|The heirs of the Conquest|
Roger I, ‘Great Count’
Even though Robert had been involved in the first attempts to conquer the island (until 1064 and in 1072), the principal protagonist was Roger, his younger brother.
He took advantage of the division of Sicily into three or four emirates, that were practically independent from each other, and the antagonism between the Berbers and Arabs, by leading a guerrilla war with from fifty to a few hundred men – which explains the length of time needed to conquer the island: thirty years.
After the first invasion, the taking of Messina and several mountainous areas of the Val Demone in 1061, and the sustained operations from 1061-1064, the conquest continued, albeit laboriously.
The seizure of the fleet of Bari during the taking of the town in 1072, was an important turning point in the conquest of Palermo in the same year, and also in establishing the Normans as a maritime force.
On this occasion, duke Robert elevated Roger to the position of count and granted him the fiefdom of Sicily, except Palermo, Messina and the Val Demone, which were possessed jointly.
There followed an exhausting siege on coastal towns, who were helped by the Ifriqiya (present day Tunisia), and then on the inland towns. The operation was complicated and the details are not well known. The Normans advanced from 1075 to 1077 towards the Val di Noto, to the south, and then the Val di Mazzara and to the western coast. In 1079, the Normans consolidated their position to the east, south of Messina; in 1085, on the death of his brother, Roger became the sole player of the conquest. After 1085, hostilities regained intensity following an Arab incursion organised by the emir of Syracuse, then the Normans took control of the triangle Castrogiovanni - Girgente (Agrigente) – Nono. In 1086 the impregnable Castrogiovanni (now, Enna) was taken, in the centre of the island. The last Saracen stronghold to surrender was Noto, which was captured in 1091. The conquest had been achieved.