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from their famed warrior skills and acquire estates of their own. David C. Douglas, an authority on the Normans, assesses the situation convincingly: "Whatever truth may lurk behind the belief that these men were pilgrims who performed prodigies of valour against the pagans, the fact remains that the Normans who first came to Italy are better to be regarded as armed adventurers seeking their fortunes in a distracted land and living by violence and pillage."33

As such, they were very successful, winning victory after victory (initially for their employers but eventually for themselves) and accumulating wealth and land. They were ruthless in their tactics and, as their power increased, so did their notoriety. They incurred the loathing of the Italians, to the point that Pope Leo IX, in response to the pleas of the Lombards who were most often the victims of Norman rapine, took it upon himself to protect his flock and rid the world of the Norman menace. He dubbed the Normans enemies of Christendom and declared a genuine Holy War against them. He gained the support of the Holy Roman Emperor, the Byzantine Emperor, and various other nobles by emphasizing the sanctity of the mission. To those whom he recruited for the mission he provided a spiritual incentive: Et lor promet a doner absolution de lor pechiez, Amatus claims. "And he promised to give absolution for their sins."34 Before setting out for the battle from Benevento, Leo dramatically stressed to the German and Lombard soldiers (the Greeks had not arrived yet) their divine purpose:

Et li pape avec li evesque sallirent sur lo mur de La Cite, et regarda a la multitude de ses cavaliers pour les absolvere de lo pechiez, et pardonna la penance que pour lor pechie devoient faire.

And the Pope with the bishops climbed up onto the walls of the City, and looked at the multitude of his knights to absolve them of sin, and gave pardon for the penance they had to do for their sins.35


33. Douglas, The Norman Achievement, 39.
34. Aime 3.23.
35. Ibid. 3.37.
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