|Robert, duke of Apulia, Calabria and Sicily|
The systematic conquest: the Byzantine possessions and the ‘proto-crusade’
After 1059, Robert Guiscard continued his personal conquest of Calabria with increasing success. He finally took Reggio in 1061, thus completing his objective.
While his brother, Roger, was occupied in Sicily, he carried out his subjugation of Apulia, which was achieved in 1071, with the seizure of Brindisi and more importantly, Bari. At the end of his life, his ambitions, more and more grandiose, lay in the direction of the Eastern Empire. His political scope was unanimously recognised at this time: in Ceprano, in 1080, the Pope promised him the crown of the Roman Empire. His alliance, both matrimonially and politically, was sought after, as much by the German Emperor as the basileus. Emperor Michael VII had suggested a military alliance and the marriage of the Emperor’s brother to Guiscard’s daughter and also bestowed high Byzantine honours on Guiscard’s family.
Taking advantage of a period of political anarchy and troubles in Byzantium, which had lasted since 1076, Guiscard, ostensibly seeking to restore Michael VII, who had been overthrown in favour of Nicephorous Botanoiates in 1078, and with his daughter confined to a convent, decided to attack Byzantium.
In 1081, he left for two long campaigns, assisted by his son Bohemond, with thousands of men. The first (1081-1082) was a series of victories on the Dalmatian coast and in Macedonia, but the danger of rebellion in Apulia and the Imperial menace on Rome obliged Robert to return in April 1082, leaving his son, Bohemond, in command. Returning, in autumn 1084, the second campaign advanced favourably. However, when he arrived on Cephalonia, off Epirus, Robert, suffering from a fever, died of dysentery on 17 July 1085 at cape Antheras where a neighbouring bay, known as ‘Guiscard’, Phiskardon, still retains his memory.