|The rise of Robert Guiscard|
Robert, the ‘baron thief’
The brother who left the longest lasting mark on the history of Italy was Robert, whose nickname the Guiscard, (the Cunning), gained in Calabria, and reflects his main trait of character. Born around 1015, his elders had already settled in southern Italy, before he joined them with a small group of comrades-in-arms, in 1047, just after the death of William Iron-Arm. His brothers, averse to share their recently acquired spoils, welcomed him coolly. He thus became a mercenary and served with the prince of Capua, Pandulf IV. He seems to have only known misery, and, eventually his brother Dreux gave him a castle in Calabria with the assignment of harassing the Byzantine troops. (The rocca of Scribla, in the Crati Valley above the Sibari plain was identified and excavated in the 1970’s). When he was not helping his brothers, Robert, in order to survive, fell into brigandage and the population did not welcome his presence.
Robert left his ‘eagle’s nest’ in Calabria when his brother Humphrey died in 1057, to succeed him at the head of the Apulian county of Melfi. In order to reinforce his political position locally, he married a Lombard princess, Guaimar IV of Salerno’s daughter, Sikilgaita, who gave birth to a son, Roger Borsa, who was to inherit the duchy of Apulia. For the marriage, which favoured his ambitions, Robert had to repudiate his first union with Alberda, aunt of his compatriot Girad de Buon Albergo. Bohemond, his child with Alberda, nonetheless, stayed loyal to his father during his campaigns against the Byzantine Empire but only received the town of Tarento as legacy. He would try to gain a principality in Antioch during the First Crusade (1095-1100) pushing ever farther the ambitions of the Normans in Italy.