Place:Sicilia, Italy


Alt namesSicily
Siciliasource: Wikipedia
Siziliensource: Rand McNally Atlas (1994) p 1-163
Coordinates37.5°N 14.0°E
Located inItaly     (1861 - )
Contained Places
Former nation/state/empire
General region
Mazaro del Vallo
Inhabited place
San Giuseppe Jato
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. The Strait of Messina separates it from the region of Calabria in Southern Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions and is officially referred to as Regione Siciliana. The region has 5 million inhabitants. Its capital city is Palermo.

Sicily is in the central Mediterranean Sea, south of the Italian Peninsula in continental Europe, from which it is separated by the narrow Strait of Messina. Its most prominent landmark is Mount Etna, one of the tallest active volcanoes in Europe, and one of the most active in the world, currently high. The island has a typical Mediterranean climate.

The earliest archaeological evidence of human activity on the island dates from as early as 12,000 BC. By around 750 BC, Sicily had three Phoenician and a dozen Greek colonies and it was later the site of the Sicilian Wars and the Punic Wars. After the end of the Roman province of Sicilia with the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Sicily was ruled during the Early Middle Ages by the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, the Byzantine Empire, and the Emirate of Sicily. The Norman conquest of southern Italy led to the creation of the County of Sicily in 1071, that was succeeded by Kingdom of Sicily, a state that existed from 1130 until 1816. Later, it was unified under the House of Bourbon with the Kingdom of Naples as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The island became part of Italy in 1860 following the Expedition of the Thousand, a revolt led by Giuseppe Garibaldi during the Italian unification, and a plebiscite. Sicily was given special status as an autonomous region on 15 May 1946, 18 days before the Italian institutional referendum of 1946.

Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature, cuisine, and architecture.


Historical Monarchy of Sicily

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia


the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

The name Sicilia was given to the Roman province in 241 BC. It is derived from the name of the Sikeloi, who inhabited the eastern part of the island. The ancient name of the island is Trinacria (Greek "having three headlands") for its triangular shape, likely a re-interpretation of earlier (Homeric) Thrinacia. The Greek name was rendered as Trīnācrĭa in classical Latin (Virgil, Ovid).


The original classical-era inhabitants of Sicily comprised three defined groups of the ancient peoples of Italy. The most prominent and by far the earliest of these, the Sicani, who (Thucydides writes) arrived from the Iberian Peninsula (perhaps Catalonia). Some modern scholars, however, suggest classifying the Sicani as possibly an Illyrian tribe. Important historical evidence has been discovered in the form of cave drawings by the Sicani, dated from the end of the Pleistocene epoch around 8000 BC.[1] The arrival of the first humans on the island correlates with the extinction of the Sicilian hippopotamus and the Sicilian dwarf elephant. The Elymians, thought to have come from the area of the Aegean Sea, became the next tribe to join the Sicanians on Sicily.

Recent discoveries of dolmens on the island (dating to the second half of the third millennium BC) seem to offer new insights into the culture of primitive Sicily. It is well known that the Mediterranean region went through quite intricate prehistory, so much so that it is difficult to piece together the muddle of different peoples who have followed each other. The impact of two influences is clear, however: the European one coming from the Northwest, and the Mediterranean influence of a clear eastern heritage.

No evidence survives of any warring between the tribes, but the Sicanians moved eastwards when the Elymians settled in the northwest corner of the island. The Sicels are thought to have originated in Liguria; they arrived from mainland Italy in 1200 BC and forced the Sicanians to move back across Sicily and to settle in the middle of the island.[1] Other minor Italic groups who settled in Sicily included the Ausones (Aeolian Islands, Milazzo) and the Morgetes of Morgantina.


The Phoenician settlements in the western part of the island predate the arrival of Greek colonists.[2] From about 750 BC, the Greeks began to live in Sicily ( – Sikelia), establishing many significant settlements. The most important colony was in Syracuse; others grew up at Akragas, Selinunte, Gela, Himera and Zancle. The native Sicani and Sicel peoples became absorbed into the Hellenic culture with relative ease, and the area became part of Magna Graecia - along with the coasts of the south of the Italian peninsula, which the Greeks had also colonised. Sicily had very fertile soils, and the successful introduction of olives and grape vines fostered a great deal of profitable trading.[3] Greek culture significantly included Greek religion, and the settlers built many temples throughout Sicily, including several in the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento.

Politics on the island became intertwined with those of Greece; Syracuse became desired by the Athenians who set out on the Sicilian Expedition (415–413 BC) during the Peloponnesian War. Syracuse gained Sparta and Corinth as allies and, as a result, defeated the Athenian expedition. The victors destroyed the Athenian army and their ships, selling most of the survivors into slavery.

Greek Syracuse controlled eastern Sicily while Carthage controlled the West. The two cultures began to clash, leading to the Greek-Punic wars (between 580 and 265 BC). The Greek states had begun to make peace with the Roman Republic in 262 BC, and the Romans sought to annex Sicily as their republic's first province. Rome attacked Carthage's holdings in Sicily in the First Punic War (264 to 241 BC) and won, making Sicily the first Roman province outside of the Italian Peninsula by 242 BC.

In the Second Punic War (218 to 201 BC), the Carthaginians attempted to recapture Sicily. Some of the Greek cities on the island sided with the Carthaginians. Archimedes, who lived in Syracuse, helped the Carthaginians; Roman troops killed him after they invaded Syracuse in 213 BC. The Carthaginian attempt failed, and Rome was even more unrelenting in its annihilation of the invaders this time; Roman consul M. Valerian told the Roman Senate in 210 BC that "no Carthaginian remains in Sicily".

As the Roman Republic's granary, Sicily ranked as an important province, divided into two quaestorships: Syracuse to the east and Lilybaeum to the west.[2] Roman rule introduced the Latin language to the island, which underwent a slow process of latinisation but Sicily was remained largely Greek in a cultural sense and the Greek language did not become extinct on the island, facilitating its re-hellenisation under the Byzantines. The once prosperous and contented island went into sharp decline when Verres became governor of Sicily (73 to 71 BC). In 70 BC noted figure Cicero condemned the misgovernment of Verres in his oration In Verrem.

Various groups used the island as a power base at different times: slave insurgents occupied it during the First (135−132 BC) and Second (104−100 BC) Servile Wars, and Sextus Pompey had his headquarters there during the Sicilian revolt of 44 to 36 BC. Christianity first appeared in Sicily during the years following AD 200; between this time and AD 313, when Emperor Constantine the Great finally lifted the prohibition on Christianity, a significant number of Sicilians had become martyrs, including Agatha, Christina, Lucy, and Euplius.[4] Christianity grew rapidly in Sicily over the next two centuries. Sicily remained a Roman province for around 700 years.

Germanic rule (469–535)

The Western Roman Empire began falling apart after the invasion of Vandals, Alans, and Sueves across the Rhine on the last day of 406. Eventually the Vandals, after roaming about western and southern Hispania (present-day Iberia) for 20 years, moved to North Africa in 429 and occupied Carthage in 439. The Franks moved south from present-day Belgium. The Visigoths moved west and eventually settled in Aquitaine in 418; the Burgundians settled in present-day Savoy in 443. The Vandals found themselves in a position to threaten Sicily - only 100 miles away from their North African bases.[5] After taking Carthage, the Vandals, personally led by King Gaiseric, laid siege to Palermo in 440 as the opening act in an attempt to wrest the island from Roman rule. The Vandals made another attempt to take the island one year after the 455 sack of Rome, at Agrigento, but were defeated decisively by Ricimir in a naval victory off Corsica in 456. The island remained under Roman rule until 469. The Vandals lost possession of the island 8 years later in 477 to the East Germanic tribe of the Ostrogoths, who then controlled Italy and Dalmatia.[5] The island was returned to the Ostrogoths by payment of tribute to their king Odoacer. He ruled Italy from 476 to 488 in the name of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Emperor. The Vandals kept a toehold in Lilybaeum, a port on the west coast. They lost this in 491 after making one last attempt to conquer the island from this port. The Ostrogothic conquest of Sicily (and of Italy as a whole) under Theodoric the Great began in 488. The Byzantine Emperor Zeno had appointed Theodoric as a military commander in Italy. The Goths were Germanic, but Theodoric fostered Roman culture and government and allowed freedom of religion. In 461 from the age of seven or eight until 17 or 18 Theodoric had become a Byzantine hostage; he resided in the great palace of Constantinople, was favored by Emperor Leo I and learned to read and write and do arithmetic.

Byzantine period (535–965)

After taking areas occupied by the Vandals in North Africa, Justinian decided to retake Italy as an ambitious attempt to recover the lost provinces in the West. The re-conquests marked an end to over 150 years of accommodationist policies with tribal invaders. His first target was Sicily (known as the Gothic War (535–554) began between the Ostrogoths and the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire). His general Belisarius was assigned the task. Sicily was used as a base for the Byzantines to conquer the rest of Italy, with Naples, Rome, Milan. It took five years before the Ostrogoth capital Ravenna fell in 540.[6] However, the new Ostrogoth king Totila counterattacked, moving down the Italian peninsula, plundering and conquering Sicily in 550. Totila was defeated and killed in the Battle of Taginae by Byzantine general Narses in 552 but Italy was in ruins.

At the time of the reconquest Greek was still the predominant language spoken on the island. Sicily was invaded by the Arab forces of Caliph Uthman in 652, but the Arabs failed to make any permanent gains. They returned to Syria with their booty. Raids seeking loot continued until the mid-8th century.

The Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II decided to move from Constantinople to Syracuse in 660. The following year he launched an assault from Sicily against the Lombard Duchy of Benevento, which occupied most of southern Italy.[7] Rumors that the capital of the empire was to be moved to Syracuse probably cost Constans his life, as he was assassinated in 668. His son Constantine IV succeeded him. A brief usurpation in Sicily by Mezezius was quickly suppressed by this emperor. Contemporary accounts report that the Greek language was widely spoken on the island during this period. In 740 Emperor Leo III the Isaurian transferred Sicily from the jurisdiction of the church of Rome to that of Constantinople, placing the island within the eastern branch of the Church.

In 826 Euphemius, the Byzantine commander in Sicily, having apparently killed his wife, forced a nun to marry him. Emperor Michael II caught wind of the matter and ordered general Constantine to end the marriage and cut off Euphemius' head. Euphemius rose up, killed Constantine, and then occupied Syracuse; he, in turn, was defeated and driven out to North Africa. He offered the rule of Sicily to Ziyadat Allah, the Aghlabid Emir of Tunisia, in return for a position as a general and a place of safety. A Muslim army was then sent to the island consisting of Arabs, Berbers, Cretans, and Persians.[8]

The Muslim conquest of Sicily was a see-saw affair and met with fierce resistance. It took over a century for Byzantine Sicily to be conquered; the largest city, Syracuse, held out until 878 and the Greek city of Taormina fell in 962. It was not until 965 that all of Sicily was conquered by the Arabs.[8] In the 11th-century Byzantine armies carried out a partial reconquest of the island under George Maniakes, but it was their Norman mercenaries who would eventually complete the island's reconquest at the end of the century.

Arab Period (827–1091)

The Arabs initiated land reforms, which increased productivity and encouraged the growth of smallholdings, undermining the dominance of the latifundia. The Arabs further improved irrigation systems. The language spoken in Sicily under Arab rule was Siculo-Arabic and Arabic influence is still present in some Sicilian words today. Although long extinct in Sicily, the language has developed into what is now the Maltese language on the islands of Malta today.

A description of Palermo was given by Ibn Hawqal, an Arab merchant who visited Sicily in 950. A walled suburb, called the Al-Kasr (the palace), is the centre of Palermo to this day, with the great Friday mosque on the site of the later Roman cathedral. The suburb of al-Khalisa (modern Kalsa) contained the Sultan's palace, baths, a mosque, government offices, and a private prison. Ibn Hawqal reckoned 7,000 individual butchers trading in 150 shops. During Muslim rule agricultural products such as oranges, lemons, pistachio and sugarcane were brought to Sicily. Western Sicily was overwhelmingly Muslim, and contained large plantations run by slave labor, often producing sugar.[8] Around 1050, the western half of Sicily was ethnically and culturally distinct from central and eastern Sicily. During this time, there was also a small Jewish presence in Sicily.

Palermo was initially ruled by the Aghlabids; later it was the centre of the Emirate of Sicily, which was under the nominal suzerainty of the Fatimid Caliphate. During the reign of this dynasty revolts by Byzantine Sicilians continuously occurred especially in the east where Greek-speaking Christians predominated. Parts of the island were re-occupied before revolts were being quashed. Under the Arab rule the island was divided in three administrative regions, or "vals", roughly corresponding to the three "points" of Sicily: Val di Mazara in the west; Val Demone in the northeast; and Val di Noto in the southeast. As dhimmis, that is as members of a protected class of approved monotheists the Eastern Orthodox Christians were allowed freedom of religion, but had to pay a tax, the jizya (in lieu of the obligatory alms tax, the zakat, paid by Muslims), and were restricted from active participation in public affairs. By the 11th century, the Emirate of Sicily began to fragment as intra-dynastic quarreling fractured the Muslim regime.[8]

Norman Sicily (1038–1198)

In 1038, seventy years after losing their last cities in Sicily, the Byzantines under the Greek general George Maniakes invaded the island together with their Varangian and Norman mercenaries. Maniakes was killed in a Byzantine civil war in 1043 before completing a reconquest and the Byzantines withdrew. Later the Normans invaded in 1061 and after taking Apulia and Calabria, Roger I occupied Messina with an army of 700 knights.[8] In 1068, Roger I was victorious at Misilmeri. Most crucial was the siege of Palermo, whose fall in 1071 eventually resulted in all Sicily coming under Norman control.[9] The conquest was completed in 1091 when they captured Noto the last Arab stronghold. Palermo continued to be the capital under the Normans. The Normans formed a small but violent ruling class. They destroyed many of the Arab towns in Sicily, and very few physical remains survive from the Arab era.[8]

The Norman Hauteville family, descendants of Vikings, appreciated and admired the rich and layered culture in which they now found themselves. They also introduced their own culture, customs, and politics in the region. Many Normans in Sicily adopted the habits and comportment of Muslim rulers and their Byzantine subjects in dress, language, literature, even to the extent of having palace eunuchs and, according to some accounts, a harem.

Kingdom of Sicily

While Roger I died in 1101, his wife Adelaide ruled until 1112 when their son Roger II of Sicily came of age.[10] Having succeeded his brother Simon as Count of Sicily, Roger II was ultimately able to raise the status of the island to a kingdom in 1130, along with his other holdings, which included the Maltese Islands and the Duchies of Apulia and Calabria.

Roger II appointed the powerful Greek George of Antioch to be his "emir of emirs" and continued the syncretism of his father. During this period, the Kingdom of Sicily was prosperous and politically powerful, becoming one of the wealthiest states in all of Europe—even wealthier than the Kingdom of England.

The court of Roger II became the most luminous centre of culture in the Mediterranean, both from Europe and the Middle East, like the multi-ethnic Caliphate of Córdoba, then only just eclipsed. This attracted scholars, scientists, poets, artists, and artisans of all kinds. Laws were issued in the language of the community to whom they were addressed in Norman Sicily, at the time when the culture was still heavily Arab and Greek.[11] Governance was by rule of law which promoted justice. Muslims, Jews, Byzantine Greeks, Lombards, and Normans worked together fairly amicably. During this time many extraordinary buildings were constructed.

However this situation changed as the Normans imported immigrants from Normandy, England, Lombardy, Piedmont, Provence and Campania to secure the island. Linguistically, the island shifted from being one-third Greek- and two-thirds Arabic-speaking at the time of the Norman conquest to becoming fully Latinised.[12] In terms of religion the island became completely Roman Catholic (bearing in mind that until 1054 the Churches owing allegiance to the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople belonged to one Church); Sicily before the Norman conquest was under Eastern Orthodox Patriarch. After Pope Innocent III made him Papal Legate in 1098, Roger I created several Catholic bishoprics while still allowing the construction of 12 Greek-speaking monasteries (the Greek language, monasteries, and 1500 parishes continued to exist until the adherents of the Greek Rite were forced in 1585 to convert to Catholicism or leave; a small pocket of Greek-speakers still live in Messina).

After a century, the Norman Hauteville dynasty died out; the last direct descendant and heir of Roger II, Constance, married Emperor Henry VI.[13] This eventually led to the crown of Sicily being passed on to the Hohenstaufen Dynasty, who were Germans from Swabia. The last of the Hohenstaufens, Frederick II, the only son of Constance, was one of the greatest and most cultured men of the Middle Ages. His mother's will had asked Pope Innocent III to undertake the guardianship of her son. Frederick was four when at Palermo, he was crowned King of Sicily in 1198. Frederick received no systematic education and was allowed to run free in the streets of Palermo. There he picked up the many languages he heard spoken, such as Arabic and Greek, and learned some of the lore of the Jewish community. At age twelve, he dismissed Innocent's deputy regent and took over the government; at fifteen he married Constance of Aragon, and began his reclamation of the imperial crown. Subsequently, due to Muslim rebellions, Frederick II destroyed the remaining Muslim presence in Sicily, estimated at 60,000 persons, moving all to the city of Lucera in Apulia between 1221 and 1226.

Conflict between the Hohenstaufen house and the Papacy led, in 1266, to Pope Innocent IV crowning the French prince Charles, count of Anjou and Provence, as the king of both Sicily and Naples.[13]

Strong opposition to French officialdom due to mistreatment and taxation saw the local peoples of Sicily rise up, leading in 1282 to an insurrection known as the War of the Sicilian Vespers, which eventually saw almost the entire French population on the island killed.[13] During the war, the Sicilians turned to Peter III of Aragon, son-in-law of the last Hohenstaufen king, for support after being rejected by the Pope. Peter gained control of Sicily from the French, who, however, retained control of the Kingdom of Naples. A crusade was launched in August 1283 against Peter III and the Kingdom of Aragon by Pope Martin IV (a pope from Île-de-France), but it failed. The wars continued until the peace of Caltabellotta in 1302, which saw Peter's son Frederick III recognized as the king of the Isle of Sicily, while Charles II was recognized as the king of Naples by Pope Boniface VIII.[13] Sicily was ruled as an independent kingdom by relatives of the kings of Aragon until 1409 and then as part of the Crown of Aragon.[3] In October 1347, in Messina, Sicily, the Black Death first arrived in Europe.

Between the 15th-18th centuries, waves of Greeks from the Peloponnese (such as the Maniots) and Arvanites migrated to Sicily in large numbers to escape persecution after the Ottoman conquest of the Peloponnese. They brought with them Eastern Orthodoxy as well as the Greek and Arvanitika languages to the island, once again adding onto the extensive Byzantine/Greek influence.

The onset of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 led to Ferdinand II decreeing the expulsion of all Jews from Sicily.[13] The eastern part of the island was hit by very destructive earthquakes in 1542 and 1693. Just a few years before the latter earthquake, the island was struck by a ferocious plague. The earthquake in 1693 took an estimated 60,000 lives. There were revolts during the 17th century, but these were quelled with significant force, especially the revolts of Palermo and Messina. North African slave raids discouraged settlement along the coast until the 19th century. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 saw Sicily assigned to the House of Savoy; however, this period of rule lasted only seven years, as it was exchanged for the island of Sardinia with Emperor Charles VI of the Austrian Habsburg Dynasty.

While the Austrians were concerned with the War of the Polish Succession, a Bourbon prince, Charles from Spain was able to conquer Sicily and Naples. At first Sicily was able to remain as an independent kingdom under personal union, while the Bourbons ruled over both from Naples. However, the advent of Napoleon's First French Empire saw Naples taken at the Battle of Campo Tenese and Bonapartist King of Naples were installed. Ferdinand III the Bourbon was forced to retreat to Sicily which he was still in complete control of with the help of British naval protection.

Following this, Sicily joined the Napoleonic Wars, and subsequently the British under Lord William Bentinck established a military and diplomatic presence on the island to protect against a French invasion. After the wars were won, Sicily and Naples formally merged as the Two Sicilies under the Bourbons. Major revolutionary movements occurred in 1820 and 1848 against the Bourbon government with Sicily seeking independence; the second of which, the 1848 revolution resulted in a short period of independence for Sicily. However, in 1849 the Bourbons retook control of the island and dominated it until 1860.

Italian unification

The Expedition of the Thousand led by Giuseppe Garibaldi captured Sicily in 1860, as part of the .[14] The conquest started at Marsala, and native Sicilians joined him in the capture of the southern Italian peninsula. Garibaldi's march was completed with the Siege of Gaeta, where the final Bourbons were expelled and Garibaldi announced his dictatorship in the name of Victor Emmanuel II of Kingdom of Sardinia. Sicily became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia after a referendum where more than 75% of Sicily voted in favour of the annexation on 21 October 1860 (but not everyone was allowed to vote). As a result of the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, Sicily became part of the kingdom on 17 March 1861.

The Sicilian economy (and the wider mezzogiorno economy) remained relatively underdeveloped after the Italian unification, in spite of the strong investments made by the Kingdom of Italy in terms of modern infrastructure, and this caused an unprecedented wave of emigration. In 1894, organisations of workers and peasants known as the Fasci Siciliani protested against the bad social and economic conditions of the island, but they were suppressed in a few days. The Messina earthquake of 28 December 1908 killed more than 80,000 people.

This period was also characterized by the first contact between the Sicilian mafia (the crime syndicate also known as Cosa Nostra) and the Italian government. The Mafia's origins are still uncertain, but it is generally accepted that it emerged in the 18th century initially in the role of private enforcers hired to protect the property of landowners and merchants from the groups of brigands (briganti) who frequently pillaged the countryside and towns. The battle against the Mafia made by the Kingdom of Italy was controversial and ambiguous. The Carabinieri (the military police of Italy) and sometimes the Italian army were often involved in terrible fights against the mafia members, but their efforts were frequently useless because of the secret cooperation between the mafia and local government and also because of the weakness of the Italian judicial system.

20th and 21st centuries

In the 1920s, the Fascist regime began a stronger military action against the Mafia, which was led by prefect Cesare Mori, who was known as the "Iron Prefect" because of his iron-fisted campaigns. This was the first time in which an operation against the Sicilian mafia ended with considerable success.[14] There was an Allied invasion of Sicily during World War II starting on 10 July 1943. In preparation for the invasion, the Allies revitalised the Mafia to aid them. The invasion of Sicily contributed to the 25 July crisis; in general, the Allied victors were warmly embraced by Sicily.

Italy became a Republic in 1946 and, as part of the Constitution of Italy, Sicily was one of the five regions given special status as an autonomous region. Both the partial Italian land reform and special funding from the Italian government's Cassa per il Mezzogiorno (Fund for the South) from 1950 to 1984 helped the Sicilian economy. During this period, the economic and social condition of the island was generally improved thanks to important investments on infrastructures such as motorways and airports, and thanks to the creation of important industrial and commercial areas. In the 1980s, the Mafia was deeply weakened by a second important campaign led by magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Between 1990 and 2005, the unemployment rate fell from about 23% to 11%.

The Cosa Nostra has traditionally been the most powerful group in Sicily, especially around Palermo. A police investigation in summer 2019 also confirmed strong links between the Palermo area Sicilian Mafia and American organized crime, particularly the Gambino crime family. According to La Repubblica, "Off they go, through the streets of Passo di Rigano, Boccadifalco, Torretta and at the same time, Brooklyn, Staten Island, New Jersey. Because from Sicily to the US, the old mafia has returned".

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