He also continually sent letters to his nephew Alexius, the Duke of Dyrrachium, stirring him up and bidding him keep a sharp look-out and to order those who were at guard on the sea to do the same, to prevent Bohemund’s crossing secretly, but to send word of his crossing at once by letter. That is what the Emperor did.
Now Contostephanus’ only orders were to watch the straits of Lombardy carefully and to prevent the ships crossing which Bohemund was sending ahead to carry all his apparatus from the one coast to the other-in fine, not to allow anything whatever to be conveyed from Lombardy to Illyria. When he departed he did not even know the likeliest spot from which the ships would sail across to Illyria, and not only that, but he disregarded orders and crossed to Hydruntum, which is a town situated on the coast of Lombardy.
This town was commanded by a woman, Tancred’s mother, it was said, whether she was the sister of Bohemund (so often mentioned in this history already) or not, I cannot say positively, for I do not know for certain whether Tancred was related to Bohemund on his mother’s side, or his father’s. When Contostephanus reached the town and brought his ships to anchor, he made an attack on the walls [of Brindisi] and very nearly captured the city. But the woman inside who had a sound mind and a determined character, directly he had anchored his ships there, sent for one of her sons and bade him come with all speed.
Allegiance to the Emperor
By now the whole fleet was in great spirits, thinking the town was theirs, and all began shouting acclaim to the Emperor; and the woman in this difficulty ordered the inhabitants to do likewise. At the same time she sent envoys to Contostephanus confessing her allegiance to the Emperor, and promised to make terms of peace with him, and said she would come out to Contostephanus to consult him about them so that he could explain everything to the Emperor. She devised all this to keep Contostephanus in suspense, hoping that perchance in the meantime her son might arrive, and then she would throw off the mask, as they say of the tragedians, and attack him in battle.
Thus while all the men inside and outside the town were hurrahing and the shouts filled the whole neighbourhood, and that martial woman, as I said, was holding Contostephanus in suspense by her messages and promises, the son she expected actually arrived with his fellow-counts, at once attacked Contostephanus and routed him completely. All the men of the fleet being unversed in land-fighting threw themselves into the sea. Now there were a goodly number of Scythians in the Roman army and some of these (as is the barbarians’ custom) had run ahead during the battle to forage, and in this way it happened that six of them were taken captive. They were sent to Bohemund and, when he saw them, he considered them a very great asset, and went straightway with them to Rome.
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