Magazine article History Today

The Battle of Civitate: June 18th, 1053. (Months Past)

Magazine article History Today

The Battle of Civitate: June 18th, 1053. (Months Past)

Article excerpt

FIVE NORMAN BROTHERS, sons of Tancred of Hauteville, carved out a principality in the Byzantine Empire's territory in Southern Italy in the eleventh century. Normans first arrived there as mercenaries, found rich pickings and started to take the country for themselves. In 1042 they chose the oldest of the Hauteville brothers, William 'Iron Arm', as their Count of Apulia with his base at Melfi, on the lower slopes of the Apennines. He was succeeded in turn by two younger brothers, Drogo and Humphrey. Around 1047 a more fearsome figure still arrived on the scene, their half-brother Robert. Then in his early thirties, he was to earn himself the nickname Guiscard, meaning 'the crafty' or 'the resourceful' and his tombstone would call him 'the terror of the world'. For the moment he lived by pillage and protection racketeering in Calabria.

Pope Leo IX, a vigorous reformer from Alsace and a close ally of the Emperor Henry III, set out against the Normans with an army in 1053, but was routed at Civitate by 3,000 Norman horsemen, led by Count Humphrey with brother Robert commanding the left wing. According to one story, they took unfair advantage by attacking when a parley was in progress. …

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