introduction: muslims, byzantines and lombards
The last seventy years of the ninth century were an era of disorder and continued crisis in southern Italy. The government of the principality of Benevento, which ruled over most of the south of the peninsula, was riven by succession disputes which led to the formal partition of the principality in 849. But far from ending the contention, this division gave only a brief pause in the internecine strife. Muslim attacks from Sicily and North Africa threatened to swamp a feeble and divided Christian defence, and the local rulers were far more intent on their internal power struggles than on making any coherent and effective stand against the invader. However, the years round about 900 marked a very significant change, with regard both to the internal stability of southern Italy and also to its relative freedom from external threat – or at least from the threat of conquest rather than sporadic raiding. For much of the tenth century the land was not exactly peaceful, but freed at least from the dreary litany of civil war and the establishment of territorial footholds for further Muslim advance that had made the previous period a troubled one, the impact of which had been reflected in the pessimism of contemporary chroniclers such as Erchempert, and in the number of charters mentioning relatives or fellow monks captured by the Saracens.