Post-classical history

Caffaro (1080/1081-1166)

Genoese politician and crusader, and the first layperson to emerge as a historian in the Middle Ages.

Caffaro was the son of Rustico, lord of Caschifellone in Val Pocevera north of Genoa. In 1100-1101 he took part in the first naval expedition organized by the commune of Genoa in support of the crusaders who had reached Syria and Palestine in the course of the First Crusade (1096-1099). He may have gone to Outremer for a second time between 1130 and 1140. After the First Crusade, Caffaro played an important role in the political life of Genoa: from 1122 to 1149 he served frequently as consul; several times he was one of the four elected leaders of the commune; as one of the two con- sules de comuni who were responsible for Genoa’s foreign policy, he acted repeatedly as commander of the Genoese war fleet (1125 and 1146-1148), and also as a diplomat.

Caffaro negotiated successfully with Pisa and Pope Calixtus II (1121-1123) to secure Genoa’s metropolitan rights over the island of Corsica. He secured improved conditions for Genoese trade from Raymond Berengar III, count of Barcelona (1127 and 1146), and also concluded an alliance with King Alfonso VII of Castile in 1146 that enabled the Genoese fleet to capture the Spanish towns of Almeria and Tortosa in 1147-1148 in the course of the Second Crusade. He conducted negotations with Frederick I Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor, in 1154 and 1158, which achieved formal confirmation of earlier imperial privileges for Genoa. As admiral, Caffaro defeated the Pisan fleet in 1125. In the western Mediterranean, he commanded a Genoese fleet that attacked the island of Menorca, plundered one of its coastal towns (Port Mahon or Cittadella), and was able to gain control of this island from the Moors in 1146. The Genoese fleet that captured the towns of Almeria and Tortosa on the Iberian mainland from the Saracens was also under his command.

Caffaro wrote three chronicles that differed greatly: the Annales Ianuenses, the De liberatione civitatum Orientis, and the Ystoria captionis Almarie et Turtuose. The Annales Ianuenses (1099-1163) constituted his main historiographical work; despite his partiality toward his native city, it is much more reliable than his lesser works and was continued up to 1294 by various city chroniclers as the official history of the commune of Genoa.

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