History of Apulia

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The history of Apulia deals with the historical development of the south-eastern Italian region of Apulia , which is roughly the heel of the Italian peninsula.

Prehistory and early history

Ipogeo "Le Trappite"

The relics of their Stone Age inhabitants were found in Apulian grottos and caves, especially in the Gargano and Salento . The post-glacial rise in sea level (increased by around 100 m) sealed the caves and their incisions near the shore . The 130,000 year old man from Altamura was found in the grotto of Altamura and Gravina in Puglia . Passo di Corvo , in the "Tavoliere delle Puglie" is one of the oldest circular moat-like structures in Europe. The approximately 80 known megalithic systems of the Bari- Taranto and Otranto types were created during the Bronze Age . In addition, there are at least as many menhirs and hypogea as that of Le Trappite and the chamber tombs in Apulia . During the Bronze Age, many fortified, often additionally naturally protected settlements emerged on the coasts. a. with the Eastern Mediterranean - especially Mycenaean Greece and partly Cyprus - reveal. Above all, Mycenaean pottery came to light at many sites. The settlement on Scoglio del Tonno in Taranto was an important trade center , which not only had intensive trade relations with the eastern Mediterranean, but also with northern Italy and was an important trading point for metal goods from the north. Thousands of purple snail shells that came to light in the fortified settlement of Coppa Nevigata suggest that there was a purple manufacturing facility there during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. The oldest inhabitants of the area named in ancient sources were those in the 11th and 10th centuries BC. Daunians possibly immigrated from Illyria , related to the Messapians and Peuketeers .

Greeks and Romans

Bronze work from Apulia (approx. 500 BC)

In the course of the Greek colonization between about 750 and 550 BC The Greek cities of Taras (Tarentum, Tarent with L'Amastuola ), Kallipolis ( Gallipoli ) and Hydrus (Hydruntum, Otranto ) emerged in the Puglia area , the rest of which were founded in the 4th century BC, which brought not only Greek settlers to the coasts of southern Italy, but also profound cultural influences However, the Adriatic coast of Apulia opposite the Balkans was not visited by the Greeks.

The spread of Roman power over Italy reached Apulia, which was of strategic importance in the conflict with the Samnites , towards the end of the 4th century. The Via Appia running from Rome to Capua , the first Roman highway, was extended to Brundisium ( Brindisi ), where a busy port of departure for shipping to Greece developed. (The poet Virgil died here in 19 BC, returning from a trip to Greece with the Emperor Augustus .) The importance of this road connection is underlined by the fact that around 100 AD its Emperor Trajan added a branch to the north, the Via Traiana , which reached the Adriatic Sea south of the Gargano and then led along the coast via (the still very insignificant) Bari to Brundisium.

In the context of the Roman Empire, the importance of Apulia (which was called Calabria by the Romans, while today's Calabria was called Bruttium) was minor. That here in the year 216 BC The Romans suffered the famous defeat against Hannibal at Cannae , which almost brought their state to an end, has little to do with the landscape itself, and the devastation of the war wore Apulia no differently than other Italian regions. As in almost all regions of Italy, the population declined, agriculture stagnated, the few cities remained provincial, even if the Pax Romana of Emperor Augustus gave the empire an almost undisturbed time of peace for more than two centuries.

Migration and Early Middle Ages

The storms of the Great Migration , which swept over the empire after 375 AD, initially did not affect southern Italy, and after the end of the western empire in 476, Apulia changed as part of the Germanic rule of Odoakar and the Ostrogoths that was establishing itself in Italy ( Theodoric the Great ) not much.

The Byzantine Empire at its power zenith in the Middle Byzantine period with the death of Emperor Basil II in 1025 (including the "Protectorates")

The turning point came with the attempt to recapture the Emperor Justinian I , who smashed the Ostrogoths and regained Italy for the rest of the Eastern Roman Empire in a twenty-year, devastating war that also directly affected Apulia. The Byzantine rule only outlasted the emperor for a few years: As early as 568, the Germanic Lombards invaded Italy from the north under their king Alboin , established themselves in the Po Valley and extended their rule over large parts of central and southern Italy. However, they did not succeed in completely driving out the Byzantines: like the areas around Ravenna and Rome, a large part of southern Italy with Apulia as an outpost remained under Byzantine administration. Italy was now divided and remained so (with different demarcations) until the Italian Risorgimento 1859-1860.

In the following four centuries, Puglia was part of the extremely varied history of the regions of southern Italy. During the Lombard Empire (until 774), Puglia remained largely under Byzantine rule, but Brindisi lost its precedence to Bari, which became the residence of the Byzantine governor as a fortified port. The constant pressure of the Longobards severely restricted Byzantine possessions, and they were also able to establish themselves in parts of Apulia.

With the overthrow of the Lombard kingdom through the intervention of Charlemagne , the immediate Lombard threat came to an end, and his successors were unable to pursue energetic policies in southern Italy, but Byzantium was also able to maintain its position vis-à-vis the Lombardy, which still existed Remaining duchies ( Benevento , Capua , Salerno ) could only be maintained with difficulty. The province was then called Langobardia by the Byzantines because they had wrested it from the Longobards. The Arabs who visited the region turned it into al-Ankubardia .

This confused situation was encountered by the Muslim Saracens in the 9th century . From Tunis they had snatched Sicily from the Byzantines and raided the Tyrrhenian coastal areas in rapid raids up to the mouth of the Rhone , sacked Rome and established themselves in the second half of the century on the southern Italian mainland, where they took Bari, Brindisi and Taranto, Emirates and the Byzantines were driven from almost all their possessions. For more than a century, Southern Italy remained a constant battleground between Saracens, Lombards and Byzantines, with Apulia playing a central role as the opposite coast of the Balkans and largely, if not undisputed, again in Byzantine possession in the 10th century: Bari, again the seat of the governor , Brindisi and Otranto served as connecting ports to Byzantium. It is noteworthy that the Saracens, as Muslims, were by no means only fought as opponents per se, but were also welcome as allies, depending on the requirements.

Attempts from outside to control the situation in southern Italy were unsuccessful. Initially, the Carolingian Ludwig II , who had fallen to rule over Italy when the Franconian Empire was divided in 840, achieved significant successes, but ultimately failed because of the unreliability of his Lombard allies. A century later, Emperor Otto the Great , king of the Carolingian part of Italy since 951, had to give up his plans to rule the south after the unsuccessful siege of the Byzantines in Bari in 968, and his son Otto II suffered a heavy defeat in the battle of Cape Colonna at Cotrone / Crotone against the Saracens in 982 meant the end of the imperial policy towards southern Italy for more than two hundred years. In theory, however, the German kings and emperors retained nominal sovereignty over the Lombard lower Italy, which resulted in serious tensions against the claims of the Byzantine emperors. Bari was conquered again by Arabs in 1002 and quickly recaptured by Byzantines. Against the Byzantines, however, the Barens Melus (Melo) rose up in 1009/10 and 1017/1018, as Ismahel (Ismail) he is immortalized on the gold embroidered star cloak that the Duke of Apulia had given to the German Emperor Heinrich II .

The Norman Empire in southern Italy

Another fundamental turning point, which pointed the way for the entire history of southern Italy up to the 19th century, came with the appearance of the Normans at the beginning of the 11th century. At first there were only small groups of landless knights from French Normandy , who had no future prospects in their homeland and who wanted to "make their fortune in a foreign land " as adventurers. In the disordered, warlike conditions of southern Italy, they seized the chance to win fame, booty and land ownership from their fighting strength in the wages of the various local warring parties. Their successes quickly drew other groups of compatriots, the growing number of Norman warriors increased their military and political influence, and soon their leaders became vassals of local princes and came into possession of their own fiefs (among them was a county on the Adriatic coast south of the Gargano for the first time the name "Apulia").

The southern Italian Normans gained historical importance around the middle of the 11th century under the leadership of several brothers from the Hauteville family . Robert Guiscard and his brother Roger I stood out among them . They systematically attacked the last Byzantine and Saracen possessions, and while Roger was devoting himself to the conquest of Sicily, Robert Guiscard took possession first of Calabria and then all of Apulia. The existence of an independent Norman sphere of influence was after unsuccessful resistance ( Battle of Civitate in Northern Apulia in 1053) by Emperor Heinrich III. and the Pope Leo IX, who was his patron . recognized, Robert Guiscard was confirmed as Duke of Apulia and Calabria . When, after the emperor's death in 1056, the imperial power was weakened and conflicts between the empire and papacy became apparent, which would soon culminate in the investiture controversy, Robert Guiscard took the side of the pope and had his new kingdom transferred to him as a papal fiefdom (1059). The new Norman-papal alliance first proved itself in 1084 when Emperor Henry IV besieged Rome and the city was saved (but also plundered) by Robert Guiscard's army. The imperial party in southern Italy was thus outmaneuvered, while the Byzantine influence also practically died out after the fall of Bari in 1071. Even more extensive plans by Robert Guiscard to conquer Greece and Byzantium came to a halt only with his sudden death in 1085.

On the other hand, contact with the Byzantine and Muslim world of the eastern Mediterranean was intensified at the turn of the 12th century, especially from Apulia, when the Apulian Adriatic ports of Barletta , Bari, Brindisi and Otranto , also Tarent , offered the crusader groups cheap embarkation in the beginning of the crusades. and landing opportunities - partly with the help of the Venetians - and were able to derive economic and cultural advantages from this traffic. Bari also benefited from the fact that it was possible to procure the remains of St. Nicholas of Myra for the city, making it one of the most popular pilgrimage sites of the Middle Ages .

The principalities and counties of southern Italy and Sicily, initially divided among the members of the House of Hauteville, were combined under Roger II to form a closed national territory and confirmed by the Pope in 1130 as the Kingdom of Sicily. This Norman empire with the capital Palermo represented the most modern, best organized and culturally flourishing part of Europe in the 12th century, and the Arab-Muslim component in Sicily played a decisive role in its splendor.

The Hohenstaufen

See also: List of Staufer castles in southern Italy

Towards the end of the 12th century, southern Italy entered a new historical stage: the German heir to the throne, Heinrich , son of the Staufer emperor Friedrich Barbarossa , married Konstanze in 1186 , his daughter Rogers II, who was eleven years older and heir to the Kingdom of Sicily. The imminent personal union of the then powerful and in Italy very active German Empire with the southern Italian kingdom, which had previously turned towards the Pope, posed an acute threat to all powers that tried to curb the imperial power in Italy, above all the Pope and the independent Lombard cities of northern Italy . Although both Emperor Heinrich VI died. and Konstanze soon after each other (1197 and 1198), but the Italian inheritance remained with the underage son of both, the later Emperor Friedrich II , who also received the German crown in 1215.

During the reign of Frederick II (1215–1250), the Italian mainland with Apulia before Sicily moved more into the focus of events. The emperor rarely stayed in Sicily or Germany, his focus was primarily on the conflicts with the Lombard cities and the Pope in northern Italy, but his Apulian empire owes him a large number of pioneering reforms in the legislative, administrative and cultural areas. He moved his residence to Foggia and built a magnificent palace there (which, along with most of the city, fell victim to an earthquake in the 18th century). Elsewhere in the kingdom there was also brisk construction activity, particularly in the fortifications that still exist today in ports and coastal areas. Towards the end of his life, Frederick II had the castle Castel del Monte near Andria built, world-famous as the "Crown of Apulia" . The fact that Frederick II surrounded himself with Muslim scholars and writers , kept a Saracen bodyguard and settled the Apulian city of Lucera with subjugated Saracens , in which he was his most loyal subjects and followers , is remarkable and already regarded by contemporaries as a sensation and with disgust before he finally died in Castel Fiorentino near Lucera.

The death of Frederick II heralded the end of the Staufer period in the Kingdom of Sicily. Although his (illegitimate) son Manfred was initially able to take over rule and assert himself against papal troops, Pope Urban IV. However, won Charles von Anjou , brother of the French king, as an ally, and this became the kingdom of Sicily, from which he should expel the Hohenstaufen as papal fiefdom . In the battle of Benevento in 1266 Manfred lost his crown and life to Karl von Anjou, a later campaign of his nephew Konradin ended in a catastrophe after initial successes in 1268 at Tagliacozzo . The Saracen colony in Lucera was destroyed in 1300.

Apulia as a province of the Lower Italian Empire

At the end of the Staufer period, the relative independence of Apulia ended. Since then, the landscape has divided the fortunes of Lower Italy and Sicily and does not occupy a special position, especially since with the end of the Crusades and the rise of Venice to the dominant sea power in the Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean, the economic importance of the Apulian Adriatic ports also declined.

The rule of the House of Anjou was initially able to establish itself firmly and secure it militarily, but was perceived by the population as tough and oppressive, at the same time the Aragon royal family's inheritance claims to the Hohenstaufen property emerged. An uprising in Sicily supported by Aragon in 1282, the Sicilian Vespers , tore the island away from the kingdom and brought it into Aragonese possession for a long time , the mainland with Apulia remained to the House of Anjou as the kingdom of Naples.

Subsequent disputes in the widely ramified House of Anjou gave the Aragonese in 1442 the opportunity to take over the Kingdom of Naples, as a result of which the parts of the empire were reunited and from now on - after the unification of the Iberian empires to form the Kingdom of Spain in 1479 - they were under the Spanish crown, which shortly thereafter House of Habsburg fell.

A new threat arose as a result of the spread of the Ottoman Turks in the Balkans and their constant struggle with Venice from the 14th century. The Adriatic coast of Albania opposite Apulia was already Turkish, and so in 1480 under Sultan Mehmed II , the conqueror of Constantinople , an attack on Otranto and the destruction of the city took place. The Turks built a bridgehead in Italy at the narrowest point of the Adriatic . Whether this was intended to be the beginning of further conquests and the threat to the Pope in Rome, who was one of the most uncompromising opponents of the Muslims, remains open: After the death of Mehmed II, the Turks gave up the city again the following year, the Spaniards restored it their rule. Nevertheless, the coasts of Puglia, like all coasts of the western Mediterranean, remained extremely endangered in the 15th and 16th centuries by the constant raids by Turkish and Berber pirates , of which the numerous remains of fortifications and watchtowers (often within sight of each other, so that the transmission of signals is possible was) testify today. Only the military expeditions of Emperor Charles V in North Africa around 1530 were able to bring some relief here.

The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies

When the Spanish line of the House of Habsburg expired in 1700, the War of the Spanish Succession decided on the division of the inheritance: Lower Italy with Apulia (among other parts) was granted to the Austrian line , shortly afterwards Sicily, while the main mass of the Spanish crown became the property of the French house Bourbon got there. As early as 1748, the result of the Austrian War of Succession brought another shift in ownership: Another line of the Spanish Bourbons took over rule in Naples and Sicily, in the following period often referred to as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies , and remained in possession of these countries until 1860 (with an interlude in the Period of Napoleon I ), when Giuseppe Garibaldi's revolutionary troops overthrew the Bourbon dynasty and incorporated their territory into the newly emerging Kingdom of Italy.

Excursus: Rise of the Normans 1000 to 1050

The split between the Lombard prince Waimar von Salerno and his uncle (?) Pandulf von Capua can be dated to around 1035. An attack by Pandulf on Benevento failed in 1036. After this attack Waimar not only rallied those dissatisfied with Pandulf, but also recruited a mercenary army , which included the two Hauteville brothers Wilhelm (later called "Eisenarm") and Drogo .

Pandulf's attacks on the imperial Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino led to the intervention of Conrad II in Italy in 1038. In the face of the imperial troops, Pandulf initially relented by agreeing to pay a fine and taking his children (including the later Pandulf VI ) hostage offered. Then, however, he refused to pay the fine in full, and his son, it seems, had meanwhile fled again, so that Konrad resorted to military means: In May he drove the prince to his castle St. Agathe above Capua ( at Capua vetere), arrested him, relieved him of all offices and pronounced his banishment.

Then the principality went to Wilhelm von Salerno, who was also enfeoffed with the Duchy of Gaeta and the county of Aversa , to which Naples had also made claims, was defeated at Salerno. Bishop Hildebrand von Capua , a son of Pandulf, had to vacate his chair. For the monastery of Montecassino, the Pandulf administrator Todius was relieved of his office, as was the abbot Basilius, who was associated with Byzantium . Since the monks did not see a suitable successor in their ranks, Konrad was asked for a recommendation. Empress Gisela proposed (the Altaich) judge, until then abbot of the Leno monastery , who was then also elected.

The order of the emperor remained in place even after his departure. After minor attempts to regain a foothold, Paschalis eventually went to Constantinople . Aversa now increasingly became a kind of gathering place for Norman immigrants . The collaboration with the Byzantines, to whom the Normans had previously hired themselves as mercenaries, came to an end after the Sicilian campaign, during which Wilhelm distinguished himself for the first time and was given the nickname Iron Arm before Syracuse . The division probably began with a horse: when the Norman leader Arduin had captured this horse and made preparations to keep it according to the custom of his people, the Greek leader Maniacus not only took it from him again, but left the Norman according to his custom Beat the people through - which ended the collaboration. The campaign itself was also unsuccessful, only Messina seems to have come into Greek possession in 1038.

Waimar had conquered his fiefdom of Capua by September 1038, and Amalfi by April 1039 . The Greek ally Manso IV had already been expelled from the city and Johann II, who had previously been deposed from his post, returned, but who now vacated Waimar and fled to Constantinople. By July 1039, Sorrento was conquered with the help of the Aversan Normans under Rainulf and Guido von Gonza was made Count of Sorrento. The last city to be incorporated was Gaeta Waimar's fief.

The Greeks seem to have been fully occupied to recapture Sicily by then, and did not offer any resistance worth mentioning in southern Italy. But then Michael Doceanus succeeded in regaining a foothold in southern Italy and recaptured Ascoli . Further attempts to break the establishing rule of the Normans were put down by Rainulf. Rainulf, in turn, had now allied himself with Arduin, meanwhile city commander of Melfi, in order to conquer other cities in Apulia. Only now did the Greeks and Normans clash hard. Doceanus openly took to the field against the Normans. Despite their considerable superiority, the Greeks lost first on Olivento (March 17th) in 1041 , then at Monte Maggiore on Ofanto (April 4th). At the last meeting, 18,000 Byzantines are said to have drawn against 3,000 Normans. The defeat then caused incomprehension in Constantinople, so that Doceanus was withdrawn from his mandate.

At the end of 1041 Exaugustus appeared as the new Katepan, but lost the third and decisive battle at Montepeloso (September 3). The Normans had Atenulf von Benevento , a brother of Pandulf III. , elected leader. Exaugustus fell into the hands of the Normans and was only released again for a substantial ransom . In the battle itself, Wilhelm Eisenarm had again distinguished himself (according to other reports, however, a Walther, son of the Amicus). Despite the successes, disagreements broke out again and again within the Normans (groups). Perhaps Atenulf fell out with Waimar because he saw himself offended by his enfeoffment of Rainulf von Aversa with Gaeta. Until the end of 1041, however, the cities of Matera , Bari, Monopoli and Giovinazzo were conquered. Finally, the local (?) Agyros, son of Melos, joined the Normans and was made their leader around May 1042. Wilhelm Eisenarm, Rainulf von Aversa and Rudolf Trincanocte now also served under Agyros, who is said to have had up to 7,000 men under him .

Now there were some tussles with Maniaces, the new Byzantine general, who had fought back the conquests of the Normans, while they were bound by uprisings in Giovinazzo. When the troops faced each other in front of Trani , Agyros allowed himself to be corrupted by the Byzantines and betrayed his people for large sums of money (and offices) (in July). Due to intrigues, Maniaces soon lost his post at the Byzantine court and tried to win over the Normans, who seem to have remained suspicious.

Arduin, the city commander of Melfi, had previously been given by Rainulf 300 men to secure the city, who were grouped into companies of 25 soldiers with a leader. The Hauteville brothers Wilhelm Eisenarm and Drogo were among the company commanders. When Agyros was now recognizable as a traitor, the Normans made Wilhelm Eisenarm their leader (end of 1042). Waimar tried to stabilize his influence by giving Wilhelm the hand of his brother's daughter, Guido von Sarrent , and tying Wilhelm as rector (overlord) in his suzerainty. Wilhelm was now Count of Apulia. In 1043, under Waimar's leadership, after Rainulf von Aversa had previously received Siponto , the conquered area was divided up: Wilhelm received Ascoli, his brother Drogo Venosa . Lavello went to an Arnolin , to Hugo Tutabovi Monopoli and to a Rudolf (Trincanocte?) Cannae . Walther (son of Amicus?) Received Civitate , Rudolf (son of Bebena) got Santarcangelo and a Tristan Montepeloso . Herveus saw in the possession of Frigento , Asclittin (d. J.?) Got Acerenza and Raimfrido d'Altavilla fell Minervino to. The Arduin is said to have delivered the promised half of everything (although there is no information about the modalities).

In the middle of the 11th century, the rule of the Normans was established for the first time in southern Italy, and the foundation was laid for future demands of the already resident as well as new adventurers from the north of France.


  • Peter Amann: Apulia - Gargano, Salento , Bielefeld 2008 (3rd edition)
  • Pina Belli D'Elia: Romanesque Apulia , 1989.
  • Rolf Legler: Apulia , Cologne 1987.

Individual evidence

  1. An overview of the Apulian settlements with finds of Mycenaean goods in (each with a short description and additional literature): Marco Bettelli, Italia meridionale e mondo miceneo. Ricerche su dinamiche di acculturazione e aspetti archeologici, con particolare riferimento ai versanti adriatico e ionico della penisola italiana. Florence 2002, especially pp. 19–32.
  2. On the metal finds and their analyzes see: Anna Maria Bietti Sestieri , Claudio Giardino, Mariantonia Gorgoglione: Metal finds at the Middle and Late Bronze Age settlement of Scoglio del Tonno (Taranto, Apulia). Results of archaeometallurgical analyzes. Trabajos de Prehistoria 67-2, 2010, pp. 457-468.
  3. ^ Claudia Minniti: Shells at the Bronze Age settlement of Coppa Nevigata (Apulia, Italy). In: Daniella E. Bar, Yosef Mayer (Hrsg.): Archaeomalacology Molluscs in former environments of human behavior. Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the International Council of Archeozoology, Durham, August 2002. Oxford 2005, pp. 71-81.
  4. The kingdoms of Croatia and Serbia are not shown separately as Byzantine protectorates.