When a band of Norman adventurers arrived in southern Italy to fight in the Lombard insurrections against the Byzantine empire in the early 1000s, few would have predicted that within a few generations, by force of arms, some of these men and other later arrivals would seize control of Apulia, Campania, Calabria and Sicily. How did they make such extraordinary gains and then consolidate their power? Paul Brown, in this thoroughly researched and absorbing study, seeks to answer these questions and throw light onto the Norman conquests across the Mediterranean which were even more remarkable than those achieved in France and England.Throughout he focuses on the military side of their progress, as they advanced from mercenaries to conquerors, then crusaders. The story of the campaigns they undertook in Italy, Sicily, the Balkans and the Near East, of the battles and sieges that marked their expansion, reveals their remarkable talent for war and the increasing efficiency of their organization.Particular attention is paid to the polyglot character of Norman forces, and the growing sophistication of their tactics, from cavalry raids to combined-arms warfare and siege craft.The dominant role played by a succession of Norman leaders from the Hauteville family is a key theme of the narrative - a line of ambitious and ruthless rulers that ran from Robert Guiscard and Bohemond to Tancred and King Roger II of Sicily.
Paul Brown's account of the Norman conquests in the Mediterranean is based on the most recent scholarship in the field. It challenges some of the common assumptions about the equipment, organization and fighting methods of the Norman armies and the men who fought in them.