The Fall of Constantinople: Being the Story of the Fourth Crusade

By Edwin Pears | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI.
WEAKENING OF THE EMPIRE BY ATTACKS FROM THE WEST.

I. From Normans of Sicily.

AMONG the troubles of the last century and a half preceding the capture of Constantinople which came from the side of Europe, the most serious were those which were caused by the inhabitants of Italy. At the very time that our fathers were feeling the heavy hand of the Normans from France, the Byzantine Empire was being weakened by their kinsmen in Italy, and that at the moment when it had need of all its strength to resist the Asiatic hordes who were pouring into it.

The population of the Two Sicilies was during the eleventh century still mainly Greek. The language, except among the Arab-speaking Mahometans, was not Italian but Greek. Several cities in Southern Italy still admitted the rule of the New Rome. The Normans had, however, conquered and settled many portions of Southern Italy, and in 1062 had won the island of Sicily from its Saracen conquerors. Robert Wiscard, and under him his son Bohemund, led the Normans into Epirus and Thessaly, and waged war upon the Emperor Alexis with considerable success until 1085, when, with the death of Robert, the Norman projects of conquest in the Byzantine empire came, for a time, to an end. The war had been costly to the Empire. Durazzo had been captured by the Sicilian Normans after a long siege, in which the enemy had been once severely defeated by the Greek commander. After its capture, owing to the jealousy of Alexis of his own general, Robert had pushed across to Larissa, and the Empire had been hard pressed to recapture that city. Alexis had been in such straits that he had obtained 7,000 light cavalry

Progress of Normans in Sicily.

-133-

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