Bari, 1071

Raymond de Montay glared at the last vestige of Greek power in Apulia, indeed all of Italy (discounting their relation with Venice), as he boarded his ship. The mighty fortress on the Adriatic was aglow with many torches and lanterns. According to Duke Robert’s spies in Greece and the city itself, they had been set by the defenders to guide the relief force from the Emperor that was sailing toward them at that moment. A few minutes earlier, it had become evident that the force was closer than Raymond had thought.

He was in Duke Robert’s tent, laughing merrily at the stories he told of his early career as a brigand in Calabria. Suddenly, a messenger burst in, reporting that the watchmen on the ships saw many lights, undoubtedly coming from the Byzantine fleet. The leaders of the Norman siege leapt up at the news, yelling orders, cursing the Greeks, and getting armed and armored for the coming battle, all at the same time. Raymond himself left the tent for his own, in order to collect his mail, helmet, and sword. His page grabbed the banner, which he used to rally the Normans under his command. When they had gathered, he led them to the boats.

Raymond boarded his own vessel, and waited for the rest of the army to be off. It was not long before the oars began rowing, and the Norman fleet sallied forth to meet their Greek foes. The irony of said oars being manned by Greeks themselves was not lost on Raymond, as evidenced by a brief chuckle. Roger, the brother of Duke Robert and commander of the fleet, had hoped that the Greek flotilla would mistake the Norman’s for Bariot compatriots, coming out of the harbor to welcome them. The ruse worked, and the ensuing battle was one-sided, though fierce.

Raymond’s own ship drew up close to a Byzantine one. A Greek leapt over onto the deck wielding a spear, which was cut in half by Raymond, who proceeded to behead the unfortunate Greek. The Norman knights and levies charged onto the ship, which was soon taken. All around him, Raymond saw that the Normans were victorious in their battles. Archers on one ship had dipped their arrows in pitch, which they lit aflame. The rigging and sails of a Byzantine ship they managed to set on fire. However, his fellow Normans paid for their success dearly. Raymond witnessed on one ship over one hundred Normans, in their heavy armor and cuirasses, run to one end of the ship, sinking it.

The next enemy boat that Raymond boarded was the Greek flagship. He was able to tell by the dual mast lanterns. Fighting through the Byzantine ranks, Raymond came upon the leader of the relief force; it was none other than the wretched Jocelin, the former lord of Molfetta, and current Duke of Corinth. The traitorous Norman exile fled to the Byzantines after his failed rebellions against Duke Robert. He currently was issuing orders to his Greek lackeys, and has his back turned to Raymond. Raymond grabbed his back, and struck him on the face, knocking him unconscious. Raymond proceeded to drag the leader of the soon to be failed expedition back to Roger’s ship. The Norman lord grinned widely, saying “Good, my Flemish brother, good,”

Weeks later, the demoralized city of Bari surrendered to Guiscard after such a crushing blow. Raymond would latter say he learned two very valuable things form the months besieging the city; the usefulness of a navy, and mercy in triumph.

Never trust a Greek bearing gifts. -Proverb

Kastoria, April 1082 Robert stared across the Macedonian plain, pondering the coming campaign. He had once wished to seize the glory and splendor of Constantinople, but the corpulent ambassador from Alexius had convinced him that there was a greater prize to be had. His inner-Norman loved the sheer gall of a surprise attack. The Caliph would never expect legions of Franks charging down the Nile, paid for by Byzantine coin, and supported by Byzantine and Venetian ships.

The ink had barely dried on the treaty parchment when the Duke began to make preparations. The fifteen thousand or-so men under his command might be enough to best a host of effeminate Greeks, but to take Egypt from the Saracens would require a much larger army. For that reason, he had dispatched Bohemond and Count Raymond back across the Adriatic to gather more men to the cause. He instructed Raymond to travel through Italy to recruit Lombards, and sent Bohemond to southern France The Duke himself would stay in Kastoria, hiring Greek and Slav mercenaries.

To maintain the Greek and of the bargain, something that was quite difficult to achieve due to their lack of trustworthiness, Guiscard would leave garrisons at Kastoria and Dyrrhachium.

Indeed, like the light shining from the great lighthouse at Alexandria, the future seemed bright for the Duke of Apulia.

Outside of Toulouse, June 1082

“It is agreed then,” said Bohemond de Hauteville “You will finance the contingent of knights form Toulouse, in return for trading rights and privileges in Alexandria and Damietta,”

“True, and may the soldiers of Christ prevail over heathen and heretic,” replied William, the Count of Toulouse. Bohemond smirked inwardly at that assertion. It was doubtful that it was solely religious fervor that motivated the Count to endorse the expedition, especially considering that he would get to play landlord when his knights departed.

Bohemond was quite glad that the Count decided to stay in France, and not to go to the Nile delta on their little venture, despite William’s attempts at saying otherwise. His father Robert could give some feeble Tolosan knight some backwater village to run, but a Count would demand title, land and money, none of which father would be willing to part with easily.

With the formalities dealt with, the Count offered Bohemund a tour of the estate, which the Norman giant accepted. The lands around the manner were quite beautiful, but Bohemond would always prefer the orchards and mountains of Apulia to that of the home of his ancestors. [1]

Bohemond was telling the Count of his adventures during the campaign against the Greeks when he stopped suddenly. He nearly made the sign of the cross, as the vision of beauty standing before them could be nothing less than one of God’s angels.

“Ah, lady Eleanor. Has something delayed your departure back to Albi?” inquired the Count.

“Yes, your whores. My guards are making fools of themselves in front of your court wenches, again,” Spat back the lady angrily. Something in her tone of voice told Bohemond that she was referring to members of the counts family, and that this contention had arisen before.

“Do you know no end, woman?!” barked the Count. Lady Eleanor smirked.

The count calmed, wishing not to embarrass himself in front of the Norman. Bohemond did not care the least about what the count wished; He was in rapture gazing at the creature before him.

“Lady Eleanor, this is the son of the Duke of Apulia, Bohemond. Surely, you must have heard of his success against the Greek heretics,”

“Indeed,” tersely said the lady. She paused a moment before adding “Do you speak not because you are ill in the mind, or were you made mute by the parting of you and your tongue by a Saracen?”

Bohemond was taken aback at her wit. His towering height usually meant that not many would say such things to him. But while the count beside him fumed over her frankly insulting manner and insubordination, Bohemond found it enchanting.

Bohemond grinned widely, which seemed to throw the lady off.

“I beg your pardon, madam. In a great book, it was once written that a word is worth one coin, while silence is worth two. If you will excuse us, the count and I must be off. It of great pleasure to meet you,”

With a curt nod, the lady continued looking for her fornicating guards.

“God help and protect me in dealing with that defiant woman,” lamented the clearly frustrated Count “He late husband had amassed large estates outside of Albi when he died. They produced no heirs, thus she came into ownership of the property. Since then, she has refused to remarry, complaining that all of the honorable lords I present would be incapable of protecting her from the likes of me. I simply wish to get my fee, and restart normal taxing and levying, but she has the clergy on a string, and they won’t bless a marriage without her approval,” finished the Count

“She is a very well traveled woman, you know,” the Count added “She’s been amongst the Moors of Spain and Africa, rumors have it,” The warm feeling in Bohemond's cheeks grew

“My most honorable Count, I believe we have something else to discuss before lady Eleanor departs,” Bohemond said with a grin.

After the overthrow of the Fatimids, King Robert had one of the most densely populated places in the Mediterranean to rule. To help him do this, Robert followed his brother Roger’s example in Sicily; he incorporated to useful parts of the Muslim bureaucracy, and filled in the gaps where the harmful parts were cut out. He established the Patriarchate as the successor to the office of Imam, a sound idea considering the clerical genius of Patriarch Matthew. Raymond de Montay was appointed chancellor.

The urban properties, such as shops, bathhouses, and caravanserais were redistributed. They went from being owned by the defunct imam to being equally split between the offices of government and the public. The rent for property was lowered on Ramadan for Muslims, and Lent for Christians. Certain types of property were awarded to knights that had served Guiscard well. For instance, a certain Jordan of Salerno, a Lombard mercenary who helped turn the tide at the Battle of Cairo, acquired the majority of oil presses in the capital. This was a precursor practice of Urban feudalism, giving profitable crafts and factories to nobles, effectively transforming them to armed merchants.

Normans of Egypt. Tancredo Chen. New Melfi University Scriptorium, 1896.

The polytheist infidel king rode at the head of a great procession, a train of donkeys, horses and camels stretching as far as one could see unaided. The backs of the beasts were loaded with treasure and loot from up and down the Nile; gold and silver from Nubia, and the most excellent silk and weaved cloth from India. It was like a traveling feast, for the sultan gorged himself on dates and fine meats daily. He received presents from the lords of every town and city he passed through. Anonymous Arab chronicler, 11th Century.

Djerba, 1119

Gregorios of Sidon disembarked the galley and turned around, gazing into the seas of the Gulf of Gabes. He breathed in the smell of the African city. The scent of some spices a merchant was selling on the docks wafted over to him. To contrast the pleasant aroma, it had beren a lucky day for a fisherman, and he was letting his wares air as well. The noises were that of any bustling town; a horse0drawn wagon carrying kasks of wine or oil passed him, while a contingent of spearmen, with their pavises strapped to their backs marched in the opposite direction. All in all, it appeared that the island was returning to normal operations. Only the past fortnight had the Altavilla standard been raised over the citadel, and it was his duty as Emir of Palermo to safeguard the city which it overlooked. The Count would need it, as a stepping stone deeper into Africa.

Palermo, 1123

"Pah!" exclaimed Simon to his wife Sancha "William should learn some lesions from his cousins. They fight every day to preserve their lands from Turks and Kurds, while he sends me deluge after deluge of letters, begging me to subdue Capua or Bari or Melfi. These endless request will be the end of me!"

"He is family," Sancha said "But you are right. You should be rewarded. Perhaps with all of Calabria"

Simon pondered this for a while. Before retiring to bed with his wife, he began drafting a response to his whining Cousin.

Thus, after marching on Lecce and Taranto and Otranto, surrounding the cities and burning them, the Count demanded his justly deserved reward. He received from his cousin William of Apulia his claims on the Duchy of Calabria, as well as his claims to half of Palermo and half of Messina. Thus, the Count grew in as great a stature in Southern Italia as his father, and began to look beyond his insular borders.

Gesta Normanni Sudensis, c. 1335. English translation by Robert FitzRoy.

While a small population of Blacks has existed in Sicily since the time of the Moors, the first large and, more importantly, recorded population settled there during the reign of Simon I (then still a count). Alexander of Tropea writes that King Bohemond II of Egypt, the Count’s distant cousin, gifted to him several thousand Sudanic soldiers and slaves, to honor his wedding to Sancha of Portugal in 1114. According to Tropea, the slaves were emancipated, and resettled as serfs to work in the royal orange groves around Palermo. The Black soldiery would grow to be the terror of Southern Italia in the following decades, enforcing the Count’s will on the invested nobility along side Sicilian Saracens. In fact, in the excommunication of Simon (then King) by Antipope Carolus I, he is accused of “condoning and colluding in the slaughter and crucifixion of Christian children by the Black heathens,” not doubt stemming from exaggerated reports from Almafi.

Africanus. Iago Ramón. New Melfi University Scriptorium. 1873

Messina, 1145

Giovanni Calzolari, or, as he was known in his capacity as a Soldier of Christ Palatine, Iovanninus Calzolarius, stepped off the diminutive galley ahead of the porters bearing his weapons, robes and other miscellaneous baggage he’d picked up in his thirty two years, thirteen of them as a Knight of the Palatine Order. He’d roamed and romped all across the Mediterranean, been through small fishing villages in Palestine and seen the City itself perched on the Bosporus.

Messina, because of its location and natural features, was a remarkable harbor. Many ships greater than the old bucket in which he’d sailed could come directly into port. A plank was thrown on deck, and cargo could be unloaded by porters. No small boats were necessary to ferry freight from ship to dock, unless they were anchored far out at sea. For this facility of loading and unloading, Messina was booming as a trade town. Like the island it rested on, it was the midway point between and the clearinghouse for Christians operating in Europe and the Oltremare, particularly the Palatine Order. It was caught between the lower hills of Etna, spewing out fire and poison, and the treacherous waters of the Straits that bared its name.

He observed the ships lined up along the quay like horses in their stables for a moment before directing the baggage boys where to haul his possessions. There was a minor house of the Order here in Messina, as well as a hostel operated by fellow Genovans. He has business with both. He was here to secure Genovan support for a joint Sicilian-Palatine expedition to Africa. He was also here to kill the director of the Order house.

He, like the head of the Order Mark d’Altavilla, a distant cousin to Count Simon, was the exemplary warrior-monk. Although his good looks, of which any man would be envious while courting, left a series of bastards in Venice and Acre, he had since settled down into monastic chastity and asceticism. He’d found the lifestyle and philosophy of physical and spiritual purification of the Order to be precisely what he was looking for after so many years of wandering. The Order also had use of his rather diverse array of skills.

The director of the Order house was in many ways the opposite. He was a fat, lecherous pig who used his position to prey on the weak, and who had probably never served a day in his life in the Oultremare. He’d solely gotten into the Order because of his pious uncle. He skimmed money off of legitimate Palatine operations on Sicily, and had a taste for young boys from the Greek quarter.

He was why Giovanni brought his crossbow.

The Oultremare Crusader States were able to survive the Anatolian, Mesopotamian and Arabian thrusts into the Levant in large part due to a sizeable friendly native population. A generation of Syrians and Palestinians had come to age under a generally benevolent Christian government. The looting had been relatively minimal in most cities, and the population of Damascus viewed their Norman rulers positively for driving the Mercantile Italians from their city after the Sack in 1096. The religious turbulence of the 1110’s had largely settled with the death of the European born Crusader leaders and the ascendance of the Oultremare Europeans to power. Both Christians and Muslims, while not living in mutual adoration, at least lived in mutual respect. Thus, when the time came for both to defend their homes from Arab, Kurd and Turk invasions, the Muslim contingents of the Oultremare hosts were not lacking. Able to draw on the large population centers of the Levant, Mark d’Altavilla, Grand Master of the Palatine Order, and William of Syria were able to rout Seljuk and Arab incursions at Damascus and Aleppo, respectively, in 1131. Unfortunately for the Oultremare States, the young and inspiring William was killed in the devastating 1138 earthquake in Aleppo.

Normans of Egypt. Tancredo Chen. New Melfi University Scriptorium, 1896.

Palermo, 1167

Alexander of Tropea dipped his quill into the ink, and resumed writing the manuscript

“With so many successes achieved, all the lands Apulia and the whole duchy in his power, the Prince of the Capuans, the Magister Militum of Naples and all the land up to the borders of the city of Ancona subject to him, and his opponents in war and strife subdued, those close to Duke Simon, and particularly his uncle Count Henry of Vasto by whom he was loved more than anyone, began very frequently to suggest to him the plan that he, who with the help of God ruled so many provinces, Sicily, Calabria, Apulia and other regions stretching almost to Rome, ought not to have just the ducal title but ought to be distinguished by the honour of kingship.”

He wrote in close Latin script, with perfect spelling and grammar. No paper could be wasted. The process of producing paper had been imported from Spain several years ago. Despite the preciousness of the material, the industry for creating it was booming. Moorish experts from Spain had been brought over to found the mills, and Italians from Ancona (the conquest of which had been conducted under the reign of Simon I) were being imported to make dipping molds and watermarks. Though the recipe for ink varied from place to place, there was relatively large quantity available to Alexander. He continued writing

“They added that the centre and capital of this kingdom ought to be Palermo, the chief city of Sicily, which once, in ancient times, was believed to have had kings [who ruled] over this province; but now, many years later, was by God's secret judgment without them.”

He glanced out the window into the heart of Palermo, a metropolis, capitol, and home to some three hundred thousand Sicilians. When Simon came into power, the residents of the city were not Sicilians. They were Catholics, Greeks, Jews, Saracens. When he left, he left a city of Sicilians.

He saw the steam rising from a group of forges, where blacksmiths were pounding away, making swords and spears for one of the many Royal arsenals. He saw some Saracen scholars of the King’s court strolling up to the palace gate, discussing a section of al-Haytham’s Book of Optics. From his view in his tower of the royal palace were several administrative offices ringing the complex. Inside Greek and Saracen bureaucrats would be arguing over taxes and levies. Palermo was a city of Genoese merchants, and Norman knights; Saracen Imams and Latin Bishops. Jew and Saracen, Latin and Greek; Sicilians all, and all lived together in peace and respect, under the dutiful watch of Simon the Younger and his advisors.

Feeling cooped up in the hot attic of his tower, he decided to go on a stroll throughout the palace grounds. Unlike the poor monkish scribes in Northern Europe, sitting in their empty stone monasteries, full of hunger and cold, Alexander enjoyed some privileges as the official royal chronographer.

He admired the marble colonnades and the shimmering of the water as it trickled down fountains. The smell of lemon groves wafted through the courtyard as he walked through it. In the distance he could see the king’s younger brother Robert and his group of Greek and Muslim tutors. The adolescent was becoming just like his father and brother; quite the Cosmopolitan, speaking in rapid Greek and wearing the finest silks from the orient. After greeting the prince, he went back to his tower to give him a better view of the capitol.

Off in the distance, he could see some Greek shipwrights repairing a galley for the Emir of Palermo, Tiberias of Messina. In addition to his first and foremost task of managing the vibrant capital and trade center, he was also in charge of the maintaining and commanding the Royal Navy. But the king’s judgment was trusted; Tiberias was the right man for the job, as evidenced by the plunder he brought back from his most recent raid against the Pisans.

Indeed, Palermo was in good hands. Despite the few years of peace, he knew that war would return. Whether from the Germans in the North, the Greeks from the East, or the Muslims from the South, war would return to the Regno. He placed his confidence in Simon II, and continued his writing.

The economic transformation of Southern Italia is best illustrated by the changes that undergone at the Montanio manor. Originally Normans, Robert Guiscard gave John Montanio control over a small amount of land outside of Bari after helping him in taking the city. The Montanios did not join the campaign to the Balkans and Egypt, and consequently extended their domain over vacant neighboring estates. The main products of the estate were grains such as wheat and barley, olive oil, and wine. Several flocks of sheep were added in the 1130’s, which proved to be a wise investment. As the population of Southern Italia boomed due to good harvests and the increased availability of food stuffs from Egypt, there was a corresponding boom in manufacturing. Nowhere was this more evident than the manufacture of wool textiles. Purchasing records show that wool clothing and blankets were sold as far North as Padua. The 1180’s brought a crash in local grain production, with the direct importation of Egyptian cereals. This caused a corresponding switch to olive and grape growing, and sheep herding, furthering the boom of textile manufacturing. In the early years of the thirteenth century, the Montanio family set up a banking system in Naples, Bari and Melfi. In twenty years it had moved to Rome and Pisa. By the fourteenth century, Bruges, Antwerp, Hamburg, Nuremburg, Frankfurt, Prague, Wien, Marseille, Dijon and every major city in Italia had branches of the Montanio family. They extended their manufacturing to the realm of soap, using olive oil and rendered sheep fat with alkali salts to make a product finer than anywhere else in Europe. An apocryphal text states that many of Europe’s monarchs survived the Blackening due to their good hygiene from Montanio soap. Thus, one family saw the rise of industry and banking systems in Southern Italia over the course of three centuries.

Guigelmo Harris, Tertiary Thesis, James College of History, Trinity University, Newe York, 1839