ROGER OF SICILY
AND THE NORMAN CONQUEST IN LOWER ITALY
History of the Northmen: or, Danes and Normans, from the earliest times to THE CONQUEST OF ENGLAND BY WILLIAM OF NORMANDY.
SOUTHERN ITALY CIRCA 1.000 AD
“A LAND destined to receive from the South its civilisation, from the North its masters”. So has the history of Italy from Honorius been summed up in a single phrase. From 400 AD to 1050 AD, three Northern races descended without thought of return into the sunny land of corn, olive, and vine. After the East Goths, the Lombards, and after these the Normans, who, coming in isolated bands and not as a nation, yet represent the last considerable immigration of Teutonic invaders.
Italy, south of a line drawn from the Tronto to Rieti, and from that again to Terracina, was the arena of Norman conquest; the genius of Robert Guiscard, of Richard of Aversa, and after them of Roger of Sicily, formed this part of Italy into a political entity which, lasting for 800 years, has been variously called “the kingdom of Sicily”, “the two Sicilies”, or more familiarly the “Regno” or “Kingdom”. Geography at once favours and hinders the unity of Lower Italy. The vast mountain-barrier of the Abruzzi, the “Gran Sasso” of Italy, continued by the mountains that approach to Benevento, cut it off from the central and northern part of the peninsula. Yet Nature has deeply divided its component parts. Great mountain ranges sever from one another the fertile plain that is watered by the Volturno and Garigliano, the plateaux of Apulia, the great depressed lowlands stretching from Otranto round the Gulf of Taranto to the basin of the Crati, and make each of them self-contained and isolated. The whole of the Abruzzi was in the mediaeval ages almost inaccessible, with vast forests, mountains, and waste, offering little passage or attraction. Apulia, divided from Calabria by woods, torrents, and narrow gorges, communicating with it only by Potenza, or the long shore-route, shut off from the western plains by the great backbone of the Apennines, and only to be entered from that direction by Troja, Melfi, and the passes under Monte Vulture, presents in itself much diversity of soil and altitude. Prom the Apennines down to Andria is a great grassy extent covered with sheep. A low-lying tract stretching along the coast from Siponto to Brindisi, fertile and full of towns, ascends into a tableland which stretches from Monte Gargano, “the spur of Italy”, to the foot of Monte Vulture, and the whole is called “fat” or “fertile” Apulia. Thence begins the Murgia, a line of hills styled in contrast “stony Apulia”. Over the Apennines, from Salerno north to Benevento and the borders of the former Papal states, there are great and fertile plains called to the north Campania, but even here considerable mountains rise like spurs of the great central ranges, and from Salerno to Sorrento runs a great wall of hills south of which Amalfi sits on the sea.
Geography makes the history of Lower Italy in the early mediaeval centuries. Calabria, poor and isolated, a “citadel of granite”, offering little in the way of harbours or towns, necessarily plays little part in the story of Norman conquest. The northern Abruzzi serve to check Norman aggression and to fix its limits. The mountains and sea enable Naples and Amalfi to play for a long period the part of free Sea-Republics. The Greeks are able to keep a long hold on the plains and towns of the Adriatic side. The Lombard states are more easily conquered by the invaders, but when the Norman feudatories plant themselves in the numberless valleys of western Apulia and the lower Abruzzi they are hard to force either into unity or loyalty to the Duke or King who strives to make of South Italy a nation. The wars of Guiscard and Roger against their Norman vassals are not a chronicle of open battles, but of continual sieges of mountain fortresses and petty isolated towns.
At the beginning of the eleventh century, just on the eve of the Norman conquest, the future Kingdom presents a very diversified map. There are three great Lombard duchies, Benevento, Capua, Salerno, while a fourth, Spoleto, touches it in its southern half. The two coasts and nearer inland are studded with cities, Capua, Benevento, Naples, Salerno, Gaeta, Amalfi, Brindisi, Bari, and so on. A line drawn from the north of Monte Gargano across to the neighbourhood of Potenza, and again to the northern limit of Calabria, contains between it and the southern and eastern sea a Greek “Theme” or province, called variously the Capitanata, or Langobardia. Sicily is in Moslem hands.
The native forces in Lower Italy were the Lombard duchies and the princely City-Republics. The former had for two centuries followed an almost unbroken course of disintegration. At the end of the eighth century one great duchy had contained what were now three or more separate states. The glory of the duchy of Benevento had been in the period when the northern Lombard kingdom, founded by Alboin in 568, with its capital at Pavia, fell before Pippin and his son Charles the Great; Lombard independence and civilization then found a refuge in the South with Arichis II, Duke of Benevento.
The ancestors of Arichis had governed in Benevento since 591; he himself was a man of great character, his territory was of wide extent, and the overthrow of the northern kingdom served to enhance his fame. Benevento was no mean successor to Pavia. Built where the Sabato and Calore unite, seated at the junction of the Via Appia and the Via Trajana, it was the gateway between Southern and Central Italy. The Arch of Trajan, the Porta Aurea, which had escaped ruin, was the natural boast of its citizens. Santa Sofia, built by Gisulf II, 732-749, harboured a famous school of philosophy; strong walls and a Lombard castle crowning the hill on which the city is built, secured its defences.
Arichis was able to stave off Charles with a tribute; he took the title of Prince in 774, was crowned and anointed by the bishops of his duchy, struck coins bearing his own effigy, and, as a final mark of independence, dated his acts by the year of his reign. Capua and Salerno were also his capitals; he fortified the latter and built in it a palace of great size and beauty to rival the Sacrum Palatium at Benevento. All South Italy was his except the Greek sea towns and the duchy stretched from sea to sea.
Among those who sought an asylum with the great Duke, appeared Paul the Deacon, a Lombard patriot and the greatest man of letters among all his race. After the overthrow of King Desiderius at Pavia he came south to Benevento to adorn the court of Arichis, and after his patron’s death he went north to join the literary circle which surrounded Charlemagne at Aachen; finally he sought refuge in Monte Cassino, and there set himself to write the epic of his race, the “History of the Lombards”.
Arichis left his throne to a son, Grimoald. But the glory of Benevento was short-lived. On the death of Duke Sicard in 839, the duchy was usurped by Radelchis, one of his officers; Salerno thereupon broke away under Siconulf, who called himself “most glorious prince of the Lombard race” (849). Shortly afterwards, Capua formed a third state, and thus there arose out of the original duchy three Lombard dynasties. In Benevento and Capua, there followed one another a bewildering succession of Pandulfs and Landulfs, in Salerno of Gaimars and Gisulfs. Alongside the greater three, small Lombard dynasts, offshoots of the princely families, eventually established themselves in Teano, Sorrento, and elsewhere. To the north, again, was the duchy of Spoleto, governed since 575 by Lombard princes who in 842 founded an hereditary dynasty; this race however had become extinct when the Normans appeared in Italy, and the invaders were able to add to their conquests the southern portion, the Abruzzi.
The boundaries of Benevento, Capua, and Salerno at the beginning of the eleventh century were as follows: the former stretched, on the west, from Alife to Avellino, and touched Capua near Sant' Agata and on the Volturno. On the north it extended from Alife by Boviano and Molise to Trivento, thence to the coast at Termoli. Its south-eastern border ran from the mouth of the Fortore by Lucera, Ascoli, and Melfi, where it met Greek territoiy, to Nusco and Avellino, where it faced the duchy of Salerno. The latter had, by agreement with Benevento in 847, received territories stretching as far south as Taranto and north to Teano, but it had sadly diminished. It now met the Greek frontier along a line from Melfi, Potenza, and Policastro. Again, it touched Beneventan soil at Nusco and Avellino, and Neapolitan along the Sarno. The frontier of Capua on the south towards Naples reached from the Lago di Patria along the river Clanius to Abella; on the east, it ran from about Abella to Sant' Agata along the upper Volturno to Sora from which, turning south-west to Aquino, it followed the course of the Garigliano to the sea. The boundaries of the Salerno and Benevento naturally fluctuated, thus the territory of Monte Gargano from Lesina and Lucera to Viesti and Siponto was debated between Benevento and the Byzantines.
The Lombard race was undoubtedly the eminent factor in Lower Italy. Three great principalities represented their temporal sovereignty; in Monte Cassino and in Monte Gargano, they held the spiritual capitals of the southern half of the peninsula, the one the mother of Western monasteries, the other a shrine for pilgrims from all the West. Salerno again was a city celebrated beyond the borders of the Lombard race; it is described as rich with the traffic of Moslem Africa and Sicily; its trade with Constantinople was great; above all it was famous for its ancient School of Medicine.
The Lombards were both an aristocratic caste and a race of merchants and cultivators. As the former, they had stamped themselves all over Italy; from north to south the personal names of the whole noble class were Lombard. Their distinctiveness as a Teutonic nation had indeed vanished, and their origin revealed itself, apart from historic tradition, only in their names, in their law, certain terms in that law, the titles of some officials, and a few place names. They had become at once Catholic and Italian. But the word Lombard survived stubbornly attached to a people whose blood must have been largely mixed. The three duchies were of course the main seat of the Lombard race, but it was also numerous along the western coast, while the occupation of Apulia by Zoto and Arichis II had left behind a numerous race of peasants and townsmen who preserved the Italian speech and the laws of Rothari all along the hinterland of the Adriatic and even in the cities of the coast.
Not only the race, but also the laws and administrative system of the Lombards were far diffused beyond the borders of the three duchies. Apulia was under Byzantine domination, but in all essentials it closely resembled the neighbouring states. Benevento, Capua, and Salerno were divided for administrative and judicial purposes into areas governed by counts and “gastalds”, agents of the ducal power. Similarly in the nearer parts of Apulia, Lombard gastalds are called in by Greek officials to decide cases. The charters and acts of Bari, Bitonto, and other towns of the Adriatic coast, from the early part of the tenth century, attest how lightly Byzantine institutions affected the population. The names are mainly Lombard, the practices referred to are those of Lombard law, secundum ritus gentis nostrae langobardorum, the language in the vast majority of cases is Latin, while however the acts are dated by the reign of the Greek Emperor.
Even among the purely Italian people of Italy, the laws of Rothari and Liutprand contested the ground very vigorously with the Roman or Roman-Byzantine codes. In Rome itself, the very seat of the more refined legal system, the nobles and many of the clergy are found in the eleventh century living by the old barbarian customs.
Far into the thirteenth century, these customs retained the affections both of the people of the old duchies and the burgesses of the Apulian towns, and the once Teutonic race continued to cling to customs bearing old Germanic names such as the morgengab or settlement on the newly married wife of part of the husband’s effects, the subjection of the women to the mundoald or guardian, the launegilt, or acknowledgment in kind made for some grant or gift. The Lombard law even had its attraction for those free cities Amalfi, Gaeta, and Trajetto which broadly speaking were Greek-Italian and non-Lombard. The Consuetudines or Customs of Amalfi, which were collected in 1274 but existed three centuries earlier, show that the basis of dowry and succession among the Amalfitans is Lombard and not Roman law; the morgengab is at home there as in Bari or Benevento.
The second of the great native forces of Lower Italy was in the non-Lombard civic states, in Naples, Amalfi, Gaeta, and a few lesser towns of the western coast which were their satellites. Of these, the greatest was Naples.
The Basileus Constantine IV may be said to have founded the Neapolitan duchy in 661; he defined its territories within a line reaching from above Gaeta in the north to Amalfi in the south. As Naples itself gradually formed a nucleus of self-government out of the wrecks of Greek dominion, so other units of independence formed themselves out of Naples. In the ninth century Amalfi emerges as a free state. At the same time with Amalfi, the remoter Gaeta (Cajetta or Caieta) begins to run a course of her own. The contado of Naples was therefore much reduced by the dawn of the eleventh century; the duchy had then for its borders the sea, Nola, the Capuan territory along the Volturno, and the course of the Sarno.
The immediate ruler of Naples held two titles, Duke and Magister Militum. The latter implies a military jurisdiction; the Duke was commander of a militia or military caste which had its own domains and privileges in and about the city. As a civil official he governed Naples in the name of the Emperor at Constantinople; in this capacity he was assisted by a council of nobiliores, while comites and tribuni acted as magistrates under him.
The Greek character of Naples took long to disappear. Until 1139 the overlord of the city was the “Great Emperor” in whose name all acts were ratified. Political and commercial intercourse with Constantinople strengthened the traditional ties, and the Greek tongue was for long as common in the streets as the Italian. Practically, however, Naples grew into a free republic at once maritime, civic, and aristocratic. Her dukes became hereditary, although they never ceased to be in a large measure constitutional princes. The earlier rulers of the city were nominated by the Exarch of Ravenna, who represented Byzantine authority in Italy; their names are Greek such as Stephanus, Johannes and Sergius. Finally Sergius I, in the middle of the ninth century, was the last to be nominated from Ravenna or Constantinople; from him there descended a line of hereditary dukes which ran to the seventh of the founder’s name, and ended three centuries after him.
Ruling a wide contado in the islands and mainland, commanding the sea-routes, an outpost of Greek learning and cultivation in the West, Naples was a city at once splendid, vigorous, and wealthy. Yet she was followed close by the more recent Amalfi, which with Naples, with Gaeta, with Terracina formed a chain of cities at once Italian, self-governing, and attached to Byzantium by unofficial bonds. Amalfi too had her contado and now tended to gather under her sceptre a little empire of the sea-towns and now saw them follow her own lesson in self-dependence. We can trace from the middle of the ninth century a native dynasty establishing itself in Amalfi with Marinus I, which becomes finally hereditary at the end of the tenth century. At first they call themselves “imperial prefects”; from 958 they too become dukes and so last until 1073. Gaeta again began to have consuls of her own as early as 823, and in 872 a certain Docibilis is found as Duke of Gaeta, Fondi, Trajetto, and Terracina. He was succeeded in this compact little state by dukes more or less hereditary and bearing such Greek or non-Lombard names as Sergius, Leo, Marinus. Terracina and Fondi again tended to break away from Gaeta, and the “particularism” of Lower Italy was irrepressible until the Normans welded it together by the strong hand.
The glory of Amalfi was in the tenth and eleventh centuries. A poet of the latter century describes it as wealthy and populous, full of gold and silver, a famous port of Arab, Sicilian, and African merchants, an emporium for the goods of Egypt and Syria. Built on the lower slopes of a high and inaccessible mountain group, it fronted only the sea which gave it its importance; the hill country behind isolated it from the Campanian plain. Its fleet and marine were at the beginning of the eleventh century the most numerous and active of all the lower western coast. Its traders and seamen made its name renowned; they secured from their nominal lord, the Basileus, valuable trading immunities in Constantinople; the Lombard Liutprand, visiting the Greek capital in the interests of his master Otto I in 968, found Amalfitans as numerous and as much in evidence there as the Venetians.
Such were the city-states of Lower Italy which we might distinguish sharply from the inland Lombard states did not the Lombard law exercise no small influence upon the native customs of Amalfi and even of Naples, did they not also aim at dominion in the hinterland itself. Nor can we call them Greek in any definite sense inasmuch as their populations were mainly of Italian stock, of Italian speech, and living by Roman law.
Lombards and Italians were not the only races in South Italy which might be called native. Sicily of course contained a preponderating Moslem population, with an understratum of Greeks surviving in the eastern part of the island. On the mainland four centuries of Byzantine ascendancy had left a large Greek-speaking population. In Apulia, indeed, Hellenization had not proceeded far; the Lombards, backed by the free states, preserved their race and speech; veterans of the imperial troops were seldom pensioned off upon the land; in the towns such as Bari, and in the towns alone, does there seem to have been any considerable Greek element. But around the Gulf of Taranto, and in the toe of Italy, Greek influences were all-powerful. The whole of Calabria, the southern part of Lucania, the coast from Brindisi to Taranto and Otranto, the valleys of Agri and Sinno contained a population completely Greek. The reigns of the Iconoclastic Emperors 775-867 had resulted in great numbers of nonconforming monks abandoning Greece and settling in Greek Italy, where the Greek language, law, and Church struck their roots deeply. In these districts Greek was the language of administration, and the Code of Justinian was the law of the land. The Byzantine law lived on to influence the edicts of the Norman kings; the Greek speech lived on till the scholars of the Renaissance procured native scholars of Calabria to teach them the language of Plato.
South Italy then contained, from the Garigliano and Tronto to Brindisi and Syracuse, four races, four systems of law, three Churches, numerous free states, and sovereignties both civic and national in character. If unity could be imposed upon this meeting-ground of races, churches, and civilizations, it was less likely to be achieved by native force than by the action of the external powers which pressed their title to the sub-peninsula. For Lower Italy was not only a confusion of races internally, it was an arena in which clashed against one another the three great powers that contested the Mediterranean. The Moslems, the Byzantines, the German successors of Charlemagne in the Holy Roman Empire met in conflict on the battleground of Southern Italy.
To the princes and people of Italy it was not apparent that the Moslem danger was almost past. All North Africa was Moslem, and Sicily was a stepping-stone to Calabria and Apulia. In the ninth century the Aglabite rulers of Tunis and Kairouan had wrenched Sardinia, Corsica, and most of Sicily from the Greeks. About the year 846 their fleets had appeared at the Tiber mouth and sent inland troops who plundered Rome; about the same time Ban, Taranto, Salerno, one after another, were threatened or taken. South Italy for a time was in considerable danger of becoming Semitic, and even if the danger seemed to pass, Islam had a unique power of revival. To the Aglabites succeeded the Fatimite caliphs of Egypt, whose ships and armies in 965 drove the Greeks out of Rametta, their last stronghold in Sicily. Their lieutenant Abul-Kasem seemed at one time likely to add Apulia and Calabria to his Sicilian emirate; at Cotrone in Calabria he overwhelmed the German Emperor, Otto II, with the whole of his forces, but died in the fight with all his ambitions (982). The next century saw the Moslems without an inch of ground on the mainland, and even in Sicily the strong hand was relaxed. The emirs of the island, like the newly-sprung Zirid dynasty of Tunis on the coast opposite, renounced the overlordship of the Fatimites; the Moslems of Sicily devoted themselves to a peaceful trade with the Italian sea-towns on the one hand and Africa and Egypt on the other; their island became a paradise of wealth and culture, and its capital, Palermo, a second Cordova.
The claim of the Western or Holy Roman Empire to Lower Italy had a more legal aspect. In the theory of the Imperium Italy was as necessary a part of the Emperor’s dominion as Germany. Yet even the dominion of Charles the Great in Italy had actually only reached to a line drawn eastward from Gaeta to the south-ern boundary of the lordship of Chieti. His indefinite claim to the portion south of that received from Arichis of Benevento only the acknowledgment of a tribute which left the Duke a sovereign prince. His successors both of the Frankish and the Saxon House made several appearances in the south; practically however, the imperial power below the Garigliano was a mere supremacy only occasionally enforced. Again their claims were contested by their own protégé, the Papacy. In 774, Charles the Great conferred upon Pope Hadrian the Duchy of Rome. This grant of the Patrimony of Peter was held on the Papal side to have included Spoleto and Benevento; the claim was never allowed, but an impression was created that the Pope was the real viceroy of Italy. Behind it all there was the all-accredited Donation of Constantine to fall back on; had not that left all Italy to the Pope? But whatever Pope, Greek, or other opponent might affirm, the imperial claim to Southern Italy was never more than in abeyance, and till the Norman kingdom itself passed away the transalpine Emperors continued haughtily to denounce as interlopers all who claimed any dominion in the southern fringe of the Empire.
The Byzantines were no less tenacious in asserting a legal sovereignty over the much-debated land. If their realm was, as it claimed to be, the real heir to the Empire of the Caesars, if the Emperor of the West was in truth merely a barbarian King of Franks or Saxons, there was no doubt in law that the Basileus of Constantinople was lord of Southern Italy. Fact and not theory, however, was to decide the question, and the actual authority of the Greeks in that country at the end of the tenth century was both strong and widely diffused.
The recovery of Italy to the Empire under Justinian had been partially undone by the Lombard incursion of 568. In the south, Greek dominion was narrowed by various dukes of Benevento to the mere peninsula of Otranto. Later, Sicily had to be yielded to the Moslems (827-878). Yet the reaction came. The commanders of Basil the Macedonian (867-886) and Leo the Wise (886-912) recovered Apulia and Calabria both from the Saracens and the Lombards and laid down a frontier which only the Normans were able to cross. Greek authority in the south was now represented by the Catapan or viceroy, ruling over the Theme of Langobardia, a name which in itself testifies to the wide diffusion of the Lombards over Lower Italy. After the expulsion of the Saracens, Basil I had made Bari the capital of his viceroy in the south, whom we hear of for the first time in 975 as the Catapan, a title probably implying “he who is above all others”. He was the supreme civil and military official, head under the Basileus of all Byzantine administration, and commanding the garrison troops, the local militias, and such reinforcements as were sent at need. Now that Sicily was lost, a concentration of the remaining dominions took place; but the Catapan’s command, covering provinces so diverse, was perforce accommodated to the prevailing differences. The boundaries of the Theme to north and west were drawn from the flat coast-land about the Fortore through the mountains. The western half of the Theme, Calabria, was in two portions: viz., the Basilicata, or Lucania, from Monte Vulture and the neighbourhood of Troja, Melfi, and Potenza to Policastro and the valley of the Crati; and Calabria proper, south and west of it. The “toe and instep of Italy” were Greek; a “citadel of granite”, Calabria was preserved by its mountains from the rest of the Theme. The other half of the Catapan’s province, Apulia, offered every contrast, even if only because of its wealth.
In its widest application Apulia reached from the Fortore in the north to the mouth of the Bradano and the peninsula of Otranto in the south. Practically it is seen to fall into three portions, the peninsula of Otranto, flat, fertile, and chalky, the Capitanata, as its name generally reads, a plain lying between Bari, the Murgia, and Monte Gargano, and Apulia itself, lying between the two great roads of the south-east and fronting the Adriatic.
Byzantine administration in Lower Italy accommodated itself to local circumstances. In the purely Greek areas, such as Calabria and Otranto, the officials who carried out the orders of the Catapan were mainly Byzantine and non-native; they were both nominated and controlled by the imperial deputies. But in Apulia proper the Greek authorities had a more difficult problem to face. Here the subject population was of Italo-Lombard stock, attached to an old Teutonic code, and retaining an administrative system similar to that of the neighbouring duchies. It was also of vital importance in the problem that Apulia was essentially a land of “communes”. The peasants, were mainly to be found, as they are today, in towns of greater or less extent, from which they went out at sunrise to their fields, and to which at sunset they returned. Town life, from the smallest oppidum to the capital of Apulia itself, was characteristic of the Adriatic coast and the interior country. From Bari and Trani inland to Melfi and Canosa, Apulia was studded with considerable towns, and each showed the prevailing impulse towards self-government. The Byzantines, then, had as a political necessity to recognize this development. The local officials, the turmarchs and the local judges, though often nominated and always ratified by the imperial power, have to govern by means of and with the consent of local notables who, under the names of boni homines, act as representative town-councils. These civic notables themselves are found adorned with such names as protospatharii or candidati, purely unofficial titles flowing from the fountain of honour at Constantinople.
The secret of Greek rule in Apulia seems to have been the simple one of showering honours and petty offices on the civic notabilities and, leaving them undisturbed in enjoyment of the same so long as they carried on the local government in the name of the Basileus and paid him his due tributes. Nor was any systematic attempt made to resist Lombard influences, which were naturally strongest in the greater towns. Thus even in Bari the magistrates are found at the end of the tenth century to be Lombard, and so are the petty local governments farther inland. In the zone between the land of Otranto and the free duchies Lombard gastalds and Greek officials exist side by side. Where the inhabitants are Lombard and live by Lombard law they are able to call in a gastald of their own race to settle a dispute, even a gastald whose sovereign is the Prince of Salerno or the Duke of Benevento. How little oppressive the Greek rule was, and how skillfully the Catapans yielded to the difficult conditions of their Apulian command, is strikingly illustrated by a document of the date 1043 relating to Bari. The Catapan Eustathius wishing to reward the fidelity of the Judex Bisantius of that city to the Emperor during the rebellion of Maniaces and afterwards against the “Franks” (the Normans), concedes to him the administration of the village of Foliano (or Foliniano) and its surrounding district; he is permitted to plant strangers there as colonists, and may collect tribute from them, himself and his heirs, without any interference from the imperial authority. Finally the Catapan concedes to him that his new subjects should be governed by him according to Lombard law, except, however, in case of assassination of the Sacred Emperors or the Catapan himself; such a case could only be judged by an. imperial official and by imperial law.
This was certainly an unusual immunity, but it remains true of Apulia as a whole that in its cities the Lombard subjects lived according to their own laws without molestation; boni homines representative of the community aided the turmarchs and other officials to administer justice, to ratify sales, grants, and all other acts, public and private; the officials themselves were local and but lightly controlled from outside or from above; the Catapan as long as his master the Emperor drew from Apulia the customs, rents, tributes, and other emoluments of his sovereignty was content with a much lighter hold than the centralizing and highly-organized government of Constantinople exercised elsewhere in Italy and the Empire.
Many circumstances seemed to favour a long continuance of Byzantine power in Lower Italy. The commercial influences binding the province to the Empire were all-compelling. The “Orientation” of the southern peninsula was then and for two centuries yet a decisive fact; the face of the Apulian coast-land was turned eastward, and the towns from Siponto round to Taranto had more to do with the eastern Adriatic than with the western parts of Italy from which the great central mountains divided them. Bari was important as being the great depot for the silks, precious stuffs, and other articles of luxury which were to be got only from Greece; Brindisi again, standing on the junction of the two Roman roads the Via Trajana and Via Appia, was in easy touch with Durazzo. From Durazzo again the Via Egnatia ran overland through Thessalonica to Constantinople.
Severed by the great mountains from the towns of Apulia, Naples, Amalfi, Salerno, and the western towns yet had the sea open; they traded and corresponded with the great capital of the Eastern world, by the Straits of Messina and the Aegean Sea. The coinage of the Greeks itself testified to the commercial primacy of Constantinople. The golden taris or tarenes of Amalfi and Naples and the silver coins of the Lombards were of less credit than the Byzantine solidus of gold, the besant which for centuries remained the one international money of the Levant.
To this influence the Byzantines could add the widespread Hellenization of South Italy in race, law, culture, and religion. At least half the Theme of Italy was Greek in race; in Calabria and Otranto there was no need for Byzantine officials to use aught but Greek in official documents and the work of government. Indirectly the same language and culture were of much importance in the life of Naples and Amalfi. The Roman Church kept but a loose hold on the sub-peninsula. In the Lombard duchies and in the west, Latin bishops were maintained under the influence of the dukes and of Rome, and in Apulia it seems that the Greeks had to recognize the Latin hierarchy appointed by the Roman pontiff. But overlying these, and in the rest of the Theme undisturbed Greek bishops, priests, and monks in numbers held the land to the allegiance of Constantinople. From the end of the ninth century the Patriarchs of the Eastern Church released from dependence upon Rome the churches of Sicily, Abruzzi, Apulia, and Calabria. In 1025 the Archbishop of Bari is a Greek of the name of Bisantius; in his time, however, and by him the archiepiscopal see was subjected to Rome and the Latin Church.
The military power of the Eastern Empire was behind the Hellenistic influences that operated in Lower Italy. From 959 to 1025 the throne of the Basileus was held by the vigorous race of the Macedonians and several great Emperors restored the frontiers of the Danube and Syria. Nicephorus Phocas could take to the capture of Crete in 960 a fleet of 3600 vessels and a landing force of 50,000 men. The Byzantine army was the one force in Europe that was thoroughly equipped and scientifically trained; the one army whose officers marched to war with text-books on the military art in their wallets, which on the march was followed by a train of engineers and an ambulance corps, which was drilled into an elaborate and strikingly modern system of formation and attack. In physique and animal courage the Greeks were certainly inferior to the barbarian Slavs, Russians, and Moslems whom they had to face, but the confidence born of good armour, careful drill, and scientific leadership, and the possession in the Greek fire of something corresponding to modern artillery, gave them a pertinacity and morale which over and over again was able to wear down mere brute valour. The discipline and science of the Byzantine armies compel not only respect but admiration; they had recently (972) at Presthlava and Dorystolon won the greatest battles of the age, saved the Empire, and shown what disciplined courage could do against 60,000 invading Russians, formidable and natural fighters, whom they drove over the Danube with two thirds of their number dead or taken. Such an army as Zimisces had then led, in whole or part, might at any moment be landed on the Apulian shore.
Uncertain as the destiny of Lower Italy seemed at the opening of the eleventh century, yet two developments seemed to promise a greater stability and a greater freedom of external forces than had so far been effected. These were a continuous struggle among the Lombard states which seemed likely to end in the supremacy of one or the other, and the communal movement aiming everywhere at full civic freedom.
The Lombard duchies seemed to be aiming at unity and concentration again after two hundred years of disintegration. If unity in Lower Italy was to come from the principalities of Benevento, Capua, and Salerno, it would be possible only by internal concentration, by the dominance of one of the three, and finally by the acquisition of military resources such as the dukes had not yet found, lacking as they were in marine power and in native armies. After-history shows that in their own race the warlike vigour had sunk very low and that the mercenary bands such as the ambitious princes sought in the inter-ducal struggle could only have been provided by such a race as the Normans; their experience of the latter, when from hired swordsmen they became their masters, was nothing new in the story of nations.
The power of the Lombard princes seemed to be on the increase now after two centuries of confusion. It was much that hereditary succession more or less complete was secured. It was in their favour that feudalism so far had not established itself. The reins of central government showed signs of being tightened; the gastalds who governed definite districts called from their office, the sculdais again below them, come to be subordinated from the ninth century to new officials, counts (or comites), whose titles, though they sometimes became hereditary, were always a gift from the prince. Large revenues were derived from the ducal domains, from the regalia, and from other sources, such as tributes from the subjects, called angaria. Compulsory military service provided the prince with a militia of townsmen. Every token of sovereignty surrounded the ruler of Benevento, Capua, or Salerno: the coinage that bore his effigy; the assumption of sceptre and crown; the issue of sovereign acts in his name. The centralized administration of the Basileus, the pomp and ceremony of his court, were the models for these small Lombard potentates, whose taris, rude imitations of the imperial besants, show the Duke of Benevento or Salerno clad in alb and dalmatic, carrying the globe and cross, and on his head the narthex, with its hanging chains.
It was from the Lombard princes that the unity of Southern Italy from within seemed once or twice likely to be achieved. The contest of the two Empires for the debatable land gave the more skillful among them a chance to realize that possibility, and unity and independence might be snatched out of the struggle, by the aid of one or the other. Generally speaking the Lombard princes were pro-Byzantine, but an alliance with the Western Empire seemed to the greatest man among them in the tenth century more promising. It was Pandulf Iron-Head of Capua who came nearest founding a hegemony over the Lombard and city-states of Lower Italy, before the coming of the Normans.
The short but brilliant career of this man lasted from 966 to 981. From 966 to 969 the great Emperor Otto I was in Italy bent on expelling the Greeks from the south; he fixed upon Pandulf, the first of his name in Capua, as the one strong man capable of holding the country as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire, and invested him (Christmas, 966) not only in Capua, but in Spoleto and the March of Camerino. The Empires made peace in 969, but this was only the beginning of Iron-Head's career. Landulf of Benevento dying, he forced his own son into the duchy, he became lord of Gaeta, he brought Gisulf I of Salerno into a humilating vassalage, and from his death in 977 governed the principality in his stead. Thus he died master of the four Lombard duchies and after achieving a hegemony over South Italy which later Pandulfs and Gaimars strove less successfully to gain. But everything went with him, and Gaeta, Salerno, and Benevento regained their former independence.
Accompanying the tendencies of ducal sovereignty in South Italy was the communal impulse. The whole land of Italy before another century was finished was trembling with the universal instinct of civic liberty. The south was awake earlier than the north. By the beginning of the eleventh century Gaeta, Naples, Salerno, Amalfi had all their “customs” and embryo municipal governments of electi and jurati chosen from among the civic notables. In the Apulian towns the protospatharii grant land, etc., for the communitas, which divides itself commonly into three classes. The ducal territories were no less stirred with the democratic ideal; in 1015 Benevento itself became the seat of a commune.
What if the two forces of Lombard sovereignty and civic freedom should unite and at once reject the imperial claims of Constantinople and Aachen? Such a union might effect that national independence which Lower Italy was groping toward. At least the subject towns of Apulia looked to an alliance with the Lombard dukes for the ousting of the Byzantines. Already in 929 there had been an Apulian revolt which was not suppressed for five years; Capua and Salerno had joined in against the Greeks, and for a while brought Lucania and the upper portions of Apulia and Calabria under Lombard sovereignty.
Once again such a combination, but of a lasting effect, took shape. In 1009 Bari revolted against the Greeks; Melus, a member of the civic aristocracy, appeared as the leader of the rising. And Apulia followed; a succession of bad harvest, of Moslem pirate-raids on the coast, had exasperated beyond endurance a people already murmuring under the tributes, the customs dues, the rents, the burdens of military and naval service which Greek rule imposed upon the towns. It was a revolt led by the petty noblesse and official classes of the Apulian towns, who aimed at the complete overthrow of the Greek authority whose demands, in themselves not excessive, were hateful as being imposed by a foreign power. That they were conscious of its being a war of Lombard against Greek it would be going far to affirm, but the junction of the rebels with the Lombard dynasts soon gave it a racial complexion, and both felt for the Greeks some of that contempt which every healthy Westerner very unjustly entertained.
Again, the communal spirit by its very nature aimed at nothing less than the goal of complete self-dependence; Bari aspired to the full liberties of Amalfi. Such a jealous temper did not need severe or long-continued Greek oppression to arouse it; any little friction would set it ablaze and Bari would be joined by all the resentful patriots of Apulia. The revolt once in full swing, it was joined by Lombard dukes for their own advantage and kept alive by Norman swordsmen to whom peace meant all their occupation gone. Too late then the Apulian towns realized how reasonable Greek rule had been; they remained till Roger II’s triumph oscillating between that Byzantine overlordship which they nominally admitted when it was possible, and absolute self-government, but they remained firm in their objection to Norman domination.