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1042-1194 - Norman Sicily

The establishment of the Normans in the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, was an event most romantic in its origin, and in its consequences most important both to Italy and the Eastern empire. The powerful little kingdom in Sicily, where they meddled busily with the affairs of all Europe, and much of Asia and Africa, was the most brilliant time for Sicily as a power in the world. Even under the Greeks it was not so prominent.

The broken provinces of the Greeks, Lombards, and Saracens were exposed to every invader, and every sea and land were invaded by the adventurous spirit of the Scandinavian pirates. After a long indulgence of rapine and slaughter, a fair and ample territory was accepted, occupied, and named, by the Normans of France : they renounced their gods for the God of the Christians; and the dukes of Normandy acknowledged themselves the vassals of the successors of Charlemagne and Capet. The savage fierceness which they had brought from the snowy mountains of Norway was refined, without being corrupted, in a warmer climate; the companions of Rollo insensibly mingled with the natives; they imbibed the manners, language, and gallantry of the French nation ; and, in a martial age, the Normans might claim the palm of valour and glorious achievements.

Of the fashionable superstitions, they embraced with ardour the pilgrimages of Rome, Italy, and the Holy Land." In this active devotion their minds and bodies were invigorated by exercise : danger was the incentive, novelty the recompence ; and the prospect of the world was decorated by wonder, credulity, and ambitious hope. They confederated for their mutual defence; and the robbers of the Alps, who had been allured by the garb of a pilgrim, were often chastised by the arm of a warrior.

Since the conquest of Sicily by the Arabs, the Grecian emperors had been anxious to regain that valuable possession ; but heir efforts, however strenuous, had been opposed by the distance and the sea. Their costly armaments, after a gleam of success, added new pages of calamity and disgrace to the Byzantine annals : twenty thousand of their best troops were lost in a single expedition ; and the victorious Moslems derided the policy of a nation which intrusted eunuchs not only with the custody of their women, but with the command of their men. After a reign of two hundred years, the Saracens were ruined by their divisions.21 The emir disclaimed the authority of the king of Tunis; the people rose against the emir; the cities were usurped by the chiefs ; each meaner rebel was independent in his village or castle.

In the 11th cent, a band of Norman crusaders, who hsd taken their passage in the Amalfi cruisers on their return from the Holy Land, were hospitably entertained by the Doge of the Republic and by the Prince of Salerno. The Normans rendered effectual service to their hosts by aiding in repelling an attack of the Saracens upon Salerno ; a service which led eventually to the foundation of the Norman power in Southern Italy.

The Normans were seated on the verge of the two empires, and, according to the policy of the hour, they accepted the investiture of their lands from the sovereigns of of Germany or Constantinople. But the firmest title of these adventurers was the right of conquest: they neither loved nor trusted ; they were neither trusted nor beloved ; the contempt of the princes was mixed with fear, and the fear of the natives was mingled with hatred and resentment. Every object of desire, a horse, a woman, a garden, tempted and gratified the rapaciousness of the strangers, and the avarice of their chiefs was only coloured by the more specious names of ambition and glory.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:01:23 ZULU