Bohemond of Taranto

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.



Barker, John W. “Bohemond of Taranto.” In Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia, edited by Christopher Kleinhenz, 133-4. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Biddlecombe, Steven. “Baldric of Bourgueil and the Flawed Hero.” Anglo-Norman Studies XXXV (2012): 79-94.

Edgington, Susan B. “Bohemund I of Antioch (d. 1111).” In The Crusades: An Encyclopedia, edited by Alan V. Murray, 173-6. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 2006.

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.

Paul, Nicholas L. “A Warlord’s Wisdom: Literacy and Propaganda at the Time of the First Crusade.” Speculum 85, no. 3 (2010): 534-66.

Rubenstein, Jay. “The Deeds of Bohemond: Reform, Propaganda, and the History of the First Crusade.” Viator 47, no. 2 (2016): 113-36.

Sweetenham, Carol and Linda Paterson. The Canso d’Antioca: An Occitan Epic Chronicle of the First Crusade. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003.

_____. The
Chanson d’Antioche: An Old French Account of the First Crusade. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011.

Yewdale, Ralph Bailey. Bohemond I, Prince of Antioch. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1924.

Further Reading:

Albu, Emily. “Bohemond and the Rooster: Byzantines, Normans, and the Artful Ruse.” In Anna Komnene and Her Times, edited by Thalia Gouma-Peterson, 157-68. New York: Garland, 2000.

Cardini, Franco, Nunzio Lozito, and Benedetto Vetere (eds.). Boemondo: Storia di un principe normanno. Gelatina, Italy: Mario Congedo, 2003.

Digital Humanities Institute, University of Sheffield. “Bohemond I Unmarried.” A Database of
Crusaders to the Holy Land: 1095-1149. Accessed April 6, 2018.

Flori, Jean. Bohemond d’Antioche: Chevalier d’aventure. Paris: Payot & Rivages, 2007.

Friedman, Yvonne. “Miracle, Meaning and Narrative in the Latin East.” Studies in Church History 41 (2005): 123-34.

Gadolin, Anitra R. “Prince Bohemund’s Death and Apotheosis in the Church of San Sabino, Canosa di Puglia.” Byzantion 52 (1982): 124-53.

Pryor, John H. “Introduction: Modelling Bohemond’s March to Thessalonike.” In Logistics of
Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, edited by John H. Pryor, 1-24. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.

Pryor, John H. and Michael J. Jeffreys. “Alexios, Bohemond, and Byzantium’s Euphrates Frontier: A Tale of Two Cretans.” Crusades 11 (2012): 31-79.

Rice, Geoffrey. “A Note on the Battle of Antioch, 28 June 1098. Bohemond as Tactical Innovator.” Parergon 25 (1979): 3-8.

Rösch, Gerhard. “Der ‘Kreuzzug’ Bohemunds gegen Dyrrhachium 1107/1108 in der lateinischen Tradition des 12. Jahrhunderts.” Römische historische Mitteilungen 26 (1984), 181–190.

Rowe, J. G.  “Paschal II, Bohemund of Antioch, and the Byzantine Empire.” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 49 (1966): 165-202.

Russo, Luigi. Boemondo, Figlio del Guiscardo e principe di Antiochia. Avellino: Elio Sellino, 2009.

Slitt, Rebecca L. “Justifying Cross-Cultural Friendship: Bohemond, Firuz, and the Fall of Antioch.” Viator 38, no. 2 (2007): 339-49.

Shepard, Jonathan. “When Greek Meets Greek: Alexius Comnenus and Bohemond in 1097-8.” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 12 (1988): 185-276.

Whalen, Brett Edward. “God’s Will or Not? Bohemond’s Campaign Against the Byzantine Empire (1105-1108).” In Crusades-Medieval Worlds in Conflict, edited by Thomas F. Madden, James L. Naus, and Vincent Ryan, 111–125. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.

Wolf, Kenneth Baxter. “Crusade and Narrative: Bohemond and the Gesta Francorum.” Journal of Medieval History 17, no. 3 (1991): 207-216.

Yarrow, Simon. “Prince Bohemond, Princess Melaz, and the Gendering of Religious Difference  in the Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis.” In Intersections of Gender, Religion and Ethnicity in the Middle Ages, edited by Cordelia Beattie and Kirsten A. Fenton, 140-57. Basingstoke, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.