1. The modern term for the eastern half of the Roman Empire. It was also sometimes referred to simply as ‘Byzantium’. See note On Romans, Holy Romans, and Byzantines.

2. Although originally a late classical term meaning ‘Arab’, by the Middle Ages the word Saracen had become a generic phrase for any (Muslim) subject of the Islamic caliph.

3. Vikings who were seized with an uncontrollable rage in the heat of battle were called ‘berserkers’.  They would occasionally bite through their shields, ignore even the most hideous wounds and kill friends and foe alike indiscriminately.

4. Muslim forces entered Spain in AD 711. By the end of the century they had largely conquered it, and would continue to hold parts of it until the Reconquista of Ferdinand and Isabella succeeded in evicting them in 1492.

5. The Northumbrian Ælla and the East Anglican Edmund. They were subjected to the ‘blood eagle’, a brutal form of torture where the ribs were broken near the spine and the lungs were pulled out through the wounds to resemble a blood-stained pair of wings. The still-living victim was then left to expire.

6. Historians usually refer to this new state as the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ to distinguish it from the earlier empire of the same name. See note On Romans, Holy Romans, and Byzantines

7. These numbers are provided by our lone eyewitness source, Abbo Cennus. Most modern historians view this as an exaggeration, however, putting the number somewhere between 10-15,000. In either case, it was the largest Viking invasion yet seen on the Continent.

8. Rollo’s ancestry is a matter of some contention between Denmark and Norway. The earliest source refers to him as Danish, but calls all Vikings ‘Danes’, while the 12th-century Norse sagas claim that he was Norwegian. The Normans themselves were split on the matter. Since medieval sources generally gave him a Norwegian ancestry when they bothered to distinguish between different groups of Vikings, I’ve sided with Norway.

9. Vikings nearly always fought on foot. Horses were only used to carry arms, and occasionally men, over long distances. Viking ponies, therefore, tended to be undersized by European standards.

10. Charlemagne’s empire had crumbled to the point where no emperor was recognized. Charles had been crowned simply as ‘king’ of Western Francia, i.e. the French-speaking lands of the old empire.

11. After discovering that a free white garment was given to those who received the sacrament, some of Rollo’s men were caught having themselves baptized numerous times.

12. This is a clever Anglo-Saxon pun on the king’s name. ‘Ethelred’ means ‘wise counsel’ and ‘Unraed’ translates to something like ‘un-counseled’. One can imagine an exasperated English farmer thinking ‘Wise Counsel? More like Un-Counseled’.

13. One of these was Olaf Haraldsson, the future king and patron saint of Norway

14. The Fatimid Caliphate was a Shia state whose leaders claimed descent from Mohammed’s daughter Fatima. Although based in Egypt, they had captured Jerusalem in AD 969.

15. Including a young William de Hauteville who was soon to earn the epithet ‘Iron-arm’.  See chapter 8

16. So many men were drowned that a mill several miles downstream was clogged with the bodies and had to cease operation.

17. and quite short at four foot two inches

18. Charlemagne’s title of ‘Roman’ emperor was claimed by the German king Otto I in 962. Although it is usually known as the Holy Roman Empire, for the sake of clarity I refer to this state as the ‘German’ empire.

19. Norman sources argue that Edward always intended William to be his heir. Even given his Norman sympathies, this is hard to believe. In fact, during the course of his reign Edward dangled the promise of succession to a number of individuals. It was a shrewd, if dangerous, way to counterbalance the Godwin family’s influence.

20. According to Norman propaganda, Godwin choked on a piece of bread while angrily denying the old charge of his involvement in Alfred’s murder.

21. The Welsh Marches were the rugged – and notoriously difficult to control –border between medieval England and Wales.

22. He arrived to find that Malcom III had recently killed the High King Macbeth.

23. Basil II. The brilliant Macedonian Dynasty had ruled over the Byzantine Empire for nearly two centuries

24. Supposedly the Empress Zoë wanted to marry him, and when he refused, she threw him into a dungeon from which he (of course) had a daring escape.

25. The Hippodrome was the imperial capital’s main stadium. It was originally designed for chariot races, but came to be used for nearly every important public ceremony. Defeated enemies, failed rebels, or overthrown emperors were often paraded there in humiliating fashion before being executed.

26. Sybaris was famous for its hedonism. We get the modern word ‘sybaritic’ meaning self-indulgent or overly luxurious from it.

27. Lands surrounding Rome and Ravenna ruled directly by the pope.  See note on The Papal States

28. See chapter 5

29. Although the western half of the Roman Empire had collapsed in the fifth century, the eastern half (more commonly known as Byzantine) had re-conquered Italy in the sixth century.  Guiscard’s conquest of Bari ended nearly a thousand years of continued rule in Italy by the successors of Augustus Caesar.

30. On the coast of preset day Albania

31. Greek Fire, a flammable oil-based substance that could burn even while submerged, was considered a state secret. The presence of it onboard Venetian ships is an indication of how seriously the Byzantines considered the Norman threat.

32. More commonly known as the Castel Sant'Angelo, it had been fortified in the 5th century and served as the main papal stronghold.

33. Modern Albania

34. In present day Republic of Macedonia (also known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)

35. Borsa means purse - young Roger gained this nickname because he had the irritating habit of repeatedly counting his money.

36. The Hauteville family was well represented on the First Crusade. No less than six grandsons and two great-grandsons of old Tancred joined.

37. Depending on their importance (or lack of it), guests could be made to wait up to several weeks for an audience with the emperor

38. The modern meaning of the term ‘byzantine’ - excessively complex and duplicitous – largely dates from this period. Most westerners believed the Byzantines had betrayed them, and blamed the ‘treacherous Greeks’ for the disasters of subsequent crusades.

39. The meeting took place on an old Roman bridge which is still called Ponte Guiscardo in Robert’s honor

40. The last military campaign he attempted was the 1091 invasion of Malta. When he captured its capital he tore off a portion of his checkered red-and-white banner and presented it to the Maltese. More than nine hundred years later it’s still the base of the present-day Maltese flag.

41. She was a noblewoman from Piedmont whose main qualification as a perspective wife was that she was said to be fertile.

42. Feudal knights were only required to serve for a limited period of time each year.  A strong lord could attempt to hold them longer, but even kings couldn’t detain them indefinitely.

43. During his remarkable career, Bernard of Clairvaux was at the center of nearly every major event of the early twelfth century.  He almost single-handedly launched the second Crusade, is remembered as an honorary founder of the Cistercian order, and was responsible for the founding of more than 150 monasteries throughout Europe.

44. Encouraged of course by Sicilian gold.

45. This is the depiction of Christ as an all-powerful judge, frequently portrayed in the domes of 10th -century Byzantine churches.

46. According to Edward Gibbon he appeared ‘in war ignorant of peace, and in peace incapable of war’.

47. In present day Serbia which was then part of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary

48. A Venetian-led Crusader army sacked Constantinople in 1204, destroying Christendom’s greatest city.

49. Roger’s conspicuous failure to go on crusade - as well as the harem of Muslim women he kept - earned him this nickname.

50. This was over a hundred years after the Great Schism which ‘permanently’ split the church into estranged Catholic and Orthodox halves.

51. The instillation of a Norman pope, however, would have serious future consequences as it offended the German emperor, Barbarossa. See chapter 15

52. One of the most impressive Crusader castles ever built, Krak des Chevaliers, is located on the coast of present day Syria.  It was the most important stronghold of the crusader county of Tripoli

53. There were a number of relics that purported to contain items from the Crucifixion. In Constantinople, for example, one could see the spear used to pierce Christ’s side, the Crown of Thorns, the True Cross, Christ’s burial clothes, and even vials of his blood.

54. The legendary sword of King Arthur

55. Papal policy was consistently the opposite - to keep Empire and Island as far apart as possible.

56. The other was Salerno.

57. According to legend, he ordered two nursemaids to raise their charges in silence to discover what humanity’s natural language was.  Regrettably both children are said to have died before the experiment could be completed.

58. His subjects called him ‘the living law on earth’.

59. The name of Frederick’s dynasty which ruled the German empire from 1138-1254

60. The Reconquista was completed by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492


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