Battle of Olivento
|Battle of Olivento|
|Part of the Norman conquest of southern Italy|
|Commanders and leaders|
|William Iron Arm|
|several thousand troops||300 Norman knights
600 foot soldiers
|Casualties and losses|
The battle had its origin in the decision of Arduin the Lombard, a Greek-speaking Lombard who had fought for the Byzantines, to change sides and form a coalition with the Normans Rainulf Drengot and the Hauteville brothers (William Iron Arm, Drogo, Humphrey), and the Lombards Atenulf of Benevento and Argyrus of Bari. Once having defeated the imperial armies, they would take for themselves the conquered lands.
The Byzantine catepan of Italy, Michael Doukeianos, moved from Bari with the few troops he could muster, including some Varangians, troops from the Opsikion tagma and several Thracians. He was able to defeat the first rebel troops he met, and he pursued them at Ascoli Satriano. Here he was met by an army of 300 Norman Knights and 600 infantry under Rainulf Drengot, Arduin and William Iron Arm. Prior to the battle Doukeianos sent an envoy to the Lombard-Norman army to give them a choice of returning to Lombard territory or to fight the numerically superior Byzantine Army. Once the envoy was done giving the terms, Hugh Touboeuf, the Norman knight who had been holding the reigns to the envoy's mount-killed the horse by hitting it in the back of the head with his gauntlet. After the envoy was given another horse he was sent back to Doukeianos with the Normans' reply choosing battle.
The rebels had deployed the cavalry in the centre, with the infantry on the wings. The Byzantines launched several waves of attacks against the Norman cavalry. However, the Normans resisted and counter-attacked, defeating the Byzantines with a decisive cavalry charge. The Greek troops fled, and many of them drowned in the river. The catepan himself was barely able to escape alive.
The battle of Olivento was the first of the numerous successes scored by the Normans in their conquest of southern Italy. After the battle, they conquered Ascoli, Venosa, Gravina di Puglia. It was followed by other Normans victories over the Byzantines in the battles of Montemaggiore and Montepeloso.
- Brown (2003) p. 42
- De Blasiis, Giuseppe (1869/1873). L'insurrezione Pugliese e la conquista normanna nel secolo XI. Naples.
- Brown, Gordon S. (2003). The Norman Conquest of Southern Italy and Sicily. McFarland & Company Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-1472-7.