Roger I of Sicily

From Academic Kids

Roger I (1031-1101), ruler of Sicily, was the youngest son of Tancred of Hauteville. He arrived in Southern Italy soon after 1055.

Malaterra, who compares Robert Guiscard and his brother to "Joseph and Benjamin 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." He shared with Robert Guiscard the conquest of Calabria, 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.

Robert now resolved to employ Roger's genius in reducing Sicily, which contained, besides the Moslems, 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. After Palermo had been taken in January 1072 Robert Guiscard, as suzerain, invested Roger as count of Sicily, but retained Palermo, half of Messina and the north-east portion (the Val Demone). Not till 1085, however, was Roger able to undertake a systematic crusade.

In March 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 the latter supported Duke Roger, his nephew, against Bohemund, Capua and his rebels, and the real leadership of the Hautevilles passed to the Sicilian count. In return for his aid against Bohemund and his rebels the duke surrendered to his uncle in 1085 his share in the castles of Calabria, and in 1091 the half of Palermo. Roger's rule in Sicily was more real than Robert Guiscard's in Italy. At the enfeoffments of 1072 and 1092 no great undivided fiefs were created, and the mixed Norman, French and Italian vassals owed their benefices to the count. No feudal revolt of importance therefore troubled Roger. Politically supreme, the count became master of the insular Church. While he gave full toleration to the Greek Churches, he created new Latin bishoprics at Syracuse and Girgenti and elsewhere, nominating the bishops personally, while he turned the archbishopric of Palermo into a Catholic see.

The Papacy, favouring a prince who had recovered Sicily from Greeks and Moslems, granted to him and his heirs in 1098 the Apostolic Legateship in the island. Roger practised general toleration to Arabs and Greeks, allowing to each race the expansion of its own civilization. In the cities the Moslems, who had generally secured such terms of surrender, retained their mosques, their kadis, and freedom of trade; in the country, however, they became serfs. He drew from the Moslems the mass of his infantry, and Saint Anselm visiting him at the siege of Capua, 1098, found "the brown tents of the Arabs innumerable." Nevertheless the Latin element began to prevail with the Lombards and other Italians who flocked into the island in the wake of the conquest, and the conquest of Sicily was decisive in the steady decline from this time of Mahommedan power in the western Mediterranean.

Roger, the "Great Count of Sicily," died on June 22 1101 in his seventieth year and was buried in S. Trinità of Mileto.

He married 3 times. The first marriage took place in 1061, to Judith, daughter of William, count of vreux (in Normandy) and Hawisa of chauffour. She died in 1076, leaving daughters:

  1. A daughter, married Hugues of Gircea
  2. Matilda, married Raymond IV of Toulouse
  3. Adelisa, married Henry, Count of Monte San Angelo
  4. Emma, briefly engaged to King Philip I of France; married Ralph Maccabees, count of Montecaglioso

In 1077 Roger married a second time, to Eremburge of Mortain, daughter of William, count of Mortain (also in Normandy). Their daughters were:

  1. Mathilda, married Robert, Count of Eu
  2. Felicia, married King Coloman of Hungary

His last wife was Adelaide del Vasto, niece of Boniface, lord of Savona. They married in 1087. Their children were:

  1. Simon
  2. Roger
  3. Maximilla, married Conrad, son of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV
  4. Matilda, married Ranulf, count of Alife
  • From perpective of history of Malta, Roger I was also the first Christian overlord of this archipelago. He conquered the Arabs in 1090 and immediately introduced tri-partite feudal system of State, Church and Nobility. There probably was more to it - even until today, folklore tells how Roger - needing the help of the Maltese - tore his quartered red-and-white banner, thus creating the Maltese flag. Historians state that this is impossible to be true.


Preceded by:
Count of Sicily Succeeded by:
Roger II
de:Roger I. (Sizilien)

ja:ルッジェーロ1世 mt:Ruġġieru I ta' Sqallija


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