Bohemond de Hauteville
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- Dec 23, 2000
Bohemond de Hauteville
They say that Robert Guiscard came to Mezzogiorno with nothing but his pants and ended up with a kingdom. That is of course factually incorrect, for beside pants, Robert also had a small retinue of armed men. Not to mention brothers, already established. But let us not get some nasty facts get in the way of a perfectly good pants to kingdom story.
One fact that is indisputable is that Bohemond did not have such a story. Grandchild of Robert Guiscard, he was born with a silver spoon stuffed firmly in his mouth. Born as prince, raised as the future King by his grandfather, his fate was set.
When Robert Guiscard died in 1093, Bohemond became the King, as destined. He inherited the Kingdom of Sicily. Back then, it was a small Kingdom. Just 28 counties. Almost full control over Mezzogiorno, one province in the Balkans, few in Sardinia and first provinces in Africa, across the sea from Sicily. Nothing much.
Sicily in 1093. Not the greatest of Kingdoms
The Muslim threat still shadowed over Europe, with Christians in Iberia being pushed back and the North Africa being a constant threat. Not many contemporaries believed in the success of the Norman Kingdom of the South.
When Bohemond died in 1148, after he ruled over the Kingdom of Sicily for an impressive 55 years, the political map of the Mediterranean had changed completely.
Sicily was no longer a small Kingdom. Under Bohemond, Sicily reached from beyond Gibraltar in the west to the Holy Land in the East. Granada, Cordoba and half of Sevilla from Iberia. All the lands from Algeria to Cyrenaica. Alexandria and Cairo. And Amman, Oultrejordain and most importantly, Jerusalem, in the East. An impressive 79 counties.
As for the Muslim threat, it was eliminated. Fatimid Caliphate was no more, their capital now in the hands of Bohemond himself, while Geoffrey of Alexandria controlled the Pyramids of Giza and the city of Alexandria.
In the west, Almoravid Grand Emirate was beaten several times, changed rulers and names several times and was now just a husk of their former glory. No longer a threat to Christians, with their constant in-fighting and Normans nibbling their lands one Duchy at a time.
As for Iberia- two successful Crusades, where Bohemond’s participation was a key to victory. One for Valencia, another for Aragon. The result was Griselda de Hauteville, Bohemond’s sister, becoming the Queen of Valencia and Gerald, a nephew of Bohemond, becoming a amir al-Umara of Aragon (went native, don’t ask), plus Bohemond himself taking the aforementioned Duchies in Iberia. There were some Muslim remnants in the peninsula and Queen Urrica of Castile had become a Muslim, but the tide has been turned and Christians had turned the Muslim tide.
The Muslim Emirates in the Southern Coast of the Mediterranean were also most securely under Norman hands. Apart from the Nation Formerly Known as Almoravids, no other Muslim nation had access to the Mediterranean no more.
Bohemond kept into the Mediterranean. Only time he ventured outside was when he answered the Papal call to deal with the Lollards in misty Scotland. Normans sailed there and the Third Crusade was successful, leaving the daughter of Bohemond, Giselle, in the throne of Scotland. Unfortunately, she died of plague nearly a year after.
The Byzantines were considered to be a dominant force in the area. Going through their third re-emergence, they had expanded into Hungary, Croatia, Black Sea area, Near East and Africa. Again, it seemed like the Greeks considering themselves to be Romans had managed to turn the tide and become a major force. Until Bohemond, during his final war, destroyed the Byzantine army with relative ease and minor casualties.
What Bohemond himself considered to be a crowning achievement of his rule was of course the liberation of Holy Land. The city of Jerusalem fell into Norman hands from the Fatimid Caliphate, and Bohemond kept the city as one of his crown jewels. He also received beatification for the task. It was not the hardest war Bohemond fought, for he had already seriously weakened the Caliphate, but it was most pleasing of it. Bohemond, the Liberator of the Holy Land had a nice ring to it.
For the financial part- Bohemond inherited a total income of 7.6 gold every month from his personal demesne, plus additional 4 from vassals and church. When he died, the personal demesne amounted for about 40 gold, while another 20 came from vassals and church.
He also consolidated his rule, transforming Sicily from chaotic mix of semi-independent lords to a Kingdom where his words was the law, where wars were Royal business only and where he could name his successor.
The Normans also had more than enough muscle to flex. At the end of his life, Bohemond commanded a small personal army of 500 light cavalry, 600 bowmen, 500 light infantry, 500 pikeman, 400 heavy infantry plus 60 mangonels. Plus, in about 19 000 peasant levies and 17 knights- the best amongst in Europe.
Bohemond was without a doubt one of the best generals in Europe. Not only during his rule, but of all the time. He was rightfully compared to Alexander and Caesar and Hannibal. With him leading the armies, Normans encountered no defeat in their several campaigns. Not even a Pyrrhic victory.
By the end of his rule, Bohemond’s personal demesne consisted of the Duchy of Sicily (apart from Malta), the Duchy of Palestine (not created), along with the county of Jerusalem and the cities of Cairo and Cordoba. He claimed ownership of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Al-Azhar University of Cairo and the Great (former) Mosque of Cordoba.
As for the rest of the Hautevilles, they flourished alongside Bohemond. Total 191 living members, 13 different Houses. Four Kings. Several Dukes and counts. Good traits being more and more common amongst the house. To think that all of it started with Tancred, the great-grandfather of Bohemond and his lustful loins.
Hautevilles are doing really well
Bohemond the Anointed. Bohemond the Undefeated. Bohemond the Great. The King who ruled Sicily for 55 years. The King who brought his Kingdom to such power and glory that Robert Guiscard, arriving in Mezzogiorno, equipped with a proper pair of pants, could not even dare to dream of. Forever will Bohemond be remembered as one of the Great Kings of Sicily.
The Kingdom of Sicily in 1148. No longer just a speck on the map.