Place:Sicilia, Italy

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NameSicilia
Alt namesSicily
Siciliasource: Wikipedia
Siziliensource: Rand McNally Atlas (1994) p 1-163
TypeRegion
Coordinates37.5°N 14.0°E
Located inItaly     (1861 - )
Contained Places
Former nation/state/empire
Hiero
General region
Mazaro del Vallo
Noto
Inhabited place
Entella
San Giuseppe Jato
Province
Agrigento
Caltanissetta
Catania
Enna
Messina
Palermo
Ragusa
Siracusa
Trapani
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. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.

Sicily is located in the central Mediterranean Sea, south of the Italian Peninsula, from which it is separated by the narrow Strait of Messina. Its most prominent landmark is Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano 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, for the next 600 years, it was the site of the Sicilian Wars and the Punic Wars. After 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 Kingdom of Sicily, which was subsequently ruled by the Hohenstaufen, the Capetian House of Anjou, Spain, and the House of Habsburg. It was finally unified under the House of Bourbon with the Kingdom of Naples as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It 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 15th May 1946, 18 days before the Italian constitutional referendum of 1946. Albeit, much of the autonomy still remains unapplied, especially financial autonomy, because the autonomy-activating laws have been deferred to be approved by the parithetic committee (50% Italian State, 50% Regione Siciliana), since 1946.

Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature, cuisine, and architecture. It is also home to important archaeological and ancient sites, such as the Necropolis of Pantalica, the Valley of the Temples, Erice and Selinunte.

Contents

Historical Monarchy of Sicily

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


History

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

Ancient tribes

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). However, some modern scholars 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 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 a 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. Other minor Italic groups who settled in Sicily included the Ausones (Aeolian Islands, Milazzo) and the Morgetes of Morgantina.

Phoenician, Carthaginian, Greek and Roman period

The Phoenician settlements in the western part of the island predates the Greeks.[2] From about 750 BC, the Greeks began to live in Sicily (Σικελία – Sikelia), establishing many important settlements. The most important colony was in Syracuse; others were located at Akragas, Selinunte, Gela, Himera and Zancle. The native Sicani and Sicel peoples were absorbed into the Hellenic culture with relative ease, and the area became part of Magna Graecia along with the rest of southern Italy, which the Greeks had also colonised. Sicily was very fertile, and the successful introduction of olives and grape vines created a great deal of profitable trading.[3] A significant part of Greek culture on the island was that of the Greek religion, and many temples were built throughout Sicily, including several in the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento.

Politics on the island was intertwined with that of Greece; Syracuse became desired by the Athenians who set out on the Sicilian Expedition during the Peloponnesian War. Syracuse gained Sparta and Corinth as allies and, as a result, the Athenian expedition was defeated. The Athenian army and ships were destroyed, with most of the survivors being sold into slavery.

Greek Syracuse controlled eastern Sicily while Carthage controlled the West. The two cultures began to clash, leading to the Greek-Punic wars. Greece 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 and won, making Sicily the first Roman province outside of the Italian Peninsula by 242 BC.

In the Second Punic War, the Carthaginians attempted to take back Sicily. Some of the Greek cities on the island sided with the Carthaginians. Archimedes, who lived in Syracuse, helped the Carthaginians, but was killed by the Romans after they invaded Syracuse in 213 BC. They 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".

Sicily served a level of high importance for the Romans, as it acted as the empire's granary. It was divided into two quaestorships, in the form of Syracuse to the east and Lilybaeum to the west.[2] Some attempt was made under Augustus to introduce the Latin language to the island, but Sicily was allowed to remain largely Greek in a cultural sense. The once prosperous and contented island went into sharp decline when Verres became governor of Sicily. In 70 BC, noted figure Cicero condemned the misgovernment of Verres in his oration In Verrem.

The island was used as a base of power numerous times, being occupied by slave insurgents during the First and Second Servile Wars, and by Sextus Pompey during the Sicilian revolt. Christianity first appeared in Sicily during the years following AD 200; between this time and AD 313, Constantine the Great finally lifted the prohibition on Christianity, but not before 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. The period of history during which Sicily was a Roman province lasted for around 700 years.

Germanic and Byzantine periods (440–965)

Germanic (440–535)

As the Western Roman Empire was falling apart, a Germanic tribe known as the Vandals briefly took Sicily in AD 440 under the rule of their king Geiseric but in 476 the island was returned to Odoacer, who was ruling Italy, 476-93, in the name of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Emperor. The Vandals had already invaded parts of Roman France, Spain, and Portugal, asserting themselves as an important power in Western Europe.[5] However, they soon lost these newly acquired possessions to another East Germanic tribe in the form of the Goths.[5] The Ostrogothic conquest of Sicily (and Italy as a whole) under Theodoric the Great began in 488. The Goths were Germanic, but Theodoric sought to revive Roman culture and government and allowed freedom of religion.

Byzantine (535–965)

Forty-seven years later the Gothic War (535–554) began between the Ostrogoths and the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire. Sicily was the first part of Italy to be taken by general Belisarius, who was commissioned by Eastern Emperor Justinian I as part of an ambitious attempt to restore the whole Roman Empire, thereby uniting the Eastern and the Western halves. Sicily was used as a base for the Byzantines to conquer the rest of Italy, with Naples, Rome, Milan, and the Ostrogoth capital Ravenna falling within five years.[6] However, new Ostrogoth king Totila drove down the Italian peninsula, plundering and conquering Sicily in 550. Totila, in turn, was defeated and killed in the Battle of Taginae by Byzantine general Narses in 552.

In 535, Emperor Justinian I made Sicily a Byzantine province and, as in Roman times, Greek continued to be the predominate language spoken on the island. After the advent of Islam, Sicily was invaded by the Arab forces of Caliph Uthman in 652, but the Arabs failed to make any permanent gains and returned to Syria after gathering some booty. Raids seeking loot continued until the mid-8th century.

Byzantine Emperor Constans II decided to move from the capital Constantinople to Syracuse in Sicily during 660. The following year, he launched an assault from Sicily against the Lombard Duchy of Benevento, which then 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 being quickly suppressed by the new 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 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 much 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 the language is extinct in Sicily, it 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. Palermo was initially ruled by the Aghlabids; later it was the centre of Emirate of Sicily under the nominal suzerainty of the Fatimid Caliphate.

Throughout this reign, revolts by Byzantine Sicilians continuously occurred, especially in the east, and parts of the island were re-occupied before being quashed. Agricultural items such as oranges, lemons, pistachio and sugarcane were brought to Sicily. Under the Arab rule, the island was aligned 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, the native Eastern Orthodox Christians were allowed freedom of religion, but had to pay a tax, the jizya, and were restricted from active participation in public affairs.

The Emirate of Sicily began to fragment as intra-dynastic quarrelling fractured the Muslim regime.[8] During this time, there was also a minor Jewish presence.

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. Although Maniakes was killed in a Byzantine civil war in 1043 before completing a reconquest, Normans would complete a conquest of Sicily from the Arabs under Roger I. After taking Apulia and Calabria, Roger occupied Messina with an army of 700 knights. In 1068, Roger was victorious at Misilmeri, but the most crucial battle was the siege of Palermo, which led to most of Sicily coming under Norman control in 1072.[9] The Normans finished their conquest in 1091, when they captured Noto, which was the last Arab stronghold. Palermo continued on as the capital under the Normans.

The Norman Hauteville family, who were descendants of Vikings, came to appreciate and admire the rich and layered culture in which they now found themselves. And they began implementing their own culture, customs, and politics in the region. Many Normans in Sicily also adopted some of the attributes of Muslim rulers and their Byzantine subjects in dress, language, literature, and even in the presence of palace eunuchs and, according to some accounts, a harem.

Kingdom of Sicily

Roger 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, still with heavy Arab and Greek influence.[11] The governance was by the rule of law, so there was justice. Muslims, Jews, Byzantine Greeks, Lombards, and Normans worked together to form a society that historians have said created some of the most extraordinary buildings that the world has ever seen.

Significantly, immigrants from Northern Italy and Campania arrived during this period. 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 the church, it became completely Roman Catholic; previously, it had been Eastern Orthodox under the Byzantines.

Hohenstaufen dynasty

After a century, the Norman Hauteville dynasty died out; the last direct descendant and heir of Roger, 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. The pope gladly accepted the role, as it allowed him to detach Sicily from the rest of The Holy Roman Empire, thus ending the spectre of the Papal States being surrounded. 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 Arab presence in Sicily, moving all the Muslims of Sicily 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]

Sicily under Aragonese rule

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 recognised as king of the Isle of Sicily, while Charles II was recognised 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.

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 Kingdom of Italy proclamation, 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 characterised 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 bandits (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 co-operation between 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 revitalized 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%.

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