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Ruggero the Homeless, lord of Castro Minerva




As an example of Grandfather history generation and as background on the Normans... 

Roberto d'Altavilla arrived in southern Italy in 1047 seeking fortune, accompanied by only five knights. He hoped his successful brothers would grant him a fief, but they refused. Determined, he sold his sword to the Lombard princes embroiled in their conflicts and began raiding their wealthy lands.

Among Roberto's original retinue was Ruggero, known as the "Homeless." Ruggero fought alongside his lord in the service of the Prince of Capua against the Prince of Salerno, only to be defrauded of his promised reward by the treacherous Lombards, like many other Normans.

In the following years, Roberto's courage and cunning set him apart. Notably, he feigned death to infiltrate and capture a castle held by monks, earning the church's disapproval. In 1051, Roberto married Alberada of Buonalbergo, a noblewoman of Norman descent who brought him two hundred knights as a dowry. To celebrate their marriage, a tournament was held, and Ruggero was among the finalists.

In 1053, Ruggero fought at the Battle of Civitate, where Pope Leo IX was taken prisoner. By 1057, he witnessed Pope Nicholas II officially invest Roberto with the Duchy of Apulia and Calabria, recognizing the Normans' growing power in southern Italy.

Roberto repudiated his first wife, Alberada, in 1058 to comply with new church rules on consanguineous marriages following reforms. He then married Sichelgaita of Salerno, a strategically advantageous match that helped pacify relations between the Norman overlords and the Lombard vassals.

Ruggero did not partake in Roberto's campaigns to consolidate his title. But in 1061 he accompanied Roberto to Sicily, where they aided Roberto's brother, Ruggero d'Altavilla, in conquering Messina. It was he who led the final assault on the Moor-governed city.

In 1064, they returned to Sicily to attack Palermo but were forced to flee when their camp was overrun by tarantulas, believed to be summoned by the Moors' blasphemous arts.

The conquest of Sicily stalled due to a revolt led by Abelardo, son of Roberto's older brother Umfredo and the rightful heir to the Duchy of Apulia and Calabria. After Umfredo's death, Roberto became Abelardo's guardian, disowned him, and claimed the title for himself. Once Abelardo came of age, he, along with other discontented barons and Byzantine financial support, revolted against Roberto.

The revolt dragged on for four years without a decisive battle, eventually petering out when the Byzantines ceased their funding. During one of the final skirmishes, Ruggero sustained a severe wound that ended his fighting days. In gratitude for his service, Roberto, now known as "the Guiscard," awarded Ruggero the fief of Castro Minerva, taken from the Byzantines in 1068. The "Homeless" finally had a home for himself and his descendants.


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