Princess Anna Comnena (daughter of Byzantine Emperor Alexios I and his wife Irene Doukaina) was fourteen years old when she met Bohemond. Her description of him is incredible. He’s the red-bearded medieval warrior version of Arnold Schwarzenegger:
Let me describe the barbarian’s appearance more particularly – he was so tall in stature that he overtopped the tallest by nearly one cubit, narrow in the waist and loins, with broad shoulders and a deep chest and powerful arms. And in the whole build of the body he was neither too slender nor overweighted with flesh, but perfectly proportioned and, one might say, built in conformity with the canon of Polycleitus…
His skin all over his body was very white, and in his face the white was tempered with red. His hair was yellowish, but did not hang down to his waist like that of the other barbarians; for the man was not inordinately vain of his hair, but had it cut short to the ears. Whether his beard was reddish, or any other colour I cannot say, for the razor had passed over it very closely and left a surface smoother than chalk.
His blue eyes indicated both a high spirit and dignity; and his nose and nostrils breathed in the air freely; his chest corresponded to his nostrils and by his nostrils…the breadth of his chest. For by his nostrils nature had given free passage for the high spirit which bubbled up from his heart. A certain charm hung about this man but was partly marred by a general air of the horrible.
He was so made in mind and body that both courage and passion reared their crests within him and both inclined to war. His wit was manifold and crafty and able to find a way of escape in every emergency. In conversation he was well informed, and the answers he gave were quite irrefutable. This man who was of such a size and such a character was inferior to the Emperor alone in fortune and eloquence and in other gifts of nature.
Bohemond (c. 1058 – March 3, 1111) was born and baptized as “Marcus” in San Marco Argentano, Calabria, to the Norman Duke Robert Guiscard of Apulia and Calabria, and his wife Alberada of Buonalbergo. Upon seeing the infant’s great size, his noble father nicknamed him “Bohemond” after the legendary giant Buamundus. As a Norman, he was a genetic descendent of the Vikings that received baptism.
He led the armies of the First Crusade, the only truly successful Crusade agains the invading Mohammedans. He was loved by Europeans, regardless of nationality. Even King Henry I of England prevented him from landing on English shores, because Bohemond’s popularity outshone that of Henry.
After his success against the Mohammedans, Bohemond found conflict with the Greek Emperor Alexios, who aided by the treacherous Venetians, defeated him in 1108. Bohemond subsequently lived in humilation as a vassal of Alexios. He died and was buried at Canosa in Apulia in 1111.