Bohemond (Latin Christian, c.1050-1111) was one of the most important leaders of the First Crusade. Although his baptismal name was Mark, almost all contemporary documents refer to him as “Bohemond,” a childhood nickname that his father assigned to him in reference to a legendary giant.1. Bohemond’s father was Robert Guiscard, the Norman founder of the Duchy of Apulia and Calabria. In 1058, Robert divorced Bohemond’s mother, the Norman Alberada, and married a Lombard princess, in order to solidify his position in Italy. This divorce was to Bohemond’s detriment, as it deprived him of his paternal inheritance. Bohemond therefore seized control of Taranto and Bari from his half-brother, Roger Borsa, and sought further conquests in Byzantine territories, in a series of invasions that, although unsuccessful, earned him the ire of the Byzantine imperial family.2. After taking the cross in 1096, Bohemond led a small army to Constantinople, where he joined forces with the other First Crusaders. He became one of the expedition’s most influential leaders, and he played a particularly important role during the Siege of Antioch (1097-1098): the city ultimately fell to the crusaders through a betrayal arranged by him. After contentious political maneuvering, Bohemond was able to gain sole control over Antioch, where he remained as the the other crusaders marched on Jerusalem. Bohemond did not, however, stay in his nascent Principality of Antioch for long. In 1100, Turkish forces captured the prince, and he remained their prisoner until 1103. Soon after his ransom, Bohemond departed for Europe to solicit support for a crusade against the Byzantine Empire, in response to Byzantine attempts to regain Antioch. Bohemond launched an invasion of Byzantine territory in 1107, but soon suffered defeat. He spent out his remaining years in Italy. Bohemond II, his son by Constance, daughter of King Philip I of France, succeeded him as Prince of Antioch.3.
Bohemond appears in all the major prose accounts of the First Crusade. He is particularly prominent in the Gesta Francorum and in narratives derived from it – including Baldric of Bourgueil’s Historia Ierosolimitana, the source for much of the Siège d’Antioche. Some scholars have suggested that Bohemond himself was responsible for the creation and dissemination of the early, favorable accounts of his deeds, but this theory is controversial.4. Similarly, since an Occitan poetic tradition recounting the First Crusade, the so-called Canso d’Antioca, seems to have emerged around the same time as the second-generation prose narratives, scholars, impressed by Bohemond’s prominence in the extant fragments, have proposed that his tour of Europe inspired the tradition’s beginnings.5. In contrast, the Bohemond of the parallel Old French poetic tradition, the Chanson d’Antioche, cuts a less impressive figure.6. In Gilo of Paris’s great Latin verse account of the crusade, Bohemond is the hero, but Gilo’s continuator reduced Bohemond to a periphery character.7.
Written by Patrick C. DeBrosse
1. Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History, XI, 12.
2. See, e.g., his negative depiction in Anna Komnene, Alexiad, I, 14.
3. See Suger, Life of Louis the Fat, IX.
4. For the debate, see A. C. Krey, “A Neglected Passage in the Gesta and its Bearing on the Literature of the First Crusade”; Jean Flori, “De l’Anonyme normand à Tudebode et aux Gesta Francorum”; Nicholas L. Paul, “A Warlord’s Wisdom”; Jay Rubenstein, “The Deeds of Bohemond”.
5. Carol Sweetenham and Linda Paterson, The Canso d’Antioca: An Occitan Epic Chronicle of the First Crusade (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003) 8-9, 113-4.
6.Carol Sweetenham and Linda Paterson, The Chanson d’Antioche: An Old French Account of the First Crusade (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), 45-6.
7. W. Grocock and J. E. Siberry, “Introduction,” in The Historia Vie Hierosolimitane of Gilo of Paris, trans. and ed. C. W. Grocock and J. E. Siberry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), xiii-xiv.
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Flori, Jean. “De l’Anonyme normand à Tudebode et aux Gesta Francorum: L’impact de la propagande de Bohémond sur la critique textuelle des sources de la première croisade.” Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 102 (2007) 717–746
Grocock, C. W. and J. E. Siberry (eds. and trans.). The Historia Vie Hierosolimitane of Gilo of Paris. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.
Krey, A. C. “A Neglected Passage in the Gesta and its Bearing on the Literature of the First Crusade.” In The Crusades and Other Historical Essays: Presented to Dana C. Munro by His Former Students, edited by Louis J. Paetow, 57-78. New York: F. S. Crofts, 1928.
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_____. The Chanson d’Antioche: An Old French Account of the First Crusade. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011.
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