The Journal of Southeastern European Studies
The Final Luster of Normans of Sicily: the Attack on Thessaloniki in 1185Zeki Can Hırçın
The foreign policy of William II, the third king of Sicily named the Good, was always venturesome. Even though the expeditions in three occasions to Egypt in 1170s and in one occasion to the Balearic Islands in 1181 resulted in nothing for the Kingdom at large expense, William was going to embark on a much bigger enterprise and this last one was going to pave the way for the Hauteville family to disappear from the history. The Family which gained visibility thanks to their fight with the Byzantines, was going to wear down due to the same reason. The habitual conflict between Italo-Normans and the Byzantine Empire fuelled by the King’s personal grudge against the Empire focused on Thessaloniki, the second largest city of Byzantium. Being one of the first signs of the Latin aggression that reaches up to the Fourth Crusade, this chain of events which coincides with a critical period of the Byzantines was going to result in dethroning of the Komnenos dynasty. The article studies the campaign of Sicilian Normans on the city of Thessaloniki, regarded as the second capital of Byzantium.
Sicilya Normanlarının Son Feri: 1185 Selânik SaldırısıZeki Can Hırçın
Sicilya Krallığı’nın üçüncü kralı olan, İyi lâkaplı II. William’ın dış siyaseti her zaman maceraperest olmuştu. 1170’lerde üç defa Mısır’a, 1181’de Balear adalarına düzenlediği çıkarmalar krallık için pahalı ve sonuçsuz girişimler olarak kalmış olmasına rağmen William bu seferlerin hepsinden daha büyüğüne kalkışacak ve bu girişim Hauteville sülâlesinin kısa sürede tarihten çekilmesine yol açacaktı. Bizans’la savaşarak tarih sahnesine çıkan hânedan, son enerjisini yine onunla savaşarak tüketti. İtalya Normanları ve Bizans İmparatorluğu arasında kronikleşmiş olan düşmanlığın devamı sayılabilecek çatışma, Kral William’ın kişisel düşmanlığıyla birleşerek imparatorluğun ikinci büyük şehri Selânik üzerinde yoğunlaştı. Bizans için çok hassas bir döneme tesadüf eden olaylar zinciri, Komnenos hânedanının imparatorluk tacını kaybetmesine sebep olacak, IV. Haçlı Seferi’ne kadar giden Latin saldırganlığının ilk ciddi işareti olacaktı. Çalışmada 1185 yılında Bizans’ın ikinci başkenti olarak addedilen Selânik kentine Sicilya Normanları tarafından düzenlenen saldırı değerlendirilecektir.
In this article we focus on the causes, the scene, and the impact of the siege of Thessaloniki in 1185 by the Italo-Norman forces against the Byzantine Empire. ‘Adventurous’ king William II, the third king of Sicily called the Good, inherited an old animosity from his ancestors and considered that the time was ripe for the Kingdom of Sicily to launch forth an invasion of the Byzantine Empire, given its condition during the period. The Byzantines were ruled with terror by the tyrannical Andronikos I, so much so that the prominent class in the Empire dispersed towards the periphery of the Empire in fear of their lives and in some cases even supported the Normans. If one were to select three different periods of internal disorder in the entire history of the Byzantine Empire, Andronicus’ term would definitely be included. In other words, Eastern Empire writhed in pain in the hands of a descendent of its savior dynasty. Nevertheless, it was still the Roman Empire.
Looking at the aggressors, settled in Sicily, the aptly-titled Kingdom of Sicily was a powerhouse in the center of Mediterranean. A Norman power had somehow flourished in South Italy against puissance of the popes and the Holy Roman Empire, along with the Byzantine Empire. It became a kingdom in 1130 and later the pivot in the central Mediterranean by dominating Ifriqiya around the mid-twelfth century. Although its domination was short-dated in Ifriqiya, the Norman Kingdom continued to control the trade routes between European Mediterranean ports and Eastern coastal areas as a wealthy and powerful kingdom. It retained most of its power until the coronation of William II in 1166. From 1171 onwards, after his infancy, William II adapted an adventurous and ambitious foreign policy. Oversea expeditions of William II on three occasions to Egypt in 1170s had the aim to defend the Crusader States, but these ventures did not have any tangible outcome; and on one occasion to the Balearic Islands in 1181 resulted in a similar conclusion. These oversea campaigns were carried at a substantial financial expense by the Kingdom. Nevertheless, the Kingdom was wealthy, and William was eager to undertake a much bigger enterprise. The habitual conflict between the Italo-Normans and the Byzantine Empire, supported by the King’s personal grudge against the Empire was now focused on Thessaloniki, the second largest city of the Eastern Empire. The siege was successful, and it was concluded in a short time of nine days, but the aftermath was going to be inauspicious for the aggressors. The Hauteville Family that first gained visibility thanks to their fight with the Byzantines, was going to exhaust all its energy and resources due to the same reason.
Along with its brand-new ruling dynasty, the Angelos, the refreshed Empire could face their fearful enemy. Withdrawing in front of the eager Imperial forces in the western Thrace, the Normans would have felt that this retreat was just a beginning. Indeed, the Norman Kingdom of Sicily was going to disappear from history in less than 10 years after that conflict.
On the other hand, the chain of events triggered by the Norman attack, which coincided with a critical period in the Byzantine history, was going to result in dethroning of the powerful Komnenos dynasty on behalf of the Angelos, mostly deemed weak by the modern historians. However, the siege against the Eastern Empire is the one of most prominent signs of the Latin aggression that was going to reach up to the Fourth Crusade.