The Normans in the Mediterranean


Italy at the beginning of the 11th century


    The political situation in central and southern Italy was complex. Since the end of the 9th century Sicily had escaped from the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine), and passed under total Muslim domination. Henceforth serving as a base for Saracen pirates reeking mayhem on the Italian coastline. The mainland of southern Italy was partly Byzantine (Calabria, Apulia, Basilicate and the coastal duchies of Campania) and partly Lombard (principalities of Capua, Benevento and Salerno).

The papacy, subject to the subjugation of the Holy Roman German Empire in the 10th century, under the Ottonian dynasty, was gradually liberating itself from this domination and was playing an increasingly important and decisive political and moral role in society. The Benedictine monastery of Montecassino, which enjoyed great prestige and a real autonomy in the political arena, wielded an important political influence in Mezzogiorno.

With the death of Henry II and the arrival of Conrad II in 1024, the Holy Roman German Empire, which controlled the northern half of Italy, saw a transition from the Ottonian dynasty of the Saxon emperors to those of the Franconians. Their objective in southern Italy was to re-establish the authority of the Western Empire over Rome and the Lombard principalities, and to overcome the Byzantine Empire and the Muslims of Sicily.

The Normans would seize any opportunity, which this turbulent world offered.


Lombard and Byzantine Italy
Muslim Sicily
The papacy and the Terra Sancti Benedicti

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