8. A Medieval Amazon Finds Her Beau
In 1058, Sichelgaita met the Normans’ leader, Robert Guiscard. It was love at first sight. Impressed by the six foot Amazon who went into battle, armed and armored at his side, Guiscard divorced his wife and married Sichelgaita. For the next eighteen years, she was Guiscard’s constant companion, on and off the battlefield, helping consolidate his and her family’s hold on southern Italy. In addition to fighting at her husband’s side, Sichelgaita also led men on her own in independent commands.
In 1076, clad in shining armor and mounted astride a stallion, she rode up to the walls of Salerno, which was ruled by her brother, and demanded the city’s submission. When her brother refused, she besieged and starved him into surrender, seized the city, and sent him into exile. She and her husband then tried to take over the Byzantine Empire by marrying one of their children into the imperial household. A palace coup in Constantinople foiled those plans, however, so they decided to take over Byzantium the hard way, by conquering it.