Norman adventurers

The Norman mercenaries in Italy : the revolt of Melus of Bari

Arriving as pilgrims the Normans were soon exploited because of their warrior skills, by various local princes. At this period and in this region it was usual that they became mercenaries. 
They are first mentioned in Italian chronicles around 1016. A group of Norman pilgrims from Mont-Gargan in Apulia were called to help the Lombard, Meles de Bari, against Byzantine tutelage. This first campaign was to end in failure. Only 10 knights survived out of 250 during the battle of Canne in 1018. The Normans, albeit more cautious, were to join the ranks of different local lords.
Political disarray in southern Italy, and the tales of homecoming soldiers of fortune, contributed to arouse the interest of mercenaries. Also particular problems in Normandy at the beginning of the 11th century should be taken into account. They had been expelled from their land, a frequent event at this time of ducal justice at the beginning of the 11th century. After declaring them outlaws, the duke got rid of these lords, such as Osmond Drengot who fled around 1017 with his brothers after committing a crime of honour. These rebels to the ducal authority sometimes followed the same route, for instance the Saint Evroult abbot, Robert of Grandmesnil, and the count of Mortain, Werlenc, sought exile during the middle of the 11th century to escape the crown of William the Conqueror.
Expatriation was the occasion for more modest people, lacking money and land, to become rich and change their social position. Such was the case for the Hauteville brothers.

previous page    next page