The Norman mercenaries in Italy : the Normans come to the aid of Salerno and Naples
The Normans had already been recruited by the abbots of Montecassino and Saint Vincent of Volturno around 1010, before participating in the revolt in Apulia against Byzantine in 1016-1018. The first evidence of a Norman military action goes back to the liberation of Salerno in 999, but certain historians consider this to be rather mythical and destined to create a pious legend in the Norman fight against Islam.
Forty Normans returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre may have helped the Lombard Prince Guaimar II (989-1027) to liberate the town besieged by the Arabs of Sicily. Welcomed as saviours, the Normans preferred to return home accompanied by an ambassador promising to return with help.
The 1020s brought confirmation of the Norman presence in Campania with a group of mercenaries led by Rainolf Drengot, one of the four brothers of Osmond Drengot, banished by the duke of Normandy. Having served various causes for ten years – of which one has little knowledge - Rainolf Drengot was enlisted by the duke of Naples, Sergius IV, himself forced to flee by the Lombard prince of Capua, Pandulf III. Back on the throne in 1029, the duke of Naples granted the title of count to Rainolf, the town of Aversa and its lands, the important strategic centre of Liburia, and the rich Terra del Lavarro (a vast plain between Naples and Caserta). Rainolf Drengot was also married to the duke of Naples’s daughter. Thus, the Norman, by a complex game of opportunity and alliances succeeded in a few years to reinforce his position and establish his county in Aversa. The first solid Norman principality in Italy – a real political base.