The Norman conquest of southern Italy spanned most of the 11th and 12th centuries, involving many battles and independent conquerors. Only later were these territories in southern Italy united as the Kingdom of Sicily, which included the island of Sicily, the southern third of the Italian Peninsula (except Benevento), the archipelago of Malta and parts of North Africa. Itinerant Norman knights arrived in the Mezzogiorno as mercenaries in the service of Lombard and Byzantine factions, communicating news swiftly back home about opportunities in the Mediterranean. These groups gathered in several places, establishing fiefdoms and states of their own, uniting and elevating their status to de facto independence within fifty years of their arrival. Unlike the Norman conquest of England (1066), which took a few years after one decisive battle, the conquest of southern Italy was the product of decades and a number of battles, few decisive. Many territories were conquered independently, and only later were unified into a single state. Compared to the conquest of England it was unplanned and disorganised, but equally complete. The earliest reported date of the arrival of Norman knights in southern Italy is 999, although it may be assumed that they had visited before then. In that year, according to several sources, Norman pilgrims returning from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem via Apulia stayed with Prince Guaimar III in Salerno. The city and its environs were attacked by Saracens from Africa demanding payment of an overdue annual tribute. While Guaimar began to collect the tribute the Normans ridiculed him and his Lombard subjects for cowardice, and they assaulted their besiegers. The Saracens fled, booty was confiscated and a grateful Guaimar asked the Normans to stay. They refused, but promised to bring his rich gifts to their compatriots in Normandy and tell them about possibly lucrative military service in Salerno. Some sources have Guaimar sending emissaries to Normandy to bring back knights. Another historical account of the arrival of the first Normans in Italy, the "Gargano tradition", appears in primary chronicles without reference to any previous Norman presence. According to this account Norman pilgrims at the shrine to Michael the Archangel at Monte Gargano in 1016 met the Lombard Melus of Bari, who persuaded them to join him in an attack on the Byzantine government of Apulia. Norman reinforcements and local miscreants, who found a welcome in Ranulf's camp with no questions asked, swelled Ranulf's numbers. There, Amatus observed that the Norman language and customs welded a disparate group into the semblance of a nation. The Battle of Cannae was a battle that took place in 1018 between the Byzantines under the Catepan of Italy Basil Boioannes and the Lombards under Melus of Bari. The Lombards had also hired some Norman cavalry mercenaries under their leader Gilbert Buatère, while Boioannes had a detachment of elite Varangian Guard sent to him at his request to combat the Normans. The battle was disastrous for the Lombards, who were routed. Melus of Bari managed to escape to the Papal States and eventually to the court of Holy Roman Emperor Henry II at Bamberg. The Normans lost their leader, Gilbert Buatère, and most of their group. However, what remained of this group of Normans was the first of many to go to southern Italy. Oddly, within a year, a Norman garrison would be stationed at Troia in the pay of the Byzantine Empire. In 1035, Tancred of Hauteville 's three eldest sons (William "Iron Arm", Drogo and Humphrey) arrived in Aversa from Normandy. After the assassination of Catapan Nikephoros Dokeianos at Ascoli in 1040 the Normans elected Atenulf, brother of Pandulf III of Benevento , their leader. On 16 March 1041, near Venosa on the Olivento, the Norman army tried to negotiate with Catapan Michael Dokeianos; although they failed, they still defeated the Byzantine army in the Battle of Olivento. On 4 May 1041 the Norman army, led by William Iron Arm, defeated the Byzantines again in the Battle of Montemaggiore near Cannae (avenging the Norman defeat in the 1018 Battle of Cannae). Although the catapan summoned a large Varangian force from Bari, the battle was a rout; many of Michael's soldiers drowned in the Ofanto while retreating. On 3 September 1041 at the Battle of Montepeloso, the Normans (nominally under Arduin and Atenulf) defeated Byzantine catepan Exaugustus Boioannes and brought him to Benevento . Around that time, Guaimar IV of Salerno began to attract the Normans. In February 1042, Atenulf negotiated the ransom of Exaugustus and then fled with the ransom money to Byzantine territory. He was replaced by Argyrus , who was bribed to defect to the Byzantines after a few early victories. The revolt, originally Lombard, had become Norman in character and leadership. In September 1042, the three principal Norman groups held a council in Melfi which included Ranulf Drengot , Guaimar IV and William Iron Arm. William and the other leaders petitioned Guaimar to recognize their conquests, and William was acknowledged as the Norman leader in Apula (which included Melfi and the Norman garrison at Troia). He received the title of Count of Apulia from Guiamar, and (like Ranulf) was his vassal. Guaimar proclaimed himself Duke of Apulia and Calabria, although he was never formally invested as such by the Holy Roman Emperor. William was married to Guida (daughter of Guy, Duke of Sorrento and Guaimar's niece), strengthening the alliance between the Normans and Guaimar. At Melfi in 1043, Guaimar divided the region (except for Melfi itself, which was to be governed on a republican model) into twelve baronies for the Norman leaders. William received Ascoli, Asclettin Drengot received Acerenza , Tristan received Montepeloso , Hugh Tubœuf received Monopoli, Peter received Trani, Drogo of Hauteville received Venosa and Ranulf Drengot (Duke of Gaeta) received Siponto and Monte Gargano. During their reign William and Guaimar began the conquest of Calabria in 1044, and built the castle of Stridula (near Squillace). William was less successful in Apulia, where he was defeated in 1045 near Taranto by Argyrus (although his brother, Drogo, conquered Bovino). At William's death, the period of Norman mercenary service ended with the rise of two Norman principalities owing nominal allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire: the County of Aversa (Principality of Capua) and the County of Apulia (Duchy of Apulia). In 1046 Drogo entered Apulia and defeated the catepan, Eustathios Palatinos , near Taranto while his brother Humphrey forced Bari to conclude a treaty with the Normans. Also that year, Richard Drengot arrived with 40 knights from Normandy and Robert "Guiscard" Hauteville arrived with other Norman immigrants. In 1047 Guaimar (who had supported Drogo's succession and the establishment of a Norman dynasty in the south) gave him his daughter, Gaitelgrima, in marriage. Emperor Henry III confirmed the county of Aversa in its fidelity to him and made Drogo his vassal, granting him the title dux et magister Italiae comesque Normannorum totius Apuliae et Calabriae (duke and master of Italy and count of the Normans of all Apulia and Calabria, the first legitimate title for the Normans of Melfi). Henry did not confirm the other titles given during the 1042 council; he demoted Guiamar to "prince of Salerno", and Capua was bestowed upon Pandulf IV for the third (and final) time. Henry, whose wife Agnes had been mistreated by the Beneventans, authorised Drogo to conquer Benevento for the imperial crown; he did so in 1053. In 1048 Drogo commanded an expedition into Calabria via the valley of Crati, near Cosenza. He distributed the conquered territories in Calabria and gave his brother, Robert Guiscard, a castle at Scribla to guard the entrance to the recently conquered territory; Guiscard would later abandon it for a castle at San Marco Argentano. Shortly thereafter he married the daughter of another Norman lord, who gave him 200 knights (furthering his military campaign in Calabria). In 1051 Drogo was assassinated by Byzantine conspirators and was succeeded by his brother, Humphrey. Humphrey's first challenge was to deal with papal opposition to the Normans. The Norman knights' treatment of the Lombards during Drogo's reign triggered more revolts. The pope and his supporters, including the future Gregory VII, called for an army to oust the Normans from Italy. On 18 June 1053, Humphrey led the Norman armies against the combined forces of the pope and the Holy Roman Empire. At the Battle of Civitate the Normans destroyed the papal army and captured Leo IX, imprisoning him in Benevento (which had surrendered). Humphrey conquered Oria, Nardò, and Lecce by the end of 1055. In 1054 Peter II, who succeeded Peter I in the region of Trani, captured the city from the Byzantines. Humphrey died in 1057; he was succeeded by Guiscard, who ended his loyalty to the Empire and made himself a papal vassal in return for the title of duke. While most of Apulia (except the far south and Bari) had capitulated to the Normans in campaigns by the fraternal counts William, Drogo and Humphrey, much of Calabria remained in Byzantine hands at Robert Guiscard's 1057 succession. Calabria was first breached by William and Guaimar during the early 1040s, and Drogo installed Guiscard there during the early 1050s. However, Robert's early career in Calabria was spent in feudal infighting and robber baronage rather than organised subjugation of the Greek population. He began his tenure with a Calabrian campaign. Briefly interrupted for the Council of Melfi on 23 August 1059 (where he was invested as duke), he returned to Calabria, and his army's siege of Cariati, later that year. The town capitulated at the duke's arrival, and Rossano and Gerace also fell before the end of the season. Of the peninsula's significant cities, only Reggio remained in Byzantine hands when Robert returned to Apulia that winter. In Apulia, he temporarily removed the Byzantine garrison from Taranto and Brindisi. The duke returned to Calabria in 1060, primarily to launch a Sicilian expedition. Although the conquest of Reggio required an arduous siege, Robert's brother Roger had siege engines prepared. After the fall of Reggio the Byzantine garrison fled to Reggio's island citadel of Scilla, where they were easily defeated. Roger's minor assault on Messina (across the strait) was repulsed, and Robert was called away by a large Byzantine force in Apulia sent by Constantine X late in 1060. Under the catapan Miriarch, the Byzantines retook Taranto, Brindisi, Oria, and Otranto ; in January 1061, the Norman capital of Melfi was under siege. By May, however, the two brothers had expelled the Byzantines and calmed Apulia. Geoffrey, son of Peter I of Trani, conquered Otranto in 1063 and Taranto (which he made his county seat) in 1064. In 1066 he organised an army for a marine attack on "Romania" (the Byzantine Balkans), but was halted near Bari by a recently landed army of Varangian auxiliaries under the catapan Mabrica. Mabrica briefly retook Brindisi and Taranto, establishing a garrison at the former under Nikephoros Karantenos (an experienced Byzantine soldier from the Bulgar wars). Although the catapan was successful against the Normans in Italy, it was the last significant Byzantine threat. Bari, the capital of the Byzantine catapanate, was besieged by the Normans beginning in August 1068; in April 1071 the city, the last Byzantine outpost in western Europe, fell. After expelling the Byzantines from Apulia and Calabria (theme Langobardia), Robert Guiscard planned an attack on Byzantine possessions in Greece. The Byzantines had supported Robert's nephews, Abelard and Herman (the dispossessed son of Count Humphrey), in their insurrection against Robert; they had also supported Henry, Count of Monte Sant'Angelo, who recognised Byzantine suzerainty in his county, against him. In 1073-75 Robert's vassal, Peter II of Trani, led a Balkan expedition against the Kingdom of Croatia's Dalmatian lands. Peter's cousin Amico (son of Walter of Giovinazzo) attacked the islands of Rab and Cres, taking Croatian king Petar Krešimir IV captive. Although Petar was ransomed by the Bishop of Cres, he died shortly afterwards and was buried in the church of Saint Stephen in the Fortress of Klis. Robert undertook his first Balkan expedition in May 1081, leaving Brindisi with about 16,000 troops. By February 1082 he captured Corfu and Durazzo , defeating the Emperor Alexius I at the Battle of Dyrrhachium the previous October. Robert's son Mark Bohemond temporarily controlled Thessaly, unsuccessfully trying to retain the 1081-82 conquests in Robert's absence. The duke returned in 1084 to restore them, occupying Corfu and Kephalonia before his death from a fever on 15 July 1085. The village of Fiskardo on Cephalonia is named after Robert. Bohemond did not continue pursuing Greek conquests, returning to Italy to dispute Robert's succession with his half-brother Roger Borsa.
After 250 years of Arab control, Byzantine Sicily was inhabited by a mix of Greek Christians, Arab Muslims, and Muslim Greek converts at the time of its conquest by the Normans. Arab Sicily had a thriving trade network with the Mediterranean world, and was known in the Arab world as a luxurious & decadent place. It had originally been under the rule of the Aghlabids and then the Fatimids, but in 948 the Kalbids wrested control of the island and held it until 1053. During the 1010s and 1020s, a series of succession crises paved the way for interference by the Zirids of Ifriqiya. George Maniakes (died 1043) was a prominent Byzantine Greek general during the 11th century, he was the catepan of Italy in 1042. He is known as Gyrgir in Scandinavian sagas. He is popularly said to have been extremely tall and well built, almost a giant. Maniakes first became prominent during a campaign in 1030-1031, when the Byzantine Empire was defeated at Aleppo but went on to capture Edessa from the Arabs. His greatest achievement was the partial reconquest of Sicily from the Arabs beginning in 1038. Here, he was assisted by the Varangian Guard, which was at that time led by Harald Hardrada, who later became king of Norway. There were also Norman mercenaries with him, under William de Hauteville, who won his nickname Iron Arm by defeating the emir of Syracuse in single combat. However, he soon ostracised his admiral, Stephen, whose wife was the sister of John the Eunuch, the highest ranking man at court, and, by publicly humiliating the leader of the Lombard contingent, Arduin, he caused them to desert him, with the Normans and Norsemen. In response, he was recalled by the emperor Michael IV, also brother-in-law of Stephen. Although the Arabs soon took the island back, Maniakes' successes there later inspired the Normans to invade Sicily themselves. Maniakes' accomplishments in Sicily were largely ignored by the Emperor, and he revolted against Constantine IX in 1042, though he had been appointed catepan of Italy. The individual particularly responsible for antagonizing Maniakes into revolt was one Romanus Sclerus. Sclerus, like Maniakes, was one of the immensely wealthy landowners who owned large areas of Anatolia, his estates neighboured those of Maniakes and the two were rumoured to have attacked each other during a squabble over land. Sclerus owed his influence over the emperor to his famously charming sister Sclerina, who, in most areas was a highly positive influence on Constantine. Finding himself in a position of power, Sclerus used it to poison Constantine against Maniakes, ransacking the latter's house and even seducing his wife, using the charm his family were famed for. Maniakes' response, when faced with Sclerus demanding that he hand command of the empire's forces in Apulia over to him, was to brutally torture the latter to death, after sealing his eyes, ears, nose and mouth with excrement. Maniakes was then proclaimed emperor by his troops (including the Varangians) and marched towards Constantinople. In 1043 his army clashed with troops loyal to Constantine near Thessalonika, and though initially successful, Maniakes was killed during the melee after receiving a fatal wound (according to Psellus' account). Constantine's extravagant punishment of the surviving rebels was to parade them in the Hippodrome, seated backwards on donkeys. With his death, the rebellion ceased. In Sicily, the town of Maniace and the Syracusan fortress of Castello Maniace are both named after him. Sicily was racked by turmoil as petty fiefdoms battled each other for supremacy. Into this, the Normans under Robert Guiscard and his younger brother Roger Bosso came intending to conquer; the pope had conferred on Robert the title of "Duke of Sicily", encouraging him to seize Sicily from the Saracens. Robert and Roger first invaded Sicily in May 1061, crossing from Reggio di Calabria and besieging Messina for control of the strategically vital Strait of Messina. Roger crossed the strait first, landing unseen overnight and surprising the Saracen army in the morning. When Robert's troops landed later that day, they found themselves unopposed and Messina abandoned. Robert immediately fortified the city and allied himself with the emir, Ibn at-Timnah, against his rival Ibn al-Hawas. Robert, Roger, and at-Timnah then marched into the centre of the island by way of Rometta, which had remained loyal to at-Timnah. They passed through Frazzanò and the Pianura di Maniace (Plain of Maniakes), encountering resistance to their assault of Centuripe. Paternò fell quickly, and Robert brought his army to Castrogiovanni (Enna, the strongest fortress in central Sicily). Although the garrison was defeated the citadel did not fall, and with winter approaching Robert returned to Apulia. Before leaving, he built a fortress at San Marco d'Alunzio (the first Norman castle in Sicily). Robert returned in 1064, bypassing Castrogiovanni on his way to Palermo, however, when his camp was infested by tarantulas the campaign was called off. He invaded Palermo again in 1071, but only the city fell; its citadel did not fall until January 1072. Robert invested Roger as Count of Sicily under the suzerainty of the Duke of Apulia. In a partition of the island with his brother Robert retained Palermo, half of Messina, and the largely Christian Val Demone (leaving the rest, including what was not yet conquered, to Roger). In 1077 Roger besieged Trapani, one of the two remaining Saracen strongholds in the west of the island. His son, Jordan, led a sortie which surprised guards of the garrison's livestock. With its food supply cut off, the city soon surrendered. In 1079 Taormina was besieged, and in 1081 Jordan, Robert de Sourval and Elias Cartomi conquered Catania (a holding of the emir of Syracuse) in another surprise attack. Roger left Sicily in the summer of 1083 to assist his brother on the mainland; Jordan (whom he had left in charge) revolted, forcing him to return to Sicily and subjugate his son. In 1085, he was finally able to undertake a systematic campaign. On 22 May Roger approached Syracuse by sea, while Jordan led a small cavalry detachment 24 km north of the city. On 25 May, the navies of the count and the emir engaged in the harbour, where the latter was killed, while Jordan's forces besieged the city. The siege lasted throughout the summer, but when the city capitulated in March 1086 only Noto was still under Saracen dominion. In February 1091 Noto yielded as well, and the conquest of Sicily was complete. In 1091, Roger landed at Malta and subdued the walled city of Mdina. He imposed taxes on the islands, but allowed the Arab governors to continue their rule. In 1127 Roger II abolished the Muslim government, replacing it with Norman officials. Under Norman rule, the Arabic spoken by the Greek Christian islanders for centuries of Muslim domination became Maltese.