Roger II and the creation of the Kingdom of Sicily

Author: Graham A. Loud

The Norman kingdom of Sicily is one of the most fascinating and unusual areas of interest within the discipline of medieval history. The unification of the island of Sicily with the southern Italian mainland in the years after 1127 altered the balance of power in the Mediterranean and had a major impact on the power politics of Europe in the central Middle Ages. Count Roger II of Sicily was crowned as the first king of the new kingdom of Sicily in Palermo cathedral on Christmas Day 1130. Two principal narrative texts, the 'History of King Roger' of Abbot Alexander of Telese and the Chronicle of Falco of Benevento, reveal diametrically opposing views of King Roger and his state-building. Alexander of Telese suggested that Roger deliberately cultivated an image of restraint and remoteness that he might be feared by evildoers, and the chronicle attributed to Archbishop Romuald of Salerno said that he was more feared than loved by his subjects. If the German sources show the expedition of 1137 from the viewpoint of the invaders, the Montecassino chronicle depicts it from that of the recipients, trying to safeguard their own interests in the face of conflicting pressures on them. The 'Catalogue of the Barons' is a source of great importance for the study of the kingdom of Sicily in the mid-twelfth century, both for the military system and for the structure of landholding in the mainland provinces, but it is a problematic text.

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