History Files


European Kingdoms

Italian Peninsula




Counts (Dukes) of Apulia
AD 1042 - 1154

Modern Apulia covers the south-eastern section of the Italian peninsula, forming the 'heel' and a substantial strip of territory above it. The region was a direct descendant of the former tribal territory of the Iron Age Iapyges, prior to integration within the Roman empire which also absorbed several former Greek colonies on the coast. Following Roman collapse, the region was held successively by Goths, Ostrogoths, Lombards, and then the Eastern Roman empire from their exarchate of Ravenna. A local catepano, or governor, administered the whole southern section of Italy from Bari in the name of the empire, which was known as the 'Catepanate of Italy'.

In 1035 a large family or clan of Norman mercenaries called the Hautevilles arrived in Italy, led by William de Hauteville. Soon after becoming involved with them, Guaimar IV of Salerno was required to send troops to support a Byzantine expedition under General Giorgio Maniace. Guaimar sent a cohort of Lombards and Normans, prominent amongst whom was William de Hauteville who, in Sicily, won the epithet 'Iron Arm'. In 1038, the Normans and Lombards returned in a rebellious state and quickly invaded Greek Apulia. Guaimar supported them and, in 1042, they elected William Iron Arm as count and sought the approval of Guaimar. They also acclaimed him as duke of Apulia and Calabria - effectively recognising him as William's overlord in 1043. This was in full opposition to any Byzantine claims but the county of Apulia had been born.

At Melfi, Guaimar in turn recognised William as count of Apulia (a count being the regional commander or administrator but not its titular lord, although the imperial authorities failed to recognise any such claim). Guaimar himself retained the title of duke until 1046. Together with his Hauteville brothers, William gradually took territory from the Kalbids on Sicily and from the catepanate in southern Italy. This coincided with a period of Kalbid rule on Sicily that was becoming increasingly subject to internal division as factions vied for control, making them ripe for conquest.

(Additional information from the World Heritage Encyclopaedia, and from The Normans in the South 1016–1130, John Julius Norwich, 1967.)

1042 - 1046

William de Hauteville 'Iron Arm'

Son of Tancred de Hauteville. Unrecognised first count of Apulia.


With the Normans under William Iron Arm now in full command of Apulia, they recognise Guaimar IV of Salerno as their overlord by acclaiming him as the duke of Apulia and Calabria. Guaimar, in accordance with good feudal theory, grants them Melfi and the republican model on which it is set up.

Lecce Roman theatre
Norman conquests in southern Italy started relatively small (with Lecce shown here being taken by 1055) but they led to the creation of a single kingdom by the mid-twelfth century, 


The Kalbids begin to disintegrate as a dynasty, paving the way for the Norman conquest of Sicily from 1061, and the island's permanent incorporation into Christendom. The Arab section of the island has already broken up into four minor feudal states which struggle for dominance. In the same year, Guaimar and William begin to take Calabria, and the former builds a large castle at Squillace (although he would have trouble holding it in later years in the face of pressure from both the Holy Roman Emperor and the Normans).


This year sees the death of Rainulf Drengot, who still holds the county of Aversa which had originally been granted to him by the duke of Naples. Despite Guaimar's protestations the county passes to Rainulf's nephew, Asclettin Drengot. Later that same year, Guaimar opposes the succession of Asclettin's cousin, Rainulf Trincanocte, but again is overridden. These quarrels lead the once-loyal Aversa to return its allegiance to Pandulf of Capua (co-ruler of Benevento). War against Pandulf continues until 1047.


William has not been recognised by Holy Roman Emperor Henry III the Black, probably due to the fact that the emperor has played no part in creating the title of duke or count of Apulia or in granting either title to their holders. Now, upon William's death, and in an effort to take control he removes the ducal title from Guaimar IV of Salerno and grants it to Drogo. He is created Dux et Magister Italiae comesque Normannorum totius Apuliae et Calabriae - although he is still regarded as only a count - and becomes a direct vassal of the emperor.

1046 - 1051

Drogo de Hauteville

Brother. Count of Apulia. Assassinated.


Holy Roman Emperor Henry III visits southern Italy to demand homage from the dukes of the south. He returns Capua to Pandulf and takes Aversa and Melfi directly under his suzerainty. Finally, he deprives Guaimar of Salerno of his title over Apulia and Calabria. The emperor also besieges Benevento, where Empress Agnes is being held while the gates are shut to him. At that point, Daufer, the future Pope Victor III, and brother of Pandulf III of Benevento, flees the city and seeks Guaimar's protection.

1051 - 1052

At a synod in Benevento in July 1051, Pope Leo IX beseeches Guaimar and Drogo to stop the Norman incursions on church lands. However, Drogo is soon assassinated, probably thanks to Byzantine conspiracy. The following year, on 3 June 1052, Guaimar is also assassinated, by his wife's brothers at the harbour in his own capital. The assassins are eventually captured and put to death by the Normans in a show of their loyalty to Guaimar even after his death.

1051 - 1057

Humphrey Abagelard de Hauteville

Brother. Lord of Lavello. Count of Apulia. Died.


Always jockeying for power in competition with the Holy Roman empire, Pope Leo IX is frustrated in his attempts to tame the Normans in southern Italy. He now suffers defeat at the Battle of Civitate on 18 July, during which he is captured and then imprisoned for almost a year in Benevento.

1055 - 1057

Thanks to Pope Leo's defeat and the weakening of the papacy, Humphrey is able to extend Norman power to cover Oria, Narḍ, and Lecce by the end of 1055. His brother, Robert Guiscard (the hero of Civitate in 1053), conquers Minervino Murge, Otranto, and Gallipoli before Humphrey sends him back to Calabria in fear of his growing power and influence. Robert does indeed seize the county upon Humphrey's death, and Humphrey's two sons are sidelined.

1057 - 1085

Robert Guiscard de Hauteville

Brother. Count of Apulia. Duke (1059). Benevento (1077-1081).


The Treaty of Melfi marks the recognition of Norman power in southern Italy. Robert Guiscard is elevated to the position of duke of Apulia and Calabria, thereby replacing and succeeding Guaimar IV of Salerno.


With fresh-found blessing from Pope Nicholas II as the best way of ridding Sicily of the Muslims (and curbing Constantinople's influence in Italy), Robert and his brother, Roger, invade the island in 1061 (sometimes reported as 1060). This initial invasion creates a bridgehead by capturing Messina, on the north-eastern tip of the island.

Battle of Cerami
Roger Guiscard defeated 35,000 Saracens at the Battle of Cerami in 1063 as part of his conquest of Sicily, depicted in this oil on canvas of about 1860 by Prosper Lafaye

1071 - 1072

Robert captures Bari, the last Byzantine city in Italy, in 1071, while Roger takes Palermo on the island of Sicily in 1072. The Kalbid emirate there is quashed in the same year, paving the way for the creation of the Norman county of Sicily.

1077 - 1081

The sole remaining Lombardic prince of Benevento, Landulf VI, dies, ending his line. The city of Benevento is ruled directly by Robert Guiscard, although the details of how he comes to secure it are obscure. It is probably handed over by the Pope when he is negotiating for Norman help in his own battles against the Holy Roman Emperor. At the end of this period, Robert hands the city back to the Pope and it becomes an outlying possession of the Papal States. However, Robert retains most of the principality's territory outside the city itself.

1085 - 1111

Roger I Borsa 'The Purse'


1085 - 1086

Roger's elder half-brother Bohemond had been in line to succeed Robert Guiscard in his Greek possessions, with Roger gaining the Italian ones. However, with the support of Roger I of Sicily, his uncle, Roger Borsa is recognised as duke in September 1085. Bohemond rebels with the support of Jordan I of Capua, taking Oria, Otranto, and Taranto. Roger agrees a peace in March 1086 and the brothers act as effective co-rulers.

1086 - 1087


Elder half-brother and effective co-ruler.

1087 - 1089

In late summer 1087, Bohemond renews the war against Roger Borsa with the support of some of his brother's vassals. He surprises and defeats Roger at Fragneto and retakes Taranto. Roger is unable to check Bohemond's power or bring him under control. The war is finally resolved through the mediation of Pope Urban II and the award of Taranto and other possessions to Bohemond.

1111 - 1127

William II

Son. Died without heir.


William II dies at the age of nineteen, unmarried, not having produced an heir, and not being very effective in his role as duke. The ducal title passes to his cousin, Roger II, count of Sicily who now governs Sicily, Apulia, and Calabria, significantly increasing his power and influence.

1127 - 1154

Roger II

Count of Sicily (1105-1154). Duke of Apulia & Calabria.


Naples has stood unconquered while all of the various Lombard and Greek states have been conquered. But now, Duke Sergius VII surrenders his city to Roger II.


Pope Innocent II excommunicates his ardent enemy, Roger II, but further conflict follows during which the city of Benevento becomes an outlying possession of the Papal States. Most of that principality's lands fall under the control of Naples which is now governed by Roger through Sicily.

1154 - 1268

The world atlas by the Arabic geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi is commissioned by Roger II. In the same year, following the accession of Roger's successor, his son William, the duchy of Apulia and Calabria together with the county of Sicily form a single Norman kingdom of Naples & Sicily.

The duchy of Apulia survives as a recognisable entity, but one which is usually a lesser title. In the modern age, a branch of the House of Savoy, rulers of the former kingdom of Italy, continues to use the title. However, even now it is secondary to the title of duke of Savoy-Aosta.