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Norman Naval Operations in the Mediterranean

Norman Naval Operations in the Mediterranean

Charles D. Stanton
Volume: 33
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Norman Naval Operations in the Mediterranean
    Book Description:

    The rise of Norman naval power in the central Mediterranean in the eleventh and twelfth centuries prompted a seminal shift in the balance of power on the sea. Drawing from Latin, Greek, Jewish and Arabic sources, this book details how the House of Hauteville, particularly under Robert Guiscard and his brother Roger, used sea power to accomplish what the Papacy, the German Empire and the Eastern Empire could not: the conquest of southern Italy and Sicily from Islam. The subsequent establishment of an aggressive naval presence on Sicily, first by Roger de Hauteville and then by his son Roger II, effectively wrested control of the central Mediterranean from Byzantine and Muslim maritime hegemony, opening the sea to east-west shipping. The author goes on to describe how this development, in turn, emboldened the West Italian maritime republics, principally Genoa and Pisa, to expand eastward in conjunction with the Crusades. It was, quite literally, a sea change, ushering in a new period of western maritime ascendancy which has persisted into the modern era. Charles D. Stanton gained his PhD from the University of Cambridge.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-933-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xi)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Control of the Mediterranean had been the key to wealth and power in the Western world of antiquity. It was the core of the Roman Empire, which made it into the ‘mare nostrum’ (‘our sea’). Upon the fall of Rome, the Eastern Empire under Byzantium inherited sway over the sea and struggled for centuries to maintain it against barbarian incursions and the onslaught of Islam. In Mohammed and Charlemagne, the Belgian historian Henri Pirenne identified a dramatic shift in the balance of power in the Mediterranean in the last half of the first millennium. He called it ‘the end of...

  8. 1 The Conquest (827 to 1101)
    (pp. 9-66)

    Before the arrival of the Normans, the central Mediterranean belonged to the Muslims of North Africa. The Aghlabid conquest of Sicily and the subsequent establishment of pirate bases on the south Italian peninsula in the ninth century gave the Muslims control of both the north and south shores of the central Mediterranean as well as the islands in-between. This enabled them to effectively regulate maritime traffic through the Sicilian Channel and the Strait of Messina and harry Christian commerce at will. For all intents and purposes, such a stranglehold essentially bisected the ‘middle sea’ and denied east–west movement to...

  9. 2 The Apogee (1101 to 1154)
    (pp. 67-127)

    Norman expansion under the Hautevilles was far from over. As David Abulafia aptly observes, ‘Those that conquered Sicily and southern Italy so easily and so rapidly, came to think that they had breached the gates of the whole Mediterranean, and that a limitless empire lay prone before them.’¹ While credit for the conquest of Sicily must go chiefly to Roger de Hauteville, the ‘Great Count’, it was his son, Roger II, who subsequently elevated his father’s county to the kingdom that would become the envy of the western world. Both Byzantine and German emperors sought incessantly to seize it. The...

  10. 3 The Eclipse (1154 to 1194)
    (pp. 128-173)

    It had taken the Hautevilles nearly a century to establish the maritime empire that Roger II bequeathed to his successors. It took those successors only a few decades to fritter it away. By 1194, the Hauteville dynasty was at an end, replaced by the German House of Hohenstaufen. There are, of course, myriad reasons why this occurred, but the most salient single answer is: Roger’s heirs deviated from the core naval strategy that he had so painstakingly developed, a strategy that focused on dominance of the central Mediterranean. Gradually, the last Hautevilles lost their grip on the north and south...

  11. 4 The Impact
    (pp. 174-222)

    The establishment of Norman naval supremacy in the central Mediterranean during the twelfth century was far-reaching and momentous. The impact went well beyond the Normans in particular and southern Italy in general. It was at the very nexus of change on the ‘middle sea’, a change that would affect the course of events not only in Europe, but also in the Middle East and North Africa for generations. It would not be an overstatement to characterize it as a multifaceted, pivot point in history with wide-ranging military, political and economic effects on a large number of peoples in vastly varied...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 223-224)

    On the eve of the Norman conquest of southern Italy and Sicily, the central Mediterranean resided in the sphere of Islam. Aggressive elements of its faithful dominated the north and south shores and the islands in-between at the very middle of the sea. Muslim pirates plagued both the Strait of Messina and the Sicilian Channel. Constantinople, remnant of the Eastern Roman Empire, fought fitfully to hold on to what little it still possessed on the lower Italian Peninsula. Meanwhile, the papacy was powerless to assert itself over the region, and the so-called Holy Roman Empire under the German kings only...

  13. Appendix A: The Fleet (ships, sailors, shipyards, and strategies)
    (pp. 225-272)
  14. Appendix B: The Sources
    (pp. 273-286)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-306)
  16. Index
    (pp. 307-324)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 325-327)