Roger I of Sicily at the battle of
Cerami (1061), in which he was victorious against 35,000
(1031 – June 22
), called Bosso
the Great Count
, was the Norman Count of
from 1071 to 1101. He was the last great leader of the
Norman conquest of
Conquest of Calabria and Sicily
Roger was the youngest son of Tancred of Hauteville
by his second
wife Fredisenda. He arrived in Southern
soon after 1055. Geoffrey
, who compares Robert
and his brother to "Joseph
of old," says of Roger: "He was a youth of
the greatest beauty, of lofty stature, of graceful shape, most
eloquent in speech and cool in counsel. He was far-seeing in
arranging all his actions, pleasant and merry all with men; strong
and brave, and furious in battle." Roger shared the conquest of
with Robert, and in a treaty of
1062 the brothers in dividing the conquest apparently made a kind
of "condominium" by which either was to have half of every castle
and town in Calabria.
resolved to employ Roger's genius in reducing Sicily, which contained, besides the Muslims, numerous Greek Christians subject to Arab
princes who had become all but independent of the sultan of
Tunis. In May 1061 the brothers crossed from
Reggio and captured Messina.
Palermo had been taken in January 1072, Robert Guiscard, as
suzerain, invested Roger as Count of Sicily, but he retained
Palermo, half of Messina, and the north-east portion (the Val
Not till 1085, however, was Roger able to undertake
a systematic conquest.
1086 Syracuse surrendered,
and when in February 1091 Noto yielded, the
conquest was complete.
Much of Robert's success had been due
to Roger's support. Similarly, when the leadership of the
Hautevilles passed to Roger, he supported his nephew Duke Roger
, Capua, and other rebels. In
return for his aid against Bohemund and the rebels, the duke
surrendered his share in the castles of Calabria to his uncle in
1085, and in 1091 his inheritance in Palermo. Roger's rule in
Sicily was more absolute than Robert Guiscard's in Italy. At the
enfeoffments of 1072 and 1092 no great undivided fiefs were
created, so the mixed Norman, French and Italian vassals all owed
their benefices to the count. No feudal revolt of importance
therefore troubled Roger.
Rule of Sicily
Roger, in order to avoid an attack from North Africa, set sail with
a fleet to conquer Malta.
ship reached the island before the rest. On landing, the few
defenders the Normans encountered retreated and the following day
Roger marched to Mdina.
Terms were discussed with the Maltese qadi
. It was agreed that the islands would become
of the count himself and that
should continue to administer the islands. With
the treaty many Greek and other Christian prisoners were released,
who chanted to Roger the Kyrie
). He left the islands with
many who wished to join him and so many were on his ship that it
nearly sunk, according to Geoffrey Malaterra. Roger repatriated
Malta to Christian Europe.
Politically supreme, the count also became master of the insular
church. The Papacy, favouring a prince who had recovered Sicily
from Greeks and Muslims, in 1098 granted Roger and his heirs the
of the island.
created new Latin bishoprics at Syracuse, Girgenti and
elsewhere, nominating the bishops personally, while he turned the
archbishopric of Palermo into a Catholic
Roger practised general toleration towards Arabs and
Greeks, allowing to each race the expansion of its own
civilization. In the cities, the Muslims, who had generally secured
such rights in their terms of surrender, retained their mosques,
their kadis, and freedom of trade; in the country, however, they
became serfs. Roger drew the mass of his infantry from the Muslims.
, visiting him at
the siege of Capua
, 1098, found "the
brown tents of the Arabs innumerable". Nevertheless, the Latin
element began to prevail, as Lombards and other Italians flocked to
the island in the wake of the conquest, and the conquest of Sicily
proved decisive in the steady decline of Muslim power in the
western Mediterranean from this time.
Roger died on June 22 1101
, in his seventieth year and was buried in S.
Roger's eldest son was a bastard
, who predeceased him.
His second son, Geoffrey
may have been a bastard, but may also have been a son of his first
or second wife. Whatever the case, he was a leper with no chance of
Roger's first marriage took place in 1061, to Judith, daughter of
William, Count of
and Hawisa of Échauffour. She died in 1076, leaving all
daughter, married Hugh of Gircea (died
1075/6), the first count of Paternò
- Matilda (1062 – before 1094) married firstly (repudiated before
1080) as his second wife, Robert,
Count of Eu married secondly (1080, divorced 1088) as his
second wife, Raymond IV of
- Adelisa (died 1096), married in 1083 to Henry, Count of Monte
- Emma (died 1120), briefly engaged to Philip I of France; married firstly
William VI of Auvergne and
secondly Rudolf, Count
In 1077, Roger married a second time, to Eremburga of Mortain,
daughter of "William, Count of Mortain" (probably William Warlenc
).Their children were:
- Mauger, Count of
- Matilda, married Guigues III, Count of Albon
- Muriel (died 1119), married Josbert de
- Constancia, married Conrad of Italy
- Felicia, married King Coloman of Hungary
- Violante, married Robert of Burgundy, son of Robert I of Burgundy
- Flandina, married Henry del
- Judith (died 1136), married Robert I of Bassunvilla
Roger's third and last wife was Adelaide del Vasto
, niece of Boniface
, Lord of Savona. They married in
1087. Their children were:
- The exact date of his birth is unknown. According to
Hubert Houben, he was probably
born later, around 1040 ( Roger II of Sicily…)
- Norwich, John Julius.
The Normans in the South 1016-1130. London: Longmans,
- Aubé, Pierre. Roger II de
Sicile. Un Normand en Méditerranée. Payot, 2001.
- Houben, Hubert
(translated by Graham A. Loud and Diane Milburn). Roger II of
Sicily: Ruler between East and West. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2002.