King of Sicily, duke of Apulia and Calabria

The Norman court in Palermo

From 1112 the Normans transferred their capital from Milet in Calabria, to the more secure Palermo. Here at all levels a melting pot, very rare at this time, of the great Mediterranean cultures could be found. The monarchy brought together a mixture of ideas and concepts originating from: Arabic-Muslim, Greek and Latin making the Norman monarchy the first modern western state.
Eastern etiquette blossomed in the Royal palace evoking that of an Arab court, by the opulent clothes and that of Byzantium, by the ceremonial reverence. Even though the king was a Christian and thus monogamous, the palace housed a harem.
The palace was also the administration centre, where the government sat. Influenced by Greek and Arab, the written texts of the administration and the various offices were marked by eastern influences. Because of this the royal subjects, whatever their origin, did not feel that they were subjected to foreign domination.
The king employed specific services and agents: besides a chancellor (the king’s principal counsellor), with Latin and Greek notaries, and a logothete (in charge of royal audiences and reception of ambassadors), he also had emirs, political counsellors without any precise role who alongside the inner council formed the royal cabinet.
Finance and administration were placed under the control of a specific juridical system, under its Arabic name diwan, in Greek sekreton, or Latin dohanna.
The whole body was controlled by a person holding the Arab title ‘vizier’ or ‘emir of emirs’, in Greek, ‘archon of archons’. The position of Prime Minister was taken in turn by Arab officials, then Greeks from Calabria or from the East, Italians, but never Normans.

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