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The Normans in Italy 1016-1194 –

The Normans in Italy 1016-1194

Sunday , 12, February 2023 Leave a comment

The Normans in Italy 1016-1194 by Raffaele D’Amato and Andrea Salimbeti from 2020 is a fairly recent addition from Osprey Publishing. This is the latest addition to volumes on the Normans. Terence Wise wrote Saxon, Viking, and Norman (Men-at-Arms # 85, 1979) and David Nicolle wrote The Normans (Elite #5, 1987).

The Normans in Italy is 48 pages with six plates of illustrations by Florent Vincent. Raffaele D’Amato has written many Osprey booklets, most on the Roman Army. I have his booklet on the Carthaginians.

Historian John Julius Norwich has called the Norman kindom in southern Italy, “the other Norman Conquest.” Many don’t know that Norman freebooters and adventurers had filtered into southern Italy at the beginning of the 11th Century. They first hired out as mercenaries but went independent and created a series of counties. Eventually, Robert “Guiscard” d’ Hautville conquered all of southern Italy by 1071. His brother Roger crossed into Sicily and conquered that island from the Moslems with a small number of Norman knights and Lombard men at arms.

D’Amato and Salimbeti have a short history of the Normans in Italy, especially their rise. They devote space to their weapons and tactics. What is clear is the Normans were organizers. They were the supreme warriors of the 11th Century. Duke William the Bastard used Flemish and Bretons in his army for the conquest of England. Earl Richard “Strongbow” de Clare used Welsh archers in his invasion of Ireland. The Normans in Italy used Lombards, Greeks, and Arabs in their armies. The Normans were multi-cultural. Guiscard’s army in his invasion of the Balkans in 1081 would have been exotic with Normans, Italians, and Arab archers. Robert Guiscard had a group of southern Slav or Bulgarian infantrymen who had been in the Byzantine Army.

The Norman counties would coalesce under Roger II as one state, the Kingdom of Sicily, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Kingdom of Naples or simply the Regno which would last for 800 years until Garibaldi’s Red Shirts put an end to it in the 1860s. The nobility of southern Italy and especially Sicily are descendants of the Normans. The only other state to rival the Norman kingdom was the Papal State which evolved out of the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna. The Lombard Kingdom in northern Italy was never resurrected after the Frankish conquest.

Someone once said to me that Scandinavia is the “womb of nations.” Normandy is the “womb of nations.” The Danish-Gallic hybrid proved to be vigorous. In addition to England, Wales, Scotland, Italy, Sicily, the Crusader Principality of Antioch was Norman. The Normans fought in Spain, they briefly conquered a strip of North Africa from Tunis to Tripoli in the 12th Century. Roussel de Bailleul, a Norman mercenary had carved out a territory in Asia Minor around Angora in the wake of the wreckage of the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 A.D. The Byzantine Emperor Michael VII used the Seljuk Turks to capture Roussel. The Byzantines viewed the Normans as a bigger threat than the Turks. Anna Comnena interestingly calls the Normans “Keltoi” in The Alexiad.

So, if you are thinking of a medieval game campaign or a military history buff, The Normans in Italy is a nice addition.

Angus McBride illo from The Normans

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