The path to Antioch: an analysis of the Norman and Greek relationships of Bohemond of Taranto
Bohemond of Taranto has been painted by modern scholars as an opportunistic knight who embarked for the east from Sicily with the Latin armies of the First Crusade in order to acquire a significant lordship for himself. However, the details of his early life and other factors which influenced his decision to abandon his holdings in Italy and journey to the east have not received adequate examination. Scholars simply mention Bohemond’s early context in passing but do not investigate the important relationships with his family and other Norman leaders that forced him to depart. These include his father, Robert Guiscard de Hauteville, half-brother, Roger Borsa, stepmother, Sichelgaita, and uncle, Count Roger I of Sicily. In addition, his subsequent relationship with the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos has, for the most part, been presented negatively as one in which both individuals distrusted each other and were unwilling participants in their alliance. While this interpretation may hold some credibility, it has become too influenced by the hindsight of knowing that Bohemond would eventually take control of the city of Antioch instead of returning it to the emperor. As a result, scholars have tended to disregard the mutual benefit they offered one another. Bohemond’s desire to receive an estate in the east would profit from a powerful patron to sponsor his aims, while Alexios required an able military leader to manage his eastern borders, as had been his common practice, and defend against the encroaching Seljuk Turks. In this thesis I thus argue that the element of mutual benefit suggests their early relationship was not tense or distrustful at the outset, despite their past history, but rather cordial. I suggest this relationship only changed, once Bohemond realized the opportunity to hold Antioch for himself had become too great to ignore.