Bohemond I of Antioch

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Bohemond I
Bohemond I of Antioch (by Blondel).jpg
Prince of Antioch
Tenure 1098–1111
Successor Bohemond II
Born c.1054
San Marco Argentano, Calabria
Died 3 March 1111 (aged 57)
Spouse Constance of France
Issue Bohemond II of Antioch
House Hauteville family
Father Robert Guiscard
Mother Alberada of Buonalbergo

Bohemond I (c. 1054 – 3 March 1111) was the prince of Taranto from 1089 to 1111 and the prince of Antioch from 1098 to 1111. Bohemond was a major leader in the First Crusade which was governed by a committee of nobles.[1] The Norman monarchy he founded in Antioch outlasted both that of England and Sicily.[2]

Early life[edit]

Childhood and youth[edit]

Bohemond was the only child of Robert Guiscard, Count of Apulia and Calabria, and his first wife, Alberada of Buonalbergo.[3][4] He was born between 1050 and 1058 (according to historian John Julius Norwich, around 1054).[5][6] He was baptised Mark, possibly because he was born at his father's castle at San Marco Argentano in Calabria.[7][5] He received the nickname Bohemond after an otherwise unknown legendary giant.[5]

His parents were related within the degree of kinship that made their marriage invalid, according to canon law.[3] Robert Guiscard decided to marry Sikelgaita, the sister of Gisulf, the Lombard Prince of Salerno around 1058.[4][8] He expelled Alberada and Bohemond became a bastard due to the annulment of his parents' marriage.[4][9] Before long, Alberada married Robert Guiscard's nephew, Richard of Hauteville.[8] She arranged for a knightly education for Bohemond.[10]

Robert Guiscard was taken seriously ill in early 1073.[11][12] Fearing that he was dying, Sikelgaita held an assembly in Bari.[12] She persuaded Robert's vassals who were present to proclaim her eldest son, the thirteen-year-old Roger Borsa, Robert's heir, saying that the half-Lombard Roger would be the most acceptable ruler for the Lombard noblemen in Southern Italy.[11][13] Robert's nephew, Abelard of Hauteville, was the only baron to protest, because he regarded himself Robert's lawful heir.[14]

Byzantine wars[edit]

Bohemond fought in his father's army during the rebellion of Jordan I of Capua, Geoffrey of Conversano and other Norman barons in 1079.[10] His father dispatched him at the head of an advance guard against the Byzantine Empire in early 1081.[15] He captured Valona (now Vlorë in Albania).[15] He sailed to Corfu, but did not invade the island because the local garrison outnumbered his army.[16] He withdrew to Butrinto to await the arrival of his father's forces.[16] After Robert Guiscard arrived in the second half of May, they laid siege to Durazzo (present-day Durrës in Albania).[16] The Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos came to the rescue of the town, but his army suffered a crushing defeat on 18 October.[17] Bohemond was the commander of the left flank which defeated the "Varangian Guard" of the emperor (which at that time consisted mainly of Anglo-Saxons).[17][18]

The Normans captured Durazzo on 21 February 1082.[19][20] They marched along the Via Egnatia as far as Kastoria, but Alexios's agents stirred up a rebellion in Southern Italy, which forced Robert Guiscard to return to his realm in April.[20][21] He charged Bohemond with the command of his army in the Balkan Peninsula.[22] Bohemond defeated the Byzantines at Ioannina and Arta, taking control of most of Macedonia and Thessaly.[23] However, the siege of Larissa, which lasted for six months, was unsuccessful.[23] Supply and pay problems, and the gifts that the Byzantines promised to the deserters undermined the morale of the Norman army.[23][24] Bohemond returned to Italy for financial support.[24] During his absence, most commanders of the Norman army deserted to the Byzantines and a Venetian fleet recaptured Durazzo and Corfu.[24]

Bohemond again accompanied his father to the Byzantine Empire in 1084.[15][24] They defeated the Venetian fleet and captured Corfu.[15] An epidemic decimated the Normans[21] and Bohemond, who had taken seriously ill, was forced to return to Italy in December 1084.[21][25]

Succession crisis[edit]

Robert Guiscard died at Cephalonia on 17 July 1085.[25] Ordericus Vitalis, William of Malmesbury and other contemporaneous writers accused his widow, Sikelgaita, of having poisoned Robert Guiscard to secure Apulia to her son, Roger Borsa, but they did not establish her guilt.[26] She persuaded the army to acclaim Roger Borsa his father's successor and they hurried back to Southern Italy.[27][28] Two months later the assembly of the Norman barons confirmed this decision, but Bohemond regarded himself his father's lawful heir.[29] He made an alliance with Jordan of Capua and captured Oria and Otranto.[30][31] Bohemond and Roger Borsa met at their father's tomb at Venosa to reach a compromise.[31] According to their agreement, Bohemond received Taranto, Oria, Otranto, Brindisi and Gallipoli, but he acknowledged Roger Borsa's suzerainty.[31]

Bohemond renewed the war against his brother in autumn 1087.[32] The ensuing civil war prevented the Normans from supporting Pope Urban II and enabled Bohemond's and Roger Borsa's uncle, Roger I of Sicily, to increase his power.[33][34] Bohemond captured Bari in 1090.[35][36] Before long, he took control of most lands to the south of Melfi.[33]

Coat-of-arms of the de Hauteville dynasty.

First Crusade[edit]

In 1097, Bohemond, along with his uncle Roger I of Sicily the great count of Sicily, was attacking Amalfi, which had revolted against Duke Roger, when bands of crusaders began to pass, on their way through Italy to Constantinople. The zeal of the crusader came upon Bohemond; it is possible, however, that he saw in the First Crusade nothing more than a chance to carve for himself an eastern principality.[37] Geoffrey Malaterra bluntly states that Bohemond took the Cross with the intention of plundering and conquering Greek lands.

He gathered a Norman army, perhaps one of the finest in the crusading host, at the head of which he crossed the Adriatic Sea, and penetrated to Constantinople along the route he had tried to follow in 1082–1084. He was careful to observe a "correct" attitude towards Alexius, and when he arrived at Constantinople in April 1097 he did homage to the emperor. He may have negotiated with Alexius about a principality at Antioch; if he did so, he had little encouragement. From Constantinople to Antioch, Bohemond was the real leader of the First Crusade; and it says much for his leadership that the First Crusade succeeded in crossing Asia Minor, which the Crusade of 1101, the Second Crusade in 1147, and the Third Crusade in 1189 failed to accomplish.[37]

The Emperor's daughter, Anna Comnena, leaves a good portrait of him in her Alexiad; she met him for the first time when she was fourteen, and was quite fascinated by him. She left no similar portrait of any other Crusader prince. Of Bohemond, she wrote:

Now [Bohemond] was such as, to put it briefly, had never before been seen in the land of the Romans [that is, Greeks], be he either of the barbarians or of the Greeks (for he was a marvel for the eyes to behold, and his reputation was terrifying). Let me describe the barbarian's appearance more particularly – he was so tall in stature that he overtopped the tallest by nearly one cubit, narrow in the waist and loins, with broad shoulders and a deep chest and powerful arms. And in the whole build of the body he was neither too slender nor overweighted with flesh, but perfectly proportioned and, one might say, built in conformity with the canon of Polycleitus... His skin all over his body was very white, and in his face the white was tempered with red. His hair was yellowish, but did not hang down to his waist like that of the other barbarians; for the man was not inordinately vain of his hair, but had it cut short to the ears. Whether his beard was reddish, or any other colour I cannot say, for the razor had passed over it very closely and left a surface smoother than chalk... His blue eyes indicated both a high spirit and dignity; and his nose and nostrils breathed in the air freely; his chest corresponded to his nostrils and by his nostrils...the breadth of his chest. For by his nostrils nature had given free passage for the high spirit which bubbled up from his heart. A certain charm hung about this man but was partly marred by a general air of the horrible... He was so made in mind and body that both courage and passion reared their crests within him and both inclined to war. His wit was manifold and crafty and able to find a way of escape in every emergency. In conversation he was well informed, and the answers he gave were quite irrefutable. This man who was of such a size and such a character was inferior to the Emperor alone in fortune and eloquence and in other gifts of nature.

A politique, Bohemond was resolved to engineer the enthusiasm of the crusaders to his own ends; and when his nephew Tancred left the main army at Heraclea Cybistra, and attempted to establish a footing in Cilicia, the movement may have been already intended as a preparation for Bohemond's eastern principality. Bohemond was the first to get into position before Antioch (October 1097), and he took a great part in the siege of the city, beating off the Muslim attempts at relief from the east, and connecting the besiegers on the west with the port of St Simeon and the Genoese ships which lay there.[37]

Bohemond and his Norman troops scale the walls of Antioch, in an engraving by Gustave Doré.

The capture of Antioch was due to his connection with Firouz, one of the commanders in the city; but he would not bring matters to an issue until the possession of the city was assured him (May 1098), under the terror of the approach of Kerbogha with a great army of relief, and with a reservation in favour of Alexius, if Alexius should fulfill his promise to aid the crusaders. But Bohemond was not secure in the possession of Antioch, even after its surrender and the defeat of Kerbogha; he had to make good his claims against Raymond of Toulouse, who championed the rights of Alexius. He obtained full possession in January 1099, and stayed in the neighbourhood of Antioch to secure his position, while the other crusaders moved southward to the capture of Jerusalem.[37]

Capture of Antioch by Bohemond of Tarente in June 1098.

He came to Jerusalem at Christmas 1099, and had Dagobert of Pisa elected as Patriarch, perhaps in order to check the growth of a strong Lotharingian power in the city. It might seem that Bohemond was destined to found a great principality in Antioch, which would dwarf Jerusalem; he had a fine territory, a good strategic position and a strong army. But he had to face two great forces—the Byzantine Empire, which claimed the whole of his territories and was supported in its claim by Raymond of Toulouse, and the strong Muslim principalities in the north-east of Syria. Against these two forces he failed.[37]

Wars between Antioch and the Byzantine Empire[edit]

The town of Malatia, which guarded one of the Cilician Gates through the Taurus Mountains in the period after the First Crusade, had been by 1100 captured by an Armenian soldier of fortune. Reports were received that the Malik Ghazi Danishmend (Danishmend Emir), Ghazi Gümüştekin of Sivas, was preparing an expedition to capture Malatia, and the Armenians sought help from Bohemond.

Afraid to weaken his forces at Antioch, but not wishing to avoid the chance to extend his domain northwards, Bohemond in August 1100, marched north with only 300 knights and a small force of foot soldiers. Failing to send scouting parties they were ambushed by the Turks, and completely encircled at the Battle of Melitene. Bohemond managed to send one soldier to seek help from Baldwin of Edessa, but was captured and laden with chains, was confined in prison in Neo-Caesarea (modern Niksar). He languished in prison until 1103.

Hearing of Bohemond's capture, Alexius I, incensed that Bohemond had broken his sacred oath made in Constantinople and kept Antioch for himself, offered to redeem the Norman commander and ransom Bohemond for 260,000 dinars, if Ghazi Gumushtakin would hand the prisoner over to Byzantium. When Kilij Arslan I, the Seljuk overlord of the Emir, heard of the proposed payment, he demanded half, or threatened to attack. Bohemond proposed instead a ransom of 130,000 dinars paid just to the Emir. The bargain was concluded and Ghazi and Bohemond exchanged oaths of friendship. Ransomed in 1103 by Baldwin of Edessa, he returned in triumph to Antioch in August 1103.

His nephew Tancred, who for three years and taken his uncle's place, had during that time attacked the Byzantines and added Tarsus, Adana and Massissa in Cilicia, but was now deprived of his lordship by Bohemond's return. Buoyed by Bohemond's return, the northern Franks over the summer of 1103 attacked Ridwan of Aleppo in order to gain supplies and compelled him to pay tribute. Meanwhile, Raymond had established himself in Tripoli with the aid of Alexius, and was able to check the expansion of Antioch to the south, and so early in 1104, Baldwin and Bohemond passed Aleppo to move eastward and attack Harran.

But in heading an attack on Harran he was severely defeated at Balak, near Rakka on the Euphrates (see Battle of Harran). The defeat was decisive; it made impossible the great eastern principality which Bohemond had contemplated. It was followed by a Greek attack on Cilicia; and despairing of his own resources, in late 1104 Bohemond returned to Europe for reinforcements in order to defend his position.[37] It is a matter of historical debate how far his "crusade" to be directed against the Byzantine empire was to gain the backing and indulgences of pope Paschal II. Either way he enthralled audiences across France with gifts of relics from the Holy Land and tales of heroism while fighting the infidel, gathering a large army in the process. Henry I of England famously prevented him from landing on English shores, so great was his pull expected to be on the English nobility. His newfound status won him the hand of Constance, the daughter of the French king, Philip I. Of this marriage wrote Abbot Suger:

Bohemond came to France to seek by any means he could the hand of the Lord Louis' sister Constance, a young lady of excellent breeding, elegant appearance and beautiful face. So great was the reputation for valour of the French kingdom and of the Lord Louis that even the Saracens were terrified by the prospect of that marriage. She was not engaged since she had broken off her agreement to wed Hugh, count of Troyes, and wished to avoid another unsuitable match. The prince of Antioch was experienced and rich both in gifts and promises; he fully deserved the marriage, which was celebrated with great pomp by the bishop of Chartres in the presence of the king, the Lord Louis, and many archbishops, bishops and noblemen of the realm.

His son was

Mausoleum of Bohemond in Canosa di Puglia.

Dazzled by his success, Bohemond resolved to use his army of 34,000 men, not to defend Antioch against the Greeks, but to attack Alexius.[38] He did so; but Alexius, aided by the Venetians, proved too strong, and Bohemond had to submit to a humiliating peace (the Treaty of Devol, 1108), by which he became the vassal of Alexius, consented to receive his pay, with the title of sebastos, and promised to cede disputed territories and to admit a Greek patriarch into Antioch. Henceforth Bohemond was a broken man. He died six months later without returning to the East,[39] and was buried at Canosa in Apulia, in 1111.[37]

Bohemond I in literature and media[edit]

The anonymous Gesta Francorum is written by one of Bohemond's followers; and The Alexiad of Anna Comnena is a primary authority for the whole of his life.[37] A 1924 biography exists by Yewdale. See also the Gesta Tancredi by Ralph of Caen, which is a panegyric of Bohemond's second-in-command Tancred. His career is discussed by B von Kügler, Bohemund und Tancred (1862); while L von Heinemann, Geschichte der Normannen in Sicilien und Unteritalien (1894), and R. Röhricht, Geschichte des ersten Kreuzzuges (1901), and Geschichte das Königreichs Jerusalem (1898), may also be consulted for his history.[37] The only major biography that exists in English is "Tancred : a study of his career and work in their relation to the First Crusade and the establishment of the Latin states in Syria and Palestine" by Robert Lawrence Nicholson. Details of his pre-crusade career can found in Geoffrey Malaterra's Deeds of Count Roger....

Count Bohemund by Alfred Duggan (1964) is an historical novel concerning the life of Bohemund and its events up to the fall of Jerusalem to the crusaders. Bohemond also appears in the historical novel Silver Leopard by F. Van Wyck Mason (1955), the short story "The Track of Bohemond" in the collection The Road of Azrael by Robert E. Howard (1979), and in the fantastical novel Pilgermann by Russell Hoban (1983).

The historical fiction novel Wine of Satan (1949) written by Laverne Gay gives an embellished accounting of the life of Bohemond.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thomas Asbridge, The First Crusade, A New History, pp57-59
  2. ^ God's War – Christopher Tyerman
  3. ^ a b Norwich 1992, p. 116.
  4. ^ a b c Brown 2003, p. 97.
  5. ^ a b c The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (2016). "Bohemond II Prince of Antioch". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 5 May 2016. 
  6. ^ Norwich 1992, pp. 116-117 (note 1), 227.
  7. ^ Conti 1967, 24.
  8. ^ a b Norwich 1992, pp. 116-117 (note 1).
  9. ^ Norwich 1992, pp. 116, 118.
  10. ^ a b Norwich 1992, p. 227.
  11. ^ a b Brown 2003, p. 143.
  12. ^ a b Norwich 1992, p. 195.
  13. ^ Norwich 1992, pp. 195-196.
  14. ^ Norwich 1992, p. 196.
  15. ^ a b c d Nicol 1992, p. 57.
  16. ^ a b c Norwich 1992, p. 228.
  17. ^ a b Norwich 1992, pp. 231-232.
  18. ^ Brown 2003, p. 166.
  19. ^ Nicol 1992, pp. 57-58.
  20. ^ a b Norwich 1992, p. 233.
  21. ^ a b c Nicol 1992, p. 58.
  22. ^ Norwich 1992, p. 235.
  23. ^ a b c Brown 2003, p. 170.
  24. ^ a b c d Norwich 1992, p. 243.
  25. ^ a b Norwich 1992, p. 245.
  26. ^ Norwich 1992, p. 250.
  27. ^ Norwich 1992, pp. 249-250.
  28. ^ Brown 2003, p. 184.
  29. ^ Norwich 1992, pp. 258-259.
  30. ^ Norwich 1992, p. 261.
  31. ^ a b c Brown 2003, p. 185.
  32. ^ Norwich 1992, pp. 267-268.
  33. ^ a b Norwich 1992, p. 268.
  34. ^ Brown 2003, p. 187.
  35. ^ Norwich 1992, p. 269.
  36. ^ Brown 2003, p. 186.
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h i  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainBarker, Ernest (1911). "Bohemund". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 135–136. 
  38. ^ W. Treadgold, A History of the Byzantine State and Society, 626
  39. ^ Albert of Aix records his death at Bari (Albericus Aquensis II.XI, p. 177).


  • Asbridge, Thomas (2000). The Creation of the Principality of Antioch, 1098-1130. Boydell Press. ISBN 978-0-85115-661-3. 
  • Barber, Malcolm (2012). The Crusader States. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11312-9. 
  • Brown, Gordon S. (2003). The Norman Conquest of Southern Italy and Sicily. McFarland&Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-1472-7. 
  • Conti, Emanuele (1967). "L'abbazia della Matina (note storiche)". Archivio storico per la Calabria e la Lucania. 35: 11–30. 
  • Fink, Harold S. (1969). "The Growth of the Latin States, 1118-1144". In Setton, Kenneth M.; Baldwin, Marshall W. A History of the Crusades, Volume I: The First Hundred Years. The University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 368–409. ISBN 0-299-04844-6. 
  • Nicol, Donald M. (1992). Byzantium and Venice: A Study in Diplomatic and Cultural Relations. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-42894-7. 
  • Norwich, John Julius (1992). The Normans in Sicily. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-015212-8. 
  • Runciman, Steven (1989a). A History of the Crusades, Volume I: The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-06161-X. 
  • Runciman, Steven (1989b). A History of the Crusades, Volume II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East, 1100-1187. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-06162-8. 
  • Tyerman, Christopher (2006). God's War: A New History of the Crusades. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-02387-1. 
  • Yewdale, Ralph Bailey (1917). Bohemond I, Prince of Antioch (PhD thesis). Princeton University. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ghisalberti, Albert M. (ed) Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani. Rome.
New title Prince of Taranto
Succeeded by
Bohemond II
Prince of Antioch