Bohemond, the giant from Apulia, leads the armies of Christ eastward. But is it for God or his own glory for which he fights?
“[The story of the Norman Hugues Bunel and how he joined the First Crusade]: At that time, Hugues Bunel, son of Robert of la Roche Mabille, a most experienced soldier, came to the duke of Normandy and faithfully offered him his service as his natural lord; being well received by the duke he gave great assistance to the men besieging Jerusalem both by his counsel and in battle. Long before in Normandy this man had hacked off the head of the Countess Mabel, because she had taken away his paternal inheritance by force. Because of the terrible crime he had committed, the knight Hugues fled with his brothers Rodolphe, Richard and Joscelin to Apulia and from there to Sicily; subsequently he withdrew to the Emperor Alexius in Greece, but he was never able to remain safely for long in any one place. For Guillaume the Bastard, King of England, and all Mabel’s children sent out emissaries all over the world to seek him out, and promised rewards and gifts to any spies who could kill the exiled assassin in whatever land they might find him. So the brave Hugues, fearing the king’s strong hand and long arm, left the Latin world and, distrusting the Christian peoples, lived among the Saracens. For twenty years he studied their customs and language. Therefore, when he was received by the duke of Normandy [Robert Curthose] he was able to do his countrymen great service, by explaining to them the habits of the pagans and their deceitful stratagems and the tricks they practiced against the faithful.”
-Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History
“And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son's venison, that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau. And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed. And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing. And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son? And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept. And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck. And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.”
-Genesis Chapter 27, Verses 30-41, King James Version [Quotes read by Josh Zucker of Grand Dukes of the West]
Four years of fighting in the Balkans. Two victorious battles against the emperor himself. Numerous important cities conquered. Then the eastern emperor had played upon the mercurial Normans’ greatest weakness: their love of easy wealth and self-serving culture. In Italy and the Balkans, Norman lords and knights deserted their superiors. While the Normans remained undefeatable on the field, the Byzantines were masters of court intrigue. After a four-year long campaign Bohemond had nothing. His father had hoped to conquer and bestow upon him the Byzantine Empire, or at least a sizeable part of it. Instead, the Greek world remained intact, and Southern Italy went to his younger half-brother, Roger Borsa.
Bohemond chafed at the thought of bowing to the new Duke who he believed had robbed him of his inheritance. Shortly after Roger ascended to power in September 1085, Bohemond led a revolt. Roger Borsa was not in a secure position. The Normans were still warlords and mercenaries, who were only then settling into their roles as established rulers. Bohemond served as a rallying point for all those dissatisfied with their overlord. Moreover, Bohemond was a renowned general and drew support from aspiring knights. Roger Borsa recognized that he had to make some concessions and ceded Oria, Taranto, Otranto and Gallipoli.
Despite rapidly seizing four important cities, Bohemond was not content being the third most powerful lord in the region, behind his half-brother, the Duke of Southern Italy Roger Borsa and his uncle, the Count of Sicily, Roger Bosso. In autumn 1087 Bohemond struck an alliance with Giordano, the Italo-Norman Prince of Capua, and launched another revolt. Bohemond’s forces won a battle against Roger Borsa’s and the Duke was forced to make further concessions, this time giving Bohemond the great city of Bari.
Bohemond occupied a strange position in southern Italy. He was the Duke’s rival and had bested him multiple times. Yet, he was also his vassal and the lands he possessed were legally only his through the Duke’s granting of a fief. Thus he depended on the very person he aimed to supplant. This became even more problematic in 1089 when Roger Borsa submitted to Pope Urban II as his special vassal. Now to oppose the Norman Duke was to oppose God’s vicar on Earth and risk excommunication.
In 1093 rumors spread that Roger Borsa had died. Bohemond wasted no time and immediately moved to seize his half-brother’s territory, under the pretense that it belonged to him. In hardly any time at all, Bohemond’s uncle sailed with an army from Sicily and threatened to fight Bohemond unless he gave back his lord’s lands. At this point many great Norman lords recognized that Bohemond was the great threat to the established order and rallied against him. If anything, they preferred the relatively weak Roger Borsa to someone who might actually threaten their autonomy.
Following this debacle, Bohemond realized there was nothing more he could gain by remaining in Italy. His half-brother, uncle and the Pope would not tolerate any more of his trouble-making. Furthermore, Roger Borsa married Adèle of Flanders who quickly bore him two sons who would be next in line for succession, removing any possibility he might benefit from an untimely death in the family. The disgruntled giant spent the next four years supporting his overlord. He regularly travelled throughout southern Italy putting down revolts, often accompanied by his younger half-brother and uncle.
Just as the great Norman general resigned himself to his position in Italy, world-changing trends crystallized into one great movement: the First Crusade. To understand how this all took place we have to go back a bit. On 12 March 1088 a gathering of cardinals elevated Odo, the grand prior of Cluny Abbey, to the papacy. Taking the name Urban II, the new pope struggled for power against the Holy Roman Emperor’s appointed pope Clement III. Most lords and bishops refused to recognize Clement III as pope, including many Germans who viewed the Emperor’s interference in church matters as heretical. But Clement III held power in Rome, and so Urban II spent much of his papacy in exile, traveling through northern Italy and France. In March 1095 Urban II was in Piacenza when a Byzantine delegation arrived begging for help. The messengers told His Holiness that the Seljuk Turks had conquered the near-entirety of Anatolia. Emperor Alexios I’s emissaries pleaded for military support to save the empire and its Christian population from Islamic dominance.
The Byzantines’ immediate territorial threats served as the political backdrop to the First Crusade. The religious origins stemmed from conflicts between Christians and Muslims in France, Sicily and Spain in the 10th-11th centuries. Famously, an Iberian Muslim force seized Provence, until they captured the Abbot of Cluny, at which point French Christians united to expel the foreign presence in the 10th century. Then in the latter half of the 11th century the Normans conquered Sicily, reconverting the mosques back into churches and subjecting the majority Muslim population to Christian rule. As a former leader of Cluny Abbey and a political figure in southern Italy, Urban II was well-acquainted with tales of Christian reconquest of Islamic territory and the stories of the Reconquest of Provence and of the Sicilian campaign must have convinced Urban II that God would guide a holy war. If these events were not enough, the Pope had to have known about the Spanish Reconquista movement, in which northern Christian lords in the Iberian peninsula expanded southward. Indeed, Urban II was probably well-informed of the Reconquista’s progress because many Normans went to fight in Spain and through their connections across the Mediterranean word arrived of their deeds in Italy. Urban II saw these events unfold and believed that righteous warriors fighting under a holy banner could defeat their religious rivals and overturn centuries of Islamic expansion.
On 27 November 1085 Urban II was attending a great council in Clermont when he delivered a speech, bemoaning the fate of Christendom. He blasted the regular violence between Christians and a lack of justice in their lands. He continued that despite all the wickedness within their kingdoms, the east had fallen into even deeper sin. The land where Christianity began, where Christ himself had performed his miracles and died for the world’s salvation, had been conquered by pagans. Urban II called upon the faithful to take up arms and march eastwards to save their fellows from unholy dominance and liberate the Promised Land. All those who fought and died in this great war would immediately go to heaven.
Urban II travelled across his homeland spreading his message of holy war. Even he was amazed by the outpouring of support as he drew many tens of thousands pledging to fight, led by great and lesser lords to fight for God and glory. He was less successful elsewhere as the Holy Roman Empire was then embroiled in a near-civil war. It was for this reason that the overwhelming majority of western Crusaders were French, with support from their Flemish allies and Norman mercenaries scattered throughout the Mediterranean. Since the First Crusade was a largely French affair, with French leaders and soldiers and decreed by a French pope based on French tradition, I am going to have an episode covering this remarkable war. However, this episode is about Norman conquests in the Mediterranean and Bohemond specifically, so I’m going to gloss over many details regarding the Crusade and focus on our main character’s quest for power.
In early 1097 the giant was laying siege to Amalfi alongside Roger Borsa when bands of Crusaders passed through southern Italy on their way to Constantinople. Bohemond had probably been aware that there was some armed something-or-other happening but seemed to be unaware of the specifics. After speaking with the travelling knights he learned that this was a serious expedition the kind of which Europe had never witnessed before. The Crusader Army would be perhaps the largest force assembled since the glory days of the old Roman Empire. Furthermore, its leaders were among the most powerful in France, among them Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy, Robert II, Count of Flanders, Hugues Count of Vermandois, Étienne, Count of Blois, Godfroi, Duke of Lower Lorraine and Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse. Bohemond listened intently to the passing soldiers and became convinced that by joining the holy war he could immortalize his name and conquer his own country in the rich east, one far greater than his holdings in Italy. He was so enthusiastic about the endeavor that he led his men to abandon the siege and sail to Constantinople, a sudden desertion which forced Roger Borsa to give up Amalfi entirely.
Bohemond gathered an army of 500 cavalry and around 3,000 infantry. This force linked up with his nephew Tancred’s army of 2,000 infantry and sailed to the Greek mainland. From there they marched to Constantinople. Twelve years after trying to conquer the empire, Bohemond’s armies reached the capital. While his men waited beyond the Theodosian walls, Bohemond, Tancred and the lords entered the Second Rome. It must have been quite a sight. One can only wonder what Alexios I thought upon seeing the giant at his court. Bohemond had after all, beaten him twice in battle; three if we count Dyrrachium with his father. But then, Alexios I beat him at Larissa, which turned out to be the one battle that mattered, and perhaps that gave him some solace.
If Alexios I was bothered by the presence of his former enemies he tried not to show it. Alexios I had called upon the Western lords to save his empire, and they had heeded his message. By their tens of thousands they had come. They had come to save their fellow Christians from the oppression of a foreign religion, to free the Holy Land from its captivity, to bla bla bla…Alexios I had not asked them to invade a foreign country; he had not expressed any interest in taking Jerusalem or the Holy Land, which had been in Muslim hands for four centuries. His aim was to rebuff the recent Seljuk presence in Anatolia and reestablish Greek control of the region. Yet, if these French-speaking lords wanted to go on a holy war, Alexios I was more than willing to support them if it meant the earthly salvation of his empire. To that end Alexios I met with each of the great lords separately. There he presented them with a contract: the lords were to swear fealty to the Emperor. They would receive titles and wealth from the emperor while returning the rightful territory to the Byzantines. In exchange the Greeks would supply the Crusader armies with the food, water and other resources they needed to wage a war. Following the war, the victorious lords would be incorporated into the Byzantine hierarchy and given positions of honor. Each of the great lords in their turn signed the contract, save only for the ageing Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse. In place of allegiance he swore friendship to Alexios I and promised to fight Bohemond should he resort to his usual Norman treachery.
Bohemond gladly swore allegiance to Alexios I, thinking that this was his chance to win his favor. The giant believed that the Byzantine cause offered the greatest gains. After all, when Bohemond arrived he possessed the smallest army; with his nephew it numbered around 5,000 while the entire host numbered around 70,000-80,000. The French lords with their larger armies would no doubt gobble up the eastern territories once they won the war, leaving little for him. Bohemond courted the Emperor hoping to get in his good graces and be named Domestic of the East, ruling over all of Anatolia. Little did he know that Alexios I would never let that happen. The Byzantines had suffered three separate Norman rebellions in Anatolia, under Hervé ‘Frankopoulos,’ Robert Crépin and Roussel de Bailleul. The Greeks were well and done with Normans in positions of power, especially with Bohemond who had recently tried to conquer the empire.
Bohemond tried everything to appeal to Alexios I. While many French soldiers ravaged Greece on their way to Constantinople, Bohemond retained strict prohibitions against looting. At one point a Byzantine force mistook the Normans for invaders and attacked them, only for Bohemond to let them go unharmed. Despite this and the oath, the Emperor refused to give special honors to his old foe. This snub made Bohemond realize that Alexios I distrusted him deeply and would never consider him an ally.
Bohemond did not know what to do next. He was brilliant in battle, but largely inept at politicking. However, in a holy war, the two melded together. While Bohemond commanded one of the smallest armies, he was the only one with experience fighting in the east. He offered the Crusaders his expertise and the Franco-Flemish lords chose him to coordinate their armies together into a cohesive force. He wasn’t quite the ‘leader’ of the Crusade, as each lord proudly held on to their own authority, but his was the most important voice at war councils.
After all this courtly intrigue was settled it was time for the holy war. The Crusaders left Constantinople and travelled to the first major city en route to the Holy Land: Nicaea. They besieged the city, which held out for a while, until it became apparent that the Turkish garrison could not hold out against such an unprecedented force. Recognizing defeat but fearing a massacre, the Turkish guards agreed to surrender to the Byzantines rather than the Crusaders who they feared would slaughter them. The Byzantine seizure of the city angered many of the Western lords, with Tancred especially upset at Alexios I’s underhanded tactics.
After squabbling over how to conduct the war the lords agreed to separate their armies so they could move more easily and maintain better supply lines. The first to depart east towards Dorylaeum were Bohemond, Tancred and Robert Curthose, the Duke of Normandy and son of Guillaume. While they marched east, the Sultan Kilij Arslan assembled an army of 6,000-8,000 horse archers. The cunning Sultan, known as ‘The Sword-Lion,’ had scouts inform him of the Crusaders movements all along the route. When the first army under Bohemond passed over a river and onto an open plain the trap was sprung. The Turks surrounded the Crusaders. Bohemond and Robert tried a desperate cavalry charge but they were outnumbered and forced to flee back to where the infantry set up camp. There the Christians held a tight formation as they sought to weather the storm of arrows, javelins and darts until reinforcements could arrive. In the meantime, the Turkish horse archers encircled them, firing death at every turn. The French and Normans could only hold their shields high and hope these and their armor, would be enough. Some panicked or sought fame by charging out to meet the Turks; these were easily dispatched. The attack went on for hours as the Turks looked to break their enemies. With their arrows running out, Kilij Arslan ordered his cavalry to attack the Crusaders on all sides. Despite being completely surrounded, the Crusaders held. The seasoned, heavy infantry and cavalry sustained the assaults by the Turkish light cavalry, with the help of hastily-dug trenches. Then salvation arrived as reinforcements came from the west. At the same time, yet another Crusader army had outflanked the Turks, sacked their camp then raced to join their brethren, forcing the Turks to retreat. Bohemond and his men had incredibly survived a surprise attack and total envelopment by a sizeable army.
The Crusaders then moved south into what is now modern-day Lebanon. As they traveled the army arrived at the metropolis of Antioch. Antioch was a historic city. It was the former capital of the Seleucid Persian Empire before the Romans made it the capital of the province of Syria. The city was an enormous fortress, guarded by walls 20 meters high and 2 meters thick around its entire perimeter and crowned with 400 towers. The Crusaders knew that they needed to take Antioch to secure the route from Anatolia into the Holy Land and began a siege on 20 October 1097.
The siege was a brutal undertaking. The thousands of guards along its walls fired upon the Crusaders whenever they approached, and sent out their horse-archers when they felt particularly daring. While the main host kept up the siege Bohemond was sent to raid local lands for food but nearby Islamic forces limited his ability to gather resources. Starvation and disease spread through the Christian armies. In early 1098 the Christians learned that a relieving army was marching from the east. Caught between Antioch and another major Turkish force, the lords decided to charge Bohemond with holding back the incoming army from Aleppo while they held the camps. The giant took all the remaining horses, those the camp had not slaughtered for food, and assembled a force of 700 knights. These marched east and waited for their enemy’s arrival. When the Muslim vanguard crossed over a bridge and had marched a fair distance westward Bohemond ordered a sudden charge which caught the superior force off guard. The Normans fought ferociously, and did deadly work upon the forward contingents. The leaders of the main host recognized that they heavily outnumbered the Normans and raced to join the battle. Once the full army crossed the bridge, Bohemond himself led a second charge with a reserve force. The giant and his knights smashed into the Islamic army, yet again scattering their lines and sowing chaos. By the time the Muslim army’s leaders ordered a retreat many of their own lay dead on the field. The bewildered army decided that Antioch was not worth the risk and marched home.
The siege of Antioch dragged on for months, until Bohemond came into contact with an Armenian bureaucrat named Firouz who agreed to betray the guard in exchange for safety and payment. In the early morning of 3 June 1098, Firouz lowered a rope which hundreds of Bohemond’s soldiers climbed up. From there they opened the gates, allowing the Christian armies inside, where they led a mass slaughter. Even as the Crusaders took the city, an army from Mosul even larger than the entire Crusader force arrived. Suddenly it was the crusaders who were holding the city. For weeks the Christian soldiers desperately defended against sudden raids, amidst the rubble of burned buildings, with corpses strewn on every street. Hunger again gripped the armies. Starving and with no other option, Bohemond led the Crusaders to risk everything. Those strong enough to fight exited the city and formed onto the battle-plain. With the Islamic forces divided along the walls, the Christians fought one force after the other, ultimately defeating an army which, had it assembled all together, would have possibly outnumbered them two-to-one.
Victory at Antioch meant the road to Jerusalem was wide open. Thus, the other Crusaders were shocked when Bohemond declared he would not join them. The giant from Italy announced that he would remain in Antioch, which was his by rights, and rule as its prince. The Western lords were infuriated, but Bohemond would not budge. He had gone east for power, not God. When they reminded him that he had sworn an oath to Alexios I to restore the Byzantines’ lands he responded that the Greeks had betrayed their oath, making his null and void. A day before the Crusaders had taken the city the Byzantine force had left for a port on the western coast. Bohemond claimed that this was a betrayal by the Eastern Roman Empire, as they abandoned the siege; never mind that the Byzantines constantly sent in supplies from the sea, without which the Crusaders would have starved to death. There was no arguing with Bohemond, and so the Crusaders left to retake the Holy of Holies while he remained in the half-burned, corpse-strewn city as its prince.
On 15 July 1099 the Crusaders took Jerusalem. That Christmas Bohemond made the trip to the city where Christ was crucified. While there he helped elected Dagobert, the former Archbishop of Pisa, to the position of Patriarch of Jerusalem. The Patriarch acknowledged Bohemond as Prince of Antioch, meaning that for the first time the giant ruled territory by his own authority, and not as anyone else’s vassal. Aside from securing his rights, Bohemond strengthened his alliances with the emergent Crusader states. Following the successful First Crusade four new polities emerged: the County of Edessa in far-eastern Anatolia and northern Syria, the Principality of Antioch in what is today the northern half of Lebanon and western Syria. To the south of Antioch was the county of Tripoli, roughly corresponding to the southern half of modern-day Lebanon. The southernmost state became the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Of the four Crusader states, three were ruled by lords from France. While Bohemond was born in Italy and a Norman, he grew up speaking French and had ties to his father’s home-country. He hoped that these Latin Christian, French-speaking lords would fight alongside each other against threats from the Greek-speaking, Eastern Orthodox Byzantines and Islamic forces.
In 1100 Bohemond found another potential ally in the Christian kingdom of Armenia which sent messengers asking him for aid in conquering Islamic territory. Bohemond leapt at the opportunity to expand his holdings, though he could only spare 300 knights while the rest fortified his captured cities. Bohemond rode out with this small force, only to be captured by a Turkish force. Word spread that the giant had been captured and the Byzantine Emperor offered an enormous ransom of 260,000 dinars so that he could finally deal with the troublesome Norman. But Alexios I was not the only one who held a grudge against Bohemond. Kilij Arslan remembered his defeat at the Battle of Dorylaeum and wanted Bohemond’s head; perhaps figuratively, perhaps not. He could not match the amount offered by the Greeks, though he did offer half as much as they did with the threat that if his fellow Turks did not turn the giant over he would attack them. Ultimately, this Turkic group went with neither and accepted ransom from the Latin Christians. Bohemond swore an oath of friendship to his former captors and returned to Antioch. When he arrived, Bohemond learned that his nephew had been busy seizing Byzantine territory and incorporating it into the principality.
Bohemond’s fortunes soured in 1104 when he tried to attack the Islamic city of Harran. There a Seljuk Turkish force lured his knights onto an open plain where their horse archers enacted deadly work. With Antioch under duress, Alexios I saw a chance to retake the territory he had lost and finally do away with his old enemy. Byzantine forces invaded and captured important cities along the northwest coast. The giant was caught between two great forces and without the means to protect his lands. He knew he could not raise the army he needed in the Levant. As a mercenary who had witnessed tens of thousands of Frenchmen answer the call to war, Bohemond set out on a tour of Europe to raise another army.
Accompanied by the ousted Patriarch Dagobert, Bohemond sailed out of Saint Simeon in August and arrived in Bari in January 1105, where I’m sure his half-brother Roger Borsa was thrilled to see him. But the giant was not in Italy to stir up trouble, at least not for the Duke. While in Bari he met with exiled Greeks who had been forced to flee the Byzantine Empire under Alexios I’s reign. He assembled these disaffected Easterners and led them on a procession to Rome. There, this retinue appealed to Pope Pascal II for a blessing to invade the Eastern Roman Empire. Under normal circumstances, the pope would have been hesitant to support an attack on his fellow Christians. This is why Bohemond and the Greeks claimed that they had to overthrow the Emperor because he had usurped the throne, and they presented to his Holiness a pretender who claimed to be a son of Romanos IV Diogenes. This, combined with the Pope’s opposition to Eastern Orthodoxy, led the pope to officially sanction the venture. Bohemond now had all the justification he needed to invade Byzantium, now all he needed was an army. For that he travelled to his father’s homeland.
Bohemond thrived in France. This era was the beginning of the chanson de geste, of epic songs and poems telling of great Christian warriors who slew monsters and hundreds of infidels with their bare hands. As he moved from court to court, Bohemond appeared as the living embodiment of these popular stories. He shared treasures from the east, alongside recaptured relics. He regaled audiences with stories of colossal battles where he triumphed over overwhelming numbers of foes. He told the French lords how God guided him time and again to save Christian souls. This Norman prince from the east so charmed the western court that King Philippe gave his daughter Constance to him in marriage. Bohemond did not waste a single moment and even used his wedding as a platform for recruitment, delivering a speech promising land and castles to anyone who joined him in invading the Eastern Roman Empire. By the end of his tour de France Bohemond had an army that could rival any lord in the country. In fact, his forces were so large that the King of England Henri I, son of Guillaume le Conquérant, barred him from visiting the island to raise more soldiers, fearing Bohemond would invade. In early 1107 Constance gave birth to a son, Bohemond II. While the noblewoman recovered, her husband invaded the Byzantine Empire for a second time.
The invasion began much like the first: the Western army landed at Dyrrachium and besieged the city. As before, the Venetian navy arrived and attacked the invading fleet, while Alexios I marched out with his army. However, this time, Alexios I would not take to the field. He understood that the Franco-Normans were peerless in pitched combat. Instead, he let starvation and disease do their work while the city was resupplied by sea and his army by land routes. Simultaneously, the Emperor offered his enemies payment and employment if they joined the Byzantine Empire to fight against, who else, but the Turks. The Norman soldiers weighed their options. The decision was an easy one and many of the Franco-Normans defected, including Bohemond’s half-brother Guy. The giant recognized he had been bested and signed a humiliating treaty with the Emperor. He agreed to be his vassal and rule his territory on the Emperor’s behalf. This disastrous invasion was the last time that the Normans ever threatened the Eastern Roman Empire.
Bohemond still had one final trick up his sleeve. Rather than heading east to Antioch he returned to Apulia. He had signed a personal contract with the Emperor to hold his lands in vassalage; so he chose not to have any lands. Tancred, now the Prince of Galilee, would rule as regent of Antioch until his son Bohemond II reached manhood and could rule in his own right. In early March 1111 the Giant of Apulia died at the age of 57 in Bari. His body was interred at a mausoleum in Canosa, which still stands to this day.
Bohemond had lived a remarkable life. He had twice invaded the Byzantine Empire and had beaten the Emperor as many times as he had been defeated. He led the First Crusade from Constantinople to Antioch, leading the capture of the city and winning the legendary Battle of Antioch. He created a whole new polity in a far-distant land. Finally, he had married the daughter of the King of France, showing just how far the Hauteville family had risen in just two generations.
Bohemond II eventually moved east with his mother, and there he became the Prince of Antioch. The Principality endured until 1268, longer than any of the Crusader states. Its defensible position, Norman military prowess and the Norman’s effective and comparatively tolerant government kept it alive even as the other Latin polities fell to Islamic powers. After the initial bloodshed of the conquest the Normans attracted many disparate peoples to Antioch, including many Monophysites who entered the territory due to its religious tolerance. As was the case in all Norman-conquered territory, the Norman element dissipated over time as the lords intermarried with other groups. Still, Bohemond and the accompanying Norman knights left a remarkable impact on the territory. The giant cast a long shadow wherever he went. But the Principality of Antioch was not the greatest of the Norman countries. It was not even the greatest of the formerly Islamic countries conquered and ruled by Normans. That was, without question, Sicily.