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With brief notes on the arms, armour, dress and equipment

of the Byzantine army in the 11th century


Michael ORourke
mjor (at) velocitynet (dot) com (dot) au
Canberra Australia

December 2009

INTRODUCTION................................................................................................................................................. 2
THE GEOGRAPHY AND ADMINISTRATION OF BYZANTINE ITALY............................................................................... 5
THE BYZANTINE ARMY IN 1030......................................................................................................................10
LIST OF 10TH CENTURY EMPERORS.................................................................................................................. 15
THE EARLY CAREER OF GEORGE MANIAKES..................................................................................................... 16
ITALY, 1032-37............................................................................................................................................18
EVENTS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN......................................................................................................................20
LAND, LOCAL RECRUITS AND IMPORTED SOLDIERS IN BYZANTINE ITALY...............................................................21
EVENTS IN THE EAST, 1036-38.......................................................................................................................24
THE SICILIAN EXPEDITION, 1038 .................................................................................................................... 24
LANGOBARDIA, 1039..................................................................................................................................... 31
ARDUIN, THE SECOND LOMBARD REVOLT AND THE NORMANS...........................................................................35
EMPEROR MICHAEL V THE CAULKER, 1041-42..............................................................................................43
SYNODIANOS AND MANIAKES VERSUS ARGYRUS AND THE NORMANS .................................................................... 45
THE REVOLT AND DEATH OF MANIAKES, 1042-43............................................................................................48
ROBERT GUISCARD DE HAUTEVILLE............................................................................................................... 54
ARGYROS FAILS AGAINST THE NORMANS, 1051-53............................................................................................56
THE NORMAN CONQUEST................................................................................................................................62
THE CONTEST FOR APULIA, 1062-71...............................................................................................................67
FINAL END OF BYZANTINE RULE IN SOUTHERN ITALY.........................................................................................72
APPENDIX: EQUIPMENT AND DRESS IN MANIAKESS ARMY....................................................74
SOURCES AND REFERENCES..............................................................................................................................77



In the early 11th century, the greatest of the great powers west of India was the
Christian Roman Empire of the Greeks, known to us as Byzantium. The rulers of
a lesser power, Germany, held the suzerainty over Old Rome, and usually
travelled there to be anointed with the title imperator Romanorum (emperor of
the Romans). So the real Empire of New Rome ( Na Rhm
Constantinople) is ocassionally called the Eastern Empire to contrast with a
more titular German Empire in the West.
In this paper I have used mainly the modern adjective Byzantine but
sometimes Romaic to remind us of the Byzantines self-image as the true
Romans, and sometimes Greek to underline their differences from the Latins
(Lombards and Normans).
The Empire of New Rome was to reach its greatest territorial expanse in the
middle of the century under the Empress Zo, d. 1050, and her several husbands,
Romanos III (1028-34), Michael IV (1034-41) and Constantine IX (1042-55). A
further emperor in this period was Zos adopted son, the nephew of Michael IV,
Michael V (1041-42). Not idly did Psellos call Zo she who alone is noble of
heart and alone is beautiful, she who alone of all women is free, the mistress of all
the imperial family, the rightful heir to the Empire (Chronographia, 5.26).
As we will see, Zos generals briefly captured eastern Sicily the eastern
littoral including Taormina, Catania and Syracuse - in 1038-43. Armenia, part of
which emperor Basil II, d. 1025, had annexed, was fully incorporated into the
empire in 1045. Last of all, the Muslim principality of Edessa [modern Urfa,
Sanliurfa] in Mesopotamia was fully annexed in 1052.

In the West, the Greek Empire had lost most its North Italian territories to the
Lombards and Franks during the 8th century, and Sicily had been lost to the
Saracens (Muslims) during the 9th century. In southern Italy, however,
Byzantium continued to rule todays Calabria, Basilicata and Puglia (ancient
Apulia) which collectively was called Langouvardia or Longobardia
[ : Latin Longobardia Minor]. Langouvardia in the
broad sense meant the whole catepanate (super-province) of southern Italy or in
a narrow sense just the province (theme) whose capital was Bari, i.e. our Puglia
nd eastern Basilicata.
The narrow Strait of Messina between Calabria and Sicilyjust three km at its
narrowestformed the political frontier between Christendom and Islam.
Looking east the Sarakenoi could on a clear day literally see the Rum (Greeks).
And looking west, the Rhomaioi (Byzantines) could see the Arabi and al-Barbar
(Sicilian Berbers), or at least they could see their chimney-smokes. Or probably
we should say that Greeks on both sides of the Strait saw Greek chimney smoke,
because the great majority of the population of east Sicily under Muslim rule
were Greek-speaking Christians.

A map of the Empire in AD 1045 can be found here:


Above: 11th Century costume.

The right hand figure is based on a famous miniature of emperor Basil II, d.
1025, in parade armour. His boots should be imagined as red with lines
of pearls; blue hose; his tunic purple woven with gold; dark blue cloak;
and his armour corselet made of brightly gilded iron lamellae. From his
crown dangle pendilia of pearls.

Muslim North Africa and Sicily

The viceroys of Ifriqiya (our Algeria and Tunisia) under the Fatimids were the
Zirid dynasty, a line of Berber emirs. They ruled from Kairouan in inland north-
central Tunisia. The removal of the Fatimid fleet to Egypt (969) made the
retention of Sicily impossible for the Zirids. With the sea-link loosened, the
Kalbid sub-governors in Sicily soon began to rule the island without regard to
their nominal overlords in Tunisia. Then Algeria broke away (1014) under the
governorship of Hammad ibn Buluggin, who allied himself with the Abbasids in
In Sicily the intra-dynastic conflict intensified under Ahmad al-Akhal b. Yusuf,
who seized power in Palermo in 1019. Some factions allied themselves with
Byzantium, others with the Zirids. With some support from the Fatimids, al-
Akhal defeated two Byzantine expeditions in 1026 and 1031. But his attempt to
raise a heavy tax to pay his mercenariesmany were Sudanese and Slavscaused
a civil war. Al-Akhal now turned (1035) for support to the Byzantines, while his
brother Abu Hafs, leader of the rebels, received (1036) troops from the Zirid emir
of Ifriqiya, al-Muizz b. Badis. The emirs 13 years old son Abdallah led, or


nominally led, an expeditionary force of 6,000 men to Sicily. Abu Hafs and
Abdallahs men stormed Palermo and beheaded al-Akhal (1038) [chronology
from Singh 2002 and Bosworth 2004].
This was the scene into which the imperial general George Maniakes brought
his invasion army.

The Normans in Italy 1016-47

Unlike the Norman conquest of England (1066), which took place over the course
of a few brief years after one decisive battle, the conquest of Southern Italy was
the product of decades and many battles, few decisive. Many territories were
conquered independently. Only later were they all unified into one state.

Normans first appeared in southern Italy in 1016 in the form of a band of

pilgrims visiting the shrine of Michael the Archangel at Monte Gargano. There
they met the Lombard rebel Melus of Bari. Along with the rebel Lombards, this
band of Norman adventurers joined in an attack on Byzantine Apulia in 1017. In
three battles fought that year in north Apulia, the rebels had the better of it,
largely it would seem because of the incompetence of the Byzantine commanders.
But the following year, the rebels, including 250 Norman cavalrymen, were
totally crushed at Cannae by the troops of the new Byzantine catepan or
governor-general, Basil Boioannes. This victory brought the Byzantines
recognition by all the lords of the Mezzogiorno, who had previously given their
allegiance to the German Emperor.
Some of the surviving Normans took service with the Byzantines, while others
joined the armies of the various Lombard princelings and the ruler of Naples.
Early in 1030, Sergius of Naples gave his Norman commander Ranulf Drengot
the county of Aversajust north of Naplesas a fief, the first Norman
principality in the region. Sergius also gave his sister in marriage to the new
count. In 1037-38, the Normans were further entrenched when the German
Emperor Conrad II deposed the leading Lombard ruler, Pandulf of Capua, and
recognised Drengot as holding his fief directly from the emperor.
Meanwhile, in about 1035, the de Hauteville brothers, William and Drogo,
came from Normandy to join Ranulf. By 1038 they were in the service of Guaimar
IV of Salerno, and he sent them to join the Byzantine expedition to Sicily under
Maniakes. After their return to the mainland, the Hautevilles laid claim to
Byzantine territory in northern Apulia, initially in the Ascoli and Venosa regions.
Sent back to Italy in 1042, Maniakes put the Norman up[starts back in their box,
but once he departed, the anti-Greek forces began gradually to get the upper
In 1047 once again, Emperor Henry III, Conrad's son, came down and,
ignoring the Eastern Emperor in Constantinople and his Italian-based governor
at Bari, made the Drengot and Hauteville possessions around Aversa and Melfi
his direct vassals. They began to expand their rule by seizing Byzantine-ruled
towns and valleys.


The Geography and Administration of Byzantine Italy

Before we go further, it may be useful for the reader to have a short introduction
to the towns and regions of the Mezzogiorno. We assume that they are not as well
known as those of northern Italy, even to many Europeans, let alone to
Jamaicans, Trinidadians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Australians and other
We also explain some of the military and civil institutions of the Eastern

APULIA /English: uh-pyool-ya/:

Modern Puglia /Italian and English: poolya/ comprises the heel and lower calf
of Italy.
The towns of the Byzantine period included, from north to south, the following.
The largest present-day cities are underlined. 1: Lucera: inland from coastal
Manfredonia (ancient Sipontum). 2: Bovino: south of Foggia. 3: Canosa: inland
from Barletta and Trani. 4: Bari: about one-third down the coast of Puglia. 5:
Matera, which is inland: equidistant from Bari and 6: Taranto. Technically
Matera lies within the modern province of Basilicata. 7: coastal Monopoli: nearer
to Bari than Brindisi. 8: Brindisi itself: about half way up the actual back-ankle.
9: inland Lecce: halfway between Brindisi and Otranto. And 10: Otranto itself,
near the easternmost point of the heel.
Inside the heel we have Gallipoli, Taranto and Mottola. Taranto gives its name
to the great Gulf of Taranto.

Tracing backwards, NW towards Rome, the ancient military highway called the
Via Traiana ran from Brindisi up the Adriatic coast through Monopoli to Bari.
There it veered inland to Bitonto, Canosa, Ordona and medieval Troia (ancient
Aecae: near Foggia) and thence through the Apennines to Benevento in
Campania, where it joined the Appian Way proper.
Also tracing towards Rome from Brindisi, the Appian Way proper cut across
the upper heel to Taranto and thence inland - north-west for some 200 km - via
Gravina (med. Silvium), Venosa: 10 km S of the Ofanto River, Aquilonia and
Mirabella Eclano (ancient Aeclanum), to Benevento.


The coastal town on the calf of the boot of Italy. In the middle period, after AD
900, Bari was the capital of Byzantine Italy.
From NE to SE down the Adriatic coast, the key towns of the Italian calf and
heel are: Manfredonia, Barletta, Trani, Molfetta, Bari, Monopoli, Brindisi and
Otranto. As we have said, Brindisi was the terminus of the ancient highway called
the Appian Way, Latin: Via Appia. But a further road ran to Otranto from



An inland town in central-southern Italy, strategically located on the ancient

highway that ran from Capua across the spine of the peninsula to Brindisi on the
heel of Italy.
The Appian Way divided at Benevento. As already noted, the upper leg or Appia
Traiana went east into north Apulia (Puglia): to Canosa and then SE to the coast
at Bari. Then it followed the coast down the calf to Brindisi. The other leg, the
older Via Appia proper, ran from Benevento SE through the middle of S Italy to
Venosa, across the inland border of Puglia to Gravina, and on to the south coast
(the Gulf of Taranto) at Taranto and thence across the heel to Brindisi and the


The three major cities today are Reggio di Calabria*, near the southern tip, across
from Sicily; Catanzaro in the centre; and Cosenza in the north, at the top of the
valley of the Crati River. Another important city, Crotone, lies on the east coast
near Capo Colonna, Calabrias easternmost point.

(*) Founded by Greek colonists in around BC 720. Thus it celebrated its 1,750th
anniversary in about AD 1030.


Commander in chief, regional commander, governor-general.

The first text that mentions a katepno* of Italy is a diploma dated to the the
spring of 970 in favour of the church and monastery of St Peter of Taranto by the
anthypatos or proconsul and patrikios, the Catepan Michael Abidelas. Thus the
office was almost certainly created in 969 or 970. Holmes 2005: 432 says the first
katepano of Byzantine Italy was probably the patrikios Eugenios in 968 or 969.
Others think Abidelas was the first, being raised from a mere strategos (general)
to katepano in 970.

(*) Greek: ho Katepano, the one above (the others); the over-all, foremost,
i.e. supreme regional commander.


The big bump on the upper calf of Italy.


This was the name of the Byzantine super-province or catepanate that covered
the bottom fifth of Italy, i.e. modern Calabria, Basilicata and Apulia. It was
governed from Bari.
This must be a guess, but if each of Calabria, Loukania (see next) and Apulia
was garrisoned with 2,000 soldiers, then the ordinary military strength of


Byzantine Italy may have been 6,000 men.

There were a number of small Lombard*, i.e. non-Greek, principalities
wedged between the German Empire - which ruled Rome - and Byzantine
Catepanate of Italy. From west to east they were: Capua, Salerno and Benevento.
There were also three even smaller coastal Greco-Italian city-states which in
earlier centuries had recognised the suzerainty of Constantinople, but had long-
since become self-determining, namely Gaeta, Naples and Amalfi. (But why be
ungracious to the leading naval power if you are a maritime trader? - Although
fully independent, the trader-lords of Gaeta and Amalfi were content to accept
court titles from the Eastern Empire into the 1030s. Patricia Skinner 2003,
note at page 100.)

(*) The name derives from the Longobards or Lombards, a Germanic people who
first settled in Italy in the sixth century. They quickly became Latinised. The
Lombard language died out as they adopted the local proto-Italian dialects.

The corner-point between Beneventan, Salernitan and Imperial territory lay on

the upper Ofanto River west of Melfi. Modern-day Basilicata was divided between
Salerno and Byzantine Langobardia (greater Apulia). The corner-point between
the lands of Salerno, Byzantine Calabria and Byzantine Longobardia lay NW of

At the time of the Norman conquest of south Italy and Sicily there were
essentially three distinct trading areas: Apulia, Campania, and Calabria. In
Apulia, Byzantine coins were used more consistently than anywhere else, though
their use was challenged by Lombard coins of Salerno and by silver denari of the
north. By the mid-eleventh century, Lombard coinage was used in northern
Apulia; a hoard from Ordona [near Foggia] contained only one histamenon of
Basil II and Constantine VIII [d. 1028] as against 147 taris of either Amalfi or
Salerno, the early types of which cannot be easily distinguished from each other.
Travaini, 2001.


The thema or theme (province) of Loukania or Lucania, between Calabria and

Apulia, is first mentioned in 1042, and probably does not date to much earlier
(Stephenson in Magdalino 2003: 139).
Rodriquez notes that the theme of Lucania is known only from a document
dated November 1042 by its strategos Eustathius Skepides, who dictated a
sentence in favour of the abbot of the monastery of San Nicola in the valley of the
Lao, west of Cassano allo Ionio.* The theme had probably been established in
1035 after the alliance with the Sicilian Emirate. It possibly had short life, as it is
not mentioned in the decree of Duke Argyros on his arrival in Italy in 1051.

(*) Cassano allo Ionio lies south of the Pollino national park; inland from the west
coast of the Gulf of Taranto


Lucania was constituted around Cassano in N Calabria in the opinion of Van

Falkenhausen (2003), or headquartered at Tursi** in present-day S Basilicata if
we rely on Guillou [Guillou, 'La Lucanie Byzantine: Etude de geographic
historique', Byzantion, 35 (1965), 119-49]. It covered, in the opinion of the latter,
the territories of Latinianon, which is the Agri valley: inland from the top of the
Gulf of Taranto; Mercurion which is the Lao or Laino valley, part of todays
Pollino national park, which is transected by the modern Basilicata-Calabrian
border; and Lagonegro,*** west of the Pollino park, near the N border of modern
In other words, Byzantine Lucania comprised the southern sector of modern

(**) Tursi lies a little inland from the top (apex) of the Gulf of Taranto and to the
NE of Pollino national park.

(***) Lagonegro lies in the segment of Basilicatathe tongue of land between

Campania and Calabriathat reaches west to the Tyrrhenian Sea.


Campania is the region centred on Naples. From north to south, the key cities
are: coastal Gaeta, inland Capua on the river Garigliano, Naples, Sorrento on the
Bay of Naples, Amalfi and Salerno. As the crow flies, it is about 70 miles or 110


km from Gaeta to Salerno.


The court titles awarded by the emperor were, in descending rank: proedros
(president), magistros, anthypatos (proconsul), patrikios, praipositos [a rank
limited to eunuchs] and protospatharios (first sword bearer). They were
honorific titles, not functional offices; thus a magistros was not ipso facto a judge.
Theme commanders (military governors of provinces) were commonly awarded
the title of protospatharios, but a protospatharios need not be a military man (see
details in ODB: Kazhdan 1991).
As will be seen in this paper, a generalissimo (catepan) of Italy was commonly
awarded the higher title of patrikios. Patrikios was rendered in Latin as
patricius; one sees the patrician in some English texts.


The key regions and towns in this era included:

(a) Maza del Vallo: on the coast near the W point, and Marsala: closer to the W
(b) Northern coast: Palermo, the capital of Muslim Sicily: about a quarter of the
way east from the islands NW point. Cefal: halfway on the north coast.
Milazzo: on the coast just west of the NE point.
(c) Enna: effectively dead-middle of the island.
(d) South: Agrigento inland from the central S coast.
(e) East coast: Messina is near the NE point. Taormina: a quarter-way down.
Catania: halfway down. Syracuse: three-quarters of the way to the SE point.
Also Noto: inland SW of Syracuse.

TARANTO [ancient Tarentum] and OTRANTO [Hydrontos]:

... are different towns in SE Italy. Taranto is located on the inner or western side
of the heel, at the top of the Gulf of Taranto. Otranto, medieval Hydrus or
Hydrontus, is very close to the outer, easternmost point of the heel, i.e. opposite


The military provinces of the empire: administrative regions each with its own
locally raised troops. There was a combined civil-military administration under a
strategos or commander-general.
Several of the Themes were naval or marine districts, supplying the imperial
fleets with oarsmen and marines.
Thematic troops were trained, semi-professional cavalrymen and infantry,
half-farmers-half-soldiers. They engaged in farming when not called out for
battle or training. As part-recompense for their military service, or that of their


son, they owned land. They also received a salary from the state.


The Varangians or Rus [Old Norse Vaeringjar, Greek Varangoi] were

Norsemen, mainly but not only from Sweden, who travelled and settled in the
eastern Baltic, present-day-day Russia and lands to the south. Engaging in trade,
piracy and mercenary activities, they roamed the river systems and portages of
what is now Ukraine, reaching the Caspian Sea and Constantinople.

In 988 under a treaty with Vladimir I of Kiev, emperor Basil II recruited a

division of 6,000 Varangian infantrymen and formed them into an elite regiment.
The Varangians relied on a long axe as their main weapon, although they were
often skilled swordsmen or archers as well. On their axes, see ORourke 2009.
They fought either in the front line or were held back and sent it as a circuit-
breaker if the tide of battle looked like turning in favour of the enemy. A
Byzantine general who knew his Herodotus might give the order Send in the

The term Varangian Guard, "Palatio Varangoi", is first recorded in 1034,

although the unit itself dated from 988 (Treadgold 1997: 537, 680).

In about 1034 the 19-years-old Norwegian prince Harald Sigurdarson or

Sigurdsson - later called Harold Hardrada or Haardraadehard ruler or the
ruthlessarrived at Constantinople with a detachment of 500 Varangian
noblemen (Davidson 1976: 209). The Greek form of his name name was
Araltes. He was the step-son of King Sigurd and half-brother of King Olaf the
Saint, and had served for some years with the Russian (Kievan) king Yaroslav
before arriving in Byzantium. The extravagant word noblemen is
Kekaumenoss, but no doubt they were all elite warriors.
The saga-writer Snorri Sturlusson said Harald served on the galleys with the
force that went into the Grecian Sea, meaning the Aegean. He was employed for
about nine years by three emperors, ca. 1034-ca.1043, including in Sicily
(Obolensky 1971: 306). He was afterwards king of Norway, and was famously
killed invading England in 1066.

The geographical meaning of Varangia as Scandinavia has been brought out

most clearly in a passage in the Book of Advice which is annexed to the
Strategikon of Cecaumenus. In 246, Harold Hardrada is called the son [step-
son] of the king of Varangia, which is to say: Norway.

The Byzantine Army in 1030

To illustrate a typical battlefield deployment used by the Byzantines, we can cite

the formation adopted by Emperor John I for a battle fought near the lower
Danube River in 971.
He drew up his army in two lines. The front line comprised most of the infantry


(perhaps 2,500 men) in the centre with cavalry on either flank (say 1,625 left and
1,625 right). The Varangians commonly formed the centre of the front line. Then
there was a second line made up of a smaller body of infantry archers and
slingers (say 1,250), with two further cavalry regiments (500 left and 500 right),
hidden from view, placed behind the ordinary cavalry in front. The second
infantry line could fire over the heads of the first line, while the hidden reserve
cavalry units could be sent against the enemys flanks in a surprise move. (The
numbers in brackets are not from 971; rather they are the sorts of numbers to be
expected in an expeditionary force serving in Italy.)
At the Battle of Troina in Sicily in 1040, Maniakes formed up his army in three
lines. Unfortunately we do not know where the various unit-types were placed.

If we follow the 10th C Byzantine military manuals (see McGeer 1995), we might
expect an expeditionary army of 10,000 to be made up as follows, at least for
fighting in the East. It is not known if all of these troop-types were also used in
the same proportions in Italy.

1,800 ordinary cavalry

These were lancers wearing plain, one-piece low-conical iron helmets. Their body
armour was a waist-length lorikion or mail corselet and/or a klivanion or
klibanion, the iron lamellar corselet or torso cuirass with platelets rivetted to a
shaped shirt of hardened leather. Over this they wore an epilorikon or thick
padded surcoat of cotton or coarse silk.
The lances or light pikes, Greek: kontos, were used for poking, stabbing and
thrusting, not for the couched charge as in later Westernand Byzantinearmies
of the 12th century. The couched charge did not come into use until the period
1100-1150 (see France 1994: 71).
Their secondary weapon was a slashing sword. DAmato and also Dawson,
2007b: 19, give the length of the spathion or Romano-Greek long sword as about
85 cm [2 ft 10 in]; McGeer offers 90 cm [three feet].
They carried kite-shaped shields: almond-shaped or like an inverted tear-
drop, about two feet or 60 cm wide at their widest, or 70 cm. Such shields were
about 105 cm or 3 feet 5 inches high according to DAmato.

1,200 mounted archers: 40% of the cavalry (McGeer 1995: 68, 213)

The smaller cavalry bow (a Hunnic recurve composite bow) could shoot arrows
as far as 130 metres, with a killing range of perhaps 80 metres or 260 feet. The
archers carried on their belt a single large rounded-box quiver with 40-50
arrows. The arrows were inserted point upwards (in contrast to the infantry
As Dawson notes, Phokass (AD 975) Praecepta Militaria [PM] or
Composition on Warfare at III.8 says that the horse-archers should wear helms,
body-armour in the form of lamellar klibania and quilted coats called kavadia
which protect their legs and part of their horses. See the photograph of Dawsons
reconstruction at his Levantia website (Archer). There the soldier wears high


boots folded down, a split kavadion or thick padded coat to just below the knees
worn under a lamellar cuirass (torso only), and a rounded skull-tight dish helmet
with a non-metallic aventail.
Phokas says that horse-archers carried, or should carry, the same large one-
metre shields as lancers.

Up to 250 "true" cataphracts

In the 960s AD Emperor Nicephorus Phokas introduced a new-style super-heavy

cavalry regiment with fully armoured horses (McGeer p.217). It is not known if
any were ever stationed in Italy. One would guess not.
The horse-armour was a full klibadion made of hardened ox-hide platelets
covering the whole horse to its knees. Their main weapon was the large mace,
Greek bardoukion, sledge-hammer, used for smashing through the centre of the
enemy line; but they also carried lance and sword.

150-250 light horse skirmishers (Mc Geer p.211).

Dawson, citing PM II.3, explains that the prokoursatores were a medium-cavalry

type whose job was to harass small groups of the enemy and pursue fugitives.
They could be equipped in a simple klibanion like the horse-archer, or they could
wear mail. Their standard armament was a sword, mace and round shield. We
might call them sword-chasers, as they lacked the lance.

Sub-total: say 3,000 cavalrymen (six parataxes of 500).

In emperor Leos Taktika, ca. 907 AD, the thematic cavalry are formed up five
deep: the first two ranks were lancers, then two ranks of archers (40%) and
finally another rank of lancers (one bandon = six allaghiai = six x 10 files of five
men = 300).
In the later 10th Century the basic cavalry unit was the new-style bandon of just
50 men, who formed up five ranks deep. In battle formation 10 banda formed one
formation or regiment (parataxis): this created a 100-horse front (500 = 100 x
5). As before, lancers were placed in the first two and also the back rows; horse-
archers made up the 3rd and 4th rows, i.e. 40% were bowmen (McGeer p.284; also
Toynbee 1973: 313).

3,000-5,000 basic pike infantry (kontaratoi)

According to the Byzantine military manuals, the common infantryman wore

quilt body-armour and a turban-like pseudo-helmet of felt (McGeer pp.203-4;
illustrations by McBride in Dawson 2007b). Heath (1979) notes that, although
the manuals do not state that ordinary infantry wear iron helmets, the
contemporary illustrations do show infantry typically with iron helmets and also
lamellar iron or mail body armour - often to the waist but sometimes to the
knees. Conceivably such illustrations represent elite infantry guardsmen in the
capital rather then the ordinary foot-soldiers of the Themes.


Their round shields were sometimes quite large: up 140 cm (4 ft 7 in) high,
according to McGeer p.205, i.e. covering from above the shoulder to below the
knee. Dawson 2007b: 23 offers the smaller figure of 95 cm (3 ft) as normal.
Parani, Images p. 125 list the great round infantry shield as having a diameter
of 82 cm [2 ft 8 in].
Their primary weapon was a very long spear or thin pike of about four metres
or 13 feet, Greek kontarion, also called doru or spear in Leo the Deacon. McGeer
translates kontarion as spear. They also carried a belt-hung sword (spathion),
i.e. not hung on a baldric from the shoulder as was common for cavalry (McGeer
1995: 206). Also Dawsons Levantia website under Infantry.

2,400 foot archers

About a quarter of the infantry force. No armour. They used heavier bows capable
of sending an arrow over 300 metres, with a killing distance of perhaps 150-200
metres (McGeer pp.68, 207, 272).
Nikephoros Phokas specifies that his archers are to have a small shield, two
bows and two quivers: one of 60 arrows, the other of 40 arrows. As we noted
earlier, foot archers stored their arrows point-down in their quivers.

1,200 light infantry

Armed with javelins or slings. The sling is more accurate and has a greater range
than a bow-fired arrow: lead pellets and stones weighing 50 grams will travel up
to 400 metres.
Javeliners carried two or three casting spears (akontia, javelins or doration,
throwing spear) up to 2.75 m or nine ft long. The Syllog Taktikn of the 10th
century says that infantry javelins must be no longer than 2.35 m or 7ft 9in,
which is surprisingly long; they must have been quite light in their shaft and
heads (Dawson 2007b: 24). We have no information on the range of javelins but
40 metres (half the capability of todays top 10 Olympic javeliners) can be noted
for discussion.
Light infantry shields were smaller than those of the pike infantry (McGeer
1995: 208). According to Parani, p.126, they were oblong (possibly oval) and 94
cm high [3 ft 1 in].

600 heavy infantry pikemen called menavlatoi or menavliatoi

In the East this type defended the infantry square against cavalry charges
(McGeer pp.209, 268). They were armed with very thick pikes or heavy poles,
used to stab the enemy horses. The pikes were possibly three to four metres or
10-12 ft in length with a long 20-inch or 50 cm blade (McGeers figures; Dawson
2007b: 61 says just 2.5 metres long, so heavy spear might be the best rendering).
The infantry square was symmetrical and seven deep, with spearmen in the
front ranks, foot-archers behind them and the menavliatoi at the rear (Dawson
2007b: 52, 62).


Subtotal 6-8,000 infantry in six to eight taxiarchies or battalions of 1,000

(McGeer p.51; also p.207).

The standard or default deployment of a taxiarchy was in a rectangular formation

seven men deep: two ranks of kontaratoi at the front, then three rows of foot-
archers and two further rows of kontaratoi at the back. The archers shot over the
heads of the front rows (see details in McGeer pp.265-67 etc).

The manuals prescribed that when entering or crossing enemy territory, the
infantry, marching in three lines or columns, should be surrounded on all sides
by cavalry. Further out were small numbers of cavalry outriders or flank scouts.
In open country this meant that the main body comprised three lines of infantry
flanked on either side by one line of cavalry. The emperor or commander rode
with a second line of cavalry, behind the cavalry vanguard and immediately ahead
of the infantry. The baggage train (supplies and equipment typically carried by
pack-mules and/or in mule-drawn carts) was in the very middle with the infantry
(Haldon, Byzantium at War p.53).


Above: Fresco of Joshua dated to after AD 1150 at the walled monastery Hosios
Loukas near the town of Distomo, in Boeotia [Voiotia], Greece. Curiously he
wears no beard. Note the finely drawn corselet of lamellar armour, the baldric
and the boots. The helmet looks to be shaped from a single piece of metal.

* * * * *

List of 10th Century Emperors

In Greek the title of the emperor was Basileus, pronounced vasilefs, literally



Macedonian dynasty, so-called:

1028-34: Romanos III Argyros: married to empress Zoe of the long-

established Macedonian line.

1034-41: Michael IV the Paphlagonian: married to empress Zoe. Older

brother of the chief minister John the Orphanotrophus. The
family was originally from the Asia Minor province of

1041-42: Michael V the Caulker: nephew of Michael IV and John the

Orphanotrophus; adopted son of Zoe.

1042-55: Constantine IX Monomachus: married to empress Zoe.

1055-56: empress Theodora Porphyrogenita: older sister to Zoe.

1056-57: Michael VI Bringas. An official in his 60s who in formal terms

Theodora adopted as her son when she was dying. Bringas was
the candidate of the anti-military party in Constantinople.
Defeated in battle by the army general Isaac Comnenus, he

Comnenus and Ducas dynasties:

1057-59: Isaac (Isaakios) I Komnenos. Lacking a son, as he lay dying, he

abdicated in favour of an associate, Constantine Ducas.

1059-67: Constantine X Doukas: Wife: Eudocia.

1067-78: Michael VII Doukas: son of Constantine X and Eudocia, aged

about 17 in 1067.

1067-68: empress Eudocia, regent for Michael VII.

1068-71: Romanos IV Diogenes, co-emperor and senior ruler: married

empress Eudocia, the widow of Constantine X.

1071-78: Michael VII Doukas, aged about 21 in 1071.

The Early Career of George Maniakes

Georgios (George) Maniakes first appears, aged 33, in the historical record in
1030 in the post of strategos or military governor of Telouch (Skylitzes 381.38-


39). Telouch or Teluch was the ancient Doliche, modern Duluk, a little to the west
of the river. The town of that name lies near todays Gaziantep, north of Aleppo,
on the road from Germanicia (Marash) to Zeugma in ancient N Syria; now just
inside Turkey. Maniakes Theme was the lowest down Theme (small province) of
the several on the upper Euphrates River (Treadgold 1997: 585).
Maniakes was proverbial for his size and ferocity. The scholar Michael Psellos,
fl. 1047, describes him thus:

nature had bestowed on him all the attributes of a man destined to

command. He stood ten feet [sic! 200 cm?] high and men who saw him
had to look up as if at a hill or the summit of a mountain. There was
nothing soft or agreeable about the appearance of Maniaces. As a matter of
fact, he was more like a fiery whirlwind, with a voice of thunder and hands
strong enough to make walls totter and shake gates of brass. He had the
quick movement of a lion, and the scowl on his face was terrible to behold.
Everything else about the man was in harmony with these traits and just
what you would expect (Psellos, Chronographia VI. 77).

In 1043 at the Battle of Ostrobos he fought at the head of his troops and whoever
was injured by his sword escaped with half or more of their body maimed, for he
was known to be invincible and firm, a big and broad-backed man terrible in
appearance but an excellent leader (Attaleiates: History 19.5-10 / 15.19-16.1,
quoted in PBW 1043).

The local Muslim powers in 1030 were the Mirdasids of western Syria, a Shia
Arab line ruling from Aleppo, and the Marwanids of northern Mesopotamia, a
Kurdish dynasty whose lands were centred on Diyarbakir, with its seat at
Miyafarqin (Silvan: NE of Diyarbakir). The Mirdasids shifted allegiance back and
forth between Byzantium and the other great power in the nearer East, the
Fatimids of Egypt, who were another Shia dynasty. Likewise the Marwanids, who
captured the important town of Edessa in 1026, juggled their relations with
Constantinople and Cairo, and also with Ahvaz, the town in SW Persia that was
the seat of the Buyid emirs, yet another Shia line, who ruled the further East
(lower Mesopotamia and Iran).

Maniakes was promoted to governor of Lower Media in 1030, with his HQ at

Samosata, higher up on the Euphrates (Skylitzes 382.58; Yahya of Antioch 514).
He led attacks on the Muslim emirs of Aleppo and Diyarbakir.
Maniakes was wrongly told by a band of Arabs in 1030 that emperor Romanos
III, then personally leading a campaign in Syria, had been captured. They
ordered the strategos to surrender Telouch and he pretended to acquiesce,
sending them supplies, including wine. The next day, when they had drunk and
fallen asleep, his troops killed them all. They captured 280 of the Arabs' supply-
laden camels and cut off the ears and noses of the dead. These he took and
presented to Romanos, who had retired to Cappadocia. Romanos then appointed
Maniakes strategos of the theme of the Euphrates cities and catepan of Lower
Media with his HQ at Samosata (Zonaras 17.12.13, cited in PBW).


The following year the new strategos of the Euphratean cities attacked the
major Muslim-ruled town of Edessamodern Urfa in Turkish Syriaand bribed
its governor Salamanes (Sulayman), who surrendered the town to him. Although
under Muslim rule, the great majority of the inhabitants were Christians.
Apomerbanes was the Greek rendering of Ibn Marwan [Nasr ad-Dawla ibn
Marwan], the Kurdish emir of Miepherkeim [Mayyafariqin], Greek Martyropolis.
Todays Silvan. He had entrusted Edessa to the Turk Sulayman ibn al-Kurgi (Gk
Salamanes). Maniakes captured much of the town, then bribed Sulayman, who
surrendered all of it to Byzantium. The bribe to Sulayman was obtained by a
request to Romanos III. The emperor sent via Maniakes a letter to Sulayman
appointing the Turk anthypatos and patrikios, and also giving an exalted dignity
to his wife. Salman received an annual pension and a patent of nobility from the
Emperor. Salamanes was appointed anthypatos and patrikios and given estates
in Byzantium.
Maniakes found in the city the famous relics believed to be a letter of king
Abgar to Christ and the autograph letter of Jesus in response. The
correspondence between Christ and the king of Edessa was the palladium or holy
safeguarder of the city. The strategos sent the relics to Romanos III (PBW under
1031, 1032).

Ibn Marwan, Gk Apomerbanes, emir of Martyropolis, which is modern Silvan

near Diyarbakir, came to rescue the situation but he failed, despite the strength of
his army, to oust Maniakes from the three towers the latter held in Edessa. So
Apomerbanes destroyed the Great Church and much of the town, killed its
citizens and returned to Martyropolis with his camels laden with booty.
In one incident at this time a soldier of the Russian peoplepresumably an
officer of the Varangian Guardsent by Maniakes on an errand to the Emir of
Harran [SE of Edessa, today located just inside Turkey] lost his temper with the
Emir and struck at him with his axe (PBW, 1031).

In 1032, as we have said, Maniakes sent the famous relics, the letter of Abgar and
Christs reponse, from Edessa to the capital, together with Sulayman ibn al-Kurgi,
the Turkish governor from whom he had taken the city. Romanos III came out
with the Patriarch Alexios to receive the precious letters, had them translated
from Syriac to Greek and Arabic, and added them to the palace collection.

In 1033 Maniakes sent to Romanos III Edessa's annual tax of 50 pounds [litrai]
of gold (3,600 standard gold coins called nomismata) (PBW citing Skylitzes

Italy, 1032-37

The Sicilian Arabs, who regularly raided across the Strait of Messina and further
abroad, invaded Calabria in 1032. They captured Cassano and killed Pothos
Argyros, the catepan of Italy, who came out against them. They then made a
naval raid across the Adriatic to Corcyra, where they met defeat at the hands of
imperial forces under the strategos of Nicopolis [our west-central Greece]. The


Arab pirates burned Kerkyra but lost heavily in a battle and a storm (Treadgold
1997: 587; also PBW under 1031 and 1032).

The new catepan in succesion to Pothos was Michael, hitherto a high offcial
(protospatharios) holding the offices of household treasurer to the emperor or
epi ton oikiakon and krites of the velon or curtain and of the hippodrome, which
is to say: manager of imperial audiences. He arrived (1032) in Italy with troops
from the Anatolikon Theme (PBE under 1032).

In this period catepans commonly served brief terms of office. A new catepan
Constantine (Leo) Opus was in place by the summer of 1033 (or 1034). He
proceeded to Calabria with John (Ioannes) the Cubicularius [chamberlain],
commander of the fleet, in order to remove the Saracens (Muslims): the conflict
dragged on for years, punctuated by negotiation and truces.
In the central Mediterranean the ships of the strategos of Nauplia [Nafplion in
the Peloponnesus], Nicephoros Karantenos, and the fleet of the chamberlain
John now began to sweep the seas and effectively eliminated the pirate threat
from Sicily and Ifriqiya. According to A L Lewis, by 1100 the fleets of Muslim
Spain, Sicily and North Africa simply disappeared, leaving only a scattering of
ships that could be mustered for warlike purposes (1988: 103).

The years 1035-38 saw revolt and civil war in Muslim Sicily. The two main
contending parties were led respectively by the Kalbid emir Apolaphar
Mouchoumet [Abul-afar, i.e. al-Akhal] and his brother Apochaps [i.e. Abu
Hafs]. The contest was coloured by ethnic tension between the Sicilian Arab elite
and the Sicilian Berber peasants.
In the words of the Catholic Encyclopaedia (online), discord broke out among
the Kalbite or Kalbid princes of Muslim Sicily, and anarchy resulted: "every
alcalde and petty captain aspired to independence". Or as Gibbon puts it, the
emir disclaimed the authority of the king of Tunis; the people rose against the
emir; the cities [read: towns] were usurped by the chiefs; each meaner rebel was
independent in his village or castle; and the weaker of two rival brothers
implored the friendship of the Christians [i.e., Byzantium].

Ahmed Al-Akhal, Emir of Sicily, was leader of the "African" (Arab) party. This
time it is Ahmed (al-Akhal) who appeals to the Byzantines for help. Having failed
to suppress a revolution of the "Sicilians" (Berbers) under his brother Abu-Hafs,
he turned (1035) to Constantinople and recognised the old supremacy of the
Once the emperor saw he was dominant on the seas, he felt comfortable in
negotiating with the Arabs of Sicily and their Emir al-Akhal. In August 1035 he
dispatched the diplomat (and eunuch) George Probatas who signed a peace treaty
in name of the Basileus that conceded the titles of Emir and magistros to al-

Abu Hafs or Apochaps has the support of Oumer [Zonaras rendering: correctly:
al-Muizz ibn Badis], the Zirid ruler in Africa, who is promised territory on the


island. The Sicilian rebels called on the Zirid overlord Emir al-Muizz ibn Badis of
Ifriqiya [present-day Tunisia]. The Zirids leap at the chance and dispatch a strong
expeditionary force of 6,000 men under al-Muizz's son, Abdallah ibn al-Muizz
(Norwich 1967: 46).

As we have said, the eunuch George Probatas was sent by Michael IV to conclude
a treaty with the emir of Sicily, Ahmad ibn Yusuf al-Akhal (Cedr. II 513). Thus
alAkhal has the support of Leon or Constantine Opos, the Romaic catepan of
Italy, who commands a force of Lombard mercenaries (or should we call them
paid volunteers?). This Lombard force is able to best (1035 or 1036) the African
mercenaries and hold them in check.

The emirs ally, the catepan Leo Opos, withdraws from Sicily with his mainly
Lombard forces. Upon this departure, Apochaps African allyOumer, as
Zonaras calls himis now free (1037) to despoil Sicily without opposition. The
African rulercorrectly al-Muizz ibn Badiswas in fact represented by his
teenage son Abdallah. With the aid of his mianly Berber troops, the Sicilian rebels
captured Khalisa, the inner precinct of Palermo in 1038. (The Al-Khalisa or Kalsa
contained the Emir's palace, baths, a mosque, government offices and a private
There Ahmed al-Akhal (who had asked Constantinople for aid) makes his last
stand. Ahmed's head is sent to the young Zirid prince Abdallah ibn Muizz. The
final result was that the teenaged Abdallah dispossessed both Ahmed and Abu-
Hafs and reigned in person in Palermo.

Events in the Mediterranean

One of the last west-Muslim (Sicilio-Tunisian) fleets to appear in the Aegean was
defeated in 1035 (Hocker in Gardiner 2004: 93). The patrikios Constantine
Chage, admiral of the Cibyrrhaeots [the fleet and marines of southern Asia
Minor], and other commanders attacked and defeated Muslim Africans and
Sicilians (Zirids/Kalbids) who were raiding the Cyclades and the coasts of the
Thrakesion. Five hundred prisoners were sent alive to Michael IV, while many
others were thrown into the sea or crucified* along the Asia Minor shore from
Adramyttion to Strobilos (PBW, citing Skylitzes).
Byzantine and especially Italian fleetsVenice, Genoa, Pisadominated the
West Mediterranean after this time. Pisa would later aid the Normans in
southern Italy and Sicily. As already noted, A L Lewis says by 1100 the fleets of
Muslim Spain, Sicily and North Africa simply disappeared, leaving only a
scattering of ships that could be mustered for warlike purposes (1988: 103).

(*) Possibly a reference to the Byzantine style of impaling (Gk anskolopismos)

whee the victim was tied up and exposed on a forked stake. That is, he did not
have the stake inserted into or through his body (Notes to Leo the Deacon, trans.
Talbot & Sullivan p. 216).

Catepans of Italy, following Hofmann: (a) Leo [Constantine] Opus, AD


1037. (b) Nicephorus, qui et Dokino [Nikiforos, also called Dokeianos], AD


Land, Local Recruits and Imported Soldiers in Byzantine Italy

In Calabria the population was almost all Greek-speaking. In Apulia, however,

the majority were Lombards, although a large minority in the heel itself spoke
Greek as their native tongue. The Lombard language was already many centuries
extinct. Despite their Germanic names, the so-called Lombards spoke a variety or
varieties of Romance, i.e. proto-Italian dialects.

As Rodriquez explains, the defensive system of the Empires Italian themes or

provinces was based on the military autonomy of each region. Only at moments
of crisis or in the case of major expeditions were troops called in from other
The pressing necessities of defence of the Italian provinces exceeded the
capacity of the local military services. This meant the almost constant presence of
troops brought in from other parts of the Empire. Or we might say that the
progressive professionalisation of the Byzantine army from the mid 10th century
(after 950) gradually reduced the importance of enlisting Italian, mainly
Lombard, recruits.
In the course of the 11th century we still find the locals being enrolled as light
infantry militiamen. They are called kontaratoi or conterati, literally spear
carriers, pikemen in the sources (from Gk kontarion, long spear, pike). But now
they are of little military value. (While Rodriquez does not say this, it seems to me
that we are seeing middle-class and upper working-class men having to be
replaced by the urban labouring class. Or since towns were small, we may
imagine conscripts drawn from the lesser peasantry of the countryside but
brigaded in the towns. In their place the battles were now fought mainly by
soldiers of exotic origins: Varangian-Russians, Armenians and Vlachs as well as
an ample representation from the Greeks of the Eastern (Asia Minor) themes.
And it seems that more of the senior officer caste was drawn from the regiments
of Constantinople. Among the officials documented in the sources for Italy we
find abundant references to members of the Tagmata [metropolitan regiments] of
the Scholae and Excubitores and men called Manglabites [a title held by imperial
bodyguards, often Varangians*] and also, as of 1040, there are references to
Pantheotai, outposted members of a unit of the palace guard of Constantinople,
performing functions of a judicial character (thus writes Rodriquez; my
translation and summary, MOR).

(*) Harold Sigurdsson, for example, held the office of Manglabite. It was derived
anciently from the Latin manuclavius, wooden club or bludgeon. So perhaps
best rendered Mace-bearer.

The economic base of the territorial army was the strateia, a military duty or
service placed on certain land-owners that from end of the 10th century was
progressively turned into a payment of money. In return for supplying a soldier,


the land was held tax-free. In practice only rarely did the possessor of a military
holding represent a serving soldier, although the land-owner was responsible for
the cost of the acquisition and maintenance of armaments by the state treasury.
This explains why so frequently we find clergymen in a ktemata (theme) in
possession of stratiotika (military lands) and therefore subject to the payment of
In the 11th century, the strateia became a mere tax. This allowed, or compelled,
more and more use to be made of so-called mercenary troops, i.e. paid
professionals, including Normans. Any deficiency would be supplied by the
creation of a territorial military service conscripted from the local population, the
so-called kontaratoi or conterati, from kontarion, lance or long spear: literally
In the 1040s especially, the light-armed urban militia of the conterati are
widely recorded in urban politics, especially their behaviour at times of crisis and
revolt. They were conscript militiamen; their spear was provided by the state.

There were large, medium and small landowners. In the Latin sources, the
terminology used for the big landholders was maiores or nobiles: the major ones
or nobles; the mediani were middle rankers; and the minores or cunctus
populus were the the lesser ones, the body of the people. These labels derived
from the Lombard laws according to which the population was divided in three
classes based on its economic capacity for war.
According to this scheme, [1:] the maiores or powerful were those who had, or
could afford, horses plural, armour, helmets and lances and enjoyed the benefit
of at least seven properties. [2:] The mediani or middle class could afford a horse,
a helmet and lance, and held at least 40 jugera or yokings of land (Rodriquezs
figure). One yoking or jugerum = two Roman acres, and 80 Roman acres (see
Note 1 below) was 10 hectares. This was about the same area as the average
holding farmed by the better-off half of the peasantry in the Romaic East. Finally
there were [3:] the minores, the small-holders, who were expected to arm
themselves with, or pay for, just a bow and a quiver of arrows. Not that we are
allowed to imagine that a composite recurve bow was cheap; only that it cost
much less than a horse.

Note 1: Measuring Medieval Land

The Roman acre was the squared Roman arpent, 120 pedes by 120 pedes. This
equals 14,400 square feet or about 0.126 hectares. One yoke or jugerum =
0.2518 hectares, so 40 iugera = marginally more than 10 hectares.
In the Byzantine East, peasant holdings may have clustered around four to five
ha in the case of boidatoi, those who owned just one ox, and 810 ha in the case
of zeugaratoi, those owning a plough-team of two oxen (Lefort in Laiou ed.
2002). For comparison, in pre-modern Western Europe, the average area worked
by one horse-team was around 15-30 ha, but smaller with oxen. A holding over
100 ha was large, and one of 375 ha (925 acres) was a very large farm indeed.
Data in Grantham 2007.


A thought-experiment is possible using the figure of 40 jugera or 10 hectares.

Present-day Puglia covers 19,366 sq km or 1,936,600 hectares. Let us guess
that just 25% of the whole province was being cultivated in the 11th C, i.e. 484,150
ha. That represents 48,415 mediani holdings of average size (10 ha). And if each
holding supported an average of five people then we have a provincial population
of 242,075 people. This is plausible, albeit on the low side, noting that in their
Population Atlas, McEvedy & Jones put the whole population of Italy at about
five million in AD 1,000. But of course we are just guessing.
Rodriquez reports that there were 28 bishoprics in the eastern half of
Byzantine Longobardia, i.e. Puglia plus eastern Basilicata. (See map above.) If
each ministered to at least 10,000 souls then we have 280,000+ people in the
province. Or if 15,000 per diocese: 420,000 people.
We do not know how many of the holdings were stratiotika. But let us guess
that one in five* was, i.e. the equivalent of 9,683 holdings. Let us suppose that as
many as 50% of the stratioka are delinquent and do not supply a soldier. Then we
have 4,841. On this logic, Byzantine Puglia should have been able (before the
strateia became a mere tax) to afford the modest number of 5,000 farmer-
soldiers or 2,500 full-time professionals (mercenaries so-called).

(*) Treadgold 1997: 178 proposes that military lands accounted for perhaps a
quarter of the empire's cultivated and grazing land after 840.

As a refinement, let us guess that the cultivated portion of the province was
divided 1/6, 2/6 and 3/6 between large (30 ha), medium (10 ha) and small
holdings (5 ha). We apply this, as before, to 484,150 ha. This yields 2,690 large
holdings; 16,138 medium holdings; and 48,415 small holdings in Puglia, for a
total of 67,243 farms. If just one in five was a military holding, this was enough in
principle to support 13,449 soldiers. (If this result seems too large, remember
that we guessed, perhaps generously, that fully 25% of the province was
As a further guess we might imagine that large, medium and small farms
supported respectively 16, 8 and four people. Implicit here is the assumption that
a modest number of landless labourers and an even smaller number of slaves are
all dependent on the larger estates. (There were not many slaves in this period:
only the rich could afford them, and so nearly all worked in domestic service.)
The results in raw figures are 43,040 + 129,104 + 193,660 people, for a provincial
total population of 365,804. This is more consistent with McEvedy & Jones
Italian estimate.(*) And even if we try to be extra-conservative and halve 67,243
farms to 33,622 farms, one in five being a military holding (stratiotika), still we
get an in principle capability figure of 6,724 men under arms But the
strateia, if money, must be collected, or if due in the shape of a human being, the
soldier must turn up when he is called out

(*) In the first pan-Italian census of 1861, Puglia had a population of 1,335,000;
and Basilicata 509,000 [data at]. The region was
not yet mechanised in 1861. Wheat was harvested with a sickel or scythe and
hand-threshed. On the other hand, trade had increased vastly by 1861. To this


can be added the clearing of forests, modern sanitation and medicine. So we

might expect medieval Puglia to have had no more than half its 19th C figure, or
up to 667,500 people. If so, then the average flock ministered to by a bishop in
the 1030s could have been over 25,000.

Events in the East, 1036-38

In the East, where Maniakes was still commander at Samosata, the Empire in
1036 fought off a joint attempt to retake Edessa by the Kurds (Marwanids) and
the Arabs (the Numayrids of Harran). This demonstraion of Byzantine power
prompted the Fatimids to strike another 10 year peace with Byzantium the same
year. Then in about 1037 the Empires pre-eminence in Syria was recognised
when the Mirdasids of Aleppo agreed to become once again an imperial
protectorate, and the Numayrids formally ceded Edessa to Byzantium.
Peace in northern Syria meant that the leading general there, George
Maniakes, could be selected to lead an expedition to Sicily, whose grand aim was
the total reconquest of the island (Treadgold 1997: 587).

The Sicilian Expedition, 1038

We saw earlier that the Sicilian rebels captured Khalisa, the inner fortress of
Palermo in 1038. There Ahmed al-Akhal (who had asked Constantinople for aid)
makes his last stand. Ahmed's head is sent to the Zirid prince Abdallah ibn Muizz.
This prompts emperor Michael to send (mid 1038) George Maniakes [aged
about 40] with an army which contained a few Normans, mercenaries serving the
Lombard princes in Calabria. As we have said, its grand aim to no less than to
reconquer the entire island of Sicily.

A new catepan Michael Spondyles [Italian: Michele Sfrondilo], lately doux of

Antioch, arrived in Bari in 1038 to help lead the Sicilian expedition of George
Maniakes. It is said that Spondyles set up (1038) press-gangs to conscript Latins
(Lombards) as auxiliaries for the upcoming expedition to Sicily. In the Latin
sources these conscript militiamen are called conterati, from the Gk kontaratoi,
pikemen, spear-carriers.

Anno 1038. Descendit Michael Patricius, et Dux qui et Sfrondili

vocabatur et transfretavit cum Maniachi Patricio in Siciliam. Lupus.
Michael the patrician [patrikios] and doux [senior general, dux, duke] ,
who is also called Sphondyles, arrives, and he has crossed, with the
patrician Maniakes, to Sicily.

In the spring of 1038, George Maniakes led a powerful East-Romanic invasion of

eastern Sicily. One of the elite divisions in his army was the axe-armed infantry
Varangians, 500 or more men under Araltes or Harold. This was the Norwegian
prince Harald Hardrada, whose nickname as king is perhaps best translated as
'ruthless'. Harold or Araltes had fled from Norway after being wounded at the


battle of Stikestad, and had taken refuge in Novgorod and then finally ended up
in Constantinople. Within a short time of his arrival in Constantinople, he was
appointed commander of the Varangian Guard.
The forces of the Norman leader Rainulf Drengot, including the Hauteville
family - the brothers of Robert Guiscard - also went to Sicily in 1038. (Robert was
still in Normandy.)

The army of Maniakes, with Scandinavians (Varangians) under Haardraade and

Italian (Norman and Lombard) mercenaries under Arduin, and the support of the
Byzantine fleet, stormed Messina and defeated the Sicilian Saracens, first at
Rametta or Rometta, inland from Messina, near the islands NE corner 1038,
then at inland Dragina, modern Troina (1040 or 1041). According to Ahmad
1975: 33, 15,000 Sicilian Christians took up arms to aid Maniakes army.

Many episodes from Maniakes expedition are illustrated in the Skylitzes

manuscript: see in V. Tsamadakas (ed. 2002), The illustrated chronicle of
Ioannes Skylitzes in Madrid, Leiden.
Skylitzes is the only surviving illustrated manuscript of a Greek chronicle. Its
574 images depict every aspect of Byzantine life, including warfare, boats, sieges,
literary practices, dreams, ceremonies and even Siamese (conjoint) twins.

The illustration in the Skylitzes MS of the landing in Sicily can be found here:

And the battle of Troina is here: The illustration
highlights the maces of the Byzantines and the small round shields carried by the
Muslim lancer-cavalrymen.

Here for the illustration of Maniakes return to Constantinople:

The Troops of the Sicilian Expedition 1038

Maniakes led a composite army whose exact size is unknown, although it was
evidently reasonably large. The sources are carefully cited in DAmatos
monograph on Maniakes. Because they do not give good numbers for more than a
few contingents, there is some doubt how large his expedition was. One might
guess: up to 15,000 men.
There were [1:] perhaps 5,000 Easterners from Anatolia in the form of
detachments from the Opsikon, Thrakesion and Anatolikn themes; [2:] perhaps
2,000 or more italioi stratiotai, or the local Byzantine troops of Italy, made up of
Lombard conscripts and Italo-Greek regulars in the form of thematic [local]
troops from Byzantine Calabria and the Catepanate (Apulia); [3:] a large
detachment (say 1,000) of the best foot regiment, the Varangian Guard,
composed of Russians and Scandinavians, led by the legendary Norwegian prince


Harald Hardrada Sigurdsson, aged 23 in 1038; and [4:] 500 Armenian

infantrymen under Cecaumenus (DAmatos figure, 2005: 3, citing Skylitzes).
In addition there were [5:] Greek cavalrymen to the number of 300 also under
the command of Katakalon Kekaumenos, including Paulician (Thracian thematic)
troops* (DAmatos figure again, 2005: 3, citing Skylitzes); [6:] an unknown
number of Macedonians; and [7:] some semi-professional Italian (Lombard)
Finally [8:] the Norman mercenary horse-soldiers numbered 300-500 - 300
probably being the correct figure - led by the Lombard Ardouin and by the
Norman brothers Drogo and William Strong-arm [bras-de-fer: iron-arm] de
Hauteville - although William had not yet acquired this nickname. These men
were assigned to Maniakes by the Lombard prince Guaimar V of Salerno, an ally
of the Empire.

(*) The Paulicians were a cultural or ethnic group distinguished by their

heretical dualist beliefs. Originating in the East, they had been settled in Thrace
for centuries and no doubt made converts there.

The pro-Norman Italian sources attribute the expeditions victories largely to the
Norman contingent, but we must reject this, not least because they were so few. It
might be allowed that the average Norman horsemen was a little superior to the
average Romaic cavalryman (none of the elite imperial Tagmata seem to have
been dispatched**), while plainly the Varangians were the best of the infantry.
Norwich, 1967: 54, rightly observes that the decisive factor was Maniakes skill as
a general.

(**) Besides the italioi stratiotai, Maniakes troops in 1038 probably included
soldiers from Macedonia and the Eastern Themes. Certainly we have mention
soon thereafter in Cedrenus and the Annales Barenses under 1041 - of troops in
Southern Italy from the Themes of the Opsikion, Thrakesion (the meros*** of
the Thracesians) and Anatolikon. Skylitzes under 1041 also mentions troops of
the >>tagmata of the Phoideratoi [Federates] [and] of Lycaonia and Pisidia<< .
This almost certainly meant ordinary thematic troops from the Anatolikon theme
of central Asia Minor, and not (as DAmato proposes) troops from one of the elite
imperial Tagmata of Constantinople.

(***) A meros was another term for a turma, or the troops of a sub-division of a
Theme. A meros could be as large as 3,000 men or as small as 800. In the 10th
century the Thracesian theme had had four meroi, each with an average of 2,500
men (Treadgold 1995: 97, 101).

The Annales Barenses say that, after the defeat of Montemaggiore (see later),
among the troops called from Sicily against the rebel Normans were miseri
Macedones [poor or second-class or pitiable Macedonians]. They would have
been Thematic troops, to be distinguished, Raffaele DAmato proposes, from the
lite regiment of the Phoidheratoi (Federates) headquartered in
Constantinople. In truth, the troops called the tagmata of the Phoideratoi of [?


and of?] Lycaonia and Pisidia were a thematic corps. The reference is actually to
the turma (district and regiment) of the Federates or Phoideratoi, which (to
repeat) was the senior turma of the three turmai within the theme of the
Anatolics (1: the turma of the Federates, 2: turma of Lycaonia and 3: turma of
Sozopolis or Pisidia) (Treadgold 1995: 99). In this context, then, tagmata means
simply battalions or regiments; it is not a reference to the elite guards
regiments of Constantinople.
On Treadgolds figures, the Federates numbered 5,000 and the troops of Italy
amounted to 2,000 in the 9th century: whether they had the same numbers in
1038-41 we do not know. We might guess that the enrolled troops of Italy (locals
and imports) were more like 6,000 by 1038.
Skylitzes and the Annales Barenses both mention Paulikani et Calabrenses,
i.e. Paulicians from Thrace and Calabrians. The Paulicians are called the
manichean Tagma in several sources, an allusion to their dualist creed.

The conterati - lit. spear-carriers: light infantry conscripts - participated in the

first phase of the Sicilian expedition of 1038. After their return home at the end of
1039, they will rebel against the catepan Nicephoros Dokeianos and at Mottola
they kill an imperial official. The following year the Byzantines retaliated heavily
against the demobilized militia: the imperial general Argyrus captured (1040)
two of their leaders, Musandus and John of Ostuni - Ostuni being a village near
Brindisi, - and imprisoned them in Bari; four other rebels were hanged in the
same city; and another in Ascoli.
Quite possibly there were also a few untrained volunteers serving in the
campaign in 1038. William of Apulia attests that in the battle of Montepeloso
(fought on the mainland in 1041: see later) the Greek regular troops were
bolstered by many local auxiliaries: indigenae Danais descendunt auxiliarii or
indigenous auxiliaries who descend from the [ancient] Greeks. The rest of the
local population, whether Longobard or Latin, was split in two: some will go over
to the side of the Normans while others remained faithful to the Byzantines. This
is clear from the testimony of the Vatican Anonymous text: "qui adjunctis sibi
Longobardis illis, qui nondum Normannorum consenserant" who themselves
were attached to/supported those Lombards, [and those] who had not yet
favoured the Normans (quoted in the Italian edition of the Wikipedia, 2009,
under Conterati).

Catepans of Italy, 1039-41: (a) Nicephorus, qui et Dokino [Nikeforos

Dokeianos], A.C. 1039. (b) Michael, qui et Dokiano seu Duchiano [Michael
Dokeianos], A.C. 1041 (sic: correctly from autumn 1040). J J Hofmann
p.771; copy online.

Chronology 1038-41

1038: Maniakes army crosses from Calabria to Messina; battle of Rametta

west of Messina: summer 1038.
- The landing at Messina is the subject of an illustration in Skylitzes.


1039-40: Down the coast to Syracuse by spring 1040. A surprisingly slow

campaign, given that the great majority of eastern Sicilians under
Muslim rule were Greek Christians.

mid 1040: Offensive into the interior: battle near Troina/Traina (NE of Enna).

late 1040: Maniakes is recalled. The admiral Stephen takes command in Sicily.

1041: The Muslims recover E Sicily. 10 May: Kekaumenos successfully

defends Messina.

Above: The Battle of Troina (1040) illustrated in Skylitzes. Left: Byzantines.

Right: Muslims. Notice the large maces. The nearest Byzantine soldier (centre)
appears to be wielding his lance couched under his arm. The object held aloft (top
centre) is presumably a kite-shaped shield. Note the round shields of the

Sicily 1039-41

Maniakes continued to campaign in Sicily. Syracuse was taken, and the Arabs
were badly defeated near Troina. Skylitzes says that following his defeat of the
Sicilian brothers' African (Saracen) troops, Maniakes captured 13 cities,
meaning the towns in the region south of Rametta, and that his troops occupied
the entire island (Skylitzes 403.28-30), but this was an exaggeration. At best
the whole eastern littoral was captured.
The new campaign, in which (as we have said) a number of Norman soldiers
also took part, opened with a series of comfortable victories, and it was not long
before Messina and Syracuse, with all the eastern part of Sicily between them, fell
into the hands of the Greeks.


When Maniakes reached Syracuse, the Saracen garrison saw their position as
hopeless and capitulated (Norwich 1967: 54). This was 162 years since Byzantium
had lost the town to the Muslims (in 878). But, as we will see, Maniakes in this
hour of triumph was rewarded only by the jealousy and suspicion of his imperial
master and was recalled to the Romaic court, there to languish in disgrace
(Kendrick 1930/2004: 173).

The Norman William de Hauteville, aged about 35, won his nickname Iron Arm
the Norman chronicler Malaterra says at Syracusewhile fighting for the Greeks,
by single-handedly killing the emir or governor of Syracuse in battle.

Meanwhile a Saracen relief force under Abdullah had come eastwards from
Palermo to try to relieve Syracuse. Malaterra says it numbered 60,000 which is
not credible. Leaving some troops to continue the siege, Maniakes struck inland
to confront Abdullah before Abdullah reached the coast. The river Simeto runs
down to the east coast below Catania from near Troina; no doubt Maniakes army
would have proceeded up the valley.
The Arabs were defeated at, or rather near, Troina (medieval Dragina), which is
located west of Mt Etna, NE of Enna. It is known as the highest town in Sicily.
According to the Italian Wikipedia (Troina, 2009), the battle was fought to the
NE of Troina near the village of Cerami. The major road in the region today runs
broadly SE past Cerami through rugged country to Troina.
The Arab battle line was demoralised by the first charge of the Byzantine (and
Norman) cavalrymen, suggesting that they were heavily armoured (Haldon 1999:
223). But the miniatures of Skylitzes do not show any horses with horse-armour.
Thus we may guess that none of Maniakes cavalry were true cataphracts.

At Troina, when in sight of the enemy Maniakes arranged his troops according to
the customary formation in three lines that would be able to enter combat
successively. This was best practice as specified by the military manuals.
In the hand-to-hand combat the Byzantines were helped by the arrival of a
strong storm that raised great dust-clouds which blinded the Arabs.
Disorganised, the rows of the army of Abdallah were incapable of resisting the
first charge by heavy cavalry. Soon the battle became a massacre, with the
Muslim soldiers dying in their thousands, and here again the Normans found
occasion to excel in the fighting (or so the Latin sources say) (thus Rodriquez).
According to Skylitzes 405.80-406.90, in this battle the Greeks slew or
captured more than 50,000 Muslims (cited in PBW 1040). We moderns will
prefer to belive the true figure was more like 5,000.

The sources describe both Norman and Romaic heavy cavalry charging in order
and riding down the enemy lines at Troina (Haldon 2001: 112); but it is by no
means certain that this was an early instance of charging with couched lances, a
technique that was not routinised until the period 1075-1100. Indeed, the
Skylitzes illustrations, showing the use of long heavy maces, would suggest that


the older style of poking with the lance was still preferred. The Byzantine would
have used, successively, the bow, the lance, the mace and the sword. Maces wee
not just for hand-to-hand combat but could be thrown as necessary.

There is a tradition that possibly originates in 1040 after the Battle of

Troina/Cerami according to which some of the Saracens were pursued to the NE
after the battle near Cerami. At any rate, so much blood flowed that a nearby
river - from then on called precisely Saracena: an upper tributary of the Simeto
River NE of Troina - was coloured red.
The tradition says that to thank the Madonna for the victory [almost
blasphemy for us, but medieval times were different!], Maniakes ordered the
building of a little monastery to which he donated an icon so the bloody legend
goes - that had been painted by Saint Lucy (Lucia) herself, famously martyred at
Syracuse in Antiquity, and the patron saint of that city. The little monastery
became Santa Maria di Maniace, and gave its name to the village of Maniace, just
NW of the River Saracena: immediately south of the vast Nebrodi national park.
The story is first recorded in Edrisis geography of AD 1150; he writes of
Manyag [i.e. Maniace] or Giran to-Daqiq or Ghiran and Dequq, that is "Flour
Grotto" or Cave of Flour [Arabic ghiran small caves and daqiq, flour].
According to other sources, however, Maniakes would have founded a village
directly, to garrison the routes in that direction, i.e those that ran from the coast
inland via the northern side of Mt Etna (Italian Wikipedia, 2009, under Castello
di Nelson).

The Byzantine co-commander, admiral Stephanos, Michael VIs uncle and

Michael V's father, failed to prevent Oumer's escape from Sicily. [Oumer is
Zonarass name for the emir of Africa, Sharaf ad-Dawla al-Muizz ibn Badis, or his
son Abdallah. The latter fled back to Africa when he was defeated in 1040 by al-
Hasan as-Simsam, brother the late al-Akhal: cf Takayama 1992.] Maniakes
proceeded recklessly to berate the admiral for his cowardice and incompetence.
Stephen had been asked by Maniakes to guard the coast, lest the African invader
(Oumer) escape. When the latter managed to do so, Stephen was insulted by
Maniakes, who hit him repeatedly on the head and called him a careless coward
and a traitor (Skylitzes 405.85-406.1, in PBW 1040: illustrated in the Skylitzes
Stephanos immediately wrote to his nephew, the chamberlain
(parakoimomenos) Ioannes (John) the Orphanotrophos, the emperors elder
brother and de facto ruler, accusing Maniakes of planning treachery against the
state. The latter was arrested and taken (late 1040) in chains to Constantinople
along with the Armenian general Basil Theodorokanos.

When Maniakes was recalled to Constantinople, the Arabs under the Kalbite ruler
Samsam [al-Hasan as-Samsam b. Yusuf] re-took Syracuse.
Michael IV, having recalled George Maniakes [1040], entrusted the leadership
of military operations in Sicily to his uncle Stephen. He gave him as his assistant
the head eunuch Basil Pediaditus, who held the court title of praepositus. Now,


however, imperial rule in Sicily having devolved upon Stephanos, all the towns
that Maniakes had won back for the empire, save Messina, were again lost (by
early 1041) to the Saracens. The incompetence of the two leaders led to the loss of
the reconquered parts of Sicily. Stephen and Basil had to take refuge in Italy
proper (Guilland, citing Cedr. II 523, 525).
On a positive note for the empire, Katakalon Kekaumenos succeeded in
defending Messina, winning a crushing victory on 10 May 1041 (PBW, narrative
for 1040).

Above: George Maniakes accuses admiral Stephen. See our Appendix for
DAmato analysis of Maniakes dress and equipment.

Further llustration

The Skylitzes MS illustration of Maniakes return to Constantinople can be found


Langobardia, 1039

Spondyles probably replaced Constantinos Opos as catepan for a brief period;

then Nikephoros Doukeianos took over the post the next year (February 1039).
Nikephoros Dokeianos, killed in Jan 1040, was in turn succeeded, early 1040, by
Michael Dokeianos, presumably a brother, son or nephew.
The Annales Barensis record that "Michael protospatarius et catepanus, qui et
Dulkiano iunior" (the protospatharius and catepan Michael the Younger, called
Dokeianos) came "a Sicilia in Lombardia" (form Sicily into Longobardia). The
Younger suggests that Michael was the son of Nikephoros, whose death is
recorded in the previous paragraph in the same source.
The Dokeianoi were related to the Comnenus family, Nikephoruss wife being a


sister of the future emperor Isaac I Comnenus (Annas Alexiad I:37, cited by
Cawley 2009).

Chronology of the troubles in peninsular Italy, 1040-42

After Rodriguezs Italia Bizantina.

Note: The border between the Lombard principality of Benevento and the
Byzantine catepanate of Langobardia lay on the upper Ofanto River just west of

1039: Argyrus, son of Melus of Bari, taken captive back in

1018, was now, aged about 38, released and
dispatched from Constantinople to help raise the
Apulian levies, or rather: to put down the revolt of the
conterati previously enlisted.

Jan 1040: Revolt in Byzantine Ascoli, north of Melfi. The catepan

Nicephoros Dokeianos is killed.

May 1040: Revolts in Matera, inland NW of Taranto, and

Mottola, between Matera and Taranto.

Nov 1040: A new catepan, Michael Dokeianos, arrives with

Varangians among his army.

Late 1040: Retaliatory expedition by Michael Dokeianos. He

punishes the rebels first at Bitonto, west of Bari; then
at Ascoli.
At about this time, Arduin and William de
Hauteville lead their battle-hardened Lombard and
Norman troops back from Sicily. Arduin joins (early
1041) the rebellion, and from Melfi proceeds to
capture Venosa and Ascoli.

Rebel successes, with Normans playing a leading


16/17 Mar Battle of Venosa or the Olivento, SE of Melfi: Arduins

1041: Normans and Lombards defeat Dokeianos. The
Olivento River is a southern tributary of the Ofanto.

4 May 1041: Battle near Montemaggiore, NE of Melfi, on the lower

Ofanto River. Dokeianos is again defeated. It is not
clear who led the Lombard-Norman force.

3 Oct [or Battle of Montepeloso, SSE of Melfi. The new catepan


Sept] 1041: Boioannes the Younger is also defeated by the

Lombards and Normans under Atenulf, junior prince
of Benevento. +Towards the end of 1041 Michael IV
dies and is succeeded by Michael V.

From Argyros, son of Melus, having switched (late 1041)

February from Byzantine service to the rebels, seizes control of
1042: Bari. He soon comes to an understanding with the
Norman chiefs, and in February or May 1042 is
elected, jointly by the Normans and the Lombard
militia of Bari, as Prince and Duke of [south] Italy
(Angold 1984: 27).

April 1042: Sent back to Italy by Michael V, Maniakes lands in

Apulia (Taranto). May 1042: siege of Taranto. He
defeats the rebel Lombards and Normans.

June 1042: Proceeding from Taranto, Maniakes attacks Matera.

June + 3 July June: From Matera to Monopoli. Retaliation against

1042: the rebels at Monopoli. Then July: Siege of Giovinazzo
near Bari.

July-Aug Siege of Trani on the coast above Bari. Constantine IX

1042: now (in July) decides to recall Maniakes.

September (a) A new catepan, Pardos, arrives at Otranto

1042: expecting to replace Maniakes. Pardos and his deputy
Tubachi are arrested at Otranto, however, and
executed by Maniakes, who is acclaimed emperor by
his troops. At Bari, Argyros and his Normans cleverly
announced their loyalty to Constantine IX.

(b) Encouraged by gold and high titles, Argyrus re-

defects back to the imperial side.

October Negotiations before Bari.


Feb 1043: Maniakes leaves Italy for the East, intending to unseat
Constantine IX. In Italy the local forces surrendered to
Argyrus, fled, or joined the rebellion.


The Italian city of Bari had rebelled against Imperial rule in 1038, to be followed
in 1040 by Mottola. Bari was recaptured the same year.

Meanwhile, before May 1040, Nikephoros Dokeianos, catepan or katepano of

Italy, was killed at Ascoli. Dokeianos had driven the rebellious conterati, the
discharged local light troops, out of Apulia. However he died in the town of
Ascoli. The conterati, after being driven from Apulia, on 5 May also killed
Michael Choirosphaktes krites (the judge) and Romanos (of Matera?) near
Mottola (PBW, citing Lupus protospatharius 58.10-11).
Argyros thereafter captured the chief conterati or rebel militia leaders
Musandus and Ioannes of Ostouni [Ostuni: a small town near Brindisi]. Argyros
fought the conterati outside Bari and his troops wounded Musandus their leader.
Later he besieged and entered the town, imprisoning Musandus and Ioannes
(John) of Ostouni. The conterati were scattered (PBW May 1040).
Michael Dokeianos was sent (late 1040) from Sicily to succeed his relation (?
father) Nikephoros Dokeianos as catepan in Italy with further Varangians
amongst his army. He reached Bari in November, and had four rebels hanged:
one at Ascoli and three at Bitonto, where he also blinded four others.
Saga references can perhaps be read as saying that Harald Sigurdsson was
included in the Varangians who came with the new catepan. There are references
to his fighting against Longobardi (Lombards) and Franks (Normans). But it is
much more likely that Harold was still with Maniakes in Sicily.
In 1041 the katepano Michael will offer the rule of the Melfi region to the
Greek-speaking Lombard Arduin with the title topoterites or second in charge,
i.e. deputy catepan. However, Arduin soon betrays him and leads his Norman
mercenaries in support of the Apulian rebels.
Michael Dokeianos refused to pay the Franks (Norman mercenaries) their
monthly salaries, and when their leader Arduin went to see him, asking for his
soldiers to be treated fairly and the situation to be remedied, he insulted him and
had him flogged. Or the dispute concerned the division of booty from the Arab
war in Sicily. This provoked Arduins men to revolt. The historians Skylitzes and
Attaleiates, who follow a pro-Maniakes line, ascribe this behaviour to Michael
Dokeianos. The Italian sources are divided, some claiming that Maniakes himself
was largely responsible and that this falling out had occurred in Sicily a little
earlier (PBW).

Anno 1041. descendit Dulchianus a Sicilia ivitque Asculum et mense

Martij Arduinus Lombardus convocavit Normannos, in Apulia in Civitate
Melfiae et praedictus Dulchianus fecit proelium cum Normannis et
ceciderunt Graeci et mense Maii iterum proeliati sunt Normanni fer. IIII.
cum Graecis et fugit Dulchianus in Barum. Lupus Prot.
Dokeianos arrives from Sicily and proceeds to Ascoli [late 1040], and in
March [1041] Arduin the Lombard gathers the Normans in Apulia at the
town of Melfi, and the previously mentioned Dokeianos makes battle [at the
Olivento] with the Normans, and the Greeks fall (i.e. are defeated), and on 4
May again the Normans clash with the Greeks [at the Ofanto], and
Dokeianos flees to Bari.


Arduin, the Second Lombard Revolt and the Normans

The first Lombard revolt, led by Argyross father, Melus or Meles of Bari, had
been crushed back in 1018 by Basil Booannes. Meluss young son Marianos
Argyros was sent to Constantinople as a hostage.
In 1040, a new insurrection broke out in Apulia against Byzantium. From 1041
it was led by Arduin, a leader of the Sicilian expedition. On his return from Sicily,
Arduin had become for a moment the official administrator (topoterites:
lieutenant-governor, deputy commander) of the Melfi area on behalf of the
Empire. The stated reason for the revolt, or at least for the Normans joining it,
was the slight offered to them during the campaign in Sicily. Arduin now
attempted to make a place for himself in the region with the help of his former
Norman comrades-in-arms, the Hauteville brothers.

George Maniakes, or more probably Michael Dokeianos, the catepan of Italy,

refused to pay the Franks (Norman mercenaries) their monthly salaries.
Alternatively the Normans felt they had received too little of the booty brought
from Sicily. Their leader, the Greek-speaking Lombard Ardouin, went to see the
catepan, asking for his soldiers to be treated fairly and the situation to be
remedied. The Byzantine leader, either Maniakes or Dokeianos, insulted him and
had him flogged (perhaps whipped with a war-flail; or, as Malaterra says, beaten
with staves). This provoked Arduins men to join (1041) the revolt.
The historians Skylitzes and Attaleiates, who follow a pro-Maniakes line,
ascribe this behaviour to Michael Dokeianos, but (to repeat) the Italian sources
are divided, some claiming that Maniakes himself was largely responsible (notes
to Amato, ed. Dunbar et al., 2004: 66-68). The beating, says Malatesta, took
place in Sicily. William of Apulia (see below) puts it at Reggio in Calabria.

Arduin had led the Lombard troops committed by Guaimar IV of Salerno to

Maniakes Sicilian expedition in 1038. According to Amatus of Montecassino, in
1040 Arduin refused to surrender a captured horse to the Byzantine general, and
Maniakes consequently had him stripped and beaten. Whatever happened,
Arduin and his Salernitan contingent along with the Normans (also sent by
Guaimar) and the Varangians (sent by Emperor Constantine IX) left Sicily and
returned (1040) to the mainland.

William of Apulia writes thus in his Deeds of Robert Guiscard:

Among the men enrolled [in Sicily] was Arduin, whose followers were
partly Lombards, as well as Gauls [Normans] who had survived the defeat
by the Greeks and who had fled from the battle against Basil [a back-
reference to 1018].
Returning [from N Apulia, or Sicily?] after his triumph over the enemy,
[Michael] Dokeianos had distributed the booty to his Greek troops at the
town of Reggio, but Arduin had received nothing and the poor man had
remained unrewarded. He angrily summoned his men and denounced the


Greeks for their sordid avarice, who gave to cowards the booty due to men -
since the Greeks were like women. Michael [or perhaps Maniakes] was
angry at these insults and ordered him [Arduin] to be stripped and flogged,
as is the custom of the Greeks, to shame by this punishment the man who
has been flogged for committing such a crime.
Furious at the indignity of this treatment, and determined not to leave
the wrong which had been done him unrevenged, Arduin and his men left
the camp of the Greeks in secret. A band of Greeks sent in pursuit caught up
with him in open country, but when they engaged in battle the Greeks were
defeated and 50 of them killed.

William of Apulia has Arduin, an ethnic Lombard, elaborating to the Normans at

Aversa the story of his own wrongs and the effeminacy of the contemptible
Greeks. Arduin had been whipped: Why should so desirable land as Apulia be
left to a race so feeble [lit. feminine]? - such was his argument, appealing at once
to the Norman self-conceit and the Norman cupidity. Curtis 1912, quoting
William of Apulia: 'Appul multimod cum terra sit utilitatis Foemeneis [sic:
Femineis] grcis cur permittatur haberi? Lit: As for Apulia, so variously useful
a land, by the effeminate* Greeks, wherefore is it allowed to be possessed?

(*) This was an old-standing Western prejudice. Already in 883-84, in his Life of
Charlemagne, the Monk of St. Gall had written of the sluggish and unwarlike
Greek king. Or this from the ethnic Lombard Liutprand, sent to Constantinople
in 968 as ambassador for the German emperor: "How unworthy, how shameful it
is, that these soft, effeminate, long-sleeved, hooded, veiled, lying, neutral-
gendered, idle creatures [the eunuchs and other Byzantines] should go clad in
purple, while you heroes [i.e., the German kings, Otto senior and junior] - strong
men, namely, skilled in war, full of faith and love, reverencing God, full of virtues
- may not!" (The East-Romans forbade Liutprand to take with him the supplies of
purple silk that he had purchased.)
The cynic will observe that those who can outdo us must be disparaged, while
those who fall below our standard may be ignored.

The troubles of 1040-41 are summarised thus by the Wikipedia authors:

Michael Doukeianos (Dulchiano in Italian), called the Young, was the

catepan of Italy from 1040 to 1041. His first major act (1040) was to offer
the rule of Melfi to the Greek-speaking Lombard Arduin with the title
topoterites [deputy commander]. However, Arduin soon betrayed him and
led his Norman mercenaries in support of the Apulian rebellion. On 16
March 1041, near Venosa,* on the Olivento [a tributary of the Ofanto], he
[Dokeianos junior] met the Norman army and tried to negotiate. He failed,
and battle was joined at Montemaggiore** [halfway between Melfi and
Canosa], a field that had served as the site for the famous battle of 216 BC
[Hannibals great victory] and the first Norman engagement in the
Mezzogiorno in 1018. Though the catepan had called up a large Varangian
force from Bari, the battle was a rout and many of Michael's soldiers


drowned in the Ofanto on the retreat (Wikipedia, Doceianus, 2009).

(*) On the ancient Appian Way east of Melfi. A notional triangle, with Foggia and
Bari as two of its points, has Venosa as a third point. The Ofanto River lies north
of Venosa.

(**) Barletta, halfway between Foggia and Bari, is on the coast. Proceeding up the
Ofanto valley from Barletta, the key sites are, in turn: Cannae, Canosa,
Montemaggiore and Melfi.

Dokeianos is twice defeated in battle with the Normans. In both clashes at

Venosa on the Olivento River near Melfi on 17 March, and on the Ofanto River
near Montemaggiore on 4 May - the Normans won against superior Romaic
Despite a considerable supremacy in numbers, the Greeks were beaten near
Venosa in the Olivento valley (17 March 1041), then at Monte Maggiore at the
Ofanto River (4 May or April), where supposedly 18,000 Byzantines (an
exaggerated figure: even 8,000 is unacceptable) faced supposedly 3,000
Normans and their allies. The defeat was received unsympathetically in
Constantinople, and Doceanus was replaced.

On 3 September 1041, they also defeated the new Byzantine catepan, Exaugustus
Boioannes (son of Basil), and took him captive. Soon they were joined by the
Lombards and Normans from Melfi under Arduin.

These battles are analyzed later in this paper.

Styles of Fighting

The way of fighting of the Normans in the 11th century, writes Giovanni
Amatuccio, appears now very far from that described for the blond peoples
(Franks and Lombards) by the great Byzantine strategists of earlier centuries.
They were [earlier] depicted as tribal hordes that went to the attack without
order, discipline or tactical purpose, grouped in clans around their own leaders.
They were easy prey for the shrewd tactical manoeuvres of the Byzantines.
Now, however, the Normans were very differently organised: formed up in
several lines, use of a rearguard, combined operations between cavalry and
infantry, feigned retreats etc. All the evidence shows a good level of tactical
Certainly they were still far from the imperial standard, with its rigid division
in units, formed in several lines, and its logistical sophistication etc; but this,
perhaps, constituted more of a handicap than an advantage. The Norman tactical
organisation was lighter, faster, agile, and it succeeded against the elephant-like
[sic!] military bureaucracy of the Byzantines. But, above all, the fundamental
difference was that the Byzantine army was based on a cohesion and a discipline
due to an intense training that was codified in the rules of the numerous military
treatises. In the Roman tradition, the Byzantine army imposed a sense of duty


and discipline on the enlisted men through long training and rigorous rules. On
the other side, the Norman cavalrymen had other motivating forces that created
order and cohesion and rendered them trained: the desire to win, the Germanic
sense of honour and fidelity to the leader. The first point was of fundamental
importance. In fact, the strategic superiority of the Normans was due above all to
the fact that they fought for conquest: for everyone, if they won a battle, meant to
earn lands and booty. Their Byzantine and local Italian adversaries were, instead,
simple soldiers, in the literal sense of the term: they fought for their wages, rather
than the mirage of career and honours. Giovanni Amatuccio 1998: my trans.:
MOR, from the Italian.

(a) Battle of the Olivento or Venosa, 17 or 21 March 1041:

Venosa lies east of Melfi. The Annales Barenses give the date as 17 March, while
Leo Marsicanus (Leo of Ostia), fl. 1096, says 21 March.

The Byzantine forces, under the Catepan or provincial governor Michael

Dokeianos, subdivided in many contingents, had a numerical superiority over the
Norman invaders. The latter comprised some 700 horse-soldiers and 500 others
under the command of the count of Aversa, Rainulfo, and Arduino of Milan.
According to William of Apulia, Book 1: 257, the Normans at the Olivento had
an army of but 500 infantry and seven hundred knights (1,200 men). Malaterra
says that 500 Norman and Lombard horse-soldiers faced the absurd figure of
60,000 Greeks.
William says only a few of the rebels were protected by hauberks [mail
tunics] and shields: say 200 of the 700 cavalry. The foot soldiers were advised to
station themselves on the left and right flanks; a few horsemen were posted with
them to provide a reinforcement to stiffen the flanks. In other words, the Norman
cavalry formed the centre of the first line.
The numbers for the rebels are entirely credible; but we must not imagine that
Dokeianos had more than (say) three times those of his opponents, or around
3,500 men, including a contingent of Varangians.
Skylitzes says that when the Franks (Normans) took up arms against him, he
[Dokeianos] refused to gather his army to fight them but took only one tagma (i.e
regiment or battalion), that of the Opsikion, and part of the Thrakesion [theme],
[and] engaged in battle by the river Auphidos [Ofanto], was defeated, and
escaped shamefully to Cannae (Skylitzes, emphasis added).
In earlier centuries the tagma of the Opsikion had 6,000 men and the
Thracesian theme 10,000 troops. More specifically, in the 10th century the
Thracesian theme had four meroi [also called turmai: district-level regiments],
with an average of 2,500 men each (Treadgold 1995: 97, 101). But only
detachments could have been serving in Italy; and we have no information about
how large they were. We noted earlier that in this period 10 banda (squadrons),
each of 50 men, formed one formation or regiment (parataxis) of 500 men. It is
hard to believe that Dokeianos led as few as one and a half parataxes (750 men).
It is plausible, however, that he commanded one and a half meroi or about 3,720


In line with their scientific tactics, the Byzantines attacked in successive waves,
seeking to weaken the Norman cavalry. The catepan, believing he has overcome
the Normans, launches a final onslaught with picked troops, but the Normans
manage to force back the cavalry and counter-attack, decimating the Byzantine

After these troops had been thus instructed and placed on each flank, a
column of [Norman] cavalry advanced a little way forward. A column of
Greeks was sent out against them, for it is not their custom to engage all
their forces at the first shock, they rather [as prescribed in their Taktikai or
military manuals: MOR] send another troop after the first, so that while the
enemy weakens, their own strength increases and their troops are
emboldened. So, when their cavalry commander sees the enemy resisting,
he makes a sudden attack with the bulk of the remaining crack troops, thus
restoring the morale of his own men and usually driving the enemy back in
flight (William of Apulia, emphasis added).

. . . This victory [says William] greatly strengthened the morale of the Gauls,
and from now on they no longer feared to fight the Greeks.

(b) Battle of Monte Maggiore, 4 May 1041:

Montemaggiore is on the middle section of the Ofanto or Aufidius River,

downstream from Melfi and N of Venosa. It has been identified with the present-
day commune of Orsara di Puglia on the left bank of the Cervaro, halfway
between Benevento and Foggia (Italian Wikipedia, 2009, sul Battaglia di

Instead of learning a lesson after his defeat at Cannae, being arrogant,

Doceianos still did not engage his entire army against the enemy but took again
his vanquished troops with some Pisidians and Lykaonians** only [also some
Varangians]. He fought against the enemy (Normans) who had been joined by a
large number of Italians from the Po and the foothills of the Alps, and was routed
at Horai (PBW under Michael Dok.: emphasis added).

(**) We explained earlier that Pisidia and Lykaonia were regimental districts
(turmai) within the Asian theme of the Anatolics. Each had had 5,000 men in the
9th century (Treadgold 1995: 129). But again we cannot believe that the
detachments in Italy were very large. In the discussion that follows, we guess that
Dokeianos fielded only about 5,000 men altogether.

On the other side, the Norman-led Italian force was perhaps 2,000 including 700
horse-soldiers and former imperial mercenaries turned rebels, William Iron-
Arm de Hauteville among them. They proceeded to defeat a polyglot Byzantine


force of perhaps 5,000 under the Catepan of Langobardia, Michael Dokeianos.

The figure of 18,000 imperials offered by the Italian Wikipedia authors
(Battaglia di Montemaggiore, 2009) is not credible.
The Imperial army included some Varangian and Rhos [Viking Russian] units;
detachments from the Asian themes of the Opsikion and Thrakesion; and local
militia probably from Calabria and Capitanata (i.e. far northern Apulia). The
Annales Barenses 54.33-55.2 mention men from the Anatolikon, the Opsikion,
Russia, Thrace [perhaps a mistake for the Thracesian theme], Calabria,
Langobardia and the Capitanate (upper northern Apulia):

Michael Dokeianos refused to come out in full force against the rebellious
Normans, mobilising only troops from two themes. [William of Apulia
mentions three: Anatolikon, Opsikion and Thrakesion.] He was badly
defeated, with heavy losses in Russian troops [Varangians] and those from
[the] Opsikion. Michael and the survivors fled [inland, south] to
Montepeloso (PBW).

William of Apulia:

Here came from Sicily into Lombardy [S Italy] Michael the

protospatharios and Catepan. . . then in the month of May [1041], having
collected all the Greeks together in one place at Mons Maior [Italian: Monte
Maggiore], near the river Aufidius, battle was joined as the fourth day
began, where perished many Natulichi [i.e. Greeks of the Anatolikon theme]
and Obsequiani [men of the Opsikion], Russi [Varangians], Trachici
[Thrakesians], Calabrians and Lombards, and people from the catepanate
[presumably Lombardo-Italian peasants].* Retreating from there in
confusion with a few men, the rest only half-alive, for fear of the savage
Normans, Michael wrote to Sicily and [before September: see below] there
came the wretched [miseri, poor] Macedonians themselves and the
Paulicians and Calabrians.

(*) Norwich 1967: 61 says that Dokeianos troops included local Lombard Italian
peasants and villagers press-ganged into service.

The Annales Barenses also say (the sources are not independent) that, after the
defeat of Montemaggiore, among the troops called from Sicily against the
Normans were miseri Macedones: wretched or second-class Macedonians.
They were Thematic troops, to be distinguished, DAmato imagines, from an lite
regiment, the Phoidheratoi (Federates). In truth, as we suggested earlier in our
discussion of the 1038 campaign, the tagmata of the Phoideratoi [and] of
Lycaonia and Pisida is almost certainly a reference to the turmai (district
regiments) of the Anatolikon. As we know from Treadgold, 1995: 99, the
Phoideratoi was the senior turma of three within the theme of the Anatolikon.
That is to say: not an elite unit but rather an adequate, but run-of-the-mill
thematic regiment. Evidently the only elite troops present were the Varangians.
In the 9th century, as we have said, the Federates had numbered 5,000 and the


troops of Italy amounted to 2,000: whether they had the same numbers in 1041
we do not know. We would expect the army of Italy to be larger by the 1040s
because the armed forces overall had increased in size and the empires reach in
Italy was broader and deeper. We have already seen that a third Italian theme,
Lucania, was created before 1042, perhaps in 1035. We may therefore guess that
at least 6,000 troops were now enrolled in, or on secondment to, Italy.

Italian Wikipedia: Amatus writes* that the Normans captured all the
wagons [carriaggi: carts pulled by mules] used by the Greeks to carry the
supplies [masserizie, furnishings] needed by their army, a practice
unknown to [sconosciuta], and which provoked wonder in, a Latin observer.
The Byzantines fought in friendly territory, and were self-sufficient as an
army and, as an indispensable element of their deployment, they used the
tuldon [Gk: touldon, baggage train**], the wagons that transported the
extra equipment and supplies. The wagons were managed by a dedicated
unit and escorted by the troops of the rearguard (Amatuccio, quoted in
Italian Wikipedia, 2009, sul Battaglia di Montemaggiore: my translation,

(*) In the original Old French: "Quar l'usance de li grex est, quant il vont en
bataille, de porter toute masserie necessaire avec eux" (Amatus II, 23).
For the practice of the Greeks is, when they go into battle, to carry all the
necessary supplies with them.

(**) The nature and deployment of the Byzantine baggage train is discussed
by Haldon 1999: 160 ff.

Reference is made to high casualties among the Varangians or Rhos at

Montemaggiore: . . . much of Dokeianos army was drowned in the river Ofanto,
which was in full flood (Blondal & Benedikz p.10). The army of Exaugustus
Boioannes that was disastrously defeated at Monte Siricolo [Montepeloso: see
next] also contained Varangians.
All the fortified towns of Apulia, Bari (the most important), Monopoli [down
the coast from Bari], Giovenazzo [up the coast from Bari] and several other cities
[sic: towns and large villages] abandoned their alliance with the Greeks and came
to an agreement with the Franks [Normans], writes William.

Mense martio Northmanni committunt proelium in Apulia cum Michaele

Protospatario imperiali, qui vocabatur Dulchianus, et vincunt eum Mense
madio iterum ab iis factum est proelium, et iterum victi sunt Graeci, et
Protospatarius. - Et in Apulia captae sunt multae civitates, et loca quae,
erant Graecorum, et imperatoris Michelis, cui hoc anno successit
Costantinus (BCN).
In March the Normans make war in Apulia with Michael the imperial
Protospatharius [a high court title] who is called Dokeianos, and defeat
him. In May again war is made by them and again the Greeks and the
Protospatharius are beaten. And in Apulia many towns [civitates] are


captured and places that used to belong to the Greeks and to the emperor
Michael, who in this year Constantine succeeds.

(c) Battle of Montepeloso, Sept or Oct 1041:

Montepeloso is, or was, in upper Basilicata (as it now is); it lay SE of Melfi and S
of Venosa. The Normans camped at nearby Monte Serico or Siricolo which is 20
km NE of Acerenza.

The new catepan Exaugustus Boioannes the Younger decided on trying to isolate
the Lombard and Norman rebels in Melfi by camping near Montepeloso, between
Potenza and Gravino. Led by Atenulf, brother of the Lombard prince of
Benevento, the Normans (no doubt along with some Lombards) sortied from
Melfi and camped in a fortress on the Monte Siricolo near Montepeloso.

Boioannes junior had arrived from the East with only a Varangian contingent.
Amatus, II: 26, mentions Varangians, Apulians and Calabrians among his
army. As noted, a heterogeneous force of regulars or semi-regular troops had
been called back to the mainland from Sicily, and he also had available some local
indigenous auxiliaries of Greek descent including men from Calabria. William
of Apulia says the Greeks had left many allies in the mountains, to the safety of
which they could return if it should be necessary. These [Greek-speaking] natives
came down to help them. He also mentions Paulicians, i.e. thematic troops from
Thrace. As also noted above, the Annales Barenses speak of poor Macedonians
among Boioannes troops, poor meaning perhaps second-class, or perhaps
pitiable: all the poor Macedonians were killed.
Thus - here we must guess - Boioannes field army may have numbered of the
order of 5,000 men. The Barenses say that 10,000 imperialsnot a credible
figurewere defeated by 700 Normans. We may guess that the latter figure
covered only the Norman cavalry, and that (say) 2,000+ Norman foot and allied
Lombards should be added, for a total of perhaps 3,000 men.
The Normans captured a convoy of livestock meant for the Greek camp, and
forced a battle on 3 September 1041. Boioannes was defeated and captured and
taken to Benevento (Norwich 1967: 61).


Map Roberto Zapata Rodrguez.

Notice how Melfi lies at the edge-point of the Lombard principality of Salerno,
the Lombard principality of Benevento, and the Empire (Theme of Langobardia).

Emperor Michael V the Caulker, 1041-42

Michael IV died in late 1041 and was succeeded by his nephew and adopted son,
Michael V, aged 26. The latters sobriquet the Caulker was taken from his
fathers first employment, for Psellos says that the admiral Stephen had started
out as a very humble sealer of ships-planks.
The new emperor promised to rule in subordination to his adopted mother Zoe
and under the guidance of his uncle, the eunuch chief minister John the
Orphanotrophus. Psellos describes John as a man of mean and contemptible
fortune, but endowed with an extremely active and ingenious mind". Wanting to
be his own master, however, in early 1042, Michael exiled his uncle and
reinstated many of those John had exiled or imprisoned. This included George


Maniakes. Zoe was relegated to a convent (Treadgold 1997: 589).

Michael promptly sent (April 1042) Maniakes back to Italy to confront the
Normans in the Mezzogiorno and (he hoped) the Arabs in Sicily.

Chronology 1042-43

From Rodriquezs Jorge Maniakes, accessed 2009, at

Feb 1042: The Lombard rebels of Bari and the Normans

choose Argyrus as their leader (princeps and

April 1042: Maniakes lands at Taranto.

June 1042: His troops attack Matera.

Sept 1042: The new emperor Constantine IX sends

Pardos to replace Maniakes. (Or in August:)
Argyrus re-defects to the imperialist side. The
Norman leader Guillaume (William) de
Hauteville replaces him (September) as rebel
count of Italy (or of Melfi: see the
discussion below).

Oct 1042: Maniakes is proclaimed emperor at Otranto.

Argyrus takes up the emperors offer to return
to leadership of the loyalists.

Feb 1043: Maniakes departs Otranto for Dyrrhachium

in the Balkans, aiming to unseat Constantine

Catepans of Italy, 1042-43: (a) Exagusto, filius Bugiani praefati

[Exaugustus, son of the prefect Boioannes], A. C. 1042. (b) Georgius
Maniakes, a Michaele in Apuliam missus [George Maniaces, by Michael
sent (back) to Apulia], A. C. 1043 [sic: actually 1042], ubi et purpuram
induit [where he assumes the purple, 1043]. Hofmann, p.771, online.

Exaugustus Boioannes is freed from captivity (Feb 1042) but is not restored to his
command as Catepan. The Byzantines pay a large ransom to the Lombard leader
Atenulf to free him from captivity. Atenulf embezzles the treasure, abandons the
Lombard rebels and flees into Byzantine territory. Argyros succeeds him.
Norwich 1967: 62.


Passing over Arduin, the Norman and Lombard rebels now (February 1042)
choose Meluss son Argyros as their new leader. According to the Annales
Barenses, Argyross rebel forces amounted to some 7,000 men, including those of
the Normans William Iron-arm and Rainulf of Aversa and the Lombard Rudolf
Trincanocte of Benevento.
Soon, however, Argyros will re-defect (August-September 1042) and again
become a loyal imperialist. The Annales Barenses 56.16-20 record that "Argiro"
was granted "patriciatus an [sic] cathepanatus vel vestati honoribus" [invested
with the office of patrikios and catepan] in 1042 (quoted by Cawley 2009).

Synodianos and Maniakes versus Argyrus and the Normans

In the wake of the Byzantine defeat by the Normans, Meluss son Argyros seized
control of Bari. He soon came to an understanding with the Norman chiefs, and,
in February 1042, was elected jointly by the Normans and the militia of Bari as
Prince and Duke of [south] Italy (Annales Barenses 55.23-29; Angold 1984:

The people of Bari and Matera, defenceless against the Normans, made
treaties with them. The combined forces of Bari and the Normans made
Argyros son of Melus their commander, hailing him as princeps and duke of
Italy (PBW, narrative for February 1042).

The Normans thus became the rulers of Melfi and the whole area to the west of
Apulia, from the upper Ofanto valley - the Melfi region - to Matera, located NW of
Taranto in modern Basilicata, near the latters border with Puglia/Apulia. All of
Apulia save Trani and the heel itself below Taranto-Brindisi was in the hands of
the rebels.

(Feb-April 1042:) Synodianos is appointed by Emperor Michael V as catepan in

Apulia. He begins to gather an army with which he plans to retake the cities
(towns) that had been lost to the empire in Apulia. William of Apulia says that he
landed at Otranto, from where he sent envoys to those cities which had allied
with the Franks [Normans], asking them to receive him. They refused to agree to
this. He sought to rebuild his army, but many of the soldiers had been killed or
fled and he was able to raise only a few. Because of this, Sinodianus remained
within the town walls. In April, prior to beginning a campaign, he was recalled to
Constantinople by Empress Zoe following death of Emperor Michael V. April:
Maniakes replaces Synodianos.

The Byzantine government sends Maniakes back to Italy (April 1042). After
taking Taranto and Matera, Maniakes totally defeats (June 1042) Argyros and the
Normans, who had sought to conquer southern Italy, in the Battle of Monopoli,
SE of Bari.


Maniakes arrived back in Italy bearing the title and offices of magistros,
catepan and autokrator [sole ruler] of Italy and strategos of the tagmata of
Italy, i.e. master, supreme governor, commander of Italy and general of the
regiments of Italy. He disembarked in the major port-town of Taranto at the end
of April 1042 with a new army reinforced with Arvanitai or Albanian
contingents. They were troops from the theme of Dyrrhachium [modern western
Albania], and (says Rodriquez) were one of the permanent foreign regiments in
the imperial army. This may imply that they were ethnically non-Greek.
At this time Byzantium still controlled only Otranto, Oria, Taranto and
Brindisi, along with Trani in the north.

When Maniakes was sent by Zoe (or Michael V) to Italy, which had fallen out of
Byzantine control, he had no battle-worthy army, yet nevertheless managed to
drive back the insurgent Franks (Normans) to Capua, Benevento and Naples. He
attracted many other Franks to his service, appeased those who had been
wronged by Michael Dokeianos, and, being feared for his cruelty and courage, he
established peace in the Italian themes (PBW, 1042):

Mense Aprilis descendit Maniachus Magister Tarentum, et mense Iunii

Monopolim abiit; ad Civitatem Materam, et fecit ibi grande homicidium,
In April magistros Maniakes arrives at Taranto, and in June departs for
Monopoli; [and thence] to the town of Matera where he makes a great

Having landed at Taranto in April 1042, Maniakes campaigned up and down the
heel of Italy from Matera* to Otranto and Bari - until February 1043, when he
departed from Otranto for the Balkans (map in Rodriguez).

(*) Matera, Bari and Taranto form the points of a nearly equilateral triangle.
Taranto is the port and coastal town at the top of the inside heel, that is: at the
top of the Gulf of Taranto. It is not to be confused with Otranto, on the outside or
back of the heel opposite Greece.

As soon as Maniakes arrived in S Italy, Argyros, son of Melus, wrote to the

Normans at Aversa and Melfi, and they all came to Mottola, some 7,000 in
number. The allegedly terrified Maniakes or more likely simply prudent
fled back at night, or he withdrew his troops, to Taranto. The Normans made
demonstrations outside the town's land gate to provoke him to come out and
fight. After a time, the Normans ravaged the area of Oria and (late April) went
home (PBW, citing the Annales Barenses 55.36-42).

If a skilled and self-confident general like Maniakes could be daunted by an army

of 7,000 then he himself probably commanded far fewer men, perhaps of the
order of 3,500.


In April 1042, as we noted, Maniakes returned from Constantinople with a new

army and assaulted Monopoli and (in June) Matera. According to William of
Apulia, he made a terrible example by having the old and young alike struck
down, buried alive, hanged and tortured in many terrible ways:

He left his fleet at Otranto, and encouraged his evil army to attack the
towns which had made agreements with the Franks. His forces first invaded
the Monopoli district. Maniakes had many people executed, having some
hanged from trees, and others beheaded. The tyrant dared [even] to commit
a hitherto unheard of crime; he buried captured infants alive, leaving only
their heads above ground. Many perished like this, and he spared no one.
After this Maniakes marched on Matera, . . . . Maniakes in his anger
murdered 200 peasants who had been captured in the fields there. Neither
boy nor old man, monk nor priest, was safe - this wicked man gave mercy to
none (William of Apulia).
This reads like a trope of Norman propaganda, but the medieval period
saw many cruel acts, and we cannot say these atrocities did not take place.

Within a year the Lombard-Norman cause was virtually lost, but at the last
minute Maniakes again became a victim of Byzantine politics and was recalled to
Constantinople (July 1042). The Norman threat, however, was curtailed for a
decade until 1053, the events of which we describe later.

(July 1042:) At Constantinople Maniakes political and personal enemy Romanus

Sclerus convinces the new emperor Constantine IX to recall him. Maniakes
knows that the recall will lead to his arrest and probable execution. He decides
(Sept:) to revolt against Constantine IX and proclaims himself emperor (Oct.).
He easily wins the support of the Byzantine and Varangian troops under his
command in Italy.

(August:) Meanwhile the rebel Argyros, son of Melus, went (August) from Bari by
sea to besiege nearby Trani, though the people there had not harmed Bari. He
and his rebels had a variety of siege-machines, including an enormously tall
wooden tower. However, after 36 days of siege, he received (Sept:) a letter from
Constantine IX via the messenger Theodoretos, who offered him an amnesty and
high Byzantine honours, probably the dignity of patrikios. He accepted the bribe,
burned his siege-engines and returned to Bari (PBW). That is, he defected from
the side of the rebels back to Byzantium.

(Sept:) (1) Pardos is sent to Italy as the new Catepan of Apulia/Italy,

accompanied by the protospatharios Tubachi, to replace the rebel George
Maniakes. Pardos and Tubachi are soon arrested at Otranto and executed by
order of Maniakes.
Pardos arrived with an army at Otranto in September 1042, to take over
command from Maniakes. Pardos was accompanied by Nicholas, Archbishop of
Bari, who, though under the jurisdiction of the Roman see, was apparently a


Byzantine loyalist, and by Tubachi, a protospatharios. It is probable that the

archbishop had joined the catepan in a prior landing, during which the Greeks
had negotiated with the Lombard rebel leader Argyrus. Subsequently, Argyrus
abandoned the Lombard cause for the Greek. Pardos and Tubachi were arrested
at Otranto, however, and executed by order of Maniakes, who was acclaimed (Oct
1042) emperor by his troops (Wikipedia 2009).

(Sept:) (2) Argyrus returns to Byzantine service. Empress Zoe takes a third
husband, a senator in his seventies who becomes the new emperor of Byzantium
with the name of Constantine IX Monomachus. They offer to Argyrus, among
other things, the post of commander of the Imperial Armies in Italy.

(Sept:) (3) At Matera William Iron-Arm de Hauteville was elected by the

Normans as their count (comes) after the defection of Argyrus (notes to Amato,
ed. Prescot et al. p. 66, citing the Chronicle of Lupus). He and the other leaders,
chief among them Drogo and Peter, petitioned Guaimar IV, Prince of Salerno, for
recognition of their conquests. They received the following year the lands around
Melfi as a fief and in return were content to proclaim Guaimar "Duke of Apulia
and Calabria".

Emperor Constantine IX

Michaels relegation of his adopted mother Empress Zoe to a convent led to his
being deposed. She was the foremost member of the centuries-old Macedonian
dynasty, while Michaels family were common-born provincials. The populace of
Constantinople exercised their popular veto. Michael was deposed and killed.
The reinstated empress now chose as her husband and emperor a well-born
widower named Constantine Monomachus. (The latter was his family name, not
a nickname.) Constantine already had a mistress, Maria Skleraina. And her
brother Romanos Skleros was an enemy of George Maniakes. To please her,
Constantine IX appointed a new catepan of Italy, Pardos by name, to replace the
great general (Treadgold 1997: 592).

Catepans of Italy, 1043-45, according to Hofmann: (a) Georgius Maniakes,

a Michaele in Apuliam missus, A.C. 1043. [correctly 1042] ubi et purpuram
induit. George Maniakes by Michael sent to Apulia, where he [Maniakes]
assumes the purple. (b) Pardus Patricius, cum Tubaki, Protospatha
descendit, A.C. 1043. [sic: actually in 1042]. The patrikios Pardos, with the
protospathios Tubachi, arrives AD 1043. . . . (c) Constantinus
Theodorocanus Proedrus, contra Maniacem in Italiam missus A.C. 1043.
The Proedros [his court title] Konstantinos Theodorokanos is sent into Italy
against Maniakes; . . . [then] (d) Eustachius Palatinus A.C. 1045.

The Revolt and Death of Maniakes, 1042-43

Psellos on the Battle of Ostrobos 1043: Knowing that victories are won
not by numbers but by skill and experience he [Maniakes] selected those


most experienced in war with whom he had besieged many cities and
acquired great wealth and many prisoners. Psellos: Chronographia VI
83.4-8, in PBW 1043.

As we have seen, George Maniakes had returned to campaign in southern Italy

from 1042 onwards, and was largely successful in destroying the old ex-Lombard
kingdom. However, the destruction of "Lombard" (Latin-Italian) power in this
region would merely leave a vacuum into which the Normans were destined to
step. Their leader, or the most prominent among their leaders, William
(Guillaume) de Hauteville, will emerge from this campaign with official
recognition, to be made Count of Apulia.

Pardos the patrikios arrived in Italy, landing (September 1042) at Otranto with
two colleagues and a large sum of gold and silver, to replace Maniakes, who had
declared revolt when he learnt he was being replaced. Pardos brought a
guaranteed pardon for Maniakes if he immediately gave up his rebellion. But
Maniakes killed Pardos and later his deputy the protospatharios Tubachi.
Romanos Skleros took vengeance on Maniakes in the Anatolikon theme,
attacking the generals estates and his wife.
Maniakes went to Bari, but the town ignored him. He then crossed with his
troops to Dyrrhachion (Albania: February 1043) and won a first battle. Later in
Macedonia, at the Battle of Ostrobos, he is mortally wounded and dies at the
moment of victory (PBW, Narrative for 1042-43).

Meanwhile Basil Theodorokanos, Italian: Teodoro Cano, briefly served as

Byzantine Catepan of Italy. He was a patrikios and former companion in arms of
George Maniakes, appointed to go to Apulia and Calabria and put down the
generals revolt and bring Italy back to obedience.
Basilieos (Basil) Theodorokanos arrived at Bari in February 1043 to capture
Maniakes with the aid of Argyros, now (since August 1042) back in imperial
service. They moved on Otranto, Theodorokanos by sea and Argyros by land. But
Maniakes had already crossed the Adriatic and was in Byzantine Albania* (thus
The Normans tried to surround Otranto, but the new catepan's fleet blocked

(*) The reign of Basil II, 976-1025, had seen a titanic struggle between Byzantium
and West Bulgaria in which Bulgaria finally went under. The eastern part of
Bulgaria had already been conquered and turned into imperial themes before
976. Thus the name of Bulgaria was applied to the imperial theme that covered
the western portions of the former Bulgarian empire, namely todays inland
Albania, southern Serbia and FYROM. The Albanian littoral constituted a
separate theme named for the town of Dyrrhachium (modern Durres).

In the Balkans Maniakes army proceeded eastwards along the ancient military
highway, the Via Egnatia, towards Thessalonica. In Macedonia they clashed
(1043) with an Imperial army under the sebastophorus Stephen at Ostrovo


[Ostrobos: Arnissa near Pella].

Some Varangians and some Norman troops were with our rebel, while at
Constantinople Constantine IX possessed (according to Haldon 1995) only the
prefect's Watch and some palatine ceremonial units. It might be better to say that
those units were the core around which Constantine managed to assemble a
respectable expeditionary army. It seems that there were Varangian units fighting
on either side.
Constantine IX, not daring to place a capable general at the head of his troops,
fearing an uprising on his part, chose Stephen, one of his eunuch chamberlains in
whom he had confidence. In the battle of Ostrovo the rebels initially defeat the
imperial expedition, but Maniakes was himself killed at the moment of victory.
He was wounded in the side and it was alleged that the wound was from a lance,
but the one who inflicted the wound is unknown to the time that this history was
written. Psellos: Chronographia VI 85.14-16, PBW 1043.
The sebastophoros Stephanos Pergamenos, was lucky enough to disperse the
army of Maniakes, which was discouraged by the latter's death. Returning to
Byzantium, Stephanos obtained the honours of a triumph (Guilland, citing
Cedrenus II 548 f.; Attaleiates 20; also Anonymus Barensis 151).

Maniakes' head was dispatched to the capital so that it could be paraded through
the streets to prove the outcome of the battle. Victory services were held, and the
head was attached to the top of the Hippodrome.
When Constantine celebrated his triumph, the empresses Zoe and Theodora,
his wife and sister in law, sat on either side of him, though it was not usual for
empresses to be present at triumphal ceremonies: their presence highlighted the
fact that (as purple-born princesses) they were the source of Constantine's
imperial authority (thus Garlands article on Zoe).
The victory parade itself focused on the bazaar precinct at Constantinople, i.e.
the area between the Forum and the Arch of the Milion. The loyalist forces
opened the parade. In the triumphal procession through Constantinople, the
Varangians, axes on shoulders, marched ahead of the victorious general, while
another contingent marched behind Maniakes severed head. First came lightly
armed troops, moving as an unorganised crowd. Next came the heavy cavalry
fully armed but observing strict military order. Behind them came
representatives of the rebel's army, with their heads shaved, seated backwards on
asses (McCormick 1986: 181, citing Psellos: see next).
To quote Psellus, Chronographia, VI 87:

The procession, worthy of its author [the emperor], was arranged as

follows: the light-armed troops [presumably light infantry] were ordered to
lead, armed with shields, bows, and spears, but with ranks broken, in one
conglomerate multitude; behind them were to come the picked knights
[heavy cavalry], in full defensive armour, men who inspired fear, not only
because of their forbidding appearance, but by their fine military bearing.
Next came the rebel army, not marching in ranks, nor in fine uniforms, but
seated on asses, faces to the rear, their heads shaven and their necks
covered with heaps of shameful refuse. Then followed the pretender's head,


borne in triumph a second time, and immediately after it some of his

personal belongings; next came certain men armed with swords, men
carrying rods, men brandishing in their right hands the rhomphaea* - a
great host of men preceding the army commander - and, in the rear of them
all, the commander [Stephen] himself on a magnificent charger, dressed in
magnificent robes and accompanied by the whole of the Imperial Guard.

(*) The meaning of the word rhomphaia at this time is controversial, as a quick
Internet search will reveal. Some say it was a spear, others an axe, others again
say a scimitar-like sword.

No fewer than three victory celebrations were held in 1042-44, partly aimed at
cementing Constantine's rule.

Peninsular Italy, 1043-53

Rodriquez notes that in 1043 Byzantium still controlled Calabria, Taranto and the
Land of Otranto, but in Apulia proper only the coastal towns recognised
Byzantium. In the interior only some isolated fortress-towns such as Troia (until
1048) and Lucera (until 1060) had evaded the Norman dominion.

At Melfi in 1043, Guaimar of Salerno notionally divided the region of ex-

Byzantine upper Apulia - except for Melfi itself, which was to be ruled on a
republican model - into 12 baronies for the benefit of the Norman leaders.
William de Hauteville himself received presumptive title to Ascoli, Asclettin
Drengot received Acerenza, Tristan (a Breton) received Montepeloso, Hugh
Tuboeuf [It. Ugo Tutabovi] received Monopoli, Peter received Trani, Drogo de
Hauteville received Venosa, and Ranulf Drengot, now independent, received
Monte Gargano. These lands would have to be taken, or held, by force
(Wikipedia, 2009, under Norman conquest of S Italy).

Argyrus, now assisting Byzantium, is defeated (1043) in a battle at Venosa with

the Normans who before were his allies, but now consider him a traitor. In this
battle it is said that Hugh Tuboeuf caused panic among the Greek troops by
killing the horse of a Greek heraldto us a feeble horsewith one punch of his
mailed fist. Perhaps he had a large metal needle concealed therein?

Skilful Rule

How little oppressive the Greek rule was, writes Curtis, and how skillfully the
Catepans yielded to the difficult conditions of their Apulian command, is
strikingly illustrated by a document of the date 1043 relating to Bari. The Catepan
Eustathius, wishing to reward the fidelity of the Judex Bisantius of that city to the
Emperor during the rebellion of Maniakes [see details below] and afterwards
against the "Franks" (the Normans), concedes to him the administration of the
village of Foliano (or Foliniano) and its surrounding district; he is permitted to
plant strangers there as colonists, and may collect tribute from them, himself and


his heirs, without any interference from the imperial authority. Finally the
Catepan concedes to him that his new subjects should be governed by him
according to Lombard law,* except, however, in case of assassination of the
Sacred Emperors or the Catepan himself; such a case could only be judged [only]
by an imperial official and by imperial law. Curtis, Robert Guiscard, 1015-

(*) The communities of South Italy were governed under either Imperial law
(Justinians Code: Roman law) or Lombard law, The latter was a fusion of
Germanic and Roman law first codified in the seventh century (see Drew 2004).
Roman or Byzantine (Justinianic) law was in force in Calabria and part of Apulia
and at Gaeta, Naples and Amalfi. Rome too followed the Justinianic code. Most of
the South, however, including Benevento, lived under Lombard law.
Wisely or otherwise, the Greek Emperors allowed the maintenance of Latin
bishoprics in many towns, tolerated the practice of Lombard law, and admitted
many native officials into the local administration. One may guess that this was
part of the reason it took the Normans so long to defeat Byzantium. Conversely, it
is possible that, if Constantinople had imposed the Greek rite and Greco-Roman
(Justinianic) law already from before AD 900, the Normans may never have
succeeded and the Mezzogiorno might eventually have become mostly Greek-

William de Hautevilles Normans and Guaimars Salernitans began the conquest

of Byzantine Calabria in 1044. From 1045, they built the great castle* of Stridula,
located probably near Squillace. In 1045, however, William was defeated near
Taranto by Argyrus - now in Byzantine service: see later. William will die in early
1046 and is succeeded by his brother Drogo.

(*) Or at least what would become a great castle. Early motte and bailey castles
were not as grand as later stone-built ones, which were uncommon before 1200.
The motte (mound) and bailey (enclosed courtyard or stockaded village) castle
consisted basically of a wooden tower or keep on a high mound or low hill,
ringed by a wooden palisade and surrounded by two ditches or a double moat.
Because so little archaeological work has been done, it is not known how soon
stone castles appeared in Norman Italy. But Guiscard is known to have built the
high, 18 metre, pentagonal stone tower at Gargano (Monte Sant Angelo) called
the "Tower of Giants" or Torre dei Giganti. He died in 1085, and this tower was
likely built towards the end of his reign (Kennedy 2001: 15; Gravette & Hook
2004: 58).

It would appear that the castle at Stridula was located so as to block aid to
Byzantine Calabria coming from Byzantine Apulia and vice-versa. Schlumberger
writes thus in his L'pope Byzantine la fin du dixime sicle:

. . . daprs la Chronique du protospathaire Lupus, Guillaume Bras de Fer

et Guaimar de Salerne, runissant leurs forces ainsi quils lavaient fait une
premire fois au dbut de lan 1043, descendirent en Calabre et, aprs une


marche hardie en plein territoire grec, construisirent, pour avoir dans le

pays une position inexpugnable, le chteau fort de Stridula, sur le sommet
de la hauteur.
According to the Chronicle of Lupus protospatharius, William Iron Arm
and Guaimar of Salerno, joining their forces for the first time at the start of
1043, came down into Calabria, and, after a bold, open march through
Greek territory, in order to have an impregnable position in the land, they
built [i.e. in 1045-46] the castle of Stridula on the high summits (there). My
trans. MOR.

Meanwhile Argyrus the Barian, the imperial catepan and duke of the Greeks,
came against the Normans in Tarentum [Taranto] and defeated them [1045].*
Next he came to Tranum [Trani] and was defeated by them under William
Ferrebrachius [Iron-Arm], who [earlier] was made [intitulatus est] the first count
of Apulia (BCN).

(*) This was one of the last imperial victories over the Normans until 1066.
Hereafter, the Greeks are on the defensive and the Normans commonly beat
them in battle. The very last Byzantine success will come in 1066 when the
catepan Maurice will briefly recapture Taranto and Brindisi.

Catepans or acting Catepans of Italy: (a) Eustachius Palatinus AD 1045. (b)

Iohannes, qui et Raphael [John called Rafael], AD 1046. They governed
the catepanate while the erstwhile catepan, Argyrus, spent several years,
1045-47, in Constantinople.

In 1045 Eustathios Palatinos [Latin: Eustachius Palatinus; Italian: Eustachio or

Eustazio Palatino], was conducted to Italy as catepan or acting catepan by a
flotilla commanded by admiral Konstantinos Chage. He was sent to replace
Argyrus after the latter was recalled (1045) to Constantinople. Eustathios arrived
in Otranto and travelled to Bari, his seat. Argyros departed; Palatinos remained.
Argyros the patrikios and his people accompanied Konstantinos Chage from Bari
to Constantinople. Argyros sojourns in Constantinople while Eustathios Palatinos
and then John Raphael serve as catepan. PBW, quoting Lupus and the Anon.

The new Byzantine catepan Eustathios Palatinos is defeated at Trani in 1046 by

the Normans under their new count Drogo de Hauteville. Drogo would by 1047
bear the pretentious title Comes Normannorum totius Apuliae et Calabriae, or
Count of the Normans of the whole of Puglia and Calabria or in all of Puglia
and Calabria. The adjective totius meant of every part (of it).
During 1046 Eustathios clashed with with the Normans at Taranto and Trani:
defeated, he takes shelter in the palace of the catepan in Bari while waiting for
reinforcements (which arrived in September):

Factum est iterum proelium in Apulia inter Graecos et Northmannos. Et

isti fugaverunt, et dissipaverunt exercitum Graecorum; et fuit Drogo dux


eorum, qui fuit secundus Comes Apuliae (BCN).

War/fighting breaks out again between the Greeks and Normans. And
they (the latter) rout and scatter/destroy the army of the Greeks; and Drogo
becomes their duke and [thus] the second Count of Apulia.

Anno 1046. perrexit Argyrus Patricius Constantinopolim et Palatinus

Catepanus, qui et Eustasius revocavit omnes exiliatos [sic: exulati?] ad
Barum perrexitque Tarentum, et 8. die in Trano mense Maij commisit
proelium cum Normannis et ceciderunt Graeci (Chronicle of Lupus).
The patrikios Argyros proceeds to Constantinople, and the (new)
catepan Palatinos who (is called) Eustathios, has recalled all the exiles [?
exulati: outlaws] to Bari, and he goes on to Taranto and [then] at Trani on 8
May [1046] engages in battle with the Normans, and the Greeks are
defeated [lit: they fall].

Robert Guiscard de Hauteville

Aged in his early 30s, William's younger brother, Robert de Hauteville [Italian:
Roberto D'Altavilla], arrived in Southern Italy in 1046 (Lupus Protospatarius
1056; Malaterra I.12, 16; and Amatus III.7). Anna Comnena describes him as a
very big man with a ruddy complexion and fair hair (Anna trans. Sewter p.54).
Unlike his shaven-faced son Bohemund, and also unlike William the Conquerer,
Robert woreunusually for a Latina full beard in the Byzantine style. Anna says
that the sons hair was yellowish and his eyes blue, which no doubt Robert also

Robert came to Italy in 1046, at first fighting for Pandulf Prince of Capua until
the latter's death in 1049. His half-brother Drogo, putative Count of Apulia, gave
him the command of the garrison of Scribla* near Castrovillari in north-east
Calabria in 1049, but he abandoned it in favour of San Marco Argentano, closer to
Cosenza.* San Marco Argentano lies in a bleak mountainous region of inland N
Calabria, NW of Cosenza, from where he terrorised the neighbourhood. This
period of banditry (1046-53) earned him his nickname of Guiscardo the Wily or
the [cunning] Weasel [Latin: Viscardus]. This is sometimes rendered as the
Patient. He will become the greatest of the Norman warlords.

(*) Just to the south of todays Pollino National Park. Both Scribla and San Marco
Argentano overlooked the main road from Campania, the ancient Via Popilia,
that runs into and up the Crati valley to Cosenza.

Calabria was to be the first province changed radically by the Normans

intensified encastellation, in the sense of a countryside dominated by large stand-
alone fortress-castles. The hilltop towns of course had already, since Late
Antiquity, protected themselves with fortified walls. These fortifications were
defensive. The Norman castles were also offensives strong-points from which


cavalry could ride out on raids or into battle.

In 1046, William Iron Arm began construction on "Stridula", a large castle
near Squillace, and by 1055 Robert Guiscard had already built or strengthened
three castles: at Rossano, site of a Byzantine fortress; "Scribla" [built 1044-48] at
Castrovillari* to the NW of Cassano allo Ionio, the seat of his honour guarding
the pass (from the Campanian side) into the Crati valley or Val di Crati; and San
Marco Argentano higher up the Crati valley near Cosenza, whose donjon the
central tower or keep - was built in 1051 (Gravette & Nicolle 2006).

John Raphael or Rafayl was catepan from 1046 to 1049. He replaced Eustathios
Palatinos and arrived with a detachment of Varangians at Bari in 1046. Rapahels
Varangian force captured Stira and Lecce and took Bari (1047) after a further
rebellion, but could not hold it; they were able to release the interned katepanos
Eustathios Palatinus only by agreeing to let the town remain free. Because the
Varangians were not well-received by the Bariots, John spent his governorship at
Otranto (Wikipedia, 2009, John Raphael).
In October skirmishes at Lecce and Ostuni favour the Byzantines.
The catepan Raphael moved from town to town with the Varangians, then
made peace with Bari. Raphael sent away Eustathios the (ex-)catepan and,
leaving Bari to the Lombards, the army returned to Otranto (thus PBW).
Byzantium did not regain control of Bari until 1051.

Meanwhile, in February 1047, the German Emperor Henry III, Conrad's son,
came south and made the (Norman) Drengot and the Hauteville possessions
around Melfi and Aversa his direct vassals. At Capua, he also restored the hated
Pandulf for the last time.
Henry made Drogo de Hauteville, William's successor in Apulia, a direct vassal
of the Western imperial crown. Drogos title was dux et magister Italiae
comesque Normannorum totius Apuliae et Calabriae, that is, Duke and lord of
Italy and Count of the Normans of all of Puglia and Calabria. He did likewise to
Ranulf Drengot, the count of Aversa, who had been a vassal of Guaimar as Prince
of Capua. Thus, Guaimar was deprived of his greatest vassals, his principality
split in two, and his greatest enemy reinstated. But Henry lost popularity
amongst the Lombards with these decisions, and Benevento, though a papal
vassal, would not admit him.

In 1048 the Normans under Drogo occupied Bovino and Troia, the Byzantine
fortress-towns NE of Benevento in the direction of Foggia. They were the most
important points on the connecting roads between Benevento and Apulia. They
also attacked the Byzantines in Tricarico in modern Basilicata, between Potenza
and Matera, and began the conquest of Calabria. This created the core of the
future Norman kingdom.
Drogo commanded an expedition in the valley of Crati, near Cosenza, and
pushed further into Calabria:

Northmanni iverunt contra Graecos in Calabriam, et invaserunt eam, et

victi sunt Graeci circa Tricaricum. Humphredus capit Trojam, et facit


castrum in Bachareza (BCN).

The Normans march against the Greeks in Calabria and take possession
of it, and the Greeks are defeated around Tricarico. [Meanwhile in N Apulia]
Humphrey takes Troia and builds a fort at Vachareza [Vaccaricia or
Vacarizza, near Troia and modern Foggia].

Drogo de Hauteville distributed the conquered territories in Calabria and, as

noted earlier, granted (1049) his brother Robert a castle at Scribla, on the lower
Crati, SE of Castrovillari, to guard the entrances.

The enterprise of expelling the Byzantines proceeded slowly at first. After 1053,
however, success will come more quickly. In 1059 Pope Nicholas II, who needs an
ally against the German emperor, will invest Guiscard with the presumptive title
to Byzantine Apulia, Calabria, and Arab Sicily. Sicily will be wrested (1061-91)
from the Arabs by Robert's brother Roger, and meanwhile the Normans gain
Calabria (by 1060), Bari (the last Imperial stronghold, 1071), Salerno (1076) and
eventually most of Benevento, inland from Naples.
In 1081 Robert will assault the East Roman mainland, conquer Corfu, and
defeat (1081-82) emperor Alexius I in present-day Albania. In 1084 he aids Pope
Gregory VII against the German emperor Henry IV. Robert then resumed his
Balkan wars but died, aged about 70, of fever at Cephalonia. He was succeeded in
Apulia by his youngest son, Roger.
But we are already far ahead of our story.

Argyros Fails against the Normans, 1051-53

Happilyor so it must have seemed to emperor Constantinethe people of the

Lombard duchies subsequently rose up (August 1051) against the hated
Normans, and, now aged in his early 40s, the adaptable Marianos Argyros, son of
the old anti-imperialist rebel Meles, returned once more to lead the imperialists
(Angold 1984: 28). The switching back to Byzantium of many Lombards brought
about in due course the assassination (November) of Drogo de Hauteville.

The emperor Constantine Monomachos understood the seriousness of the

Norman threat. Accordingly in 1051 he raised Argyros, a Lombard (or at least an
Italian) loyal to Byzantium, to the higher rank of magistros and appointed him
duke of Italy in the hope that he would be able to impose some solution on
southern Italy. Argyros went back to Italy in March 1051 with the title of vestes
magistros [Master of the Robes] and Duke of Italy, Calabria, Sicily and
Paphlagonia, with orders to govern all the imperial territories in the peninsula.
Rodriguez notes that it was unusual to trust so high a Greek position to an
Italian, in fact the son of a Lombard, a Latin who did not even profess orthodoxy.
Argyross father Melus seems to have been a Greek-speaking or multilingual
ethnic Italo-Armenian; but Argyros was born in Byzantine Bari and raised there
and in Constantinople. Thus he might best be called a Greco-Italian. On the other


hand, his father seems to have identified as a Lombard and his mother was
Lombard by birth. It is known that Argyros maintained differences with the
patriarch of Constantinople Michael Kerularios who considered him a foreigner
and heretical, being too Latin in his Catholicism, if such a term is not
anachronistic. Von Falkenhausen in Magdalino 2003: 155; also Rodriquez.

The governors of Bari refused entry to Argyros, but were undermined by

the citizens; Adralestus escaped to the Normans. -When Argyros, son of
Melus, arrived at Bari, the gates were closed against him by Adralestos and
the brothers Romuald and Petros [leaders of the anti-Byzantine party]. But
soon after the people of Bari welcomed Argyros, against the wishes of
Adralestos and his colleagues, whose houses were burned, and who were
forced to flee or be imprisoned (PBW, narrative for 1051).

Anno 1051. Descendit Argyrus Magister Vesti, et Dux Italiae filius Meli
mense Martij et abiit Barum et non receperunt illum Adralistus, ac
Romoaldus cum Petro eius germano sed non post multum temporis
Barenses receperunt eum fine voluntate Adralisti, et aliorum. Sed
Adralistus fugit Romoaldus vero, et Petrus fratres ad Argyro sunt
comprehensi et catenis vincti Constantinopolim deportati sunt (Lupus).
Argyros, Master of the (imperial) Robes and Duke of Italy, the son of
Meles, arrives [at Otranto] in March, and departs for Bari, (but) they -
Romoaldus with his full brother Peter [the anti-Greek faction] - do not let
him in; but after a little time the [pro-Greek] Bariots let him [Argyros] in
without the consent of Adralestus and the others. But Adralestus flees [to
the Normans]. The brothers Romoaldus and Peter are arrested and brought
to Argyrus, and, bound in chains, are taken away to Constantinople.

Drogo de Hauteville having been assassinated in November 1051, his brother

Humphrey succeeded to his possessions and the title of Count of the Normans,
and Robert Guiscard, now aged about 36, remained in his service.

Catepans of Italy, according to Hofmann: (a) 1047: Argyrus Magister,

Vestes et Dux Italiae AD 1051. (b) Alexius, cognomine Charon (1058). (c)
Trombus, AD 1058.

In 1052 the Normans routed a Byzantine force under Argyrus in Apulia and at
Crotone in Calabria:

He [the Norman leader Humphrey] joined battle with Argyrus, the

catepan of the Greeks, and his army [Argyruss] was again put to flight by
the Normans around Tarant0. Battle was also joined about Crotone in
Calabria, and Sico [the] Protspata [Gk: protospatharios] was defeated. The
Normannic lordship [dominium Northmannum] is expanded in Calabria
and Apulia and their power is recognised and fear of them grows up in all
the land. BCN; also ODB under Crotone.


Disturbed by these events, Pope Leo IX, a German, with the help of his relative,
the German Emperor Henry III, and an alliance of Lombard noblemen,
undertook a political and military initiative. Their aim was to force out the
Normans, going as far as to make a pact with the Byzantines.
Gibbon describes Leo IX as a simple saint, of a temper most apt to deceive
himself and the world. He and the emperor Constantine IX were allied through
the mediation of the catepan of Italy, Argyrus, a Lombard who had spent years in
Constantinople, originally as a political prisoner.
Pope Leo had been to Saxony and asked Henry III to help him in the fight
against the Normans. In 1053 the Pope returned to Italy with only a guard of 700
Swabians and some volunteers from Lorraine. On the way through northern Italy
to Benevento, he had collected a large number of Italian volunteers without any
particular military skill: Gibbons vile and promiscuous multitude of Italians
(Decline, Vol 5, chap. LVI). With this polyglot army, Leo used his alliance with
the Byzantines to arrange a joint attack on Siponto (modern Manfredonia), an ex-
Byzantine town that had been held by the Normans since 1039 (Fanaticus
2009). (Inland Benevento, coastal Manfredonia and coastal Bari form the points
of a large triangle; Manfredonia is on the Adriatic coast at the southern base of
the Gargano peninsula.)

Leo and Argyros led their respective armies against the ravaging Normans, but
the papal forces were defeated at the Battle of Civitate in 1053, which resulted in
the pope being imprisoned at Benevento.
Civitate is a town and crossing point on the lower Fortore River northwest of
Foggia, which is to say: inland, west from the bump that is the Gargano
peninsula. The precise site is not clear from the Internet sites I consulted in
2009. It may be San Paolo di Civitate, near San Severo.

No Byzantine troops were present at Civitate: their army was still approaching.
The Normans wished to force a battle before the Byzantines could join the allied
Papal-Lombard-German expedition. So it was that the allies clashed with the
Normans near the river Fortore, not far from Civitate, NW of Foggia in
Before the Papal-German army could link up with the Byzantines, it was
routed at Civitate by some 3,000 or more Norman horsemen and others, led by
Count Humphrey de Hauteville, with brother Robert Guiscard commanding the
left wing.

The general of the Papal-German army was Geoffrey, Duke of Lorraine, or (more
likely) Rudolph, Prince of Benevento. It was probably twice as large as
Humphreys: say 8,000 troops, but it included many untried soldiers. The elite
force was 700 German (Swabian) mounted infantrymen. They specialised in
fighting on foot with large two-handed swords. These swords were very long and
keen, and they were often capable of cutting someone vertically in two (William
of Apulia). As for the rest: The Italians [on the papal side] stood all crowded
together on the other side because they neglected to draw up a battle line in the
proper manner, writes William.


On the Norman side there were probably fewer than 4,000 men in all, both
Normans and Calabrians. Specifically, William of Apulia says the Normans had
almost 3,000 horsemen and a few infantry. The latter were probably mostly
archers. Robert 'Guiscard', "the wily", now aged 37 or 38, led the left wing and
was initially held back as a reserve.
The figure of 3,000 knights incidentally reveals the limit of the overall
strength of the Normans, or rather their lack of strength, as presumably this was
the strongest force that could be assembled while leaving behind some minimal
garrisons to safeguard against Greek or Lombard risings.

Despite an offer of negotiation from the Normans, the battle took place on 18
June 1053. Pope Leo observed the battle from the walls of Civitate.
According to one story, the Normans took unfair advantage by attacking when
a parley was in progress.
The Swabians drew up their line of battle against the arms of the valiant
Humphrey. First Humphrey attacked them at long-range with arrows, he in
turn was harried by the arrows of his enemies. Finally both sides charged sword
in hand . . . (William of Apulia, emphasis added). The papal army was
annihilated, and the Pope was imprisoned and kept captive for nine or 10 months
in Benevento. He occupied himself by trying to learn Greek.

Gibbon loc cit.: [The Normans] climbed the hill of Civitella, descended into
the plain, and charged in three divisions the army of the pope. On the left,
and in the centre, Richard count of Aversa, and Robert the famous
Guiscard, attacked, broke, routed, and pursued the Italian multitudes, who
fought without discipline, and fled without shame. A harder trial was
reserved for the valour of Count Humphrey, who led the cavalry of the right
wing. The Germans have been described as unskillful in the management of
the horse and the lance, but on foot they formed a strong and impenetrable
phalanx; and neither man, nor steed, nor armour, could resist the weight of
their long and two-handed swords. After a severe conflict, they were
encompassed by the squadrons returning from the pursuit; and died in the
ranks with the esteem of their foes, and the satisfaction of revenge.

Seeing the Papal army destroyed, the inhabitants of Civitate handed the Pope
over to the Norman army. The pope was taken prisoner and kept in polite
captivity for nine months. In the following months, he was forced to ratify the
past and future conquests of the Normans in Southern Italy. Humphrey then
personally escorted him on the way to Rome as far as Capua, but the experience is
thought to have contributed to Leo's death a month later (see Cavendish 2003).
The battle was effectively the founding moment of the Norman empire in the
south and the future kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Later in 1053 Argyros, son of Melus, went by sea [from Bari] to Siponto. There
he was attacked by count Humphrey, count Petrone [Peter] and their Normans;
he was defeated, and escaped half-dead to Viesti [modern Vieste, at the tip of the
Gargano peninsula]. PBW.


Sico or Sicone, died 1054, was a Byzantine protospatharios (high official) leading
troops in Italy from about 1052. He had a Lombard name, though he was a Greek
official. He was an official under the catepan Argyrus. Sico was killed in battle
(1054) outside the walls of Matera fighting the Normans of Onfroi (Humphrey) of
Hauteville (Lupus protospatharius 59.22).

Scinuro may have become catepan of Apulia, 1054-60. According to others,

Argyrus remained catepan from 1051 until 1057 or 1058. Miriarcha was the
Byzantine leader in 1059-60 according to the chronicle of Lupus Protospatharius,
but it is unclear whether he as yet held the position of catepan or was at that time
simply a general.



Years Place Outcome and notes

1053 N Apulia: Civitate, The Byzantines did not participate in the

N of Foggia: battle in which the Normans defeated
the Italo-German and Papal forces.

1054 S Apulia: Matera: The catepan is either Argyrus or

Scinuro. The Byzantine second in
command, Sico, is defeated and killed at

1055 S Apulia/Land of Oria, Lecce and Nardo capitulate to

Otranto: Robert Guiscard. He captures Minervo,
Otranto and Gallipoli. Byzantium holds
Taranto, Brindisi and Bari. All these
towns returned to Byzantine rule.

Conquest of Calabria, 1056-60:

1056 S Apulia: Taranto. (Humphrey killed; Robert replaces him

N Calabria: as Norman overlord.) In Calabria Robert
Cosenza etc (1056- Guiscard takes Cosenza, Bisignano [N of
57) Cosenza], Martirano [between Cosenza
and Nicastro], and Nicastro [further S of

1057 Calabria as above. -


1058 Anti-Norman -
revolt by Italo-
Greeks and

1059 Calabria: Rossano Guiscard mops up the remaining

and Gerace: Byzantine outposts in Calabria. There
only Reggio remains in imperial hands.
The Pope formally recognises the

1060 Calabria: Reggio. Normans besiege and take Reggio

S Apulia: Taranto; (1060-61) and they retake Taranto; but
Oria. N Apulia: the latter is recovered by the
Melfi: imperialists. All of Calabria is under
Norman rule. Guiscard is recognised as
duke of Calabria.
Byzantine Italy was briefly reduced to
little more than Bari and Brindisi and
the coast around them. But the new
Byzantine commander Miriarcha
recaptures Otranto, Oria and Brindisi
and briefly besieges Melfi (1060-61).

The Normans Renew the Offensive in


1061 Acerenza in (Marules is catepan.) Guiscard captures

Lucania/Basilicata Acerenza in Lucania and relieves Melfi.
1062 S Apulia: Oria, Guiscard captures the general
Brindisi Miriarcha; Sirianos becomes catepan.
The Normans retake Brindisi.

1063 S Apulia: Taranto Normans retake Taranto but are ejected;

and Mottola: but they keep hold of Mottola. Much of
the coast of N Apulia is still held by
Byzantium; but lost before 1070.

1064 S Apulia: Normans again take Matera and

Meanwhile the (briefly) Otranto. The new catepan
Normans fight Apochara organises the defence of
each other, until Byzantine Bari, Brindisi, Horai, Taranto,
1068. Apulian Gallipoli and Otranto.

1065 - -


1066 S Apulia: Maurice is the new catepan. Last

Revolt by Norman imperial offensive. The Byzantines
barons continues. briefly re-capture Taranto and Brindisi
(1066-67). They fight Robert Guiscard in
a naval battle off Brindisi.

1067 - -

1068 Apulia: Guiscard lays siege to the Byzantine

capital Bari. Otranto briefly surrenders
to him.

1069 Brindisi and Bari: Siege of Bari continues. Byzantine fleet

sent to aid Bari (January). The Norman
fleet sinks some ships, while others
make it through with aid.

1070 S Apulia: Normans take Otranto for the last time.

This leaves Bari as the sole imperial

1071 Bari: 15 April: Bari surrenders to the


The Norman Conquest

It [the Norman conquest] was not simply due to that peculiar combination of
qualities displayed by the Normans, for it was only afterwards [i.e., after 1053]
that their drive, military flair and lack of scruples became apparent. . . . The root
causes of Byzantine failure are to be explained differently. At the local level, the
mechanisms of Byzantine rule had been allowed to run down, as power passed
into the hands of leading urban families. Their interests were not identical with
those of the Empire as a whole. The circulation of the tari [the Muslim Sicilian
coin] in S Italy, rather than the official Byzantine coinage, suggests that the
region was developing economic interests which separated it from the rest of the
Empire (Angold 1984: 32).

Nearly all of lower Apulia was lost (for a period) to the Normans in 1055-56. The
key inland towns of the heelOria, Lecce and Nardocapitulated in 1055, or by
1056; and Guiscard captured the fortress-village of Minerva and the towns of
Otranto (briefly) and Gallipoli. The following year, now elevated to Count Robert,
he leads his troops into Calabria (Norwich 1967: 107). Guiscard was seen as a
usurper by some, as his nephew Abelard had a better claim to be Count.


In central Calabria the Normans took (1056 or 1057) the upper Crati valley:
Cosenza; Bisignano to the N of Cosenza; Martirano between Cosenza and
Nicastro; and Nicastro which is further S of Cosenza. In Apulia they captured
most of the lower heelthe Land of Otrantoincluding Gallipoli and Lecce by
1056. But Byzantine rule continued in the upper heel and ankle including Bari,
Brindisi and Taranto:

Humphredus fecit proelium cum Graecis circa Oriam, et vicit eos.

Gaufredus comes comprehendit Neritonum, et Litium. Robertus comes ivit
super Callipolim, et fugatus est iterum exercitus Graecorum in terra
Tarentina, et captum est Hydrontum, et castrum Minervae (BCN).
Humphrey fights a battle with the Greeks around Oria and defeats them.
Count Godfrey takes Nardo and Lecce. Count Robert proceeds against
Gallipoli and again the Greek army is repelled/put to flight in the land of
Taranto, and Otranto [Hydrontum] is taken and the [nearby] fortress of
Minerva. Cf 1060: Taranto captured.
Or as another translation renders it: Humphrey joined battle with the
Greeks around Oria and defeated them. The count Godfrey seized
Neritonum [Nardo] and Litium [Lecce]. The count Robert went upon
Callipoli [Apulian Gallipoli] and again an army of Greeks was put to flight in
the lands near Tarentum, and then Hydrontum [Otranto] was captured
along with the castle [castrum: fortfiied village] [on] Minerva. Minerva is a
hill near Otranto.

Mortuus est Humphredus, et intravit comes Apuliae Robertus, qui dictus

est Guiscardus. Factum est proelium mense septembri circa Tarentum, et
Graeci victi sunt, et facta est magna strages hominum a Tarento usque ad
Hydrontum, et omnes urbes et terrae factae sunt de dominio (vel hominio)
Northmannorum. (BCN, 1056).
Humphrey is killed and Robert, who is called Guiscard, becomes count
of Apulia. War is fought in September around Taranto and the Greeks are
defeated, and a great slaughtering of men is carried out from Taranto
across to Otranto [Hydrontum] and all the towns and lands come under
the dominion of the Normans.

The following year, 1057, now aged about 42, the new Count Robert begins the
conquest of Byzantine lower Calabria. He moves (1057-58) against the few
remaining Byzantine garrison-towns in Calabria. He proceeded first to Cariati on
the western or Calabrian side of the Gulf of Taranto, which capitulated. By the
end of the year he captured nearby Rossano and then - further south, inside the
tip of the toe: Gerace. In the words of William of Apulia, Book II, mighty
Rossano [in N Calabria], warlike Cosenza, then wealthy Gerace [S Calabria]
surrendered to him, and so nearly the whole of Calabria was made subject to
him. (Norwich prefers to date these events to 1059.) The only sizable town left in
Byzantine hands was the old thematic capital of Reggio (Norwich 1967: 132).
Malaterra describes the campaigning in Calabria thus:


He [Guiscard] raised an army and after making all the necessary

preparations for the expedition, he led his troops into Calabria. He crossed
into the territory of Cosenza and Martirano, and then remained for two days
near the hot springs close to the River Lamita, to allow his army to relax
after a hard and tiring march and to reconnoitre the land ahead. Then he
went on [i.e. south-east] to the castrum [fortress-village] called Squillace,
and from there marched along the coast [the sole of the Italian front-foot
and toe] until he reached Reggio. He spent three days in a reconnaissance of
this city, but when he realised that neither by threats nor by promises could
he make its citizens surrender, and with a number of matters requiring his
attention in Apulia, he prepared to withdraw. On his return journey,
Neocastro [Nicastro], Maida and Canalea made peace and surrendered to

A general revolt against the Normans in southern Italy in 1058 prompted Robert
Guiscard to seek his younger brother Roger's help. Previously he had spurned his
arrival. Roger agreed to join forces in return for territory.
In Calabria, Leon Thrymbos, the Byzantine doux of Italy and strategos of
Calabria, had the Scribones* executed (1058) at the diocesan town of Crotone
[either officials or perhaps members of a prominent local family*] (PBW,
narrative for 1058). Why he did so is not known, but this caused so much
discontent in Calabria that Thrymbos was forced to flee, and made his escape to
emperor Isaakios I. Robert Guiscard was able to exploit the situation by
capturing Reggio.

(*) In earlier centuries a scribon was a senior officer in the elite regiment of the
Excubitors; presumably this was the origin of the family name. Rodriquez says
that in the 11th C they were civil magistrates.

Catepans of Italy, according to Hofmann p.771: (a) Alexius, cognomine

Charon, 1058. He was the maternal grandfather of the emperor Alexios I;
Charon is elsewhere described as prefect or lieutenant of Italy. (b)
Trombus [i.e. Leon Thrymbos], AD 1058. (c) Marules, AD 1061.

The military successes of the Normans aginst Byzantium did not go unnoticed. In
1059, the Italian prelate Hildebrand, the chief councillor of the French-born Pope
Nicholas II [Grard de Bourgogne] sought to shield the papacy from the attacks
of the adversaries of ecclesiastical reform by entering into an alliance with the
French-speaking Normans. This was also an alliance against Byzantium and
The increasing desire of the reformist popes to free themselves from (as they
saw it) the oppression of the two empires made an alliance with the Normans the
only feasible solution, thanks above all to the diplomacy of the abbot of
Montecassino, Desiderius (who became Pope Victor III).
The Pope recognises Norman secular authority in southern Italy in return for
their recognition of his spiritual authority (Fouracre et al. 2005: 107). Just six
years after the debacle at Civitate, in a synod held at Melfi in 1059, Nicholas II


confirmed the investiture of Guiscard with the title of duke, as well with his
possessions in Apulia and Calabria (and Sicily, when this had been conquered);
Richard of Aversa was recognised as prince of Capua.
Guiscard declared himself the vassal of the Holy See, pledged himself to bring
about the observance of the decrees of the Council of Lateran with regard to the
election of popes, and received in exchange the title of Duke with the investiture
of his conquests in Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily. The Pope also decreed that future
popes would be elected by the cardinal-bishops, the aim (as with the alliance with
the Normans) being to free the papacy from the influence of the Roman nobles
and the German emperor.
This was a decisive institutional turning-point for Norman power in southern

In 1060-61 the Normans under Robert Guiscard finalise their conquest of

Byzantine lower Calabria and central Apulia (1060) and begin attacks on Zirid
(Muslim) Sicily (1061).
For the first time, at Reggio the Normans deploy siege engines (Norwich 1967:
With the fall of Reggio and Tarentum or Taranto in 1060 (or 1061), Byzantine
Italy was reduced to little more than Bari and Brindisi and the coast around
them. Crossing the strait from Reggio, the Normans take Muslim Messina and
Troina in NE Sicily (1061).

In May 1060 the Normans under Guiscard captured Taranto from the
Byzantines. Towards the end of 1060, however, the new emperor Constantine
Ducas sent new troops commanded by Miriarca, as he is called in the sources.
They retook the town.
Miriarcha is probably to be interpreted as his military rank: Merarcha. The
later Byzantine form was meriarch (sic) or senior turmarch, the commander of a
force of 800-3,000 men. Evidently the title was equivalent to deputy strategos
or second in charge of a theme: in modern terms a brigadier (Rodriquez; also
Treadgold 1995: 97, 99, citing Leo VIs Taktika).
It is not certain that he held the title of catepan: according to Hofmann, p.771,
after Argyrus, the catepans were in turn: Alexius, cognomine Charon (1058),
Trombus [Thrymbos] (1058), Marules (1061) and Sirianus (1062). Others
propose that a Scinuro (1054-60) came before Marules (Petroni 1857: 74;
Blasiis 1864). ). Scinuro, which can be sourced to the Anonymi barensis
chronicon, quite possibly is a just a translation or transcription error. Others
again say the post was vacant between the time of disappearance of Argyrus from
the record (1057) to the appointment of Marules (1061).

The clashes of 1060 are described thus in the BCN:

Mense madio comprehensa est civitas Tarenti per Ducem Robertum: et

postea ivit super Brundusium, et cepit eam. Malgerus comes ivit super


Oriam, et fugavit Graecos ab ea. Mense octobri venit Miriarcha cum

exercitu imperiali et fecit proelium magnum contra Robertum, et
Malgerum, et fugavit Northmannos, et iterum recuperavit eas cum aliis
terris et Hydrunte. (BCN 1060).
In May (1060) the town of Taranto is taken by Duke Robert and then he
goes up against Brindisi and captures it. Count Malgerus [Guiscards
brother Malger or Mauger, Count of the Capitanata] proceeds against Oria
[the inland town between Taranto and Brindisi] and drives the Greeks from
it. In October Miriarcha comes with the imperial army and fights a great
battle against Robert and Malgerus, and routs the Normans and takes them
[i.e. Taranto, Brindisi and Oria] back, along with other territory and

Such reverses were rare for Guiscard, after 1059 as before it.

Thus the merarchas Byzantines reconquered in quick succession (1060) Taranto,

Brindisi, Oria and Otranto, and proceeded through Apulia and arrived before the
walls of Melfi.
Guiscard had left for Sicily; this surprising news brought him quickly back from
Sicily. After subduing (1061) Acerenza, SE of Melfi, he forced the imperials to lift
the siege of Melfi:

Mense ianuario Rogerius comes intravit Mandurium, et Robertus Dux

comprehendit Acherontiam, et ivit contra Graecos obsidentes Melphim, et
fugavit eos (BCN).
In January [1061] count Roger reaches Manduria [east of Taranto, near
Oria], and Duke Robert takes Acerenza and proceeds against the Greeks
besieging Melfi and drives them away.

Meanwhile, in the autumn of 1060, having taken Byzantine Brindisi and Taranto,
the Normans had laid siege finally to Reggio in Calabria. After a bloody
resistance, the town capitulated (1061), and its two Byzantine officialsprobably
the strategos of Calabria and the krits or chief judgelocked themselves inside
neighbouring Scilla, a coastal town further north, with part of the Byzantine
garrison. Soon after, they were forced to embark for Constantinople when the
population concluded a deal with the Normans.
Robert Guiscard set up residence in Reggio, where he was recognised as Duke
of Calabria.

The Byzantines had already become demoralized and adopted a much more passive
attitude, possibly reflecting the limited military resources they had. For that reason, the
successive catepans in Bari, Marules in 1061 and Sirianos in 1062, were forced to stay
mostly on the defensive (thus Rodriguez). Cf 1063.

Catepans of Italy: (a) Sirianus, 1062; then (b) Apochara, 1064. The latters


name is given as Apochara in the Anon. Bar; Crawford uses Abul Kare. At a
guess, it may be a rendering of the Arabic name Abu-l-Khair or Abul-Khayr
[abu, father of]. Cf Yousef abu Yasu: Joseph, father of Jesus.

The Contest for Apulia, 1062-71

As recorded in Annales Lupi Protospatharii, the Annals of Lupus the

Protospatharius, Robertus intravit Dux in Civitatem Oriae, et iterum
apprehendit Brundusium, et ipsum Miriarcham. Duke Robert enters (1062) the
town of Oria [east of Taranto]. And again, he takes [recaptures] Brindisi and
Miriarcha himself, i.e. the Meriarch, probably the military rank borne by the
catepan or acting catepan of Byzantine Italy. PBW, citing Lupus
protospatharius 59.32-33.

Robertus Dux cepit iterum Brundusium et fugavit Graecos, et

comprehendit Miriarcham in proelio, et postea ivit super Oriam, et iterum
cepit eam, et fecit castrum in Mejana (BCN).
Duke Robert again takes Brindisi and, having routed/put the Greeks to
flight, he seizes [the] Meriarch in battle, and then proceeds against Oria,
and again takes it; and he builds a fortress/castle at Meiana, which is to
say: modern Mesagne between Oria and Brindisi.

Gisulf II, the Lombard-Italian duke of Salerno, travels to Constantinople to

appeal for help against the Normans; but he received no positive response from
emperor Constantine Doukas (Angold 1984: 32).

Guiscard in collaboration with Roger now prepared (1063) an offensive on the

Muslims of Palermo, the capital of Islamic Sicily. While this was happening, the
Norman barons in Apulia methodically dedicated themselves to reconquering the
Apulian towns taken by the Byzantines during their counter-offensive. A certain
Godofredo (Geoffrey) took Taranto and nearby Mttola in 1063, and soon Matera
and Otranto fell also (1064):

Mense aprili mortuus est Gauffredus comes, et Goffridus filius eius cepit
Tarentum, deinde ivit super castrum Motulae, et comprehendit eam, et
castellum eius (BCN under 1063).
In April count Geoffrey dies and Geoffrey his son takes Taranto, then he
proceeds against the fortress of Mottola, and seizes it and its citadel.

After three years, in 1063, the Norman count, a different Geoffrey, son of Petron
I, re-entered Taranto, but he will be obliged to flee from it on the arrival - in
1066: see later - of the Byzantine admiral Michael Maurikias (Wikipedia, 2009,
under Taranto).

Catepans of Italy, according to Hofmanns list: (a) Apochara, AD 1064; (b)

Curiacus [Kyriakos] AD 1066.


Meanwhile Matera was captured (1064) by a Robert, almost certainly Robert of

the neighbouring fortress of Montescaglioso rather than Robert Guiscard:

Robertus comes cepit Materam in mense aprili; et mense iunio Goffridus

comes comprehendit Castanetum. Et mense septembri mortuus est
Malgerus comes, et deinde mortuus est in Tarento Guilielmus comes eius
Count Robert captures Matera in April; and in June count Geoffrey takes
Castenaetum [todays Castellaneta, west of Mottola]. And in September
count Malger is killed, and then in Taranto count William is killed.

The new catepan or doux of Italy in 1064 was Apochara, Abulchare(s), Abulcar
or Abdul Kare, as his name is variously rendered. It is presumed he was of Arab
descent. Sailing from Dyrrhachium in todays Albania, the new catepan
disembarked in Bari and was able to send some reinforcements to the towns that
still resisted the Normans. Byzantium still controlled part of the coast, from the
peninsula of Gargano to the neighbourhood of Brindisi, although the catepan
could not prevent the people of Bari arriving at a truce with Guiscard due to the
shortage of supplies.
Skylitzes Continuatus has Apochara organising the defences of Horai [Monte
Maggiore], Bari, Brindisi, Taranto, Apulian Gallipoli and Otranto.

Guiscards nephew Geoffrey (Goffredo) of Conversano [the town south-east of

Bari] was one of the main leaders of a revolt that broke out in the 1064 while
Guiscard was in Sicily; William of Apulia (s.156) lists Geoffrey as one of those
comites a plebe vocati (called counts by the common people). In that year he
joined with his brother Robert of Montescaglioso [near Matera], Amicus of
Giovinazzo [up the coast from Bari] and Geoffreys cousin Abelard in a conspiracy
against Abelards powerful uncle.
Abelard joined Geoffrey I of Conversano; Joscelin, Lord of Molfetta; and
Robert, Count of Montescaglioso (near Matera), in a revolt against Abelards
usurper uncle Guiscard. The rebels received financial and military aid from
Perenos, the Byzantine duke [doux] of Durres. Perenos, nominated as doux of
Italy, stayed in Dyrrhachion [Durres in modern Albania] because of the difficulty
of landing in Italy. A number of Norman dissidents crossed (1064) the Adriatic to
do him homage, the most prominent being Joscelin of Molfetta, who burned a
ship coming from Calabria (PBW). This seems to have led the rebel Normans to
negotiate with the catepan Abulcare: Et Apochara venit Catap. Et capta est
Idrontum a Gosfreida [of Conversano] suo comite (Anon. Bar. 1064): And
Abulchare arrived as catepan; and Otranto is captured by his partner (ally: suo
comite) Geoffey of Conversano. Or suo comite may be translated as by its
Robert put the revolt down, but Herman, Abelards brother, was given as a
hostage to the new catepan of Italy, Apochara, to ensure Abelard's continued
The revolt stalemated for a number of years with neither side gaining the


The Byzantine commander of Otranto in 1064 was Malapetzes. He commanded a

garrison consisting of Russian and Varangian mercenaries so-called (full-time
professional troops) and successfully defended the town from Norman attack. He
neglected to demolish an ancient, splendid house belonging to his niece which
abutted the interior of the town wall. The commander of the the attacking
Normans, probably Count Geoffrey of Taranto [the town he had captured in
1063], learned about the house and its unmarried occupant. Secretly sending rich
gifts to the woman, he promised to marry her if she would help him gain access to
the town. She agreed to help and lowered ropes from the roof of her house over
the town wall. Thus, the Normans were able to enter Otranto and capture the
town. Malapetzes was able to escape by fleeing in a ship, but left his wife and
children behind. There is no record of their fate (PBW citing the chronicle of
Anonymus Barensis, 152).

Abulcares or Abdul Kare (also called Miriarca: meriarch) campaigned with a

Byzantine army in Apulia in 1066. This is probably a reference to Apochara who
was catepan of Italy 1064-66; evidently he also held the army rank of meriarch or
deputy strategos. That is to say, he had earlier had charge of part of a Theme.
One might guess he had been Perenos deputy in Dyrrhachium.
There is also reference to a Cyriacus or Curiacus as catepan in 1066-67.

Catepans of Italy: (a) Curiacus [Kyriakos] A. C. 1066. (b) Mabrix, qui et

Mabriaca [sic: Mavrikias, Maurice] A. C. 1066. (c) Stephanus Patrianus A.
C. 1071, the last to hold the position.
Von Falkenhausen has suggested that nobody held the position of catepan
in 1067-69 because during that time the adminstriation of Byzantine Italy
was joined to the catepanate of Dyrrhachium (present-day Albania).

A mostly Varangian force came (late 1066) to Bari from Dyrrhachium under a
new catepan Michael Mauricas or Mabrikias: It. Mabrica, Lat. Mabrix, Gk
Mavrikias, English: Maurice. (In medieval Greek the letter b was pronounced as
v.) They retook Brindisi and Taranto and established a garrison at the former
under Nikephoros Karantenos, an experienced Byzantine soldier from the wars
with the Bulgarians. Mavrikias also recovered Castellaneta in modern-day
Basilicata, NW of Taranto:

Mabrica cum exercitu magno Graecorum fugavit Northmannos et iterum

intravit Brundusium, et Tarentum (BCN).
Maurice [the new catepan] with a great army of Greeks drove back the
Normans and came again into Brindisi and Taranto.

The catepan Maurice (Mabrica) enjoyed a series of successes against the

Normans in Italy, but this was the last significant threat the Greeks imposed in
that quarter. Thereafter the Byzantine forces in Italy adopted a wholly defensive
posture (Wikipedia 2009 under Norman Conquest of Southern Italy).


Geoffrey of Taranto wanted to proceed to "Romania" with a large army in 1066.

The PBW editors say that unless an Italian referent is found for "Romania", this
would refer to an early, failed Norman attack across the Adriatic. Possibly it did
mean our Greece or Albania but more probably it was simply a reference to the
empires Italian lands. In any event Geoffrey was stopped by Michael Maurikas
(Mabrica"), a commander of the Greeks. Maurikas came with some Varangians
(a detachment) to Bari:

Anno 1066. Goffredus Comes filius Petronii voluit ire in Romaniam cum
multa gente sed obstitit illi quidam ductor Graecorum nomine Mabrica
Count Geoffrey son of Petronius decides to go into the empire/Byzantine
territory (into Romania) leading many men, but he is withstood (opposed)
by a certain leader of the Greeks named Mabrikias/Maurice.

At Brindisi a Norman counter-attack was defeated when the Byzantine deputy

commander, Nikephoros Karantenos, pretended to surrender. He then attacked
the Normans as they were climbing ladders to cross the town wall. Nikephoros
decapitated 100 corpses and sent the heads to the Emperor. Thus Lowe, in
Varangian battle honours; others date this event to 1070.

In 1068 Robert Guiscard crushes the last of the Norman rebels in Apulia. He then
lays siege to Byzantine-held Bari. Otranto surrenders to him.
Guiscard besieged Montepeloso, but was making little headway. Thus he took
some of his forces and went off and took Uggiano [SE of Otranto]. Returning to
Montepeloso, he and Godfrey won the rebel-held town with the help of treachery
from a certain Geoffrey. At this point he began the siege of Byzantine Bari by land
and sea:

Goffridus comes obsedit Montem Pillosum [inland Montepeloso], et

comprehendit eum in mense iunio. Mense octobri captum est iterum
Hydrontum [Otranto], et fugati sunt Graeci ab ea (BCN).
Count Geoffrey besieges Montepeloso and takes it in June. In October
[1068] Otranto is again captured and the Greeks are routed (put to flight) by

The Normans begin (1068) a siege of Bari, the isolated capital of what remained
of Byzantine South Italy. The Pisans, who had ealier heleped the Noramsn aginst
the Muslism in Sicily, agsin assisted the Norman side with ships and
crossbowmen (J France 1994: 62). The siege lasted from 5 August 1068, through
three winters, to 16 April 1071.

Guiscard reunited all to his vassals for a supreme effort. As narrated in the


Strategikon of Cecaumenos, a garrison of Russians and Varangians under the

command of one of the Malapetzes or Malapezzi could not prevent the fall of
Otranto (1068) [some date this to 1064]; and finally Guiscard established the
siege of Bari in August 1068.
According to the Norman chronicler William of Apulia, there was no city in
Apulia which exceeded the opulence of Bari. He [Guiscard] besieged it, wealthy
and strongly-defended, that by overcoming the rulers of so great a city he might
therefore terrify and subject the lesser towns [read: villages], for of all the cities
along the Apulian coast, Bari was the greatest. A Byzantine relief force will enter
the town in 1069, and a Norman diversionary attack on Brindisi is defeated.
Meanwhile we find Varangians among the Byzantine defenders at Otranto,
which fell (1068) to the besieging Normans by a trick. As we related earlier,
Malapetzes, the Byzantine defender of Otranto with Russian and Varangian
troops, had a niece whose fine old house abutted on to the walls of the town. He
did not realise it was a security hazard. The Norman count attacking Otranto
(Geoffrey of Taranto?), following several failed attempts at capture, got in touch
with Malapetzes' niece, sent her gifts, and promised to marry her if she allowed
troops into the town through her house. She succumbed to flattery or desire, and
let them into the town with ropes during the night. Malapetzes left Otranto,
abandoning his wife and children to the Normans (PBW under Malapetzes).

Conscious of the gravity of the situation, the besieged population of Bari again
requested aid from Constantinople (1068).
The emperor himself was occupied at this time in the preparations for a new
campaign in the East against the Turks, but the government in the form of the
Empress could not ignore the request for aid from the major surviving bastion in
Italy. She hastily ordered prepared a fleet with arms and provisions under the
control of the newly designated catepan Stephen Pateranos (Lat. Patrianus). The
Normans managed to sink or capture 12 supply transports off Monopoli, the port-
town SE of Bari, but the rest of the ships made it through. The fleet arrived at
Bari in January 1069. But the Normans continued the siege into 1070 (Norwich
1967: 170).

The years 1069-71 saw the final phase of Byzantine resistance. As noted, a relief
fleet from the East arrived at Bari in the first months of 1069. Subsequently an
imperial army was defeated in the hinterland by the Normans still commanded
by Robert Guiscard, and this caused the fall also of Gravina and Obbiano:

Factum est proelium in campo Litii, et fugati sunt Graeci; et Robertus

Dux cepit Gavinum, Obbianum, et Barim (BCN).
War is made (1069) on the plain of Lecce [Litius] and the Greeks are put
to flight; and Duke Robert takes G[r]avino, Obbiano and Bari [sic: Bari
actually held out from 1068 to 1071].

Robert did not return immediately to Bari, but in January 1070 he headed to
Brindisi in order to help the Normans already there to besiege it. Brindisi was the
only major town other than Bari still in Byzantine hands, and it capitulated in


1071, followed by Bari itself.

Robertus Dux descendit super Brundusium, et Goffridus Comes venit cum

exercitu magno et forti in navibus, et facta est inter eos, et Mabrica
crudelis dimicatio, et occisio hominum in obsitione eius (BCN).
- Duke Robert descends (1070) on Brindisi and Count Geoffrey comes with
a large army and strong in ships, and (an agreement) having been made
between them, Mabrica [?the catepan Maurice*] is bloodthirstily engaged,
with a slaughtering of men in his ?ambush? [obsitione: covered, planted,
(*) But Maurice had been replaced in 1069.

When the Normans put Brindisi under siege in 1070, Nikephoros Karantenos
feigned surrender and then attacked the Normans as they were scaling the walls
on ladders. He beheaded 100 corpses and crossed the sea to Albania with the
heads, thence shipping them off to Constantinople to impress the emperor.
Alternatively Karantenos pretended to treat secretly with Guiscard for the
betrayal of the town, and at the appointed hour and place the Normans were
admitted, one by one, by a ladder. As each one then passed through a door, he
was silently killed by the Greeks, and so 100 perished before those behind knew
what was happening (Crawford, Rulers p.221).
This year in the month of January there was a great slaughter in the town of
Brindisi; for while the Normans wanted to capture it, 40 of them were captured,
along with 43 others, their sergeants (ministris, attendants); and the heads of all
these men were carried off to the [Byzantine] Emperor. Lupus.

In 1070 Pisa and the Normans defeated, or at least they mauled, a second major
Imperial fleet sent to aid Bari:

On his [the emperors] order, pirate ships were suitably prepared to

transport grain, and arms [also] by which the fleet could be protected
during the voyage to the town. (Hence the sailors would be freed from fear
and the town from want.) The emperor ordered that Joscelin [a Norman
opposed to Guiscard] be put in command of this fleet. He had fled from
Italy in fear of the duke, who hated him because he had conspired against
him. Joscelin came in haste with his warships to encourage the tremulous
citizens. He was already close to the town, hoping to enter it in safety during
the night, when suddenly Robert's fleet encountered the Greek fleet which
had come to strengthen his enemies. The duke's ships willingly entered on a
night action, thinking that this was more favourable to them than to the
enemy since they knew these waters while their opponents did not. After a
great deal of effort Joscelin's ship was defeated and captured, and he
himself brought prisoner before the duke. Another Greek ship was sunk, the
rest just managed to escape (William of Apulia).

Final End of Byzantine Rule in Southern Italy


The Greek/East Romanic presence in Italy ended with the fall of Bari on 15 April
Norman ships were lined up across the mouth of the harbour and linked
togehther and with the mainland by a bridge or bridges so as to prevent aid
reaching the town from the sea and also to enable land-troops to assert pressure
from another quarter. A third naval relief expedition having failed, the anti-
Norman faction inside Bari lost power and the town surrendered to Guiscard.
Roberts 1997.
The town had held out for two years and eight months and had received two
relief fleets (the second in 1070), but in the end its people saw Robert Guiscard's
army swell with the arrival of Roger and his army from Sicily. They had also
witnessed the catastrophic routing (1071) of a third Byzantine relief fleet by
Roger's navy. Of the 20 Byzantine ships involved, nine were sunk and not one
was able to penetrate into the harbour of Bari. Thus the inhabitants, now with no
hope of relief and with mass starvation in the town, opened the town gates on 15
April and let Guiscard into the town (Norwich 1967: 171-73).

During the siege by the Normans there was civil strife in Bari. Bisantius
Guirdeliku or Gunderlich (?) was murdered by the leading Greek-Bariot
Argyritzos, son of Ioannakes, on July 18; then the houses of the Malapezza family
were burned and destroyed (PBW, citing William of Apulia; Lupus dates this to

Anno 1071. Robertus Dux intravit Brundusiopolim dimissa ante Barum

obsidione, nam ipse Dux fecit fieri pontem in mari [a bridge in the sea]
quantus concluderet portum praedictum Urbis Bari. Hoc etiam anno dolo
cuiusdam Argirichi filii Ioannazzi occisus est Bysantius cognomento
Guinderlichus in Baro et 15. die Aprilis cepit Robertus Dux Civitatem
Bari. Lupus.
Duke Robert enters the polis of Brindisi, abandoning the blockade of
Bari, for [now] the same duke causes a bridge in the sea to be built, whose
size was such that it closed off the port of Bari. Byzantius surnamed
Gunderlich is killed in Bari by the sons of Little-John (Ioanazzus) Argyrus
[Argyritzos], and on 15 April duke Robert takes the town of Bari.

Robert Guiscard, the Norman ruler, conquered Lombardic Salerno, south of

Naples, Italy's last Lombard enclave in 1077, making it the capital of his
dominions; the foundation of the famous Scuola Medica Salernitana (school of
medicine) enhanced its importance.
All of south Italy was now in Norman hands except for Naples.


Part II


1. A General Dressed for the Field

Raffaele DAmato (2005) has studied in detail the illustrations in the manuscript
known as the Skylitzs Matritensis or Madrid Skylitzes in order to analyse the
clothing, equipment and weapons of the army of generalissimo George Maniakes
in the period 1038-43. DAmato interprets the miniatures in the light of narrative
records from the era.

To start at the top: Maniakes is shown wearing on his head a kamelaukion or

military cap of red felt that is lightly puffed up on the back. It fits closely on the
head like a helmet. This kind of headgear, known since Antiquity, was worn as a
padded protection under ones helmet, in conjunction with the turban. For a
description of the Byzantine helmet, see below under Infantry Officer.
Maniakes armour was the klibanion, a metal lamellar sleeveless waist-length
corselet. In lamellar armour the platelets overlap upward, helpful for deflecting
infantry sword-slashes. Armour made of downwards-overlapping platelets, often
worn by infantry, is called scale. In this period the platelets were rivetted to a
leather backing or shirt.
DAmato takes literally the look of the Skylitzes illustrations and proposes that
the metal platelets or lamellae of the corselet were large, like broad bird feathers!
This seems most unlikely, judging by how lamellar armour is depicted in other
artworks from the period 950-1150, namely as small and rectangular platelets.
The miniatures show, attached to the lower borders of the corselet, small strips
or straps called kremasmata: hanging pieces or armour-border tongues, called
kymation in Antiquity. DAmato thinks they were made of coarse silk and cotton
in the 11th century.
At the waist, but under the klibanion, Maniakes wears a metal-strengthened
leather belt from which hang long pteryges or straps of hardened leather, or
perhaps they are a further set of kremasmata, padded strips made of felt. This is
the material specified in Phokass 10th century manual Praecepta Militaria. The
short kremasmata attached to the corselet look merely decorative, whereas the
long leather straps or pteryges attached to the belt extend to the upper thighs and
would have offered some protection against a sword-slash.
On his upper arms our general wears metallic bracelets or upper-arm-guards,
probably the manikia mentioned in the sources: similar to but bigger than those
worn by emperor Basil II (d. 1025) in the famous miniature of Marcianus Gr.17.
The arm-guards cover the whole of Maniakes upper arms, i.e. they reach up to
the shoulder and the edge of the body armour; but the top half of the arm-guard
is not seen because the short sleeve of his cloth tunic or under-shirt extends out
from under the body armour. Close inspection of the miniatures shows that the
bracelet in each case was constructed from lamellae, i.e. about 20 metal platelets
placed in two rows and tied with leather thongs.
His legs are unarmoured; there is no real protection at all from thigh to toe


except for that provided by a shield. His soft leather boots reach almost to his
knees, but unless padded they would not have afforded much protection.
Cavalrymen of course used their shields to guard their bent legs. Unless one was
very tall, a shield of 100-110 cm [up to 3 ft 7 in] would cover almost the whole
height of a horseman riding crouched with short stirrups, certainly from ankle to
In his last battle in the Balkans (1043), where he took part in the hand-to-hand
fighting, Maniakes is shown carrying a so-called three cornered or kite-shaped
shield. More exactly, its shape is that of an inverted teardrop. Such shields were
about 70 cm [2 ft 4 in] wide at the widest point and about 105.3 cm [sic: 3.5
feet] high. In the Sylloge Tacticorum, s. 39.1, this type is called the cavalry
shield, 93.6-117 cm [median 105 cm: 3 ft 5 in] high in that source; also in the
Praecepta Militaria, IV, 36-37.
There were two straps rivetted to the back of the shield, near its top, with which
to hold it. One strap went inside the forearm elbow bend and the other was
gripped with the hand (DAmato p.67).
The general is shown wearing his sword strapped on a second outer belt rather
than a baldric. But most troops did use the baldric: Greek vltidion, Latin
baltidium. Dawson 2007: 19 and DAmato give the length of the spathion
(Roman long sword) as about 85 cm; McGeer offers 90 cm.
Finally DAmato supplies Maniakes with a battle-flail, i.e. a short war-whip
apparently about 60 cm [2 ft] long whose several leather thongs carry heavy
metal weights at their tip. This may have been the weapon used to humiliate
Arduin (in 1040).

Triangular Shields and Long Maces

The illustrations in Skylitzes depicting the Sicilian campaign of 1038-40 show the
Byzantine troops carrying triangular, tear-drop or kite-shaped shields, while
the Muslims have smaller round shields. In the illustration of the battle near
Troina, the Byzantines long maces are much in evidence.
In the 9th C, the bardoukion was a fighting mace, which could be also thrown.
The same can be said for the matzoukion, another type of mace. Bardoukia and
matzoukia were thrown against the enemy by both infantrymen and cavalrymen,
at certain distances. Emperor Leo, ca AD 907, mentions the cavalry mace, saying
that it should have a spiked head. The head featured spiked projections designed
to inflict serious wounds. DAmato, citing Kolias, says that the shaft, normally of
wood, had a length between 60 and 80 cm [up to 30 inches] (DAmato, The


Left: Byzantines. Right: Bulgarians (Skylitzes).

An Infantry Officer

The Varangians joined the Romanic (Greek) army in the late 900s. We
summarise here DAmatos analysis of the dress and equipment of a Varangian
officer in 1038.

DAmato imagines that Varangian officers would have worn much the same
equipment as non-Varangian infantry officers, e.g. the waist-length corselet of
downward overlapping scales or or upward overlapping lamellar. He notes that in
some sources it is said that Harald Sigurdsson, the Varangian commander under
Maniakes, wore long East-Roman armour called emma. This armour, which
protected him down to the calves, should be read as a mail coat, even though
made in Byzantium.
The officers helmet in DAmatos illustration is conical and made of segments
rivetted together with reinforcing bossed plates: the so-called segmented
spangenhelm type. DAmato calls it the directly rivetted frameless
sprangenhelm. (The one-piece plain flat-conical cap-style helmet was more
common in Byzantine armies.) Nape protection was given by a cuir-bouilli
(boiled or hardened leather) aventail whose strips or strap-tops were sewn to the
inner lining of the helmet.
The cuirass, worn over the mail tunic in the case of officers, was a waist-length
scale klibanion of Greek-Hellenistic style, i.e. with a slightly muscled-body-
shaped base. DAmato thinks the shape was supplied by the shaped leather
backing or interior side of the corselet; the platelets were rivetted on. He depicts
scale armour with 10 rows of quadrangular iron lamellae.
The officer wears leather pteruges as additional protection for his upper arms.
His sword or spathion of about 86 cm, nearly three feet, is worn in what
emperor Leo VI called the Roman fashion, i.e. hung by a baldric (Gk vltidion,
Lat. baltidium) - transverse from the right shoulder -with the top of the sword


riding loose on the left hip.

Varangians used the circular, slightly convex Scandinavian-style shield,
measuring about 80-100 cm [around 3 ft] in diameter and supported with
shoulder straps.
Rather than boots, which Byzantines preferred, DAmato gives our Varangian
officer low shoes and puttees in the form of wickelbander or wool bands, wrapped
in herringbone pattern around the lower legs.

Lombard Infantryman
A Pelthastis of the Thema of Longobardia or Laghouvardha

In this case DAmato uses for his analysis a miniature called The Temporal
Authorities of Exultet 2, today preserved in Pisa Cathedral, but produced in
Southern Italy, probably at Capua, in 1059.
On his head our infantryman wears a metal, single-piece kassidion or very high
conical-pointed helm over a mail coif. The latter is in effect a hood.
DAmato gives him body armour in the form of a waist-length sleeveless scale
corselet with 16 rows of non-overlapping square platelets, rivetted to a leather
backing. Or perhaps it should be called lamellar. The corselet is worn over a
knee-length, long-sleeved tunic that was probably padded for comfort and
protection. That is, the corselet stops at the waist; the tunic continues nearly to
the knees.
He carries only a long spear of about 8 ft or 2.5 metres and no sword because
that is what the source illustration shows; but almost universally (except for
temporary conscripts) infantry also carried swords.
The shield was medium-small, about 60 cm [about 2 ft] in diameter, with a
circular, very convex shape and without a central boss.
There is no additional leg protection; high soft leather boots reaching nearly to
the knees provide the footwear.

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