The Normans in the Mediterranean


Lordship and Feudality


    In Italy more than elsewhere, the concepts of the State and the public authority were a legacy of the Roman and later Carolingian Empire. But the Empire had been split up: the Holy Roman Empire in the North and the Byzantine Empire in the South were at war with each other, against the papacy, against the de facto independent Lombard principalities, and against the Moslems in Sicily. Given this context, the coming of the Normans resulted in the introduction of the system of the seigniory, or feudal lordship – rural seigniory, a new method of running the lords’ domains; and banal seigniory, the private appropriation of public power (the ban is a word of Germanic origin meaning a call to arms). This second component of lordly power tended to become predominant in the Norman Mezzogiorno, where lordship was chiefly a secular phenomenon, resulting from conquest in war.

This new power system gave rise to recurring conflict between the major feudatories of the mainland part of the Mezzogiorno and the central power represented by the Hautevilles, dukes of Apulia, and later kings of Sicily.
The way the feudal pyramid worked meant that the lord owed military contingents and tax contributions to his superior, the count, duke or king. In return he was given a territory to administer, whose inhabitants were obliged to pay him rent and perform the corvée (a day’s unpaid labour). The lord adopted a lifestyle that set him apart from the rest of the population: he usually lived in a castle, and his main preoccupation was war.

A series of enactments passed by King Roger II at the Assizes of Ariano and in the Catalogus Baronum sought to lay down firm principles governing the relationship between the various lords, and their duties towards the king. They were also intended to reorganize criminal law, and to redistribute fiefs on new geographical lines.

The Normans and feudal institutions
The ecclesiastical seigniory & lordship
Secular rule
How the seigniory worked
Castles & Norman rule
War & chivalry
The life of a lord
Law & Justice
Coinage & monetary system

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