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7-08-2015, 23:56

Bohemond’s expedition of 1107–1108

Antioch, traditionally the main Byzantine centre of operations in the east, was vital to Alexios I Komnenos’ plans for recovering Anatolia from the Turks. The crusade leaders had given Alexios an undertaking that they would return Byzantine cities and territories. This Bohemond was refusing to do. Alexios therefore set about trying to evict him from Antioch, and his forces had some success. They occupied Cilicia but the key point was the port of Latakia. In 1103 the Byzantines secured the lower city of Latakia and were endeavouring to dislodge the Normans from the citadel. Such was the pressure that in 1104 Bohemond decided to leave his nephew Tancred in charge of Antioch, while he returned to the west for reinforcements. He won the backing of Pope Paschal II (1099–1118) and the support of the French king Philip I (1060–1108), whose daughter he married. It remains an open question whether his expedition qualified as a ‘crusade’. The final goal was Palestine, and Bohemond was accompanied by a papal legate. The pope presented him with the banner of St Peter and according to a contemporary, Bartolf of Nangis, appointed him ‘standardbearer of the army of Christ’.31 Bohemond’s propaganda stressed the treachery of Alexios towards the crusade as just cause for his invasion. Bohemond’s expedition against Byzantium displayed many features of a crusade, but full recognition would depend on its outcome, simply because crusading theory was still in its infancy. But for Anna Komnena it was a different matter. She was clear that Bohemond’s invasion not only had papal approval, but had also been accorded the status of a ‘just war’.32 It confirmed Byzantine apprehensions about the dangers that the crusade held in store. Bohemond landed on the Albanian coast in 1107 and laid siege to Dyrrachium. Alexios deployed his forces in the surrounding mountains. Bohemond soon found himself in an impossible position, isolated in front of Dyrrachium with his escape by sea cut off by the Venetians, and Paschal II withdrew his support. In 1108 Bohemond sued for peace. He recognised Alexios as his overlord, accepting that he held the principality of Antioch from Alexios.On paper Alexios had won what he most wanted: recognition of his claims to Antioch. But the treaty remained a dead letter.33 Bohemond returned to southern Italy, while his nephew Tancred continued to rule at Antioch and refused to countenance the concessions made to the Byzantine emperor. Alexios was in no position to enforce them. To meet Bohemond’s invasion he had withdrawn his forces from Cilicia and Syria. This allowed the Seljuqs to regain the initiative inwestern AsiaMinor. Alexios was unable to mount a major expedition against them until late in his reign. The aim of his expedition to Philomelion in 1116 was to evacuate from central Anatolia the Greek populations still living under Turkish rule. It was a tacit admission of defeat.