Alexius Part 32

For what man in his senses would assail so great a father? As for me, I would have thee know that I am arming myself for a most serious war against a most formidable nation. For my campaign is against the Romans, who have filled every land and sea with their trophies. But to thee I acknowledge fidelity from the depths of my soul, and when need arises, I will prove it.” And thus he dismissed the ambassadors of both those who had sought his help, the one with this letter, and the other with plausible excuses.

XIV But we must not omit what he did in Lombardy before he arrived in Valona with his army. He was at all times a man of tyrannical and very sharp temper, and now he imitated the madness of Herod. Not being satisfied with the soldiers who had followed his fortune from the beginning, and were experienced in war, he recruited and equipped a new army, without any distinction of age.

But he collected all, under age and over age, from all over Lombardy and Apulia, and pressed them into his service. There you could see children and boys, and pitiable old men, who had never, even in their dreams, seen a weapon; but were now clad in breastplates, carrying shields and drawing their bows most unskilfully and clumsily, and usually falling on their faces when ordered to march.

Herod’s madness

These requisitions were naturally the cause of unending trouble throughout the country of Lombardy; everywhere were heard the lamentations of men and the weeping of women who shared the misfortunes of their kinsfolk. One would be mourning for her husband, who was over-age for service; another for her untried son; a third for her brother, who was a farmer or engaged in business. This behaviour of Robert’s was as I have said, a counterpart of Herod’s madness, or even worse, for the latter only vented, his rage on., babes, whilst Robert did so against boys and old men. Yet, in spite of his recruits being absolutely unpractised, Robert drilled them daily, and brought them into good discipline.

He did all this in Salernum, before he came to Hydruntum [*Otranto]. To that town he had sent on a very efficient army, to wait for him until he had settled everything in Lombardy, and given fitting answers to the ambassadors. He dispatched a further note to the Pope, however, saying that he had enjoined upon Roger, his son (whom he had appointed ruler of the whole of Apulia, in conjunction with his brother Boritylas), to waste no time in going with a formidable troop to the help of the Roman See against King Henry as soon as the Pope summoned him. But Bohemond, his younger son, he sent ahead with a powerful army to our territory to leap upon the country round Valona (or Aulon).

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