He served under his father in the great attack on the East Roman empire (1080-1085), and commanded the Normans during Guiscard's absence (1082-1084), penetrating into Thessaly as far as Larissa, but being repulsed by Alexius Comnenus. This early hostility to Alexius had a great influence in determining the course of his between Bohemund (whom his father had destined for the throne of Constantinople) and Duke Roger. The war was finally resolved by the mediation of Urban II and the award of Otranto and other possessions to Bohemund.
In 1096 Bohemund, along with his uncle the great count of Sicily, was attacking Amalfi, which had revolted against Duke Roger, when bands of crusaders began to pass, on their way through Italy to Constantinople. The zeal of the crusader came upon Bohemund: it is possible, too, that he saw in the First Crusade a chance of realizing his father's policy (which was also an old Norse instinct) of the Drang nach Osten, and hoped from the first to carve for himself an eastern principality.
He gathered a fine Norman army (perhaps the finest division in the crusading host), at the head of which he crossed the Adriatic, and penetrated to Constantinople along the route he had tried to follow in 1082-1084. He was careful to observe a "correct" attitude towards Alexius, and when he arrived at Constantinople in April 1097 he did homage to the emperor. He may have negotiated with Alexius about a principality at Antioch; if he did so, he had little encouragement. From Constantinople to Antioch Bohemund was the real leader of the First Crusade; and it says much for his leading that the First Crusade succeeded in crossing Asia Minor, which the Crusades of 1101, 1147 and 1189 failed to accomplish.
A politique, Bohemund was resolved to engineer the enthusiasm of the crusaders to his own ends; and when his nephew Tancred left the main army at Heraclea[?], and attempted to establish a footing in Cilicia, the movement may have been already intended as a preparation for Bohemund's eastern principality. Bohemund was the first to get into position before Antioch (October 1097), and he took a great part in the siege, beating off the Moslem attempts at relief from the east, and connecting the besiegers on the west with the port of St Simeon and the Italian ships which lay there.
The capture of Antioch was due to his connexion with Firuz, one of the commanders in the city; but he would not bring matters to an issue until the possession of the city was assured him (May 1098), under the terror of the approach of Kerbogha with a great army of relief, and with a reservation in favour of Alexius, if Alexius should fulfil his promise to aid the crusaders. But Bohemund was not secure in the possession of Antioch, even after its surrender and the defeat of Kerbogha; he had to make good his claims against Raymond of Toulouse, who championed the rights of Alexius. He obtained full possession in January 1099, and stayed in the neighbourhood of Antioch to secure his position, while the other crusaders moved southward to the capture of Jerusalem.
He came to Jerusalem at Christmas 1099, and had Dagobert of Pisa[?] elected as Patriarch, perhaps in order to check the growth of a strong Lothaiingian power in the city. It might seem that Bohemund was destined to found a great principality in Antioch, which would dwarf Jerusalem; he had a fine territory, a good strategical position and a strong army. But he had to face two great forces--the East Roman empire, which claimed the whole of his territories and was supported in its claim by Raymond of Toulouse, and the strong Moslem principalities in the north-east of Syria. Against these two forces he failed. In 1100 he was captured by Danish-mend of Sivas, and he languished in prison till 1103. Tancred took his place; but meanwhile Raymund established himself with the aid of Alexius in Tripoli, and was able to check the expansion of Antioch to the south.
Ransomed in 1103 by the generosity of an Armenian prince, Bohemund made it his first object to attack the neighbouring Moslem powers in order to gain supplies. But in heading an attack on Harran, in 1104, he was severely defeated at Balich, near Rakka on the Euphrates. The defeat was decisive; it made impossible the great eastern principality which Bohemund had contemplated. It was followed by a Greek attack on Cilicia; and despairing of his own resources, Bohemund returned to Europe for reinforcements in order to defend his position. His attractive personality won him the hand of Constance, the daughter of the French king, Philip I, and he collected a large army.
Dazzled by his success, he resolved to use his army not to defend Antioch against the Greeks, but to attack Alexius. He did so; but Alexius, aided by the Venetians, proved too strong, and Bohemund had to submit to a humiliating peace (1108), by which he became the vassal of Alexius, consented to receive his pay, with the title of Sebastos, and promised to cede disputed territories and to admit a Greek patriarch into Antioch. Henceforth Bohemund was a broken man. He died without returning to the East, and was buried at Canossa in Apulia, in 1111.
The anonymous Gesta Francorum (edited by H Hagenmeyer) is written by one of Bohemund's followers; and the Alexied of Anna Comnena is a primary authority for the whole of his life. His career is discussed by B von Kugler, Bohemund und Tancred (Tubingen, 1862); while L von Heinemann, Geschichte der Norniannen in Sicilien und Unteritalien (Leipzig, 1894), and R Rohricht, Geschichte des ersten Kreuzzuges (Innsbruck, 1901), and Geschichte das Königreichs Jerusalem (Innsbruck, I898), may also be consulted for his history.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.