Roger I of Sicily

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Roger I of Sicily
Roger I of Sicily and Judith d'Evreux.jpg
Wedding of Roger I of Sicily and Judith d'Evreux
Count of Sicily
PredecessorPosition established
Successor Simon
Duchy of Normandy, Kingdom of France
Died22 June 1101
Mileto, County of Apulia and Calabria
Benedictine Abbey of the Holy Trinity, Mileto
Spouse Judith d'Évreux
Eremburga of Mortain
Adelaide del Vasto
Issue(illeg.) Jordan of Hauteville
(illeg.) Geoffrey, Count of Ragusa
Mauger, Count of Troina
Felicia, Queen of Hungary
Simon, Count of Sicily
Roger II of Sicily
House Hauteville
Father Tancred of Hauteville
Religion Roman Catholicism

Roger I (Italian : Ruggero I, Arabic: رُجار, Rujār; Maltese: Ruġġieru, c.1031 [1] – 22 June 1101), nicknamed Roger Bosso and The Great, was a Norman nobleman who became the first Count of Sicily from 1071 to 1101. He was a member of the House of Hauteville, and his descendants in the male line continued to rule Sicily down to 1194.


Roger was born in Normandy, and came to southern Italy as a young man in 1057. He participated in several military expeditions against the Emirate of Sicily beginning in 1061. He was invested with part of Sicily and the title of count by his brother, Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia, in 1071. [2] By 1090, he had conquered the entire island. In 1091, he conquered Malta. The state he created was merged with the Duchy of Apulia in 1127 and became the Kingdom of Sicily in 1130.

Conquest of Calabria and Sicily

Roger was the youngest son of Tancred of Hauteville by his second wife Fredisenda. [3] Roger arrived in Southern Italy in the summer of 1057. [4] The Benedictine monk, Goffredo Malaterra, who compares Robert Guiscard and his brother Roger to "Joseph and Benjamin of old," said of Roger:

He was a youth of the greatest beauty, of lofty stature, of graceful shape, most eloquent in speech and cool in counsel. He was far-seeing in arranging all his actions, pleasant and merry all with men; strong and brave, and furious in battle. [5]

In 1057 he shared the conquest of nearly all of Calabria excepting Reggio with his brother Robert. [4] For a time Roger lived like a bandit in his castle of Scalea, near Cosenza. [4] In a treaty of 1062, the brothers divided the conquest so that each was to have half of every castle and town in Calabria. [6] It was about this same time that Roger married Judith d'Évreux.

Roger I of Sicily at the Battle of Cerami (1063), in which he was victorious against 35,000 Muslims Roger I de Sicilia en la batalla de Cerami, por Prosper Lafaye.jpg
Roger I of Sicily at the Battle of Cerami (1063), in which he was victorious against 35,000 Muslims

Roger had first thought of conquering Sicily when he and his brother conquered Calabria. [7] At the time, it was ruled by Muslims and the population were mostly Byzantine Greek Christians. The Arab princes had become all but independent of the sultan of Tunis. In May 1061 the brothers crossed from Reggio and captured Messina. [7] In June 1063, Roger defeated a Muslim army at the Battle of Cerami [8] and would strike another victory at the Battle of Misilmeri in 1068. After they took Palermo in January 1072, Robert Guiscard, as suzerain, invested Roger as Count of Sicily. [9] Robert retained Palermo, half of Messina, and the north-east portion (the Val Demone). [9] Not till 1085 was Roger able to undertake a systematic conquest.

In March 1086 Syracuse surrendered, and when in February 1091 Noto yielded, the conquest of Sicily was complete. [10] Much of Robert's success had been due to Roger's support. After Robert died and Count Roger became the senior member of the family, he supported his nephew, Duke Roger Borsa, against his other nephew, Prince Bohemund of Taranto, Lando IV of Capua, and other rebels. In return for his uncle's aid against Bohemund and the rebels, Duke Roger Borsa surrendered his share in the castles of Calabria to his Roger in 1085, and in 1091 his inheritance in Palermo, likewise.

Roger's rule in Sicily became more absolute than that of Robert Guiscard in Italy. In addition, due to immigration by Lombards and Normans, Latin Christianity gradually replaced that of the Greek Byzantine tradition. At the enfeoffments of 1072 and 1092, no great undivided fiefs were created. The mixed Norman, French and Italian vassals all owed their benefices to the count. No feudal revolt of importance arose against Roger.

Conquest of Malta

In 1091 Roger, in order to avoid an attack from North Africa, set sail with a fleet to conquer Malta. His ship reached the island before the rest. On landing, the few defenders the Normans encountered retreated and the following day Roger marched to the capital Mdina. Terms were discussed with the local qadi . It was agreed that the islands would become tributaries of the count himself and that the qadi should continue to administer the islands. With the treaty many Greek and other Christian prisoners were released, who chanted to Roger the Kyrie eleison . He left the islands with many who wished to join him and so many were on his ship that it nearly sank, according to Geoffrey Malaterra. [11] The invasion was romanticized in later centuries, and legends arose that the Count gave the Maltese their red and white flag by cutting a part of his banner. [12] Mass is said once a year in remembrance of the Count at the Cathedral of Mdina, as a recognition for the Count's role in liberating Maltese Christians from Muslim dominance and rule.[ citation needed ]

Rule of Sicily

Roger I as he appears on a trifollaro minted at Mileto Calabria, trifollaro di ruggieri I d'altavilla, 1072-1101.JPG
Roger I as he appears on a trifollaro minted at Mileto

Politically supreme, the count also became master of the insular church. The Papacy, favouring a prince who had recovered Sicily from Greeks and Muslims, in 1098 granted Roger and his heirs the Apostolic Legateship of the island. Roger created new Latin bishoprics at Syracuse, Girgenti and elsewhere, nominating the bishops personally, while he turned the archbishopric of Palermo into a Catholic see. Of these bishops and other important clergy positions, a minority were French, and of those even fewer were Norman. Of the five new sees he founded, one bishop was Norman and three others were from other parts of France. [13] He practiced general toleration towards Arabs and Greeks, even sponsoring the construction of over twelve Greek monasteries in the Val Demone region. [14] In the cities, the Muslims, who had generally secured such rights in their terms of surrender, retained their mosques, their qadis, and freedom of trade; in the country, however, they became serfs. Roger drew the mass of his infantry from the Muslims; Saint Anselm, visiting him at the siege of Capua, 1098, found "the brown tents of the Arabs innumerable". Nevertheless, the Latin element began to prevail, as Lombards and other Italians flocked to the island in the wake of the conquest, and the conquest of Sicily proved decisive in the steady decline of Muslim power in the western Mediterranean from this time.[ citation needed ]

Death and succession

Roger I died on 22 of June 1101 in Mileto and was buried at the Benedictine Abbey of the Holy Trinity. The abbey was destroyed in the earthquake of 1783. Its ruins are currently located in the Mileto Antica archaeological park.

Upon Roger's death, his son, Simon of Hauteville, became the Count of Sicily, with his mother, Adelaide del Vasto, acting as his regent. On 28 September 1105, at the age of 12, Simon died, and the title of count passed to his younger brother, Roger II of Sicily, with Adelaide continuing on as regent, being the mother of Roger II as well. [15]


Coat of Arms of Roger I of Sicily Coat of Arms of Roger I of Sicily.svg
Coat of Arms of Roger I of Sicily

Roger's eldest son, Jordan, predeceased him. Roger's second son, Geoffrey, possibly illegitimate, was a leper with no chance of inheriting.

Roger's first marriage took place in 1062, to Judith d'Évreux. [16] She died in 1076, leaving daughters:

In 1077, Roger married a second time, to Eremburga of Mortain, [18] and their children were:

Roger's last wife was Adelaide del Vasto, a sister of his son-in-law Henry del Vasto. They married in 1087. Roger and Adelaide's children were:

Roger's other daughter called Matilda married Guigues III, Count of Albon.


Related Research Articles

1091 Calendar year

Year 1091 (MXCI) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar.

Roger II of Sicily King of Sicily from 1130 to 1154

Roger II was King of Sicily and Africa, son of Roger I of Sicily and successor to his brother Simon. He began his rule as Count of Sicily in 1105, became Duke of Apulia and Calabria in 1127, then King of Sicily in 1130 and King of Africa in 1148. 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 government.

Robert Guiscard Duke of Apulia and Calabria (1015–1085)

Robert Guiscard was a Norman adventurer remembered for the conquest of southern Italy and Sicily. Robert was born into the Hauteville family in Normandy, went on to become count and then duke of Apulia and Calabria (1057–1059), Duke of Sicily (1059–1085), and briefly prince of Benevento (1078–1081) before returning the title to the papacy.

Adelaide del Vasto

Adelaide del Vasto was countess of Sicily as the third spouse of Roger I of Sicily, and Queen consort of Jerusalem by marriage to Baldwin I of Jerusalem. She served as regent of Sicily during the minority of her son Roger II of Sicily from 1101 until 1112.

Humphrey of Hauteville, surnamed Abagelard, was the count of Apulia and Calabria from 1051 to his death.

Simon of Hauteville, called Simon de Hauteville in French and Simone D'Altavilla in Italian, was the eldest son and successor of Roger the Great Count, count of Sicily, and Adelaide del Vasto, under whose regency he reigned.

Serlo I of Hauteville was a son of Tancred of Hauteville by his first wife, Muriella, probably the youngest, though some sources call him the eldest. Born before 1010, he was the eldest son of Tancred's to remain in Normandy. After a dispute with a neighbour, whom he killed over an insult, Serlo was exiled for three years. Around 1041, his father died and he inherited the small fief of Hauteville in the Cotentin and the sirery of Pirou through his wife. He was regarded, as were his brothers, as an exceptional warrior.

GaufredoMalaterra was an eleventh-century Benedictine monk and historian, possibly of Norman origin. He travelled to the southern Italian peninsula, passing some time in Apulia before entering the monastery of Sant'Agata at Catania, on the isle of Sicily. Malaterra indicates that, prior to his arrival in Catania, he had spent an undefined period away from monastic life, in the worldly service of "Martha".

Jordan of Hauteville was the eldest son and bastard of Roger I of Sicily. A fighter, he took part, from an early age, in the conquests of his father in Sicily.

William of the Principate

William of Hauteville was one of the younger sons of Tancred of Hauteville by his second wife Fressenda. He is usually called Willermus instead of Wilelmus in Latin annals and so is often called Guillerm instead of Guillaume in French. He left Normandy around 1053 with his elder half-brother Geoffrey and full brother Mauger.

Hauteville family Norman noble family that rose to prominence in southern Italy

The Hauteville was a Norman family originally of seigneurial rank from the Cotentin. The Hautevilles rose to prominence through their part in the Norman conquest of southern Italy. By 1130, one of their members, Roger II, was made the first King of Sicily. His male-line descendants ruled Sicily until 1194. Some Italian Hautevilles took part in the First Crusade and the founding of the Principality of Antioch (1098).

Norman conquest of southern Italy Historical event in the European Middle Ages

The Norman conquest of southern Italy lasted from 999 to 1139, involving many battles and independent conquerors.

Norman–Arab–Byzantine culture High Mediaeval cultural confluence in north Africa, southern Italy and Sicily

The term Norman–Arab–Byzantine culture, Norman-Sicilian culture or, less inclusively, Norman–Arab culture, refers to the interaction of the Norman, Latin, Arab and Byzantine Greek cultures following the Norman conquest of Sicily and of Norman Africa from 1061 to around 1250. The civilization resulted from numerous exchanges in the cultural and scientific fields, based on the tolerance shown by the Normans towards the Greek-speaking populations and the Muslim settlers. As a result, Sicily under the Normans became a crossroad for the interaction between the Norman and Latin Catholic, Byzantine–Orthodox and Arab–Islamic cultures.

County of Sicily Period of Sicilian history under Norman rule from 1071 to 1130

The County of Sicily, also known as County of Sicily and Calabria, was a Norman state comprising the islands of Sicily and Malta and part of Calabria from 1071 until 1130. The county began to form during the Christian reconquest of Sicily (1061–91) from the Muslim Emirate, established by conquest in 965. The county is thus a transitional period in the history of Sicily. After the Muslims had been defeated and either forced out or incorporated into the Norman military, a further period of transition took place for the county and the Sicilians.

The noble House of the Sarlo descends directly from Sarlo the I, son of Tancred de Hauteville and his first wife Muriella. Sarlo the first had a son from his marriage with the daughter of the Lord of Pirou also called Sarlo. Sarlo II went in the Mezzogiorno with his uncles to seek fortune.

County of Apulia and Calabria Norman state in southern Italy and Sicily from 1043 to 1130

The County of Apulia and Calabria, later the Duchy of Apulia and Calabria, was a Norman state founded by William of Hauteville in 1042 in the territories of Gargano, Capitanata, Apulia, Vulture, and most of Campania. It became a duchy when Robert Guiscard was raised to the rank of duke by Pope Nicholas II in 1059.

Battle of Cerami

The Battle of Cerami was fought in June 1063 and was one of the most significant battles in the Norman conquest of Sicily, 1060–1091. The battle was fought between a Norman expeditionary force and a Muslim alliance of Sicilian and Zirid troops. The Normans fought under the command of Roger de Hauteville, the youngest son of Tancred of Hauteville and brother of Robert Guiscard. The Muslim alliance consisted of the native Sicilian Muslims under the Kalbid ruling class of Palermo, led by Ibn al-Hawas, and Zirid reinforcements from North Africa led by the two princes, Ayyub and 'Ali. The battle was a resounding Norman victory that utterly routed the opposing force, causing divisions amongst the Muslim aristocracy which ultimately paved the way for the eventual capture of the Sicilian capital, Palermo, by the Normans and subsequently the rest of the island.

Maud of Apulia was a member of the Norman D’Hauteville family and a daughter of Robert Guiscard and his second wife Sikelgaita, a Lombard princess, the daughter of Guaimar IV, Prince of Salerno. She was also known as Mahalda, Mahault, Mafalda and Matilda. She was the wife of Ramón Berenguer II, and thus Countess of Barcelona (1078–1082). After her husband’s death, she remarried Aimery I, the Viscount of Narbonne (1086–1108).

Norman invasion of Malta

The Norman invasion of Malta was an attack on the island of Malta, then inhabited predominantly by Muslims, by forces of the Norman County of Sicily led by Roger I in 1091. The invaders besieged Medina, the main settlement on the island, but the inhabitants managed to negotiate peace terms. The Muslims freed Christian captives, swore an oath of loyalty to Roger and paid him an annual tribute. Roger's army then sacked Gozo and returned to Sicily with the freed captives.


  1. Houben 2002, p. 8.
  2. Burkhardt & Foerster 2013, p. 57.
  3. Luscombe & Riley-Smith 2004, p. 760.
  4. 1 2 3 Curtis 1912, p. 57.
  5. Malaterra & Wolf 2005, p. 15.
  6. Curtis 1912, p. 65.
  7. 1 2 Malaterra & Wolf 2005, p. 17.
  8. Houben 2002, p. 15, 20.
  9. 1 2 Curtis 1912, p. 68.
  10. Britt 2007, p. 23.
  11. McDonald, Neil (2016). Malta & Gozo – A Megalithic Journey. Megalithic Publishing. pp. 67–72. ISBN   9781326598358.
  12. Wettinger, Godfrey (1995). "The 'Norman' Heritage of Malta : GODFREY WETTINGER sifts the evidence surrounding Count Roger's visit in 1091" (PDF). Treasures of Malta. 1 (3): 34–39. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 December 2017.
  13. Burkhardt & Foerster 2013, p. ?.
  14. Britt 2007, p. 24.
  15. Houben 2002, p. 26.
  16. Brown 2003, p. 110.
  17. Jansen, Drell & Andrews 2009, p. 428.
  18. Houben 2002, p. 24.
  19. Robinson 1999, p. 292.


Further reading

Preceded by
New creation
Count of Sicily
Succeeded by