Duchy of Gaeta
The Duchy of Gaeta was an early medieval
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

 state centred on the coastal South Italian
The Midday is a wide definition, without any administrative usage, used to indicate the southern half of the Italian state, encompassing the southern section of the continental Italian Peninsula and the two major islands of Sicily and Sardinia, in addition to a large number of minor islands...

 city of Gaeta
Gaeta is a city and comune in the province of Latina, in Lazio, central Italy. Set on a promontory stretching towards the Gulf of Gaeta, it is 120 km from Rome and 80 km from Naples....

. It began in the early ninth century as the local community began to grow autonomous as Byzantine power
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 lagged in the Mediterranean and the peninsula thanks to Lombard
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 and Saracen incursions.

Our primary source for the history of Gaeta during its ducal period is the Codex Caietanus, a collection of charters preserving Gaetan history better and in greater detail than that of its neighbouring coastal states, Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, Amalfi
Amalfi is a town and comune in the province of Salerno, in the region of Campania, Italy, on the Gulf of Salerno, c. 35 km southeast of Naples. It lies at the mouth of a deep ravine, at the foot of Monte Cerreto , surrounded by dramatic cliffs and coastal scenery...

, and Sorrento
Sorrento is the name of many cities and towns:*Sorrento, Italy*Sorrento, Florida, United States*Sorrento, Louisiana, United States*Sorrento, Maine, United States*Sorrento, Victoria, a township on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia...

. However, unlike these sister seaports, Gaeta was never a centre of commercial importance. In 778, it was the headquarters from which the patrician of Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 directed the campaign against the Saracen invaders of Campania
Campania is a region in southern Italy. The region has a population of around 5.8 million people, making it the second-most-populous region of Italy; its total area of 13,590 km² makes it the most densely populated region in the country...


Rise of the Docibilans

The first consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

 of Gaeta, Constantine
Constantine of Gaeta
Constantine was the first known Hypatus of Gaeta from 839 or thereabouts until he disappears from records abruptly in 866. From the abruptness of his disappearance, he is often supposed to have been desposed violently by his successor Docibilis I....

, who associated his son Marinus
Marinus I of Gaeta
Marinus I was probably a Hypatus of Gaeta in association with his father from 839 or thereabouts until he disappears from records abruptly in 866. From the abruptness of his disappearance, he and his father are often supposed to have been disposed violently by their successor Docibilis I. Marinus...

 with him, was a Byzantine agent and a vassal of Andrew II of Naples
Andrew II of Naples
Andrew II was the duke of Naples from 834 to 840. During his reign, he was constantly at war with the Lombards and he allowed Gaeta, his vassal, to move towards independence under its own consuls....

. Constantine defended the city from the ravages of Muslim pirates and fortified it, building outlying castles as well. He was removed, probably violently, by the Docibilis I
Docibilis I of Gaeta
Docibilis I was the Hypatus of Gaeta from 867 until his death.The sudden disappearance of the co-hypati Constantine and Marinus I after 866 strongly suggests that perhaps Docibilis' assumption of power had been violent...

, who established a dynasty and made Gaeta de facto independent.

The Docibilian dynasts regularly worked to advance Gaetan interests through alliance with whatever power was most capable of such at the time. They joined forces with the Saracens against their Christian neighbours and with the Pope against the Muslim pirates at the Battle of Ostia
Battle of Ostia
The naval Battle of Ostia took place in 849 between some Saracen pirates and an Italian league of Papal, Neapolitan, Amalfitan and Gaetan ships. The battled ended in favor of the Italian league, as they successfully beat off the pirates...

. They constructed a massive palace and greatly increased the city's prestige and wealth. The Gaetans remained nominally Byzantine in allegiance until the mid tenth century, fighting under their banner at the Battle of the Garigliano. The chief success of the Docibilians lay, however, in extracting Gaeta from the Ducatus Neapolitanus.

It was Docibilis II
Docibilis II of Gaeta
Docibilis II was the ruler of Gaeta, in one capacity or another, from 906 until his death. He was the son of the hypatus John I, who made him co-ruler in 906 or thereabouts....

 (died 954) who first took the title of dux
Dux is Latin for leader and later for Duke and its variant forms ....

or duke (933). Docibilis saw Gaeta at its zenith but began the process whereby it was chiefly weakened. He gave Fondi
Fondi is a city and comune in the province of Latina, Lazio, central Italy, halfway between Rome and Naples. Before the construction of the highway between the latter cities in the late 1950s, Fondi had been an important settlement on the Roman Via Appia, which was the main connection from Rome to...

 to his second son Marinus
Marinus II of Gaeta
Marinus II was the son of Docibilis II of Gaeta and Orania of Naples. He was made dux of Fondi by his father and his elder brother John II recognised this title. After his brother Gregory, who succeeded John, died, Marinus succeeded to the duchy of Gaeta and gave Fondi to his son Marinus...

 with the equivalent title of duke and set a precedent for the partitioning of the Gaetan duchy and its encastellation
Encastellation is the process whereby the feudal kingdoms of Europe became dotted with castles, from which local lords could dominate the countryside of their fiefs and their neighbours', and from which kings could command even the far-off corners of their realms...

, which corroded ducal authority over time.

Decline of ducal power

In 962, Gaeta put itself under Pandulf Ironhead
Pandulf Ironhead
Pandulf I Ironhead was the Prince of Benevento and Capua from 943 until his death. He was made Duke of Spoleto and Camerino in 967 and succeeded as Prince of Salerno in 977 or 978...

, the Lombard prince of Capua. In 963, however, only the municipal rulers appeared in the charters. In 976, the Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

, Otto II, and the pope were the recognised suzerains of Gaeta. A complete revolution had occurred since the assumption of the ducal title and the Western Emperor had replaced the Eastern as overlord.

Gaeta declined in importance in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. In 1012, a succession crisis weakened it further. John IV
John IV of Gaeta
John IV was the eldest son of John III of Gaeta who was appointed co-duke in 991 while still young . John succeeded his father in 1008 or 1009 and ruled for a brief four years....

 died, leaving one son by his wife Sichelgaita, a sister of Sergius IV of Naples
Sergius IV of Naples
Sergius IV was Duke of Naples from 1002 to 1036. He was one of the prime catalysts in the growth of Norman power in the Mezzogiorno in the first half of the eleventh century...

. This son, John V
John V of Gaeta
John V was the consul and duke of Gaeta from 1012 to 1032. He was the son of John IV and Sichelgaita, sister of Sergius IV of Naples. He was either very young when he succeeded his father or perhaps he was even born posthumously.His regency was disputed by Leo, his father's brother, and the...

, ruled under the disputed regency of his grandmother Emilia
Emilia of Gaeta
Emilia was the duchess of Gaeta first as consort of John III and then as the regent for her grandson John V until at least 1029....

. His uncle Leo I
Leo I of Gaeta
Leo I, called the Usurper, was the usurping consul and duke of Gaeta on two quite separate occasions. He was the son of one Docibilis, a relative of the Docibilian dynasty, probably a son of Duke Gregory....

 usurped the duchy only to be removed in a few short months and his other uncle, Leo II
Leo II of Gaeta
Leo II was the regent and tutor of John V of Gaeta in opposition to his own mother, Emilia, from 1014 to January 1025. He undersigned documents as consul et dux. He was the son of John III of Gaeta and thus uncle of John V....

, fought over the regency with Emilia. It wasn't until 1025 that the situation was settled. After that, John V sheltered the fleeing Sergius of Naples and aided him in retaking his city with Norman
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 assistance. For this, John V earned the enmity of Pandulf IV of Capua
Pandulf IV of Capua
Pandulf IV was the Prince of Capua on three separate occasions.From February 1016 to 1022 he ruled in association with his cousin Pandulf II. In 1018, the Byzantine catapan Boiannes destroyed the Lombard army of Melus of Bari and his Norman allies at Cannae...

 and his duchy was conquered in 1032. The local dynasty, descended from Docibilis, would never recover its duchy.

Lombard domination

Gaeta was conquered by the Lombards in 1032. In 1038, the conqueror, Pandulf of Capua, was deposed and replaced by Guaimar IV of Salerno
Guaimar IV of Salerno
Guaimar IV was Prince of Salerno , Duke of Amalfi , Duke of Gaeta , and Prince of Capua in Southern Italy over the period from 1027 to 1052. He was an important figure in the final phase of Byzantine authority in the Mezzogiorno and the commencement of Norman power...

. Guaimar did not reign personally for long before appointing the chiefest of his Norman mercenaries, Ranulf Drengot, as duke. On Ranulf's death, however, the Gaetans elected their own Lombard candidate, Atenulf, Count of Aquino
Atenulf I of Gaeta
Atenulf I was the Lombard count of Aquino who rose to become Duke of Gaeta in Southern Italy during the chaotic middle of the eleventh century....


Under Atenulf and his son, Atenulf II
Atenulf II of Gaeta
Atenulf II was the duke of Gaeta for a brief two years under the regency of his mother, Maria. He was the son and successor of Atenulf I, who had been forced to recognise the suzerainty of the prince of Capua, Richard I, and his son Jordan in 1058.Atenulf I died on 2 February and on 1 June, Maria...

, Gaeta remained practically independent, but Richard I of Capua
Richard I of Capua
Richard I Drengot was a count of Aversa and prince of Capua .He was the son of Asclettin, count of Acerenza, younger brother of Asclettin, count of Aversa, and nephew of Rainulf Drengot, the Norman adventurer who had first travelled to southern Italy in 1017 and progressed to set up the first...

 and his son Jordan
Jordan I of Capua
Jordan I , count of Aversa and prince of Capua from 1078 to his death, was the eldest son and successor of Prince Richard I of Capua and Fressenda, a daughter of Tancred of Hauteville and his second wife, also named Fressenda, and the nephew of Robert Guiscard, duke of Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily...

 subjugated it in 1058 and then again in 1062. In 1064, the Lombard ruler was expelled and a Norman, William of Montreuil
William of Montreuil
William of Montreuil was an Italo-Norman freebooter of the mid-eleventh century. He was described by Amatus of Monte Cassino as an exceptional knight, small in stature, who was very robust, strong, valiant and by Orderic Vitalis as le Bon Normand, "the Good Norman."He was a son of the Guillaume...

, took his place and married the Lombard widow of Atenulf I, Maria
Maria of Gaeta
Maria , daughter of Pandulf IV of Capua and Maria, was the wife of Atenulf, count of Aquino, while her unnamed sister was the wife of Atenulf's brother Lando...

, daughter of Pandulf. The place of women in the rule of Gaeta was significant.

Norman domination

The Norman overlords of Gaeta appointed dukes from various families of local prominence, Normans mostly, until 1140, when the last Gaetan duke died, leaving the city to the king of Sicily, Roger II, to whom he had pledged himself in 1135. The first Norman duke after the brief tenure of Ranulf Drengot under Guaimar was William of Montreuil, appointed in 1064. He tried to legitimise his rule by marriage to the widow of his Lombard predecessor, but after his expulsion by his Norman overlord, the prince of Capua, Richard I
Richard I of Capua
Richard I Drengot was a count of Aversa and prince of Capua .He was the son of Asclettin, count of Acerenza, younger brother of Asclettin, count of Aversa, and nephew of Rainulf Drengot, the Norman adventurer who had first travelled to southern Italy in 1017 and progressed to set up the first...

, it was not necessary for any subsequent dukes to legitimise themselves: the Normans had established their power.

From 1067 or 1068 to 1091, Gaeta was ruled by the Norman Ridello family. Their power was set in Gaeta and Geoffrey Ridello ruled from Pontecorvo
Pontecorvo is a town and comune in the province of Frosinone, Lazio, Italy. Its population is 13,400.- History :The village lies under Rocca Guglielma, a medieval fortification perched on an inaccessible spur...

, but the Gaetans were not completely weaned from their independent past yet. On the death of Jordan I of Capua
Jordan I of Capua
Jordan I , count of Aversa and prince of Capua from 1078 to his death, was the eldest son and successor of Prince Richard I of Capua and Fressenda, a daughter of Tancred of Hauteville and his second wife, also named Fressenda, and the nephew of Robert Guiscard, duke of Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily...

, Gaeta rebelled against Norman rule and set up as their duke one Landulf
Landulf of Gaeta
Landulf , either a Lombard count or a Docibilian senator, was the Duke and Consul of Gaeta from 1091 to 1103.With the death of Jordan I of Capua in November 1090, anarchy erupted in the fiefs of the Principality of Capua, especially in Aquino and Gaeta. In the latter, Renaud Ridel was chased from...

. He ruled successfully until 1103, because the Norman prince of Capua, Richard II
Richard II of Capua
Richard II , called the Bald, was the count of Aversa and the prince of Capua from 1090 or 1091.The eldest son and successor of Jordan I of Capua and Gaitelgrima, daughter of Prince Guaimar IV of Salerno, he was named after his grandfather, Richard I of Capua...

, was exiled from his capital. In 1103, William Blosseville
William Blosseville
William II, called de Blosseville, was the consul and duke of Gaeta from 1103 to 1105. He appears on Gaetan follari of his time as DV or dux Vilelmus.In 1105, he was exiled by Richard I of Aquila after less than two years as duke.-Sources:**...

 conquerored the city and in turn was conquered by Richard of Aquila
Richard II of Gaeta
Richard II was the consul and duke of Gaeta, ruling from 1104 or 1105 to his death.He conquered the duchy from his predecessor, William Blosseville, whom he exiled. He subsequently minted his own coinage as an independent prince.He lent troops to Pope Paschal II in 1108 to retake Rome...

 in 1105. Richard was a de facto independent duke as were his successors. The death of Jordan I had sapped the Norman dynasty of Capua
Drengot family
The Drengots were a Norman family of mercenaries, one of the first to head to the Mezzogiorno of Italy to fight in the service of the Lombards. They became the most prominent family after the Hautevilles.-Origins:...

 of its authority and this had a great effect on Gaeta. Finally, in 1135, Richard of Caleno
Richard III of Gaeta
Richard III , also known as Richard of Caleno, was the Count of Carinola last independent Duke of Gaeta, ruling from 1121 to his death. He was a son of Bartholomew of Carinola and a member of the Drengot family. From 1112 he was regent for his nephew, Jonathan; in 1121 he succeeded him...

 was forced to make submission to King Roger, who had forced the last prince of Capua, Robert II
Robert II of Capua
Robert II was the count of Aversa and the prince of Capua from 1127 until his death .He was the only son and successor of Jordan II of Capua...

, to make submission the same year.


The city of Gaeta was the always the economic, political, and ecclesiastical centre of the duchy. The probable origins of the Docibilan dynasty as Amalfitan merchants perhaps explains the interest they had in amassing movable as well as landed wealth. The Gaetan forum (market) was located near the ducal palace. Warehouses (medialocae), some even owned by foreigners, like Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...

ns, were commonplace. In the tenth century Gaetans, Amalfitans, and Salernitans were present cum magno negotio ("with great business") in Pavia
Pavia , the ancient Ticinum, is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy, northern Italy, 35 km south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It is the capital of the province of Pavia. It has a population of c. 71,000...

. At Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 the Gaetans had a colony. Liutprand of Cremona
Liutprand of Cremona
Liutprand, also Liudprand, Liuprand, Lioutio, Liucius, Liuzo, and Lioutsios was a Lombard historian and author, and Bishop of Cremona....

 even records that the deposers of Romanus II claimed the support of the "men of Caieta" and Amalfi. While it is known that Amalfi imported Byzantine silk
Byzantine silk
Byzantine silk is silk woven in the Byzantine Empire from about the 4th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.The Byzantine capital of Constantinople was the first significant silk-weaving center in Europe. Silk was one of the most important commodities in the Byzantine economy, used by...

, a single reference to "Gaetan silk" in a will of 1028 suggests that Gaeta may have been involved in its production. By 1129 the Jewish community at Gaeta was heavily involved in the industries of cloth-dyeing, salt extraction, and olive oil production.

The replacement of the Docibilan dynasty in the mid-eleventh century caused a municipal power shift which had implications for trade and commerce. The established nobility, whose wealth was based on land, was displaced by the families of the rising merchant class, whose new wealth was got by trade. These new families had established ties with Ptolemy I of Tusculum
Ptolemy I of Tusculum
Ptolemy I was the count of Tusculum in the first quarter of the twelfth century. He was a son of Gregory III...

 by 1105. The Crescentii
The Crescentii clan — if they were an extended family — essentially ruled Rome and controlled the Papacy from the middle of the 10th century until the nearly simultaneous deaths of their puppet pope Sergius IV and the patricius of the clan in 1012.-History:Several individuals named Crescentius who...

, the traditional rivals of the Tusculani in Rome, had taken over Terracina
Terracina is a town and comune of the province of Latina - , Italy, 76 km SE of Rome by rail .-Ancient times:...

, formerly Gaetan territory, and were establishing martial ties with the Docibilans still ruling at Fondi in the late eleventh century. These two Roman families were soon vying for influence among the merchant clans of Gaeta; the Crescentii appeared to have had upper hand.

In the twelfth century Gaetan trade expanded, while the duchy's Norman dukes took less interest in the city itself. In 1128 Gaeta is recorded as baying less, only twelve denarii, for docking a ship at Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 than any other city (Amalfi, Naples, Rome, or Salerno), perhaps suggesting longstanding relations with Genoa. The Gaetan–Genoese relationship had deteriorated by 1140, when, according to Caffaro di Rustico:

. . . adhuc in eodem consulatu galee II Gaitanorum ad depredandum Ianuenses Provintiam venerant. Ilico galee II Ianuensium armate fuerunt, et eas sequentes apud Arzentarium invenerunt, et unam preliando ceperunt, et cum hominibus ac cum tota preda quam fecerant Ianuam adduxerunt.

During the period of the consuls, Gaeta seems to have been heavily involved in piracy, if with little permanent success. The consuls are often recorded acting to restore merchandise to foreigners. There is reference to a war with the city of Salerno
Salerno is a city and comune in Campania and is the capital of the province of the same name. It is located on the Gulf of Salerno on the Tyrrhenian Sea....

 and to apparent commercial rivalry, resulting in piracy, with Atrani
Atrani is a town and comune on the Amalfi Coast in the province of Salerno in the Campania region of south-western Italy. It is located on the outskirts of Amalfi, several minutes drive down the coast...



In 1094 a major shift in the government of Gaeta was first recorded. In that year boni homines ("good men") first took part in the political process. In 1123 consuls, four in number, are first recorded, though the dukes had always borne the consular title as an imperial honorific. This makes Gaeta one of the "more precocious cities" by Daniel Waley's criteria. The use of consuls may have been the result of Genoese or Pisan influence, though consuls from Rome were recorded participating in Gaetan affairs in 1127. The record of consular government in Gaeta lasts only until 1135. Two general factions can be defined: those families aligned with the Crescentii and those aligned with the Tusculani. The former dominated the consulate.

In 1123 Duke Richard II
Richard II of Gaeta
Richard II was the consul and duke of Gaeta, ruling from 1104 or 1105 to his death.He conquered the duchy from his predecessor, William Blosseville, whom he exiled. He subsequently minted his own coinage as an independent prince.He lent troops to Pope Paschal II in 1108 to retake Rome...

 confirmed the copper coinage and promised the consuls not to change it. In 1127 the building that housed the curia
A curia in early Roman times was a subdivision of the people, i.e. more or less a tribe, and with a metonymy it came to mean also the meeting place where the tribe discussed its affairs...

he ceded to them. The submission in 1135 and death in 1140 of the last Gaetan duke correspond, respectively, with the last consular record and the failed attack on Genoa. It is probably that increased Norman oversight of Gaetan affairs is responsible for the eclipse of both the consuls and the pirates.


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