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7-08-2015, 23:44

The byzantine hold on calabria and apulia

After 915 the main problem for the Byzantine government was disaffection among their provinces’ inhabitants, combined with the ambitions of the princes of Capua to extend their rule towards the Adriatic coast. The strat¯egos of Calabria, John Muzalon, was assassinated in an uprising near Reggio in 921, and soon afterwards the strat¯egos of Langobardia, Ursoleon, was killed at Ascoli fighting against the forces of Capua-Benevento, which went on to occupy much of northern Apulia, apparently with the support of the local inhabitants. The fiscal pressure of Byzantine rule was undoubtedly one cause of disaffection, and this was, as the Calabrian revolt shows, by no means confined to the Latin areas under Byzantine dominion.5 But the desire of the princes of Capua to recover those parts of Apulia which had been under the rule of their predecessors at Benevento until the midninth century, and to secure control of coastal towns like Siponto and Bari which benefited from trade in the Adriatic, should not be underestimated. That this was a very real ambition is clear from the attempt of Landulf I (910–43) after his victory at Ascoli to persuade the Byzantine government to appoint him as strat¯egos of Langobardia.6 Although details are obscure, it seems that the Byzantine position in Apulia was restored for a time after 921, but a second Beneventan invasion in 926, this time with the support of the prince of Salerno – who were apparently not involved in 921 – proved more serious. For some seven years substantial parts of Apulia were in the hands of the princes of Capua-Benevento, and parts of Lucania and northern Calabria were under the rule of the prince of Salerno. The status quo was only restored when the Byzantine government secured an alliance with Hugh of Arles, king of Italy (926–47); combined with substantial military reinforcement from Constantinople, this achieved the withdrawal of the Lombard princes.7 For more than thirty years from c. 934 onwards, the frontier between the principality of Benevento and the Byzantine province of Langobardia remained relatively secure, if not entirely uncontested, especially in the late 940s. Despite problems on the province’s northern border, Byzantine rule in Calabria was largely unaffected by the tense relations with the Lombard principalities. Indeed for some considerable period Calabria was also free from Arab raids. Tribute money paid to Sicily from Calabria apparently ceased after 934, and in the latter part of this decade the island’s Muslims were in the grip of civil war. It was only after internal peace was restored in Sicily in 947 that Calabria was once again threatened. Reggio fell in 950 and a further attack took place in 952, but once again the payment of protection money secured a period of truce. The Byzantines were therefore able to maintain, albeit with some difficulty, their dominions in Italy more or less as they had been secured by the reconquests of the 880s (see above, p. 298). What they were not able to do, more than very sporadically, was to enforce any recognition of their rule in the petty duchies of the west coast, still less so in the Lombard principalities. Only in Naples did documents continue to be dated by the regnal years of the Byzantine emperors, and such links were of far more cultural than political significance. Indeed in 956, when the government in Constantinople was able to release sufficient troops for a major expedition to Italy, the first target of that offensive was apparently Naples; however, their aim may quite possibly have been to secureNeapolitan naval assistance against renewed Arab attacks on Calabria. Furthermore, it would seem that during this period there was once again disaffection in those areas under direct Byzantine rule.8 Byzantium was a ‘superpower’, unlike the independent south Italian states. But for its government southern Italy was of far less moment than either the frontier in Asia Minor or the defence of its European provinces against the Bulgarians. For the most part the defence of its Italian dominions was left to local efforts, and only very occasionally could imperial troops or ships be spared in any numbers. Even in 956 the policy was essentially defensive: to secure a commitment by the Lombard princes not to attack Byzantine territory, to enforce effective government in that territory, and to prevent further raids on Calabria. The one exception to this limited policy came with the launching of a large-scale expedition to Sicily by Nikephoros II Phokas (963–9) in 964, but the disastrous defeat which resulted cannot have encouraged further such ambitious enterprises, and renewed military operations in other theatres anyway prevented a fresh attempt. Moreover, in 966 the balance of power in southern Italy was to be, for a time, seriously affected by a new player on the stage, the German ruler Otto I (962–73), who in reviving Charlemagne’s western Roman empire also revived Carolingian imperial claims to overlordship over southern Italy. The means whereby Otto sought to vindicate his claims were both direct military action and an alliance with the strongest of the local rulers in the south, the prince of Capua and Benevento, Pandulf I Ironhead (961–81). What this meant in practice was that the Capuan pressure on the Byzantine frontier in northern Apulia of the 920s and 930s was once again revived, but with the formidable military assistance of the German emperor. The alliance with Pandulf Ironhead served a further purpose for the German emperor. By conceding the margravate of Camerino and the duchy of Spoleto to the prince of Capua,Otto secured a vital ally and recognition of his overlordship in the south; he also created a viceregal power in central Italy through which he could the more effectively control the Roman nobility, understandably restive at the prospect of a series of Ottonian clients being placed on the papal throne. The alliance enabled Pandulf to revive his ancestors’ ambitions to encroach on Byzantine territory in Apulia, while also protecting his dominions from incursions from the north, such as had apparently occurred in the early 960s.9 Otto himself paid a brief visit to Benevento in February 967, and in the spring of 968 a full-scale attack was made on Byzantine Apulia which reached as far as Bari before the allies withdrew. A further attack occurred in the winter of that year which took the German imperial army as far south as the Calabrian border. But in the end very little was accomplished. After Otto I had returned to northern Italy, Pandulf was captured while besieging Bovino on the Apulian frontier and sent as a prisoner to Constantinople. It was in good measure due to his intercession, after a further year’s inconclusive warfare, that a peace between the two empires was eventually patched up, sealed by the marriage of the young Otto II (973–83) to a Byzantine princess, Theophano (see above, p. 548). The overwhelming impression given by this period of conflict, as indeed by the sporadic border warfare of the earlier part of the century, is of its essential sterility. Each side was capable of deep penetrations into the other’s territory – Byzantine troops briefly got as far as Capua in the summer of 969 – but neither was strong enough to make any permanent impression. While the Byzantines held on to key border fortresses like Ascoli and Bovino the province of Langobardia was essentially safe. Furthermore the enhancement of the prince of Capua’s authority was hardly in the interests of the other local rulers; while they had no wish to be Byzantine clients, they were equally unwilling to be clients of Capua and the German emperor. The duke of Naples supported the Byzantine invasion of Capuan territory in 969. Although the prince of Salerno did not, and in fact sent a relieving force to Capua, he seems to have otherwise tried to keep on good terms with the Greeks. Significantly the late tenth-century Chronicon Salernitanum took a favourable view of Nikephoros II Phokas, very different from the infamous portrayal of the emperor by Otto’s envoy to his court, Liudprand of Cremona.10 And around 966 the duke of Amalfi was once again, after a long interval, using a Byzantine title, a sign of renewed contact with the government at Constantinople.11

 

 

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