they won the day, and on the right bank of the Ofanto, on the very ground which Hannibal had drenched with Roman blood, the little army of Meles was cut to pieces. Out of two hundred and fifty Norman nobles who rode into that fight, ten came back alive; but the dead had sold their lives dearly, and the plain that is called the Field of Blood, for the many battles fought there, was strewn far and wide with the bodies of the Greeks and their mercenaries.
This battle was fought in October, 1019; Meles and Raoul were among the survivors, and were well received by the emperor, Henry the Second, with whom they took refuge, but Meles died in the spring of the following year, and the cause of Apulian freedom seemed lost.
Before this battle of Cannae a few Normans had separated themselves from their countrymen and had taken up their habitation in a small town built by the p134Greeks in the pass of the Apennines, which was considered the key of Apulia. The stronghold received the name of Troy, Troia, and afterwards played an important part in the struggles which took place. This small party of Northmen seem to have taken service on the Greek side, but they were, of course, not engaged at Cannae, and after that battle they found themselves on the winning side. The survivors of those who had fought against the Greeks, and certain others, were presented by the victors to the Abbot of Monte Cassino, who, with the Lombard princes, had immediately made advances to the Emperor of Constantinople.
At this point, however, the Emperor of the West, Henry the Second, interfered, and sent an army under the Archbishop of Cologne, a famous fighting prelate, with orders to chastise the Lombard princes and the Abbot of Monte Cassino of their defection to the Greek side, to take Troia, and to reduce Apulia to submission. The first part of this military expedition was accomplished without difficulty, but the handful of Normans in Troia defended themselves throughout a long siege against the German troops, and Henry was forced to content himself with a general statement on the part of the non-combatants that they neither had done nor would do anything against the will of the Holy Roman Emperor.
The only free Normans now left in Italy were those p135in garrison at Troia, and a few who had been given to the Greek Abbot of Monte Cassino and were set free by Henry the Second and established by him in the imperial domain of Comino, in the neighbourhood of Sora. The first, while pretending loyalty to Constantinople, were really independent in the west, and held a position of the highest strategic importance; the others, with a few more of their countrymen who came down from Normandy, at once set about increasing the domain given them by the emperor. One of the persons most directly injured by their depredations very nearly p136proved their destruction. With two hundred and fifty men-at‑arms he prepared an ambush in the defiles of the mountains, and sent forward a score of his men to decoy the Normans from their camp. The Northmen fell into the trap and rode out at once; but the others turned and fled as they had been instructed, and the Normans, who were but five and twenty in number, dashed after them in pursuit. In a few moments they found themselves face to face with the enemy's full force, and hemmed in so that they could not retreat. Seeing that they were matched against overwhelming odds, they sheathed their swords and threw up their empty hands, but the leader of the enemy would not be cheated of his revenge, and in a loud voice commanded his men to fall upon them and slay them. Then those five and twenty horsemen drew their swords again, and fought for their lives, being one against ten; and they killed of the enemy sixty out of two hundred and fifty, and put the rest to an ignominious flight, and carried back the rich spoil of arms to their camp, having themselves lost but one man.
But now Henry the Second and Pope Benedict the Eighth died in the same year, and the Lombard princes whom the German emperor had deposed at once made a league with the Greeks to regain their possessions. The Normans, having nothing better to do, and always wisely anxious to find themselves on the winning side, promptly joined them. Capua resisted the siege during p137eighteen months, but was at last taken, and the Lombard Pandolph, surnamed the Wolf of the Abruzzi, got possession of his own again. As soon as he had established himself, he proceeded to distribute the lands belonging to the abbey of Monte Cassino among those who had helped him, and in the following year he even succeeded in getting possession of Naples, which he held for a short time. The Neapolitan duke, however, soon turned the tables upon him by engaging the Normans on his side, and as they had got all they could hope for from Pandolph, they were easily persuaded to take Naples away from him again and restore it to the good Duke Sergius. They now founded the first Norman city in Italy. In 1030, Randolph, or Rainulf, built Aversa, a few miles north of Naples, and surrounded it with a moat and with very strong fortifications; and with the land on which it was built he and his companions received a broad territory in that country which is to this day the garden of Italy.
The year 1030 is therefore a date of high importance in the story of the Normans, for it marks the period at which they ceased to be mere soldiers of fortune, fighting for any prince who would pay them, and began to be rulers in their own right. The way had been prepared for conquest; history paused in expectation of the conqueror.
In the days of Robert the Devil, otherwise called the Magnificent, there lived in a castle that dominated p138the village of Hauteville-la‑Guichard, a few miles northeast of Coutances, a certain Tancred. He was neither great nor rich, but he was a strong man and wise as the Normans were; he was simply a Norman gentle, like many hundreds of others. Within fifty years his sons had taken for themselves Sicily, and all the south of Italy and the islands; they made and unmade popes, bid defiance to the Emperor of Constantinople, and treated the Emperor of the West as best suited their own purposes.
Of this Tancred it is told, that when hunting the wild boar with the old Duke Richard, being then a very young man, he dealt a memorable sword-stroke that helped to make his fortune. It was a law that no man should strike at the game put up by the sovereign, and on that day a boar of vast size and strength had escaped the duke's own spear and was driven by the dogs through a thick wood to the foot of a cliff. Tancred, being swifter and stronger than the rest, came upon the beast there, and saw how he was tearing the poor hounds with his tusks, being at bay where he could not escape. Then Tancred, pitying the hounds greatly, and having lost his spear, pulled out his long Norman sword, and the boar came at him. He stood his ground, and dealt a single thrust at the beast's forehead, and the good blade pierced hide and skull and throat and body, and the cross-hilt struck the bone. But Tancred, fearing for himself because he had slain p139the duke's game, turned and slipped away through the woods, leaving his sword in the boar, for he trusted that the duke might not find the place, and that he might come back himself and get the blade. Presently, however, the duke and his followers came crashing through the woods, and they found the dead beast lying there; they dragged out the sword, and many of them recognized it. Duke Richard was not angry, though the rule had been broken, and he praised the blow, and made a friend of the man who had dealt it. Tancred, therefore, established himself at the court of Normandy. He was twice married, and had twelve sons — five by his first wife and seven by the second; and it is easy to understand that the estate of a poor Norman gentleman should have seemed an insufficient provision for so many. Tancred, therefore, brought up his sons to know that each must make his own fortune with his own sword. Three of the eldest soon joined one of those parties which now continually left Normandy for the south of Italy, and reaching Naples soon after the foundation of Aversa they took service with Count Rainulf, and soon acquired an extraordinary reputation for courage and quickness of resource. Their names were William, called Bras-de‑Fer, or the Iron Arm, Drogo, and Humphrey.
At that time the feudal system of the middle ages had already reached a great development. The idea which was at the foot of it, was that all lordship p140depended from the sovereign in a regular chain of decreasing links, and that no man could hold large estates, nor small, without owing allegiance to one more powerful than himself, who in turn did homage to a greater, and so on up to the emperor himself, or the Church of Rome. Though Rainulf had a city and a territory of his own, he had nevertheless attached himself in a sort of military service to the powerful Prince of Capua, Pandolph the Fourth, the cruel and unscrupulous Wolf of the Abruzzi. He does not, however, appear to have attached much importance to the idea of fealty towards the feudal lord he had chosen, for soon afterwards, when Pandolph quarrelled with the Duke of Sorrento, who resented the old Wolf's too pressing admiration of his wife, Rainulf did not hesitate to go over, with all his Normans, to Guaimar, Prince of Salerno, who was the lady's uncle; and the consequence was that Pandolph was soon obliged to take refuge in his castle, while the Emperor Conrad himself appeared in Capua, in the year 1038. From his stronghold of Sant' Agata, Pandolph purchased a sort of pardon from the emperor for the sum of three hundred pounds of gold, but the emperor nevertheless deposed him from his principality and presented it to Guaimar, with the standards, or gonfalons, of Salerno and Capua. Guaimar, who knew that he should not be able to take possession of the new principality without a struggle, in which the help of the Normans would be indispensable p141to him, seized the occasion of recommending them to the emperor, who therefore solemnly confirmed Rainulf in his county of Aversa, and presented him with a lance and a standard blazoned with the imperial arms, thereby creating the chief of the Normans a vassal of the Holy Roman Empire. Guaimar made use of his new position to extend his territory in all directions. In April, 1039, he had got possession of Amalfi, then one of the most prosperous commercial cities in the Mediterranean, and so situated at the mouth of a rugged ravine, protected on both sides by enormous cliffs, that it was altogether impregnable to an attack by land. The Duchess of Sorrento, who had been the indirect cause of so much misfortune to her admiring Wolf, was destined to bring destruction upon her husband; with some show of reason the latter repudiated her, whereupon her uncle of Salerno seized Sorrento, adding it to his wide possessions, and investing his brother Guy with the Duchy. The somewhat hardly treated husband was condemned to a solitary confinement, in which he was permitted to reflect upon his honourable errors of judgment until death relieved him from the contemplation of his misfortunes.
Pandolph, seeing himself at so great a disadvantage, now undertook a journey to Constantinople, in the hope of getting help from the emperor; but the wily Guaimar was before him, and had already sent ambassadors who practically offered, on his behalf, to p142help the Greeks in driving the Saracens from Sicily, and the emperor accepted his advance without hesitation.
Now in 1034 the Saracens of Sicily, being involved in civil war, had requested the Byzantines to intervene, which they had of course done in hope of reconquering the island; but the other party appealed to the African Mohammedans, who very soon got the better of the struggle. The death of the leader with whom the Greeks had allied themselves relieved them of all obligation, and they immediately resolved to forget that they had been called in as allies and to assume the part of conquerors. Under orders of George Maniaces they sent out one of those extraordinary armies, such as only the Eastern Empire could have raised. Mercenaries were collected from every territory that owed allegiance to the Eastern emperor, — Scandinavians, Russians, Calabrians, Apulians, Greeks, and Asiatics of every race; and the wise Guaimar of Salerno, who was put to much inconvenience by the turbulence of his Norman friends, was glad to lend them to the Greek general, and promised that if they agreed to help the invasion of Sicily, they should be rewarded both by the Greeks and by himself. Three hundred, or perhaps five hundred, Normans volunteered for this service, under the orders of William Bras-de‑Fer, Drogo, and Humphrey; and with them went also a certain Lombard of the north, named Ardoin.
p143 In 1038, the Greeks and this little band of Normans crossed the straits, landed at Faro, a little to the west of Messina, and marched upon the town. The news of the Greek invasion had put an end to the civil strife of the Mohammedans, and they met the army of the emperor with fifty thousand men at Rametta. They fought bravely and were beaten, and with the true instinct of the Greek for the old Greek capital, Maniaces at once advanced upon Syracuse. Here the Moslems defended themselves in the fortress they had built among the ruins, and the siege lasted some time. The city was under the command of a Moslem governor, and with him William Bras-de‑Fer fought to the death in single combat. Brave as the bravest, and far stronger than other men, the Moslem had long been the terror of the Christians; but his hour was at hand, and the vanguard of a race stronger than his was before him. He fell before the walls of Syracuse, pierced by a Norman spear, and his fall foreran by a few days a surrender of his city. Then the Greeks and the Normans went in together in triumph, and from every nook and hiding place, from the city of tombs, from the catacombs of Saint Martian by the Church of Saint John, from the recesses of those vast quarries whence the Greek tyrants had hewn the stone that built five cities, gathering in such numbers as no man had guessed, the long-oppressed Christians came forth to meet their deliverers, and to p144show them the treasures of gold and silver vessels, and the relics of the saints and the body of the holy Lucy, which was found whole and fresh as on the day when it had been laid to rest. And the chronicle says that the coffin which held the saint's body was overlaid with silver and was sent to Constantinople. Forthwith Maniaces began to build the castle on the southern point of Ortygia which still bears his name, and to strengthen the other fortifications as a base from which to effect the conquest of the island.
The Saracens who had been beaten at Messina had retired to Palermo. The Greek admiral, Stephanos, was not able to hinder their retreat by sea, and Maniaces was so enraged at the failure that when Stephanos arrived in Syracuse he fell upon him and beat him with a stick, in the presence of the troops.
p145 A similar and a worse indignity had been inflicted upon the Lombard captain, Ardoin, most probably after a battle which was fought somewhere between Messina and Syracuse. During the engagement, Ardoin had got possession of a very beautiful horse, after slaying its Saracen rider with his own hand. The battle being over, the grasping Maniaces commanded that the horse should be given to him, which Ardoin refused to do. In a fit of rage Maniaces commanded that the Lombard should be scourged through the camp, and that his horse should be taken from him. The consequence of these two outrageous acts was that the Normans deserted in a body with Ardoin, while Stephanos, the admiral, who had interest at court in Constantinople, caused Maniaces to be recalled. On reaching the capital of the East, he was cruelly mutilated and thrown into prison, where he remained two years. Ardoin and the Normans retired to Aversa and Salerno, vowing vengeance upon the Greeks; and thereafter they kept the oath they took. The Normans were as remarkable for the subtlety with which they could lead their enemies into a trap as they were conspicuously brave when forced to fight against odds in the open field, and in some degree they have transmitted both those qualities to the Englishmen of to‑day. Still smarting from the Greek lash, Ardoin hastened to visit the Greek captain of the Byzantine provinces in Italy, gained his confidence and friendship by rich gifts, and p146persuaded the deluded official to confide to him the government of Melfi, the stronghold which overlooks the plains of Cannae and the river Ofanto, and is the true key to the possession of Apulia from the northwest side. The keen Lombard at once set about secretly stirring up the people against the Greeks, and as soon as he saw that revolution was ripe he made pretext of a pilgrimage to Rome in order to consult Count Rainulf and the Norman chiefs at Aversa. There, in the city they themselves had founded, the daring little band of fighting men distributed the south among themselves. Ardoin was to hand over Melfi, whence it would be easy to expel the Greeks from Italy altogether, and he was to take one-half of the conquered country, while the Normans were to divide the remainder. The Northmen swore a solemn oath, and, as the Abbé Delarc briefly expresses it, three hundred Normans, led by twelve chiefs, followed Ardoin to fight in open warfare against an empire that still held a great part of Europe and Asia, and ruled over many millions of subjects. Among these chiefs were William Bras-de‑Fer and Drogo, Tancred's sons, as well as Ardoin himself. With the compactness and energy of those sudden storms which, in the flash of a minute, drive straight clearings through the mighty forests of Suabia, tearing up thousands of ancient trees in their path, the little army fell upon Melfi. The few Greeks that were there fled almost without resistance, and the Normans p147were masters of the place in a day. With the instinct of true conquerors, they lost no time in fortifying their position; but it was by the habitual methods of highway robbers and pirates that they began to extend their conquest, pillaging Venosa in the south, Ravello in the east, and Ascoli to northward, while none dared stand against them, but all people were amazed and terror-struck under their furious raids.
And now their victims, seeing that the Normans had not come to free them but to devour them, appealed to the Greeks again, and the captain of the south, who had given up Amalfi to Ardoin, came against the Normans with a great army, and met them near Venosa. There a herald of the Greeks rode forward, mounted on a splendid charger, to offer the invaders terms of peace if they would ride away and harry the country no more; and while he was speaking a big Norman, whose name was Hugo Tudextifen, stood by his horse's head. But when he had said all, the giant raised his ungloved fist and smote the horse between the eyes, so that he fell down dead; and this he did that the Greek might know what manner of men Northmen were.
So the next day, which was the seventeenth of March, 1041, the battle was fought, and the Normans had seven hundred mounted men and five hundred men-at‑arms who fought on foot, for they had recruited many among the discontented people of Apulia. The Greeks were thirty thousand, and some have said that they were sixty thousand, p148and they came against the Normans drawn up in a wedge, as was their wont. They were utterly and completely vanquished, and besides the thousands that fell under the Norman sword, many were drowned as they tried to cross the stream in their flight.
But such was the energy of the Greek general that in little more than seven weeks after his humiliating defeat he faced the Normans again, on the fourth of May, in the great plain of Cannae, ever thirsty for blood. Again the same fate met him, again the Normans slew until they could slay no more, again the waters of the river swallowed up thousands of terrified fugitives. On the field of battle were found among the dead two great churchmen, Angelus, Bishop of Troia, and Stephen, Bishop of Acerenza; for in those days bishops rode out to battle like other men, and in the south the Church was bound to Constantinople.
With a tenacity unusual in the Greeks in those days, the Byzantine general collected the remains of his troops, brought over others from Sicily, and prepared to face the Normans a third time; but the Eastern emperor had lost confidence in the unsuccessful leader, and replaced him by another. The Normans on their side made use of the booty they had taken in order to raise fresh troops, and with their usual diplomatic skill they chose as their commander-in‑chief a brother of the Lombard Prince of Benevento.
p149 The third battle was fought on the third of September, in the same year, 1041, almost on the ground where the last had been fought. The Normans had suffered great losses, in spite of their victories, the people of Apulia believed that the Eastern Empire was in earnest at last, and the little army of invaders could muster but seven hundred men to face ten p150thousand. William Bras-de‑Fer himself, ill of the quartan fever, sat on his horse at a little distance, looking on. The Greek general harangued his troops in a heroic strain, calling up legends of Achilles and stories of Philip and Alexander. The Greek host came on in even order against an adversary that was despicably inferior in numbers; the Normans faced them like men, and fought like lions, but were driven back by the sheer weight that opposed them. Then William Bras-de‑Fer, ill as he was, drew his great sword and rode at the foe for life and death; and the Normans took heart and struck ten times while the Greeks struck only once, and hewed them in pieces upon the plain; and when there was no Greek left to fight them, they bound the Greek general upon his horse, and with great joy rode back to Melfi, bearing of the rich spoil as much as they could carry. The victory was decisive, and its consequences were destined to be enduring.
The history of the following years chiefly concerns two struggles of a very different nature, one of which took place between the Normans of Melfi and the Greeks, for the possession of Apulia, while the other was entered into by the monks of Monte Cassino, in the hope of regaining those territories which at various times had been taken from them. In this war, Normans found themselves engaged on each side, and seldom hesitated to go over from one side to the p151other when their interests could be served by so doing.
Statues in front of the church
They were no sooner out of sight than Maniaces led out his timid troops and marched them along the coast. His progress was marked by a series of the most atrocious cruelties; wherever he suspected p153the people of having sympathized with the Normans, he ordered wholesale executions; the wretched peasants were hanged and beheaded without mercy, many were buried alive up to the neck and left to die, and the dastardly Greeks hewed little children in pieces in that blind rage of cruelty which only cowards can feel. Meanwhile the Normans, who were now in force, proceeded with their conquest of Apulia, taking one city after another, and they would soon have been in possession of the whole country by force of arms, if a new turn of affairs in Constantinople had not brought about the recall of Maniaces and an attempt on the part of the Byzantine port to bring about an alliance with the Normans. The emperor now offered Argyros the titles and honours of Byzantine catapan and of a patrician of the Empire; the son of the devoted Meles had the weakness to yield to these blandishments, and immediately proclaimed the supremacy of the emperor in Bari. By this step he at once lost the confidence of the Normans, who refused to own him any longer for their chief, and elected the valiant William Bras-de‑Fer for their count and leader. Without hesitation he presented himself before Guaimar, Prince of Salerno, as his liege lord, and was acknowledged by him as Count of Apulia; but it appears that in the peculiar scale of suzerainties that made up the feudal system, Rainulf of Aversa became the nominal p154suzerain of Apulia, a sort of intermediary between Guaimar and William.
Maniaces did not accept his recall with the humility which Constantinople had expected of him; on the contrary, he promptly revolted, proclaimed himself Emperor of the East, and besieged Argyros, the emperor's new ally, in Bari. Failing to take the place, he now appealed to the Normans, who indignantly refused his proposals. He still held Taranto in the south, but before long was driven from that position by another Greek army, crossed the Adriatic, and perished in Bulgaria, while attempting to continue the struggle. His death so far simplified the political situation, that the contest was now continued between two parties only, the Normans under William Bras-de‑Fer on the one hand, and the Greeks of Bari under Argyros the Lombard on the other. These events bring us to the year 1043, and during their development the quarrel about the lands of Monte Cassino had begun and continued. I shall try to sum up the question in a few words. The abbots of Monte Cassino had invoked the assistance of certain Normans to defend them, and about this time Pandolph the Wolf had presented other Normans with extensive lands belonging to the same abbey. The Emperor Conrad had contented himself with the promise of the latter party to respect the power of the Abbot Richer, who, on the departure of the emperor, got some help p155from Guaimar of Salerno, and recovered at least one fortress. Pandolph the Wolf, who had meanwhile gone to Constantinople to ask assistance in recovering Capua, and who had been exiled by a capricious court, now returned to Italy, having been set at liberty by p156the death of the emperor; and he returned as the open enemy both of Guaimar and of the Abbot Richer. As allies he had on his side the two Norman counts of Aquino, who had married his daughters, as well as the Normans whom he had established on the abbey lands; against him were ranged on the side of the abbot, Guaimar of Salerno and Rainulf of Aversa. Early in the struggle the abbot was defeated at the head of his men and taken prisoner, while one of the counts of Aquino fell into the hands of Guaimar. The two prisoners having been exchanged, Richer began a journey to the north, in order to appeal to the Emperor of the West; he was wrecked near Rome, but was provided with means for continuing on his way by the Roman nobles. In his absence a plague broke out in Aquino and the neighbourhood, and the counts, who were devout men and regarded the epidemic as a visitation from heaven, went up to the abbey as penitents, on foot and with halters round their necks, to implore forgiveness for their evil deeds. Richer now returned, bringing with him five hundred Lombards, but was soon persuaded by Guaimar to travel northwards again in order to recruit a larger force. The plague and the abbot having disappeared simultaneously, the counts of Aquino repented of their repentance, attacked the abbey again, seized it, and installed the former abbot, who had fled with Pandolph the Wolf to Constantinople. This roused Guaimar to p157action at last, and appearing with a Norman army, he once more set the monks at liberty. Richer now returned from the north with a considerable force, and the Normans who held the abbey lands were brought to reason, and swore fealty to the rightful abbot. There is much confusion of dates in the accounts of these events, but it is certain that after the death of Maniaces the old quarrel broke out again, and matters looked so ill Richer that he thought for a while of returning to his native Bavaria. He appears to have been prevented from so doing by the following incident and its consequences.
Norman doorway at Trapani
Even now the monks were not out of danger, for the young Randolph was at large again, having been liberated at the request of Drogo, Count of Apulia, who paid the monastery a thousand pieces of silver for his ransom, and if an early death had not cut short his career, the young man would probably have taken vengeance for the injuries he had suffered at the monks' hands. The quarrel about the abbey lands, however, was at an end, since the monastery had regained possession of them, and the ground of those differences without which the Normans were still unable to bear the monotony of a prosperous existence, was now removed to another matter. On the premature death of Rainulf's nephew, another of his nephews, also called Rainulf, and surnamed Trincanocte, claimed the county, but fell into the hands of Guaimar of Salerno, who insisted on his right of presenting the county to a man of his own choice. The young Rainulf was imprisoned in that dark fortress which still hangs above Salerno, and to which so many gloomy stories are attached. With him there was another Norman and two men of Amalfi. Before long they gained the sympathies of their jailor, Martin, who allowed the Amalfitans to send p160to Amalfi for a few measures of drugged wine. The jailor gave the liquor to the soldiers of the guard, who drank it and fell asleep, and he then allowed the four to leave the castle. Swift horses, held in readiness by the men of Amalfi, bore the escaped prisoners by the pass of La Cava to the strong castle of Maddaloni beyond Naples on the highroad to Rome. Of course the irrepressible and indefatigable Pandolph seized the opportunity of allying himself with the young Rainulf; together they drove Guaimar's count from Aversa and planned an attack upon Salerno; but their plans were disconcerted when they learned that Drogo of Apulia was in arms to help his liege lord, Guaimar, and though the two armies came face to face almost at the foot of Vesuvius, the matter was brought to a peaceable conclusion. Drogo had the wisdom to intercede for Rainulf with Guaimar, who at last consented, though much against his wishes, to invest the young man with the gonfalon of Aversa. Rainulf Trincanocte had gained his end, but was now, of course, Pandolph's enemy. All these things seem to have happened in the year 1045. At the same time the struggle in Apulia was continuing, and Argyros of Bari was badly beaten by William Bras-de‑Fer at Trani. The combined forces of Guaimar and of Bras-de‑Fer had also accomplished the difficult feat of marching down through Calabria, and had built a strong Norman fort at Squillace on the Gulf of Taranto, almost, if not quite, in sight of Sicily.
p161 In 1046, the population of Apulia seems to have revolted against Constantinople, Argyros was replaced by another catapan, who lost Taranto or Trani, or both, in the last battle which William Bras-de‑Fer was destined to fight. After a career of little more than ten years, the Norman hero passed away, we know not exactly when, nor where. It is said that he was buried in the Church of the Trinity at Venosa, but I believe that no trace of his tomb is to be found.
It is needless to say that the death of such a man in such times caused new trouble, but the Norman power had already reached the straits, and it was a foregone conclusion that it should before long embrace all the south. Drogo, who seems to have been associated in the leadership with his brother William, succeeded him, and received in marriage the daughter of Guaimar with a great dowry.
At this time the troubles in which the Papacy was involved by the simultaneous existence of three popes, namely, Benedict the Ninth, Sylvester the Third, and Gregory the Sixth, called for the presence and interference of the Emperor Henry the Third, surnamed the Black. With an energy remarkable even in those times, the young sovereign descended into Lombardy at the head of a large army, held a synod at Pavia, deposed the three popes by a stroke of the imperial pen, and proceeded to Rome. Without delay he imposed upon the cardinals the election of the German bishop p162of Bamberg under the name of Clement the Second, by whom he immediately caused himself and his Empress Agnes to be anointed and crowned. His direct action put a stop to the hideous evils which had begun during the domination in Rome of that extraordinary woman known as Theodora Senatrix, and which had continued under the popes and princes of her evil race; but Henry the Black would have done better had he confirmed Gregory the Sixth in the Papacy.
In 1047, accompanied by the Pope he had made, he marched southwards to Monte Cassino, and was received with the highest honours in the now prosperous abbey. At Capua he convoked the rulers of the south, Guaimar of Salerno, Drogo of Apulia, Rainulf Trincanocte of Aversa, Pandolph the Wolf, and all other lords who were supposed to hold their lands from the Empire. His intention was to pacify and organize the south, but he was no longer dealing with antipopes and clergymen; he was face to face with the strongest and most cunning men of the age, and with men, moreover, who now commanded wealth that could dazzle even an emperor. Pandolph brought such splendid offerings that Henry was persuaded to restore to him the long-lost principality of Capua, to the inexpressible chagrin of Guaimar, who had now held it for nine years. Drogo and Rainulf prevailed upon him by presents to confirm them in their domains as imperial vassals, thus liberating p163them from the suzerainty of Guaimar, who thereby lost the title of Duke of Apulia and Calabria. This was the beginning of the end of the great Lombard house of Salerno.
Proceeding on his way, and accompanied by his faithful Pope, Henry suddenly found himself opposed at Benevento by the loyalty of its inhabitants to the now almost forgotten Empire of the East. Having already sent back a portion of his army to Germany, Henry contented himself with burning the suburbs of the city, and by way of vengeance, presented the whole country to the Normans on condition that they could take it. His obedient Pope then and there excommunicated the entire population, and the two departed, leaving the Normans to work their will unhindered.
There can be no doubt but that Henry's intentions were good, but his visit to the south was the beginning of many troubles between the Papacy and the Normans; he certainly did wrong in restoring Capua to Pandolph, and his gift of Benevento to men who had no sort of claim to it was most unjust. His departure from Italy and the events just narrated coincided very nearly with the appearance of a new and most extraordinary character upon the scene. It was at this time that Robert, afterwards surnamed Guiscard, the eldest son born of the second marriage of Tancred of Hauteville, followed the example of his elder half-brothers and came to seek his fortune in Italy.
p164 Imitating the example of the Abbé Delarc, my guide through the intricacies of this period of history, I shall quote here the portrait of Robert, which is found in the 'Alexiad' of Anna Comnena, a princess of Constantinople.
"This Robert was of Norman origin and of an obscure family; he united a marvellous astuteness with immense ambition, and his bodily strength was prodigious. His whole desire was to attain to the wealth and power of the greatest living men; he was extremely tenacious of his designs and most wise in finding means to attain his ends. In stature he was taller than the tallest; of a ruddy hue and fair-haired, he was broad shouldered, and his eyes sparkled with fire; the perfect proportion of all his limbs made him a model of beauty from head to heel, as I have often heard people tell. Homer says of Achilles that those who heard his voice seemed to hear the thundering shout of a great multitude, but it used to be said of this man that his battle-cry would turn back tens of thousands. Such a man, one in such a position, of such a nature, and of such spirit, naturally hated the idea of service, and would not be subject to any man; for such are those natures which are born too great for their surroundings.
"Being, therefore, so constituted and utterly incapable of obeying, Robert set out from Normandy with five horsemen and thirty men on foot, all told, p165and came and lived in the fastnesses and caverns and mountains of Lombardy (at that time meaning Calabria), supporting himself by robbery and plundering p166travellers, thus procuring horses, necessaries, and arms. So the beginning of his life was filled with bloodshed and many murders."
It is needless to say that after the Emperor Henry's departure, Guaimar at once made a vigorous effort to regain the principality of Capua; and by the help of the Normans he took the city and received the submission of the old Wolf. The two, however, soon quarrelled again concerning the person of a certain Count of Teano whom Pandolph had long kept a prisoner and had treated very cruelly. Guaimar had caused him to be set at liberty, and Pandolph now attempted to imprison him again. Guaimar again appealed to the Normans, who responded to his call; but Robert, who had received no favours from his brothers since his appearance in Italy, turned against them and fought for Pandolph, who promised him a castle and one of his daughters in marriage. The promises were, of course, not fulfilled, and Robert departed, vowing the destruction of Pandolph's house.
His brother Drogo, wearied by his importunities, now gave him a small castle in lower Calabria, overlooking the valley of the Crati and the site of ancient Sybaris. The place was in a dangerous situation, in the heart of an enemy's country, and Drogo perhaps hoped that his wild young brother would not attempt to hold it, and would leave Italy altogether. But he had misjudged a man far greater than himself. Robert left the place p167indeed, but only to move up the valley to the famous rock of San Marco, where he established himself and led the life of a desperate marauder. With the true Norman instinct, he made friends also by means of the booty he took from others. In this way, besides his own men, he had a small force consisting of a few score natives, desperate ruffians whose interests were bound up with his own. Once, being almost reduced to starvation, he sent them out by night on a marauding expedition, then secretly dressed himself like one of them and accompanied their march, lest the natives should lead his own men into a trap, and he only showed himself at dawn when the fighting grew hot; and he and they brought home great spoil. The careful chronicler of Monte Cassino, who detested all Normans with good reason, made an extraordinarily accurate list of Robert's thefts, counting up a number of oxen and brood mares, thirty head of horned cattle, ten fat porkers, and so on, and adding that Robert used to capture even peasants, whom he caused to pay ransom in bread and wine. Furthermore, the chronicler, as if speaking of a great hardship, says that Robert was more than once actually obliged to drink pure water from the spring, and that he visited his brother Drogo again and told him of his great poverty, and that what he said with his lips he showed in his face, for he was very thin.
A trick he played upon a friend about this time p168describes the man who was to conquer the south. He was on very good terms with a certain knight, the Lord of Bisignano, a man of considerable possessions. One day they met by agreement, and Robert commanded his men to halt at a little distance, while he embraced his friend. He embraced him indeed, for riding up to him, he threw his arms round him, brought him to the ground, and placing his knees upon his chest held him fast, until he promised to pay a ransom of twenty thousand gold pieces. While the money was being collected, he kept him a close prisoner in San Marco, but came to him in his cell and confessed on his knees and in tears that he had committed a great sin, but that his friend's wealth and his own poverty constrained him to do this deed. 'Thou art my father,' he said, 'and it is meet that a father should help his poor son, for this thing is commanded by the law of the king, that a father who is rich in all things should succour the poverty of his son.' When the money was paid, and he was riding sadly homeward, the Lord of Bisignano must have made some curious reflections upon filial piety, and the spontaneous choice of parents.
In spite of such deeds, however, Robert continued to be relatively poor. He suddenly improved his fortunes by matrimony. Being on his way to visit his brother Drogo, probably in the hope of extracting money from him, he was met by a Norman kinsman of his, named Gerard, who appears to have been the first to appreciate p169qualities that were surprising, if not good, for he first, and on that occasion, addressed Robert as 'Guiscard,' 'the astute.' 'O Guiscard,' said he, 'why do you thus wander hither and thither? Behold, now, marry my aunt, the sister of my father, and I will be your knight, and will go with you to conquer Calabria, and I will bring two hundred riders.'
In spite of Drogo's strong objections, Robert took Gerard's advice and espoused the aunt, of whom we have, unfortunately, no portrait; her name is variously written Adverarda and Alberada, and he afterwards repudiated her. Gerard kept his word, and with his help Robert won castles and towns and devoured the land.
At this time a certain Richard of the Norman house of Aversa appeared upon the scene, having been exiled by the young Rainulf Trincanocte, who feared him on account of his great popularity. Coming to Apulia, he found a friend in Humphrey, but soon quarrelled with Drogo. He must have possessed by great charm, together with the gift of inspiring confidence, for an old Norman noble, the childless Lord of Genzano in Apulia, took him to his heart and home and made him master of all his castles. About this time, also, old Pandolph the Wolf closed his chequered career, dying that last in possession of his principality, and leaving it to his son; and at no great interval the young Rainulf of Aversa also died, leaving an only son, who was a mere p170child. Richard of Genzano would very naturally have seized Aversa, where he was beloved by the people, but in his quarrel with Drogo the latter had succeeded in imprisoning him, and it was not until the people of Aversa formally requested Guaimar to make him their count that Drogo consented to set him at liberty, and he was invested with the county by Guaimar himself. The south of Italy was now divided between this Norman Richard of Aversa, the sons of Tancred, the two Lombard princes of Salerno and Capua, and the Greeks who held Bari for the emperor. There was, moreover, the city and country of Benevento, which Henry the Third had given over to the Normans, but which before long appealed to the Pope for protection.
We must now briefly return to the troubles in which the Papacy was involved. Henry the Black had returned to Germany, and he had left his German Pope, Clement the Second, in Rome. The latter was alone and without friends, and within seven months the anti-Pope, Benedict the Ninth, succeeded in poisoning him and in taking possession of the Holy See. In the following year the emperor sent a second German Pope to Rome, under the name of Damasus the Second; after a reign of twenty-three days he shared the fate of his predecessor, and was buried also. Henry now held a great assembly at Worms, the result of which was that Bruno, Bishop of Toul, in Lorraine, consented to go p171to Rome and to be made Pope, on condition that the Roman clergy and people should elect him of their own free will. He arrived, bringing with him as a friend and counsellor that famous Hildebrand who long afterwards brought Henry the Fourth barefooted in the snow to Canossa. Bruno was elected at once and took the name of Leo the Ninth.
At the outset of his pontificate this Pope found himself face to face with something like starvation. The Holy See possessed absolutely no source of income; the Pope had soon expended the little ready money he and his friends had with them, and before long they actually made arrangements to sell their vestments and superfluous clothes in order to raise a little sum with which they might secretly return to Lorraine. At this critical juncture a deputation of nobles arrived from Benevento, bearing rich gifts, and entreating the Pope to revoke the excommunication which the emperor had caused to be pronounced upon their city. It must be remembered that the Papacy had long laid claim to Benevento, rightly or wrongly, and it seems that the people themselves, in spite of their conduct at the time of Henry's visit, preferred to submit to the authority of the Papacy rather than to be left a prey to the Normans. Leo the Ninth at once undertook the journey to the south, where he was well received by the Lombard princes, and a year later he renewed his visit, remaining some time in Benevento. On these occasions p172he conceived a strong dislike for the Normans, but on meeting the Norman chiefs at Monte Gargano he was completely deceived by their promises. He did not understand that in taking possession of Benevento he had set a limit to the Norman conquest in a northward direction; and when, after a third visit to Benevento, during which he received the most friendly assurances from Guaimar and Drogo, the Normans in the neighbourhood rose and attacked the city, his irritation and disappointment knew no bounds. But the message whom he sent to the Count of Apulia to protest against the outrage was met by the news that Drogo had been assassinated.
The Italians of the south had formed a great conspiracy to rid themselves of the Norman domination by a wholesale massacre. From Benevento Drogo had gone to the castle of Montolio in Apulia, and there, on the tenth of August, being the feast of Saint Lawrence, he went to mass in the castle church. As he entered, the murderer sprang upon him from behind the door and stabbed him, and at the same moment the Italians in the castle fell upon the unsuspecting Normans, and killed many of them before they could defend themselves. In many parts of Apulia the conspiracy broke out at the same time, and many Normans perished, but Humphrey and Robert Guiscard escaped, and swore a great oath to avenge the treachery. So Humphrey became Count of Apulia, and Robert stood by him, and p173they bound the limbs of him who had slain Drogo, and sawed them off one by one, and because the man still breathed they buried him alive. The rest of the prisoners they hanged, and these executions, says the chronicler, somewhat allayed the grief of Humphrey. And Leo the Ninth, who had believed that Drogo was his friend, sang a mass for his soul that all his sins might be forgiven him.
Drogo had undoubtedly been the man who might have made peace between the Papacy and the Normans, and his death drove Leo the Ninth to make a vain appeal to the emperor for help. He was ready to offer anything in his gift, temporal or spiritual, to Henry the First,º the King of France, and the Duke of Marseilles, if they would only help to deliver the land from the malice of the Normans. But they were not to be moved, and in his great need the Pope turned to the Greeks, who still had a foothold in Bari under the Lombard Argyros. The latter had returned from Constantinople in 1051, bringing immense sums of money, with which the emperor hoped that the Normans might be bribed to leave Italy and serve the Eastern Empire; but the Normans refused all such advances with scorn, and Argyros was obliged to continue the war he had so long waged at a disadvantage. Desiring the expulsion of the Normans quite as much as Pope Leo himself, he turned to him spontaneously and met his advances halfway.
p174 In 1052, the Pope made his first attempt at an attack, and gathered some troops in the neighbourhood of Naples, attempting at the same time to gain the alliance of Guaimar; but the latter remembered that the Normans had helped him in many a difficulty, and sternly refused to have anything to do with such a war; the Pope's troops could no longer be kept together, and the Pope took refuge in Naples. A few weeks afterwards a frightful tragedy changed the course of events in the south.
Guaimar's wife was a daughter of one of the Lombard counts of Teano, and, unknown to Guaimar, her four brothers had long been conspiring to seize his throne. They drew into their conspiracy the people of Amalfi, who had not lost the tradition of their recent independence, and whom Guaimar had been obliged to treat with severity. They, indeed, began something like a regular war by attacking Salernitan vessels on the high seas, and at last they actually appeared with warships before Salerno, and effected a landing. Guaimar seized his arms and rushed down to the shore to repel the attack, but his Salernitan soldiers fled before the determined Amalfitans, and in a moment Guaimar found himself surrounded by his four brothers-in‑law and a host of conspirators, who were in reality in league with the men of Amalfi. One of the four pierced the prince with his lance, and the others stabbed him at once. He fell with thirty-six wounds, p175and his murderers dragged his body along the beach with every indignity.
He was avenged within the week by the Normans, who not only remembered that he had recently refused to join the Greeks and the Pope against them, but were extremely anxious to maintain his dynasty in the principality. In answer to the appeal of his brother Guy, who found some of the Norman chiefs in the neighbourhood of Benevento, they hastily gathered their forces and appeared before Salerno five days after the murder. The city opened its gates to them, but the conspirators took refuge in the strong fortress above. The Normans held the wives and children of the four as hostages and consented to exchange them and liberate them on condition that they would set free Guaimar's son Gisulf, and solemn promises were given that the sons of the Count of Teano and their accomplices should be allowed to depart unhurt. Guy probably meant to keep his word, but his Norman soldiers protested that they had not given theirs, and falling upon the fugitives slaughtered six and thirty of them, one for every wound that had been found in the murdered Guaimar's body. The Duke of Sorrento alone was spared. With splendid good faith, considering the times, Guy set his nephew Gisulf upon the throne of Salerno, and stood by him as a loyal counsellor.
The Pope now took advantage of circumstances which made him a successful mediator between the p176King of Hungary and Henry the Third, to make a fresh appeal to the latter, but could obtain nothing except the confirmation of the papal Duchy of Benevento; for although the emperor saw the necessity of lending the Pope an army wherewith to hold it against the Normans, he could not make up his mind to do so. Leo the Ninth, with undaunted energy, collected a little force of adventurous Suabians and other Germans, whom he led southwards with considerable strategic skill until he had effected a junction with Argyros of Bari. The hatred of the Normans throughout Italy was only exceeded at that time by the fear they inspired, and during the Pope's progress a motley company of irregular fighters flocked to his standard from all parts of Italy. With the exception of the few Germans who had crossed the Alps with him, his army was chiefly Italian, for the Lombards, who had joined him, had long lost their distinctive nationality. Argyros met them in the low land not far from Monte Gargano and probably within sight of that famous place of Norman pilgrimage. The Normans, on their side, had collected together a little army. Robert Guiscard had brought up his wild marauders from the furthest limits of Calabria, Richard of Aversa was there with his trained men-at‑arms, and Humphrey had called out every Norman fighting man in Apulia. Yet the whole army was so small that before giving battle the Normans p177attempted, with their usual prudence, to effect a compromise, and sent messengers to the Pope suing for peace and declaring that every Norman in Italy was willing to acknowledge his authority.
Leo the Ninth was in the midst of the allied forces, surrounded by his little band of Suabians and Germans; and they, in scorn of men who fought on horseback with pointed sticks, laughed at the Norman messengers and constrained the pontiff to give an overbearing answer. The Normans were to lay down their arms and leave Italy at once; if they refused to do so they should taste of the long German sword. They might choose between instant destruction or immediate departure.
Seeing that they could obtain no terms, the messengers retired, and after a short reconnoissance of the enemy's position, the Normans gave battle on the eighteenth of June, 1053. Count Humphrey held the centre, Richard, with his splendid cavalry, took the right, while Robert Guiscard had the left wing. Richard of Aversa, as commanding the most thoroughly trained troops, made the attack, falling upon the united force of the Italians, says the chronicler, like a vulture upon a flock of doves, and scattering them far and wide in instant panic. The Suabians, on the contrary, stood firm against Humphrey's repeated charges, for the struggle was between Teutons and Northmen. Hand to hand they fought with their swords, and p178the Germans learned that their own were not the better. Then Robert Guiscard made one of those wild charges that have often turned the fortunes of war and directed the course of history, leading men who, like himself, had little to lose and all to gain. The faithful Gerard was beside him, and together they broke the stout German ranks. Robert's great sword paused not in slaughter, beheading men at a blow to right and left, and inflicting frightful wounds. Three times his horse was killed under him and three times he caught another and mounted again. The huge Germans stood up to him and his followers, and died where they stood, while the less sturdy Lombards fled from the fight, and when the victory seemed won, the wounded and mutilated still fought on. Meanwhile Richard had returned from pursuing his scattered Italians, and came back to strike the final blow, and when the battle was over there was not a Suabian nor a German alive on the field.
The Pope, overcome at the sight of the bloodshed he had caused, rather than disappointed in his hopes, had retired into the neighbouring town of Civitate and watched the last destruction of his army from the ramparts; but the inhabitants of the little town, seeing which way the fight had gone, thrust out the venerable pontiff just as the infuriated Normans had set fire to the houses and sheds that stood outside the gate. With sublime indifference to danger, the Pope and his p179few attendant clerks marched straight towards the enemy, bearing a cross in their midst. It is said that as they went towards the rising flames, a sudden breeze sprang up and drove the fire back upon the Normans. How this may be we know not, but it is certain that either on that evening or on the next day at dawn, Leo met the Norman chiefs face to face, and he spoke to them with such eloquence, so tenderly and yet so strongly, that they were touched, and kneeled down before him and asked his blessing, and, perhaps in one of their rare moments of sincerity, they promised that they would be faithful to him, and would take the place of his soldiers whom they had slain.
Then he caused the dead to be buried hard by Civitate, and many centuries afterwards men saw the great mound that was raised above their bones; and when he had said a mass for the repose of their souls, he departed towards Benevento. Humphrey of Apulia was himself the first to lead the Pope's escort, and many hundred Normans accompanied him to the end of his journey; and though they might well be glad that they were rid of his army, there was something not unchivalrous, after all, in the reverent courtesy they showed to their vanquished and venerable foe. But at Benevento all the people came out to meet him, and when they saw the sad faces of the bishops and clerks that were with him, and that he was surrounded, not by his own army, but by Norman knights, they all broke out into cries p180and lamentations, which ceased not while they led him in mournful procession to the church.
During about a year, Leo the Ninth remained in Benevento, still believing that he might accomplish the expulsion of the Normans before his death, for he was only about fifty years of age, and we learn that he at this time began the study of the Greek language. But he had not long to live, and his last months were embittered and disturbed by theological controversies with the East, which ended soon after his death in the final separation of the Eastern and Western Churches. The Eastern emperor and the Pope were both equally anxious to free Southern Italy from the Normans, but the Patriarch of Constantinople, whose influence with the people of that city was paramount, and with whom the emperor was obliged to reckon at every turn, was jealous of Rome and aimed at the absolute independence of his patriarchate. At that time a correspondence which took place between an Eastern and a Western bishop concerning the use of leaven in the consecrated bread, the celibacy of the clergy, and the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, was placed in the hands of Leo the Ninth. He took up the matter and wrote a vigorous letter to the Patriarch Michael, whom the emperor obliged to return a meek answer for the sake of his own political relations with the Pope. The latter then sent three legates to Constantinople bearing an epistle to Michael which condemned p181the Eastern view of the three mooted points in the strongest possible language. In spite of the letter he had been obliged to write, however, the patriarch successfully avoided a meeting with the ambassadors, stirred up a popular riot against the emperor, and persevered in his errors. An exchange of excommunications and other amenities at once followed, the three legates excommunicated the Patriarch Michael, and the Patriarch Michael excommunicated the three legates, who departed, shaking the dust from their feet. During their absence, Leo the Ninth was taken ill and died in the month of April; in July his bull was burned in Constantinople, and the permanent division of the Eastern and Western Churches, which had begun with the dissension of Photius two centuries earlier, became an accomplished fact.
The Pope died in April. He left Benevento in a dying condition in March, and was accompanied to Capua by Count Humphrey and the Normans. He spent his last days in Rome in visiting the Church of Saint Peter's, and in pious exhortations to his people and the Roman clergy concerning the vanity of human things, and he departed from this world, as he had lived in it, a very upright and just man.
Unsuccessful though he had been at Civitate, his moral influence throughout Italy had been a check on the Norman expansion. When he was gone, the people of Benevento saw that the Roman Church was wholly unable to protect them against the Normans, p182who set at naught the emperor's donation of their city to the popes. They were able to resist a siege, but restored the Lombard dynasty, and Count Humphrey departed southwards in sullen wrath to wreak vengeance upon the conspirators who had slain Drogo. There being now neither papal nor Greek troops to oppose him, he subjected the south to a reign of terror, and wholesale executions of Italians, by hanging and beheading, avenged the murder of Tancred's son.
Now also came two more of those sons, Geoffrey and a second William; and Humphrey, to establish these two in possessions not unworthy to be compared to his own, took Salerno from the young Gisulf, who indeed had kept little faith with any one, and least of all with his Uncle Guy, to whom he owed his life and estate; and at the same time, Richard of Aversa quarrelled with him and helped Tancred's sons. Gisulf himself was led into an ambush, and only escaped by throwing himself into the sea and swimming for his life.
Meanwhile Argyros of Bari, who was in bad odour in Constantinople since the battle of Civitate, was unable to obtain help from any one, and Humphrey, Geoffrey, and Robert Guiscard inflicted another overwhelming defeat upon him near Brindisi. The Greek cause was now lost beyond all hope.
The Normans quarrelled, indeed, among themselves, p183and there is an account of a violent scene which took place between Humphrey and Robert at dinner, but of which the cause is not known. In sudden anger at something said by Guiscard, Humphrey commanded him to be thrown into prison, whereupon Robert snatched up a sword and made at his brother to kill him, but was held fast by the bystanders, and was actually kept a prisoner for a short time. But the brothers were soon reconciled, and Humphrey presented his brother with more lands in Calabria, and gave him, moreover, a number of knights. From his grim stronghold of San Marco, whence he ravaged the country continually, Robert was soon after this called to his brother's death-bed, and the dying Humphrey, who foresaw that the terrible young Guiscard would be his successor in Apulia, whether he would or not, wisely made him guardian of his son, a lad. Humphrey was buried with his brothers in the monastery of Venosa, and the Guiscard ruled in his stead.
Ruins of the abbey at Mileto
Tower in the castle of Frederick II
A reconciliation now followed, by which Robert granted Roger forty men-at‑arms, with permission to commit unlimited depredations, and for some time the younger brother consented to follow the life of a marauder, from which Guiscard had risen to such power.
During this time, however, the latter needed his services in some expedition, and when he was rewarded for two months of hard fighting with the present of a single horse, he turned upon his brother indignantly, went back to Scalea, and lost no time in pillaging Robert's lands.
The year 1058 was a memorable one in the south; the Normans harried the land without ceasing, and gave no quarter when their demands were not satisfied; the crops had failed, and the country suffered from severe famine, so that the people were reduced to making bread of chestnuts and acorns, and even out of reeds and aquatic plants, and they ate raw roots, seasoning them with a little salt. Then an abundant harvest followed the lean year, and men died of surfeit as they had lately died of hunger. Meanwhile the quarrel between Roger and Robert continued, and the Calabrians, p186seeing their opportunity, attempted to shake off the Norman yoke. The oppressors were treacherously murdered, and in one castle sixty Normans were massacred in a single day. Robert saw that he was on the point of losing Calabria altogether, while Apulia was already on the point of revolution, and making a virtue of necessity, he sent ambassadors to the young Roger and made peace, presenting him with a large part of southern Calabria, from Mount Intefoli and Squillace to Reggio.
In the meantime Richard of Aversa had followed the example of Humphrey and Robert, and had done his best to extend his dominions. The old Lombard dynasty had been restored in Capua, and as the opportunity seemed favourable for seizing the principality, Richard marched against the city, but being unable to take it, he systematically destroyed the crops and fruit trees, until the people paid him six thousand gold bezants to quit their territory. He did so at the time, but on the death of the prince, he returned with a greater force than before, and drove out the prince's youthful successor. He now took the title of Prince of Capua, without consulting Pope or emperor, and immediately picked a quarrel with the Count of Aquino, to whose son he had affianced his daughter. The ingenuity of the claim he made was worthy of a Norman and of the times. The young man died before the marriage took place, and thereupon Richard p187claimed the wedding gift which, according to the Lombard law, the bridegroom was bound to present to his bride on the morning after the marriage. He had the insolence to demand on these grounds a quarter of all the count's possessions, and on the latter's refusal to pay such a preposterous indemnity, he marched against Aquino with his army. It was during the siege that Richard paid a friendly visit to the monks of Monte Cassino; and they, remembering the days of Pandolph the Wolf, received him with honours, committing to him the care and defence of the abbey. He was received in procession as a king, and the church was decked as for Easter Day, the lamps were all lighted, and the cloister resounded with chanting and with praises of the prince. Then he was led into the chapter house, and much against his will was set in the abbot's throne, and the abbot knelt down and washed his feet.
Having obtained the protection of the powerful prince, the monks began to intercede with him to reduce the demands he was making upon the Count of Aquino, and he consented to do so; but the count would not agree to pay even the smaller sum required until Richard had forced him to make payment by bringing ruin upon his possessions. It was about this time that William of Hauteville was engaged in the conquest of Salerno, and the unfortunate Gisulf turned to Richard in his need. Richard helped him at least p188to hold the city, in consideration of great promises, and for a short time the Lombard seems to have recovered something more than a semblance of power; but he worked his own destruction by his refusal to keep his word to his ally.
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