1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Roger II. of Sicily
ROGER II. (1093–1154), king of Sicily, son of the preceding, began personally to rule in 1112, and from the first aimed at uniting the whole of the Norman conquests in Italy. In June 1127, William, duke of Apulia, grandson of Robert Guiscard, died childless, having apparently made some Vague promise of the succession to Roger. In any case Roger claimed at once, not only all the Hauteville possessions, but also the over lordship of Capua, for which Richard II. in 1098 had sworn Homage to Duke Roger. The union of Sicily and Apulia, however, was resisted by Honorius II. and by the subjects of the duchy itself, averse from any strong ducal power, and the pope at Capua (Dec. 1127) preached a crusade against the claimant, setting against him Robert II. of Capua and Ranulf of Alife, or Avellino, brother-in-law of Roger, who proved himself the real leader of the revolt. The coalition, however, failed, and in August 1128 Honorius invested Roger at Benevento as duke of Apulia. The baronial resistance, which was backed by Naples, Bari, Salerno and other cities, whose aim was civic freedom, also gave way, and at Melfi (Sept. 1129) Roger was generally recognized as duke by Naples, Capua and the rest. He began at once to enforce order in the Hauteville possessions, where the ducal power had long been falling to pieces. For the binding together of all his states 'the royal name seemed essential, and the death of Honorius in February 1130, followed by a double election, seemed the decisive moment. While Innocent II. fled to France, Roger, with deep design, supported Anacletus II. The price was a crown, and on the 27th of September 1130 a bull of Anacletus made Roger king of Sicily. He was crowned in Palermo on the 25th of December 1130.
This plunged Roger into a ten years' war. Bernard of Clairvaux, Innocent's champion, built up against Anacletus and his “ half heathen king ” a coalition joined by Louis VI. of France, Henry I. of England and the emperor Lothar. Meanwhile the forces of revolt in South Italy drew to a head again. The rebels under Ranulf shamefully defeated the king at Nocera on the 24th of July 1132. Nevertheless, by Tuly 1134 his terrific energy and the savagery of his Saracen troops forced Ranulf, Sergius, duke of Naples, and the rebels to submit, while Robert was expelled from Capua. Meanwhile Lothar's contemplated attack upon Roger had gained the backing of Pisa, Genoa and the Greek emperor, all of whom feared the growth of a powerful Norman kingdom. In February 1137 Lothar began to move south and was joined by Ranulf and the rebels; in Tune he besieged and took Bari. At San Severino, after a victorious campaign, he and the pope jointly invested Ranulf as duke of Apulia (Aug. 1137), and the emperor then retired to Germany. Roger, freed from the utmost danger, recovered ground, sacked Capua and forced Sergius to acknowledge him as overlord of Naples. At Rignano the indomitable Ranulf again utterly defeated the king, but in April 1139 Ranulf died, leaving none to oppose Roger, who subdued pitilessly the last of the rebels.
The death of Anacletus (25 ]an. 1138) determined Roger to seek the confirmation of his title from Innocent. The latter, invading the kingdom with a large army, was skilfully ambushed at Galuccio on the Garigliano (22 July 1139). This secured the king's object; on the 25th July the pope invested him as “ Rex Siciliae ducatus Apuliae et principatus Capuae.” The boundaries of the “ regno ” were finally fixed, by a truce with the pope in October 1144, at a line south of the Tronto and east of Terracina and Ceprano.
Roger, now become one of the greatest kings in Europe, made Sicily the leading maritime power in the Mediterranean. A powerful fleet was built up under several “ admirals,” or “ emirs,” of whom the greatest was George of Antioch, formerly in the service of the Moslem prince of El Mehdia. Mainly by him a series of conquests were made on the African coast (1135–53) which reached from Tripoli to Cape Bona. The second crusade (1147–48) gave Roger an opportunity to revive Robert Guiscard's designs on the Greek Empire. George was sent to Corinth at the end of 1147 and dispatched an army inland which plundered Thebes. In June 1149 the admiral appeared before Constantinople and defied the Basileus by firing arrows against the palace windows. The attack on the empire had, however, no abiding results. The king died at Palermo on the 26th of February 1154, and was succeeded by his fourth son William.
Personally Roger was of tall and powerful body, with long fair hair and full beard. “ He had," says Romnald of Salerno, “ a lion face, and spoke with a harsh voice.” With little or none of Robert Guiscard's personal valour, and living at intervals the life of an eastern Sultan, he yet showed to the full his uncle's audacity, diplomatic skill and determination. It is Roger II.'s distinction to have united all the Norman conquests into one kingdom and to have subjected them to a government scientific, personal and centralized. The principles of this are found in the Assizes of the kingdom of Sicily, promulgated at Ariano in 1140, which enforced an almost absolute royal power. At Palermo Roger drew round him distinguished men of various races, such as the famous Arab geographer Idrisi and the historian Nilus Doxopatrius. The king's active and curious mind welcomed the learned; he maintained a complete toleration for the several creeds, races and languages of his realm; he was served by men of nationality so dissimilar as the Englishman Thomas Brun, a kaid of the Curia, and, in the fleet, by the renegade Moslem Christodoulos, and the Antiochene George, whom he made in 1132 “ amiratus amiratorum," in effect prime vizier. The Capella Palatina, at Palermo, the most wonderful of Roger's churches, with Norman doors, Saracenic arches, Byzantine dome, and roof adorned with Arabic scripts, is perhaps the most striking product of the brilliant and mixed civilization over which the grandson of the Norman Trancred ruled.
Contemporary authors are: Falco of Benevento, Alexander of Telese, Romuald of Salerno and Hugo Falcandus, all in the Scriltori e cfonisti napoletani, ed. Del Re, vol. i. See also E. Caspar, Roger II. und die Gründnng der normannisch-sicilischen Monarchie (Innsbruck, 1904). (E. Cu.)