Roger II (22 December 1095 – 26 February 1154) was King of
Sicily, son of Roger I of
Sicily and successor to his brother Simon.
He began his rule as
Sicily in 1105, became Duke of Apulia
Calabria in 1127, and then King of
Sicily in 1130. By the time of
his death at the age of 58, Roger had succeeded in uniting all the
Norman conquests in Italy into one kingdom with a strong centralized
2.1 Rise to power in Sicily
2.2 Rise to power in southern Italy
2.2.1 Royal investiture
2.2.2 Peninsular rebellions
2.2.3 Imperial invasion
2.2.4 Consolidation of kingship
2.4 Later reign
6 External links
See also: Norman conquest of southern Italy
By 999, Norman adventurers had arrived in southern Italy. By 1016,
they were involved in the complex local politics where Lombards were
fighting against the Byzantine Empire. As mercenaries they fought the
enemies of the Italian city-states sometimes fighting for the
Byzantines and sometimes against them, but in the following century
they gradually became the rulers of the major polities south of Rome.
Roger I ruled the County of
Sicily at the time of the birth of his
youngest son, Roger, at Mileto, Calabria, in 1095. Roger I's
nephew, Roger Borsa, was the
Duke of Apulia
Duke of Apulia and Calabria, and his
great nephew, Richard II of Capua, was the Prince of Capua. Alongside
these three major rulers were a large number of minor counts, who
effectively exercised sovereign power in their own localities. These
counts at least nominally owed allegiance to one of these three Norman
rulers, but such allegiance was usually weak and often ignored.
When Roger I died in 1101, his young son, Simon of Hauteville, became
Count, with his mother
Adelaide del Vasto as regent. Simon died four
years later in 1105, at the age of 12. Adelaide continued as regent to
her younger son Roger, who was just nine years old.
Rise to power in Sicily
Southern Italy in 1112. The border of the
Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily at the
time of Roger's death in 1154 is indicated by a thicker black line
encircling most of southern Italy.
Upon the death of his elder brother, Simon of Hauteville, in 1105,
Roger inherited the County of
Sicily under the regency of his mother,
Adelaide del Vasto. His mother was assisted by such notables as
Christodulus, the Greek emir of Palermo. In 1109, Byzantine Emperor
Alexios I Komnenos, bestowed upon him the title of protonobilissimos,
in recognition of his knowledge of the Byzantine court. In the
summer of 1110, Roger was visited by the Norwegian king Sigurd
Jorsalfare, who was on his way to Jerusalem. The story suggests
that Sigurd gave Roger the name King of Sicily, twenty years before he
actually obtained this title.
In 1112, at the age of sixteen, Roger began his personal rule, being
named "now knight, now
Sicily and Calabria" in a charter
document dated 12 June 1112. In 1117, his mother, who had married
Baldwin I of Jerusalem, returned to Sicily, since the Patriarch of
Jerusalem had declared the marriage invalid. Roger seems to have felt
the slight, and this might explain his later reluctance to go
crusading. Roger married his first wife, Elvira, daughter of
Alfonso VI of Castile, and his fourth queen, Isabella, who may be
identical to his former concubine, the converted Moor, Zaida, baptised
In 1122, William II the Duke of Apulia, who was fighting with Count
Jordan of Ariano, offered to renounce his remaining claims to Sicily
as well as part of Calabria. Roger, in exchange, provided William
with 600 knights and access to money for his campaign.
Rise to power in southern Italy
William II of Apulia died childless in July 1127, Roger claimed
Hauteville family possessions in the peninsula as well as the
overlordship of the Principality of Capua, which had been nominally
Apulia almost thirty years earlier. However, the union of
Apulia was resisted by
Pope Honorius II
Pope Honorius II and by the subjects
of the duchy itself.
Royal mantle of Roger II, bearing an inscription in Arabic with the
Hegira date of 528 (1133–34).
The popes had long been suspicious of the growth of Norman power in
southern Italy, and at Capua in December, the pope preached a crusade
against Roger, setting
Robert II of Capua
Robert II of Capua and
Ranulf II of Alife
Ranulf II of Alife (his
own brother-in-law) against him. After this coalition failed, in
August 1128 Honorius invested Roger at
Benevento as Duke of
Apulia. The baronial resistance, backed by Naples, Bari, Salerno,
and other cities whose aim was civic freedom, gave way. In September
1129 Roger was generally recognized as duke of
Apulia by Sergius VII
of Naples, Robert of Capua, and the rest. He began at once to enforce
order in the duchy, where ducal power had long been fading.
On the death of Pope Honorius in February 1130 there were two
claimants to the papal throne. Roger supported Antipope Anacletus II
against Innocent II. The reward was a crown, and, on 27
September 1130, Anacletus' papal bull made Roger king of Sicily.
He was crowned in
Christmas Day 1130. Roger II's elaborate
royal mantle bears the date 528 of the
Islamic calendar (1133–34),
therefore it could not have been used for his coronation. It
was later used as coronation cloak by the Holy Roman Emperors and is
now in the Imperial Treasury (Schatzkammer) in Vienna.
This plunged Roger into a ten-year war. Bernard of Clairvaux,
Innocent's champion, organized a coalition against Anacletus and his
"half-heathen king." He was joined by Louis VI of France, Henry I of
England, and Lothair III, Holy Roman Emperor. Meanwhile, southern
In 1130, the
Duchy of Amalfi
Duchy of Amalfi revolted and in 1131, Roger sent John of
Palermo across the
Strait of Messina
Strait of Messina to join up with a royal troop
Calabria and march on
Amalfi by land while George of
Antioch blockaded the town by sea and set up a base on Capri.
Amalfi soon capitulated.
In 1132, Roger sent
Robert II of Capua
Robert II of Capua and
Ranulf II of Alife
Ranulf II of Alife to Rome
in a show of force in support of Anacletus. While they were away,
Roger's half-sister Matilda, Ranulf's wife, fled to Roger claiming
abuse. Simultaneously, Roger annexed Ranulf's brother's County of
Avellino. Ranulf demanded the restitution of both wife and countship.
Both were denied, and Ranulf left
Rome against orders, with Robert
Roger II riding to war, from Liber ad honorem Augusti of Petrus de
First Roger dealt with a rebellion in Apulia, where he defeated and
deposed Grimoald, Prince of Bari, replacing him with his second son
Tancred. Meanwhile, Robert and Ranulf took papal Benevento. Roger went
to meet them but was defeated at the
Battle of Nocera
Battle of Nocera on 25 July 1132.
Roger retreated to Salerno.
The next year, Lothair III came down to
Rome for his imperial
coronation. The rebel leaders met him there, but they were refused
help because Lothair's force was too small. With the emperor's
departure, divisions in his opponents' ranks allowed Roger to reverse
his fortunes. By July 1134, Roger's troops had forced Ranulf, Sergius,
and the other ringleaders to submit. Robert was expelled from Capua
and Roger installed his third son,
Alfonso of Hauteville
Alfonso of Hauteville as Prince of
Capua. Roger II's eldest son Roger was given the title of Duke of
Meanwhile, Lothair's contemplated attack upon Roger had gained the
backing of Pisa, Genoa, and the
Byzantine emperor John II, each of
whom feared the growth of a powerful Norman kingdom. A Pisan fleet led
by the exiled prince of Capua dropped anchor off
Naples in 1135.
Ranulf joined Robert and Sergius there, encouraged by news coming from
Sicily that Roger was fatally ill or even already dead. The important
fortress of Aversa, among others, passed to the rebels and only Capua
resisted, under the royal chancellor, Guarin. On June 5, however,
Roger disembarked in Salerno, much to the surprise of all the mainland
provinces. The royal army, split into several forces, easily conquered
Aversa and even Alife, the base of the natural rebel leader, Ranulf.
Most of the rebels took refuge in Naples, which was besieged in July,
but despite poor health conditions within the city, Roger was not able
to take it, and returned to
Messina late in the year.
The Tabula Rogeriana, an ancient world map drawn by Muhammad al-Idrisi
Roger II of
Sicily in 1154. The north is at the bottom, and so the
map appears "upside down" compared to modern cartographic conventions.
In 1136, the long-awaited imperial army, led by Lothair and the duke
of Bavaria, Henry the Proud, descended the peninsula to support the
three rebels. Henry, Robert, and Ranulf took a large contingent of
troops to besiege the peninsular capital of the kingdom, Salerno.
Roger remained in Sicily, leaving its mainland garrisons helpless
under the chancellor Robert of Selby, while even the Byzantine emperor
John II Comnenus
John II Comnenus sent subsidies to Lothair.
Salerno surrendered, and
the large army of Germans and
Normans marched to the very south of
Apulia. There, in June 1137, Lothair besieged and took Bari. At San
Severino, after the victorious campaign, he and the pope jointly
invested Ranulf as duke of
Apulia in August 1137, and the emperor then
retired to Germany. Roger, freed from the utmost danger, immediately
disembarked in Calabria, at Tropea, with 400 knights and other troops,
probably mostly Muslims. After having been welcomed by the
Salernitans, he recovered ground in Campania, sacking Pozzuoli, Alife,
Capua, and Avellino. Sergius was forced to acknowledge him as overlord
Naples and switch his allegiance to Anacletus. This moment marked
the fall of an independent Neapolitan duchy, and thereafter the
ancient city was fully integrated into the Norman realm.
From there Roger moved to
Benevento and northern Apulia, where Duke
Ranulf, although steadily losing his bases of power, had some German
troops plus some 1,500 knights from the cities of Melfi, Trani, Troia,
and Bari, who were "ready to die rather than lead a miserable life."
On 30 October 1137, at the
Battle of Rignano
Battle of Rignano (next to Monte Gargano),
the younger Roger and his father, with Sergius of Naples, met the
defensive army of Duke Ranulf. It was the greatest defeat of Roger
II's career. Sergius died and Roger fled to Salerno. It capped
Ranulf's meteoric career: twice victor over Roger. Anacletus II died
in January 1138, but Innocent II refused to reconcile with the King.
In spring 1138, the royal army invaded the Principality of Capua, with
the precise intent of avoiding a pitched battle and of dispersing
Ranulf's army with a series of marches through difficult terrain.
While the count of Alife hesitated, Roger, now supported by Benevento,
destroyed all the rebels' castles in the region, capturing an immense
booty. Ranulf himself, who had taken refuge in his capital Troia, died
of malarial fever on 30 April 1139. Later, Roger exhumed his body from
his grave in Troia cathedral and threw it in a ditch, only to repent
subsequently and rebury him decently.
At this time, with Sergius dead, Alfonso was elected to replace him
and together with his brother Roger went off to conquer the Abruzzi.
Consolidation of kingship
Scyphate Ducalis, dated year 10 (1140), after the king's victory on
July 25. Obverse: Christ. Reverse:
King Roger and Duke Roger.
After the death of Anacletus in January 1138, Roger had sought the
confirmation of his title from Innocent. However, the pope wanted an
Principality of Capua
Principality of Capua as a buffer state between the
Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily and the Papal States, something Roger would not
accept. In the summer of 1139, Innocent II invaded the kingdom
with a large army, but was ambushed at
Galluccio on 22 July 1139,
southeast of present-day Cassino, by Roger's son and was captured.
Three days later, by the Treaty of Mignano, the pope proclaimed Roger
II rex Siciliae ducatus Apuliae et principatus Capuae (king of Sicily,
Apulia and commander of Capua). The boundaries of his regno
were only later fixed by a truce with the pope in October 1144. These
lands were for the next seven centuries to constitute the kingdoms of
Naples and Sicily.
In 1139, Bari, the 50,000 inhabitants of which had remained unscathed
behind its massive walls during the wars of the past year, decided to
surrender. The excellentissimus princeps Jaquintus, who had led the
rebellion of the city, was hanged, along with many of his followers,
but the city avoided being sacked. Roger's execution of the prince and
his counsellors was perhaps the most violent act of his life.
While his sons overcame pockets of resistance on the mainland, on 5
November 1139 Roger returned to
Palermo to plan a great act of
legislation: the Assizes of Ariano, an attempt to establish his
dominions in southern Italy as a coherent state. He returned to check
on his sons' progress in 1140 and then went to Ariano, a town central
to the peninsular possessions (and a centre of rebellion under his
predecessors). There he promulgated the great law regulating all
Sicilian affairs. It invested the king and his bureaucracy with
absolute powers and reduced the authority of the often rebellious
vassals. While there, centralising his kingdom, Roger declared a new
standard coinage, named after the duchy of Apulia: the ducat.
Roger II of Sicily, silver Ducale, Brindisi mint.
Roger’s reforms in laws and administration not only aimed to
strengthen his rule but also to improve the economic standing of
Sicily and southern Italy. He was "very concerned to gain money, but
hardly very prodigal in expending it."
In 1140 at his assembly at
Ariano he introduced new coinage to make it
easier to trade with the rest of the Mediterranean, as there were
smaller denominations of the previous coins, to allow more accurate
and efficient trading. However, although this new coinage made long
distance trade easier it was very detrimental to local trade which
spread "hatred throughout Italy." By the 1150s most of this
coinage was no longer in use and soon after, it disappeared
Nevertheless, the controversy over the coinage did not hinder the
Roger II had not only acquired large wealth
through his royal patrimony but also through his military campaigns
and their financial rewards. For example, gold and silver were gained
through the campaigns in
Apulia in 1133 and Greece in 1147.
Sicily's geographic situation at the centre of
Mediterranean made it a
brilliant location for trade with Europe, North Africa and the Middle
East. Its primary export was durum wheat; others included foods like
cheese and vine fruits. Unlike other states,
Sicily also had a strong
political and military standing so its merchants were supported and to
some extent protected. This standing allowed for an increase in
internal trade and a stronger market which led to noticeable
developments in agriculture.
Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture and Kingdom of Africa
"The Cappella Palatina, at Palermo, the most wonderful of Roger's
churches, with Norman doors, Saracenic arches, Byzantine dome, and
roof adorned with Arabic scripts, is perhaps the most striking product
of the brilliant and mixed civilization over which the grandson of the
Norman Trancred ruled" (from 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica).
Roger had now become one of the greatest kings in Europe. At Palermo,
he gathered round him distinguished men of various races, such as the
Muhammad al-Idrisi and the Byzantine Greek
historian Nilus Doxopatrius. The king welcomed the learned and
practised toleration towards the several creeds, races and languages
of his realm. To administer his domain he hired many
Greeks and Arabs,
who were trained in long-established traditions of centralized
government. He was served by men of diverse nationality, such as
the Englishman Thomas Brun, a kaid of the Curia and, in the fleet by
two Greeks, first
Christodulus and then George of Antioch, whom he
made in 1132 ammiratus ammiratorum or "
Emir of Emirs", in effect prime
vizier. (This title later became the English word admiral). Roger made
Sicily the leading maritime power in the Mediterranean.
The "Kingdom of Africa" (Regno d'Africa) pinpointed in red of Roger II
A powerful fleet was built up under several admirals, or "emirs", of
whom the greatest was George, formerly in the service of the Muslim
prince of Mahdia. Mainly thanks to him, a series of conquests were
made on the African coast (1146–1153). From 1135
Roger II started to
conquer the coast of Tunisia and enlarge his dominions:
captured in 1146 and Cape Bona in 1148. These conquests were lost in
the reign of Roger's successor William, however, and never formed an
integral part of the kingdom in southern Italy.
Crusade (1147–1148) offered Roger an opportunity to
revive attacks on the Byzantine Empire, the traditional Norman enemy
to the East. It also afforded him an opportunity, through the agency
of Theodwin, a cardinal ever-vigilant for
Crusade supporters, to
strike up a correspondence with
Conrad III of Germany
Conrad III of Germany in an effort to
break his alliance with Manuel I Comnenus. Roger himself never went on
an expedition against Byzantium, instead handing command to the
skillful George. In 1147, George set sail from
Otranto with seventy
galleys to attack Corfu. According to Nicetas Choniates, the island
capitulated thanks to George's bribes (and the tax burden of the
imperial government), welcoming the
Normans as their liberators.
Leaving a garrison of 1,000 men, George sailed on to the Peloponnesus.
Athens and quickly moved on to the Aegean Islands. He
ravaged the coast all along
Euboea and the
Gulf of Corinth
Gulf of Corinth and
penetrated as far as Thebes, Greece, where he pillaged the silk
factories and carried off the Jewish damask, brocade, and silk
weavers, taking them back to
Palermo where they formed the basis for
the Sicilian silk industry. George capped the expedition with a sack
of Corinth, in which the relics of Saint Theodore were stolen, and
then returned to Sicily. In 1149, however,
Corfu was retaken. George
went on a punitive expedition against Constantinople, but could not
land and instead defied the
Byzantine emperor by firing arrows against
the palace windows. Despite this act, his expedition left no enduring
Roger died at
Palermo on 26 February 1154 and was buried in the
Cathedral of Palermo. He was succeeded by his fourth son, William.
Roger is the subject of King Roger, a 1926 opera by Polish composer
Karol Szymanowski. The last months of his life are also featured in
Tariq Ali's book A Sultan in Palermo. Studiorum Universitas Ruggero
II, a private non-traditional university connected to Accademia
Normanna was incorporated in the U.S. on April 30, 2001 in honor of
Roger's tomb in the Cathedral of Palermo.
Roger's first marriage was in 1117 to Elvira, a daughter of King
Alfonso VI of Castile. When she died, rumors flew that Roger had died
as well, as his grief had made him a recluse. They had six
Roger (b. 1118 – d. 12 May 1148), heir,
Duke of Apulia
Duke of Apulia (from 1135),
Count of Lecce;
Tancred (b. 1119 – d. 1138), Prince of
Bari (from 1135).
Alfonso (b. 1120/1121 – d. 10 October 1144),
Prince of Capua
Prince of Capua (from
1135) and Duke of Naples;
A daughter (d. young in 1135);
William (b. 1131 – d. 7 May 1166), his successor, Duke of Apulia
Henry (b. 1135 – d. young).
Roger's second marriage was in 1149 to Sibylla, daughter of Hugh II,
Duke of Burgundy. They had two children:
Henry (b. 29 August 1149 – d. young);
Stillborn child (16 September 1150).
Roger's third marriage was in 1151 to Beatrice of Rethel, a grandniece
of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem. They had one daughter:
Constance (b. posthumously, 2 November 1154 – d. 28 November
1198), who married the Emperor Henry VI and was later Queen of
Roger also had five known illegitimate children:
—By a daughter of Hugues I,
Count of Molise:
Simon, who became
Prince of Taranto in 1144.
—With unknown mistresses:
A daughter, wife of Rodrigo Garcés (later Henry,
A daughter, wife of the neapolitan nobleman Adam;
Clenenza, married Hugues II,
Count of Molise;
Adelisa (d. aft. 1184/87) married firstly Joscelin,
Count of Loreto,
and secondly Robert of Bassonville,
Count of Loritello;
Marina, married the great admiral Margaritus of Brindisi.
Roger II of Sicily
4. Tancred of Hauteville
2. Roger I of Sicily
Roger II of Sicily
6. Manfred del Vasto
3. Adelaide del Vasto
^ a b Houben, p. 30.
^ Barber, Malcolm (2004). The Two Cities: Medieval Europe 1050-1320.
Routledge. p. 209. ISBN 0-415-17415-5.
^ Houben, Hubert (1997 (English translation 2002)).
Roger II of
Sicily: a Ruler Between East and West. Cambridge University Press.
pp. xvii, Chronology. ISBN 0-521-65573-0. Check date
values in: date= (help)
^ Matthew, p. 21.
^ Houben, p 24
Roger II of Sicily: Rex, Basileus, and Khalif? Identity, Politics,
and Propaganda in the Cappella Palatina, Karen C. Britt, Mediterranean
Studies, Vol. 16, (2007), 24. JSTOR
^ Houben, p 26, quoting Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla, written in the
1220s. According to the Fagrskinna, Roger was Jarl Rogeirr.
^ Houben, 29, quoting William of Tyre, Chronicon xi.29
^ a b Houben, p. 37.
^ a b c
Roger II of Sicily: Rex, Basileus, and Khalif? Identity,
Politics, and Propaganda in the Cappella Palatina, Karen C. Britt,
Mediterranean Studies, Vol. 16, (2007), 25. JSTOR
^ Marjorie Chibnall, The Normans, (Wiley & Sons, 2006), 86.
^ Rotraud Bauer: Der Mantel Rogers II. und die siculo-normannischen
Gewänder aus den königlichen Hofwerkstätten in Palermo. In: Hg.
Wilfried Seipel.: Nobiles Officinae. Die königlichen Hofwerkstätten
Palermo zur Zeit der Normannen und Staufer im 12. und 13.
Jahrhundert. Milano 2004, ISBN 3-85497-076-5, pp. 115–123.
^ Rotraud Bauer: Zur Geschichte der sizilischen Gewänder, später
Krönungsgewänder der Könige und Kaiser des Heiligen Römischen
Reiches. In: Wilfried Seipel (Hg.): Nobiles Officinae. Die
königlichen Hofwerkstätten zu
Palermo zur Zeit der Normannen und
Staufer im 12. und 13. Jahrhundert. Milano 2004,
ISBN 3-85497-076-5. pp. 85–95
^ Houben, 60. Norwich, 11.
^ Houben, p. 63.
^ Houben et al., p.71
^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.
^ a b Houben p 159
^ Houben p 161
^ Houben p 164
^ Houben p 163
^ Maurice Keen, Pelican History of Medieval Europe, Routledge Kegan
& Paul 1968
^ Houben, 65.
^ The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 4, C.1024-c.1198, Part
II, ed. David Luscombe and Jonathan Riley-Smith, (Cambridge University
Press, 2004), 760.
^ a b c d e Houben, 96.
^ Italy and
Sicily under Frederick II, Michaelangelo Schipa, The
Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. IV, ed. J.R. Tanner, C. W.
Previté-Orton and Z.N. Brooke, (Cambridge University Press, 1957),
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Adrian Fletcher’s Paradoxplace –
Palermo and the First
Al-Idrisi And Roger’s Book , written by Frances Carney Gies.
Count of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily created
Duke of Apulia
Duke of Apulia and Calabria
King of Sicily
Prince of Taranto
ISNI: 0000 0001 1477 1971