Siege of Bari

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Siege of Bari
Part of the Byzantine-Norman wars
Date5 August 1068 – 15 April 1071
Location Bari, Apulia
Result Decisive Norman victory, the Byzantines retreat from Southern Italy
Byzantine Empire Normans
Commanders and leaders
Michael Maurex
Stephen Pateran
Robert Guiscard
Bari garrison, other Byzantine reinforcements and 20 ships Norman army and fleet, unknown size
Casualties and losses
Heavy, including civilians Heavy

The siege of Bari took place 106871, during the Middle Ages, when Norman forces, under the command of Robert Guiscard, laid siege to the city of Bari, a major stronghold of the Byzantines in Italy and the capital of the Catepanate of Italy, starting from 5 August 1068. Bari was captured on 16 April 1071 when Robert Guiscard entered the city, ending over five centuries of Byzantine presence in Southern Italy.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th through the 15th centuries

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Robert Guiscard Duke of Apulia and Calabria

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 of Apulia and Calabria (1057–1059), and then Duke of Apulia and Calabria and Duke of Sicily (1059–1085), and briefly Prince of Benevento (1078–1081) before returning the title to the Pope.

Bari Comune in Apulia, Italy

Bari is the capital city of the Metropolitan City of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in southern Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples and Palermo, a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas. The city itself has a population of 326,799, as of 2015, over 116 square kilometres (45 sq mi), while the urban area has 700,000 inhabitants. The metropolitan area has 1.3 million inhabitants.




By 1060, only a few coastal cities in Apulia were still in Byzantine hands: during the previous few decades, the Normans had increased their possessions in southern Italy and now aimed to the complete expulsion of the Byzantines from the peninsula before concentrating on the conquest of Sicily, then mostly under Islamic domination.

Sicily Island in the Mediterranean and region of Italy

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.

Emirate of Sicily Historic Islamic state on Sicily 831 - 1072

The Emirate of Sicily was an emirate on the island of Sicily which existed from 831 to 1091. Its capital was Palermo.

Large military units were thus called from Sicily and, under Count Geoffrey of Conversano, laid siege to Otranto. [1]

Otranto Comune in Apulia, Italy

Otranto is a town and comune in the province of Lecce, in a fertile region once famous for its breed of horses.

The siege

The next move was the arrival of Robert Guiscard, with a large corps, who laid siege to the Byzantine city of Bari on 5 August 1068. Within the city there were two parties: one wanting to preserve allegiance to the Byzantine empire, and another that was pro-Norman. When the Norman troops neared, the former had prevailed and the local barons shut the city's gates and sent an embassy led by Bisantius Guirdeliku to emperor Romanos IV Diogenes in order to seek military help. The negotiations offered by Robert were refused. [2]

Bisantius Guirdeliku was a noble citizen of Bari, then the capital of the Byzantine catepanate of Italy. He held the rank of patrikios. During the siege of Bari (1068–71) by the Normans, he led the faction opposed to surrender until he was assassinated by his rival, Argirizzo, in 1070. His nickname is known from the anonymous Annales Barenses and the chronicle of Lupus Protospatharius.

Romanos IV Diogenes Byzantine emperor

Romanos IV Diogenes, also known as Romanus IV, was a member of the Byzantine military aristocracy who, after his marriage to the widowed empress Eudokia Makrembolitissa, was crowned Byzantine emperor and reigned from 1068 to 1071. During his reign he was determined to halt the decline of the Byzantine military and to stop Turkish incursions into the Byzantine Empire, but in 1071 he was captured and his army routed at the Battle of Manzikert. While still captive he was overthrown in a palace coup, and when released he was quickly defeated and detained by members of the Doukas family. In 1072, he was blinded and sent to a monastery, where he died of his wounds.

Otranto fell in October, [1] but at Bari the Norman attacks against the walls were repeatedly pushed back by the Byzantines. Robert decided to blockade the city's port with a fortified bridge in order to thwart any relief effort. The Byzantines, however, destroyed the bridge, and managed to maintain a link with their homeland. [2]

Romanos IV named a new catepan, Avartuteles, and provided him with a fleet with men and supplies for Bari. The Byzantine fleet arrived at the city in early 1069, but in the meantime a Byzantine field army was defeated by the Normans, who occupied Gravina and Obbiano. Robert did not return immediately to Bari, and in the January 1070 he moved to Brindisi to help the Norman forces then besieging that coastal fortress. Brindisi capitulated in the autumn of 1070. [2]

Brindisi Comune in Apulia, Italy

Brindisi is a city in the region of Apulia in southern Italy, the capital of the province of Brindisi, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Historically, the city has played an important role in trade and culture, due to its strategic position on the Italian Peninsula and its natural port on the Adriatic Sea. The city remains a major port for trade with Greece and the Middle East. Its industries include agriculture, chemical works, and the generation of electricity.

The situation in Bari was then critical, and the population suffered from famine. Avartuteles plotted to have Robert assassinated, but the Byzantine patricius Byzantios Guideliku failed. A delegation of citizens asked the catepan to improve the city's defence, or otherwise surrender it to the Normans. Avartuteles played for time, sending another embassy to Constantinople. He obtained the arrival of a fleet with grain in Bari. When the grain ran out, a group of citizens again asked the catepan to beg the emperor to send an army as soon as possible. [3]

Romanos IV, whose generals had been repeatedly defeated by the Normans, and with few free troops to dispatch, sent twenty ships under the command of a Gocelin, a Norman rebel who had taken shelter in Constantinople. Stephen Pateran, appointed as new catepan of Italy, came with him. However, the Normans intercepted the Byzantine ships off Bari and scattered them. The Norman sailors identified Gocelin's ship and, despite the loss of 150 men, finally captured it; Stephen was instead able to reach Bari. He soon recognized that the defence had become impossible; a local noble, Argyritzos, was sent to negotiate with the Normans. The latter offered acceptable conditions, and Bari surrendered on April 1071. [4]


Stephen Pateran was initially imprisoned, but was later allowed to return to Constantinople with other Byzantine survivors. [5]

With the fall of Bari, the Byzantine presence in southern Italy ended after 536 years. Emperor Manuel I Komnenos tried to reconquer southern Italy in 1156-1158, but the attempt turned into a failure. [6]

According to William of Apulia, Robert Guiscard "entrusted the city" to Argyritzos. The earliest document of Norman rule, however, shows a certain Lizius, probably a Norman, as viscount and a patrikios named Maurelianus, probably a native Bariot, as catepan. [7]

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  1. 1 2 Ravegnani, Giorgio (2004). I bizantini in Italia (in Italian). Bologna: Il Mulino. p. 201.
  2. 1 2 3 William of Apulia, Gesta Roberti Wiscardi
  3. Ravegnani, Giorgio (2004). I bizantini in Italia (in Italian). Bologna: Il Mulino. p. 202.
  4. Ravegnani, Giorgio (2004). I bizantini in Italia (in Italian). Bologna: Il Mulino. p. 212.
  5. Ravegnani, Giorgio (2004). I bizantini in Italia (in Italian). Bologna: Il Mulino. p. 203.
  6. Lilie, Ralph-Johannes (2005). Bisanzio la seconda Roma (in Italian). Rome: Newton & Compton. ISBN   88-541-0286-5.
  7. G. A. Loud, The Age of Robert Guiscard: Southern Italy and the Norman Conquest (Routledge, 2013), p. 136.