The Normans in Their Histories: Propaganda, Myth and Subversion
The first Normans were Rollo and his fellow Vikings, marauders from the north, who fashioned the county (later the Duchy) of Normandy from lands won at the mouth of the Seine in about 911, making Rouen their capital. The heirs of these pagan Northmen contrived a brilliant transformation of themselves into Christian warriors, and went on to conquer England, southern Italy and Sicily, and even distant Antioch, in the process carving out a dynamic reputation throughout Western Europe and the Mediterranean. Norman princes encouraged the celebration of these remarkable achievements in histories written to verify the legitimacy of their claims to settle and dominate their lands. From Dudo of Saint-Quentin (late tenth/early eleventh centuries) to the twelfth-century vernacular histories of Wace and Benoit, the Norman historical tradition largely acceded to these expectations: beneath the surface, however, virtually all the histories told a contrary story, condemning the Normans as treacherous to kin and ally as well as to foe. Emily Albu examines the myths the historians fashioned, and the other literary strategies they employed, to expose and explain the wolfish predation at the core of Normanness. EMILY ALBU is Assistant Professor of Classics, University of California, Davis.
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Aeneas Aeneid Alexios Amatus Anglo-Norman Antioch army Arnulf attack battle Bayeux Tapestry Bernard Bohemond brother Brut Byzantine Carmen century Chibnall Christian chronicler claim Conquest count crusaders Danes death ducal duchy Dudo Dudo of Saint-Quentin Dudo's Duke William duke's Ecclesiastical History emperor enemies England English epic episode fable father Frankish Franks French Geoffrey Gesta Francorum Gesta Guillelmi Gesta Normannorum Ducum Gesta's author Harold Hasting Henry hero heroic historians holy Houts Hugh instance Jerusalem king knights land language Latin leaders Longsword lord Louis Lucan Malaterra medieval monastery monk moribus narrative Norman dukes Norman history Norman princes Normandy oath Orderic Vitalis Orderic's pagan poem rebellion Robert Guiscard Robert of Torigni Roger Rollo Roman Rouen Scandinavian scene Shopkow Sicily southern Italy story Tancred tradition treachery Trojan Vergil's verse victory viking Wace Wace's warrior William of Apulia William of Jumieges William of Poitiers William the Conqueror wolf wolves writing
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