History of Sicily

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Historical map of Sicily by Willem Blaeu (1571–1638)

The history of Sicily is shaped by the island's central location in the Mediterranean . The cities of Sicily have always been of great importance as bases for shipping and trade . So time and again new conquerors have seized the island, stayed and mixed with the already resident population and left their mark on the culture of Sicily. The island was rarely politically independent, mostly it was ruled by rich people who did not have their political center in Sicily.

Prehistory and early history

Imitation of the incised drawings of the Addaura grotto
Dolmen of Monte Bubbonia

Archaeological evidence

Compared to continental Europe, Sicily was settled late, the oldest finds date from the early Upper Paleolithic around 35,000 BC. The people of this time lived as hunters and gatherers and left traces in natural grottos and rock niches . Her most important legacies include the cave paintings and incised drawings in the Grotta del Genovese on the island of Levanzo and in the Addaura caves in Monte Pellegrino near Palermo . The finds from the Paleolithic are concentrated in the north-west of Sicily between Palermo and Trapani and in the south-east around Syracuse . In contrast to the mainland, where the productive way of life prevailed in the middle of the 7th millennium, a population with a sedentary way of life, agriculture and livestock farming did not move to Sicily until the late Neolithic at the beginning of the 5th millennium BC. Through the use of ceramics , the different cultures can now be distinguished from one another. The oldest Neolithic finds in Sicily (4800-3700 BC) come from the vicinity of Stentinello northeast of Syracuse. Therefore the subgroup of the cardial or imprint culture widespread in Sicily has the name Stentinello culture . Your ceramics are decorated with incised patterns. The stone tools were mostly made of obsidian , which was difficult to work with . The inhabitants of Sicily at that time built some small megalithic systems on the island. Settlements were surrounded by ramparts and moats. A group of the cardial culture reached as early as the 6th millennium BC. Chr. Malta . At about the same time as the Stentinello culture, the Serra d'Alto culture emerged on the Aeolian Islands . Their ceramic vessels were painted with colored spiral, meander and zigzag patterns. Between 3700 and 3000 BC The bichrome and trichrome ceramics of the Matrensa style spread .

Further waves of immigration brought metal processing (initially in the form of copper) to Sicily. Increasing specialization made a division of labor necessary, so that certain professions were formed and new economic activities and centers emerged. The oldest known culture of the Sicilian Copper Age is the Conca d'Oro culture from the 3rd millennium BC. BC, who was resident in the northwest of the island. Her ceramics were decorated with simple lines and rows of dots. At this time, the bell beaker culture also came to western Sicily. It followed from about 2200 BC. BC or a little earlier the early Bronze Age cultures of Castelluccio in Sicily and the approximately simultaneous Capo Graziano culture on the Aeolian Islands. In the north of Sicily the Rodi-Tindari-Vallelunga-Facies occurs, which is dated around the same time as the late phase of the Castelluccio culture .

From the 15th century BC The Middle Bronze Age Thapsos culture develops in Sicily, revealing strong parallels to the Milazzese culture on the Aeolian Islands and Ustica , which is why the term Thapsos-Milazzese culture is often used. The Thapsos culture and subsequent Late and Late Bronze Age cultures in Sicily are mainly known from grave finds, whereas the Milazzese culture is mainly known from settlement finds. Both cultures differed very clearly from the contemporaneous cultures of the Italian mainland; Only in the west and south of Calabria did the Milazzese or Thapsos culture radiate. While the previously known settlements of the Castelluccio culture were almost all - some of them well protected - inland, some settlements arose during the Thapsos culture on or very close to the coast, which also functioned as trading hubs. Important examples are Thapsos in the east of Sicily, Cannatello in the south and the Bronze Age (pre-Phoenician) Mozia on the small island of San Pantaleo in the west. In all three cases mentioned, the far-reaching palm contacts are attested by Mycenaean and Cypriot finds. In Thapsos, whose buildings partly reveal Aegean or Cypriot influences, Maltese ceramics were also found, in Cannatello and Mozia also Sardinian vessel fragments of the nuragic culture .

At the beginning of the 13th century BC All Milazzese settlements on the Aeolian Islands were destroyed; mostly traces of fire could be detected. This was followed by the Late Bronze Age Ausonian culture , which reveals very close parallels to simultaneous cultures on the mainland and is divided into two main phases. At about the same time as the Ausonian culture appeared, the Thapsos culture was replaced by the Pantalica northern culture (approx. 1270–1000 BC) in south-east Sicily, while the Thapsos culture continued to exist for a longer period of time further west. In the northeast of the island there are clear parallels to the Ausonian culture, so that this is now not only limited to the Aeolian Islands, but also extended to northeastern Sicily.

Written ancient sources

Pre-Hellenic inhabitants of Sicily: Elymers, Sicans and Sikelers

The oldest inhabitants of Sicily, attested in ancient written sources, were the Sicans . Ancient authors suggested a North African or Iberian origin of the Sicans who lived in fortified villages. Their settlement center is said to have been Kamikos , whose castle complex , among other splendid buildings, is said to have been built by Daidalos after his escape from Crete for the Sican king Kokalos and is said to have been in the area of Sant'Angelo Muxaro near Agrigento . Towards the middle or end of the 2nd millennium BC The Sicans are said to have been displaced to the west by the Sicelians who immigrated from the Italian mainland , from whom the name "Sicily" is derived. According to Thucydides , this invasion happened 300 years before the arrival of the Greeks in Sicily. Philistus of Syracuse states that the Sikelians, led by Sikelos, came to eastern Sicily in the 80th year before the Trojan War . According to another version, which Diodorus reproduces, the Sicans are said to have emigrated to the west of the island after a devastating eruption of Mount Etna. The settlement area freed as a result would later have been taken by the Sikelers. At about the same time, the Elymers are said to have settled in the northwest , who came from Troy after Thucydides and who came to this region of Sicily after the conquest of the city. The most important cities of the Elymians at the time of the Greek colonization were Eryx , Segesta and Entella .

Settled by Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians

Establishments in Sicily
  • Carthaginian settlement
  • Greek settlement
  • other settlement
  • In the 9th century BC The Phoenicians began to establish trading posts on the west coast of Sicily. The best known among them were Motya ( Mozia ), which became a Phoenician colony in the 1st half of the 8th century, but became a Phoenician in the 10th and 9th centuries. Century BC Maintained trade contacts, and Panormos ( Palermo ). Since the Phoenicians in Sicily only pursued commercial interests and did not seek to colonize new land, contact with the neighboring Sicans and Elymers was mostly peaceful. However, the prosperity of the trading establishments also attracted robbers and pirates. The Phoenicians secured themselves against their attacks by choosing places that were easy to defend (e.g. Motya on a peninsula, now the island of San Pantaleo ) and by fortifying their settlements.

    With the establishment of Naxos by Ionic settlers from Chalkis on Euboea began in 735 BC. The Greek colonization in Sicily. A year later, Syrakusai (Syracuse) was founded by Doric settlers from Corinth . This was followed by Zankle (Messina) (730 BC), Katane (Catania) and Leontinoi (Lentini) (both 729 BC) by Ionians from Chalkis, with Megara Hyblaia (729 BC) Dorians from Megara and with Gela (688 BC) by Dorians from Rhodes and Crete . These Greek settlements were not colonies in the modern sense of the word, i.e. areas dependent on the mother city , but apoikia : each settlement formed an independent polis, independent of the mother city, with an agriculturally used surrounding area ( chora ) from which it supplied itself. Perhaps precisely for this reason the relations between the Greek apoics and their mother cities were generally good, and one helped one another.

    In contrast to the Phoenicians, the Greeks came to Sicily to buy land and to farm. This conquest of the land was of course only at the expense of the previous residents, the Sikelers. However, the relationship between the original residents and the immigrants appeared to be very different. In the Ionian settlements, the archaeological finds according to the Greeks and Sikelers initially lived together and had good trade relations with one another. The Sikeler also adopted Greek customs and ways of life and were to a certain extent Hellenized. Only gradually were the Sikelers pushed back more and more. It was different in the Doric settlements. In Syracuse, the Greek settlers subjugated the Sikeler resident in that area right from the start. In Gela, the settlers were driven from the mountains surrounding the foundation. Instead, fortresses were built there to defend Gela.

    In a second wave of settlements, emigrants from the Sicilian Pole also founded further daughter cities. So Himera was 648 BC. Founded jointly by residents of Zankle and Syrakusai, Selinus (Selinunt) 628 BC. By residents of Megara Hyblaia, Kamarina 589 BC. By residents of Syrakusai, and Akragas (Agrigento) 582 BC. By residents of Gela. While the Greeks had previously only had contact with the Sicelians, they now also came into the area of ​​the Sicans and Elymers and near the Phoenician settlements.

    When the Phoenician motherland in the 6th century BC Was conquered by the Persians , the Phoenicians of North Africa, the Punians , gained in importance. Carthage developed into the leading city of the Punians . Unlike the early Phoenicians, the Carthaginians or Punians in Sicily also pursued an interest in expanding their territory, which led to conflicts with the original inhabitants and, increasingly, with the Greeks.

    Archaic time

    The Greek settlements in Sicily did not form a political unit, but, like their mother cities in Greece, were independent city-states (poleis). Such a city-state consisted of the actual city and the surrounding area, which was used for agriculture and served to supply the city's residents. It is not known how the original land distribution among the settlers took place. In any case, by the middle of the 6th century BC. Most of the land ownership was concentrated in the hands of a few families who, as aristocracy, also had the greatest political power. The social differences within a polis repeatedly led to unrest, which individual people could use to gain power and make themselves the sole ruler ("tyrant").

    Metopes of Temple C of Selinunte (570-560 BC)

    The institution of tyranny was introduced in Sicily by Panaitios , who lived around 600 BC. Came to power in Leontinoi with the support of the poorer citizens. Tyranny initially only meant the unrestricted power of the ruler in a neutral and objective manner, but soon got the negative connotation of unscrupulous exercise of power. A representative of this kind of tyrant was Phalaris of Akragas , whose cruelty was proverbial. By embezzling money that was intended for a temple construction, he recruited mercenaries and ripped off about 570 BC. In a coup the power in itself. The oldest known temples in Sicily also date from this period. 575 BC The Temple of Apollo was built in Syracuse , approx. 570–560 BC. The temple C on the acropolis of Selinunt .

    End of the 6th century BC Some tyrants began to expand their sphere of influence. Hippocrates of Gela moved with his mounted troops over the mountains into the Chalcidian settlement area and conquered Naxos, Zankle and Leontinoi, where he used tyrants devoted to him. However, he did not succeed in the planned conquest of Syracuse because he had no fleet. Through negotiations with the mediation of Corinth , he was instead awarded Kamarina . After the death of Hippocrates in 491 BC Chr. Was Gelo , commander of the cavalry of Hippocrates, tyrant of Gela. During a revolution in Syracuse he was called to help and used the opportunity to become sole ruler there too. Gelon now concentrated on Syracuse and entrusted Gela to his brother Hieron . In order to strengthen Syracuse and to secure his power there, he had half of the inhabitants of Gela resettled there. He strengthened the fleet and the army and thus soon became the most powerful ruler in the Greek world.

    Gelon's father-in-law Theron , tyrant of Akragas , drove the ruler Terillos out of Himera in 483 and took power there. Terillos now did what rulers of Sicily did several times after him: If they could not prevail against their rivals on the island, they called foreign powers to help, which repeatedly led to invasions of Sicily. Terillos asked the Punians for help, who then equipped a large force, 480 BC. Landed in Panormos and marched against Himera. Gelon came to Theron's aid and defeated the Carthaginians in the battle of Himera . Hamilcar, the sufet of Carthage, was killed and thousands of Carthaginians were captured as slaves .

    Classic time

    Temple of Concordia, Agrigento (430 BC)

    The wealth of the Greek cities of Sicily increased considerably through the spoils of war won in the battle of Himera, the prisoners of war working as slaves and the reparations Carthage had to pay. New, representative temples were also built. Gelon had the temple of Athena on the island of Ortygia built in Syracuse and the temples of Demeter and Persephone in the new district of Neapolis on the mainland, Theron in Akragas the temple of Olympian Zeus and both together in Himera a Doric temple as a temple of victory.

    As Gelon in 478 BC Died his brother Hieron as Hieron I became tyrant of Syracuse. Hieron was a patron of the arts and drew poets like Aeschylus and Pindar to his court. After his death in 467 BC His brother Thrasybulus became his successor. However, it was soon driven out by the people, and so Syracuse became a democracy. All the cities of Sicily soon followed suit. So ended the time of the so-called "Elder Tyranny", which on the one hand caused a lot of suffering through the destruction of cities, mass exiles and resettlements and countless deaths, and on the other hand also brought the cities of Sicily an economic boom and prosperity.

    The political system in Syracuse was similar to that in Athens. The highest institution was the People's Assembly ( Ekklesia ), which decided on laws, foreign policy and military issues and determined the state officials and a council ( Bulé ), which had to prepare the people's assemblies. Unlike in Athens, the officials and the council were not determined by lot, but elected. However, the people's assembly only included full citizens of a city, who were usually a minority. Slaves, women and foreign city dwellers without citizenship were excluded. In Syracuse, for example, there was an open conflict with the mercenaries settled by Gelon, but they were eventually driven out.

    In the beginning of the democratic period the Sikeli revolt against the Greek supremacy. Duketios , a leader of the Sikeler, attacked inland Greek cities, such as Morgantina , and destroyed them. 450 BC BC he attacked the area ruled by Agrigento, but was soon defeated. Syracuse now subjugated the interior of Sicily, whereby it further expanded its supremacy among the cities of Sicily.

    Sicily and Syracuse in antiquity after a map by Abraham Ortelius from 1580

    The second half of the 5th century BC BC was again a time of prosperity and cultural prosperity, in which many temples were built again, such as some of the well-preserved temples of Akragas . Since the Sicilian temples could not look back on the long tradition of worshiping gods, as was the case with the Greek sanctuaries, they tried to compensate for this with size and magnificence. The "Concordia Temple" in the Valley of the Temples of Akragas, dating from this time, is one of the best preserved Greek temples of all.

    The prosperity of the upper class was only possible because much of the work was done by slaves. Not only were prisoners of war made slaves, Greeks were often sold as slaves as well. The worst off were the state slaves, who had to work in mines and quarries (latomies) under extremely harsh conditions, even for the conditions at the time. Private slaves were also unfree and excluded from politics, but had a better life and easier work and were often better off than free day laborers. As a rule, they worked in the agriculture of their masters.

    Towards the end of the 5th century BC Disputes broke out between the Greek cities of Sicily, which also included Athens , which had signed friendship treaties with a number of cities. As Leontinoi 427 BC Was attacked by Syracuse, Athens came to his aid with a force until 424 BC. BC peace was made. Shortly afterwards there was a war between Selinunte and Segesta. Selinunte was assisted by Syracuse, and Segesta turned to Carthage for help. When it got no answer from there, it asked Athens for help. Since Syracuse and its mother city Corinth were on the side of Sparta in the Peloponnesian War , Athens saw in this an opportunity to stab its opponent in the back. That led to 415 BC To the Sicilian expedition that took place in 413 BC. BC ended with a crushing defeat for the Athenians. 7,000 Athenians were captured and had to work in the quarries of Syracuse. A little later the war between Selinunt and Segesta flared up again. This time Carthage followed Segesta's call, and 409 BC. Selinunt was destroyed. The Carthaginians advanced further on the island and conquered and destroyed Himera in the same year, then 406 BC. BC Agrigento and 405 BC Chr. Gela.

    Southern Italy at the time of Dionysius I of Syracuse

    In Syracuse, unrest in the wake of the armed conflicts with Athens and Carthage led to a new tyranny, which is referred to as the "younger tyranny" to distinguish it from the previous tyranny. With his demagogic abilities, Dionysius I succeeded in winning over the poorer classes and thus in 405 BC. To achieve sole rule. He signed a treaty with Carthage, in which the supremacy of Carthage over the Phoenician, Elymic and Sican territories was recognized. The Greeks were allowed to return to their destroyed cities, but on the condition that they no longer fortify them and that they pay tribute to Carthage.

    Dionysius sought to consolidate his power internally and externally. The democratic state order was in fact abolished, but formally the people's assembly continued to exist and was convened by Dionysius if necessary. In the army, the tyrant used more mercenaries and changed the structure of command, where he filled the upper positions with relatives and personal confidants. About 404 to 402 BC He began to attack Sicilian cities. Then he conquered Katane and Naxos and relocated the residents of Leontinois to Syracuse. He used the outbreak of an epidemic among the Carthaginians in 396 BC. To inflict a crushing defeat on them. This made him master almost all of Sicily and one of the most powerful men in the Greek world. His sphere of influence also included the south of Calabria . When the Carthaginians had recaptured parts of their original rule in Sicily, Dionysius concluded peace treaties with them, which secured a large part of his rule for him.

    A conflict arose between his successor Dionysius II and his son-in-law Dion , and Dion, a friend of the philosopher Plato , was sent into exile. When Dionysius confiscated Dion's property, he returned in 357 BC. BC returned to Sicily with a force of mercenaries and drove Dionysius from Syracuse. After Dion was assassinated in 354 BC And at a time of turmoil, Dionysius II achieved it in 346 BC. BC regained power in Syracuse through a surprise attack. 344 BC He was forced to abdicate by the general Timoleon , whom the Corinthians had sent to Sicily. Timoleon also disempowered some minor tyrants and reinstated democratic orders. 340 BC BC he defeated the Carthaginians in the battle of the Krimisos and restricted their area of ​​rule to western Sicily. Thereupon he brought immigrants from Italy and Greece to Sicily and made the old cities like Gela and Agrigento, which were only insignificant villages, back into wealthy city-states. After Timoleon's abdication in 337 or 336 BC However, social unrest broke out again and Sicily sank into anarchy.

    Hellenistic period

    Siege of Syracuse by the Romans (early modern depiction)

    317 BC Chr. Was Agathocles of Syracuse , who appeared as a defender of the common people against the aristocrats, in a bloody uprising that several thousand human lives demanded seize power. While the Carthaginians were satisfied with the status quo of the balance of power in Sicily, Agathocles tried to build a large empire for himself. This expansion policy led to a war with Carthage. In the battle of Himeras Agathocles was defeated and driven back to Syracuse. Besieged there himself, he decided to load his troops onto the fleet and attack Carthage in Africa. After this surprising offensive it came in 306 BC. To peace with the Carthaginians. After that, Agathocles was able to quickly bring the part of Sicily not claimed by Carthage under his control.

    In Greece, the Macedonian Kingdom and its successor states, the Diadochian Empire , had replaced the system of city-states (Poleis). In order to keep up with the new monarchs, Agathocles took on the title "King of Sicily". However, Sicily was anything but a united kingdom and fell into disrepair after the death of Agathocles in 289 BC. BC again in unrest and anarchy.

    Called for help from Syracuse against Carthage, King Pyrrhos I took advantage of the situation and continued in 278 BC. BC to Sicily and subjugated almost the entire island. 276 BC However, he had to return to Italy, where he was soon defeated by the Romans . Thereupon Hieron , a follower of Pyrrhus, seized power in Syracuse . He came to an understanding with Carthage and, as Hieron II, became king of an eastern Sicilian empire, the capital of which was Syracuse. Hieron refrained from forcibly increasing his realm and instead concentrated on the internal administration of his empire and on promoting trade, especially the export of grain.

    After Hieron had initially fought on the side of Carthage in the First Punic War , he concluded in 263 BC. BC Peace with the Romans. During this war, the Romans succeeded in driving the Carthaginians out of Sicily. The conquered towns (for example Akragas in 261 BC, Panormos and Selinunte in 250 BC) were destroyed and their inhabitants sold as slaves. At the end of the First Punic War, all of Sicily, except for Hieron's dominion, was Roman territory. In the second Punic War , Hieron supported the Romans with supplies. When Syracuse after the death of Hieron in 215 BC BC took an anti-Roman stance, the city was besieged by the Romans. Throwing machines and catapults developed by Archimedes helped defend the city. Archimedes is said to have set the sails of attacking ships on fire with burning mirrors . 212 BC Syracuse was conquered by the Romans, and Archimedes was also killed.

    Roman province

    Frigidarium of the Villa Romana del Casale

    All of Sicily was now under Roman rule. In contrast to the earlier conquests of Rome, in which alliances with the defeated tribes were made or they were granted a kind of semi-citizenship , Sicily was not an allied territory, but a conquered property, and accordingly had to be administered differently. So Sicily became the first Roman province . At the head of the administration stood a governor ( praetor ). Two quaestors were appointed as chief financial officers , to whom the tax collectors were subordinate. The Romans usually left the local administration to the Sicilians. The most important part of the taxes that Sicily had to pay to Rome consisted of the tithing of the grain harvest. This made Sicily the most important grain supplier to the Roman Empire . Other taxes were levied on other products such as fruit, vegetables, olives and wine and a cash tax on pasture land. Since these taxes were transported to distant Rome, i.e. not benefiting the local population, additional local taxes had to be levied to finance local tasks.

    Much of the agricultural land was leased to a small group of wealthy landowners. As a rule, they let slaves cultivate the land and tend the cattle. But there were also numerous small farmers who cultivated small areas themselves. Even if the taxes were much higher than before, life was generally more secure due to the elimination of constant wars between the independent cities or between Greeks and other peoples. The infrastructure (for example roads) was also improved, which benefited trade.

    In the 2nd century BC The slave trade experienced a brisk boom. So many new slaves came to Sicily. The first two major slave revolts in the Roman Empire took place in Sicily. In the first slave war (approx. 136-132 BC) the slaves succeeded under their leader Eunus , a Syrian slave who called himself "King Antiochus" after the example of Seleucid rulers, several cities such as Morgantina and Taormina and a large part To bring central Sicily under their control before they were defeated by Roman troops. Thousands of insurgents were executed. The second slave war (104-101 BC) broke out when the governor broke off the release of certain slaves ordered by the Senate. This time the slaves under their leaders Salvius , who called himself King Tryphon, and Athenion were less successful because the Romans were better prepared, and were eventually defeated. Around the middle of the century, a certain Selouros rebelled around Mount Etna . This too could be caught and executed.

    Italy after the Treaty of Misenum and the blockade war of Sextus Pompeius during the second triumvirate
  • Italy (Senate)
  • Octavian's sphere of influence
  • Antony's sphere of influence
  • Provinces of Lepidus
  • Sea kingdom of Sextus Pompey
  • After the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar , Sicily got caught up in the civil war between the conspirators and the second triumvirate . Sextus Pompeius , a son of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus , had brought the island under his control and stopped deliveries of grain to Rome. He took in the refugees persecuted by the triumvirs and blocked the supply routes to Italy. Only after long struggles did Octavian succeed in 36 BC. To eliminate the fleet of Sextus Pompeius in the two naval battles of Mylae and Naulochos . Subsequently, the future emperor Augustus Sicily imposed high reparations payments and punished the cities that had resisted him. For example, the entire population of Taormina was deported, and Messina, after a brief but intense bloom as the capital of Sextus Pompey, experienced a dramatic decline. Augustus also reformed the administrative system. Sicily was placed under a senatorial province and a proconsul . Some cities such as Syracuse and Palermo received the rank of Colonia , others became Municipia . The tithe was abolished and replaced by a monetary levy.

    During the imperial era, Sicily became more and more a part of Italy, which also resulted in a further spread of the Latin language, even if the majority of the population continued to speak Greek . Sicilian cities became popular travel destinations for wealthy Romans, and many former soldiers settled here. As part of the general expansion of Roman citizenship in 212, the inhabitants of Sicily also became Roman citizens ( Constitutio Antoniniana ). From the 3rd century onwards, Christianity in Sicily spread further and further. After lifting the ban of Christianity in 313 by Constantine and the elevation of Christianity to the state religion by Theodosius I. pagan temple as the temple of Athena in Syracuse and the Concordia temple in Agrigento in Christian churches were converted.

    Byzantine domination

    Justinian I with entourage, mosaic from San Vitale, Ravenna

    After the Vandals had conquered Carthage in 439 and captured the fleet stationed there, Sicily became a target of their raids and came under their control until 468, which also jeopardized the further supply of grain to the Western Roman Empire . Odoacer , who deposed the Western Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476 and called himself Rex Italiae , bought the island back from the Vandals in 477. After Theodoric's murder of Odoacer , Sicily became part of the Ostrogoths' dominion .

    When, after Theodoric's death in 526, his nephew Theodahad sought a stronger detachment from Ostrom , Emperor Justinian I began to recapture parts of the former Western Roman Empire. Sicily was conquered by General Belisarius in 535 . Under the Byzantine rule, Sicily became a central trading center, where the coastal cities in particular flourished.

    In 662/63, Emperor Constans II went to Italy and then moved his residence to Syracuse, which for a short time became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. After his assassination in 668, there was an uprising under the anti -emperor Mizizios , but this was suppressed by Konstans' son Constantine IV . This returned to Constantinople.

    In the first half of the 8th century, Sicily was repeatedly the target of raids by the Arabs , who had conquered North Africa in the 7th century and the island of Pantelleria around 700 . Disagreements between the North African Islamic empires and disputes within them initially put an end to the attacks and gave the population a longer period of rest. In 717 Basil Onomagulos fought against Leo III in Syracuse . to the counter-emperor. In 781 Sicily was the scene of the rebellion of Elpidios against Empress Irene .

    Arab domination

    Refugees report to the Byzantine admiral Adrianos about the case of Syracuse, Madrid illuminated
    manuscript of the Skylitzes , f. 101r
    San Cataldo, Palermo , Norman church building with Arabic style elements

    When Emperor Michael II ordered the arrest of Admiral Euphemios in 826 , he instigated a popular uprising, defeated the Byzantine governor of Sicily and declared himself king ( Rex ). He called the Aghlabid Emir of Tunis to help and promised him Sicily as a tributary province, provided he became governor. Under the leadership of Asad ibn al-Furāt al-Harrānī , the Arabs landed at Lilybaeum, whom they named Marsa allah (Port of God, Marsala became ). From there they began to conquer the island. Palermo fell in 831, killing most of the population. The Byzantines were able to hold some cities and fortresses in northeastern Sicily even longer. Cefalù fell in 857 and 858, Enna in 859, Syracuse in 878, Taormina in 902, and Rometta in 965.

    Under the Arab rule, many churches were converted into mosques . As dhimmi , Christians had to pay tribute ( jizya ), but were generally able to live according to their own laws. The tax on migrating cattle, which had hindered agriculture, was abolished, instead a property tax was introduced, which prevented the neglect of arable land. Numerous islanders converted to Islam, in the northeast of the island, however, the Greek Orthodox population asserted itself under Arab rule, with Arabs mostly dominating the north around Palermo and Berbers predominantly the south around Agrigento .

    The Arabs brought new irrigation techniques to Sicily, which gave agriculture a boom. Remnants of reservoirs and water towers from this period are still preserved today. New crops were grown, for example lemon and orange trees, date palms, cotton, pistachios and melons, as well as mulberry trees for silkworms. Due to the central location of Sicily in the Islamic world, which at that time already reached as far as Spain, trade also flourished among the Arabs.

    Palermo developed into a large city in the 9th century and replaced Syracuse as the most important city on the island. After the fall of the Aghlabid dynasty in Tunis, Sicily became more independent. The Fatimids installed Hassan al-Kalbi as emir in Sicily in 948, who resided in Palermo and founded the Kalbite dynasty. After the seat of the Fatimid caliphs was relocated to Cairo in 972, the island's independence increased further. When there were disputes within the Calbit dynasty around 1030, some turned to Byzantium for help. This enabled General Georgios Maniakes to land in Messina in 1038 and conquer part of eastern Sicily for Byzantium, but soon lost it again to the Arabs.

    No buildings have survived from the Arab period. Arab artists and craftsmen were also heavily involved in building projects later under the Normans, so that many of the buildings that have survived from this period have strong Arab traits. The extensive Arabization of the island can still be seen today in place names. Examples are: Marsala (Arabicمرسى علي / Marsā ʿAlī  / 'Port of Alis'), Caltabellotta (Arabicقلعة البلوط / Qalʿat al-Ballūṭ  / 'Eichenburg') or the name Mongibello ( Latin mons and Arabic ǧabal , both German 'mountain') used by the locals for Mount Etna .

    Norman Kingdom of Sicily

    Roger II is crowned by Christ, mosaic in Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio

    In the first half of the 11th century a group of Normans succeeded in conquering large parts of southern Italy from the Lombards and the Byzantines . Robert Guiskard , the leader of the Normans, was enfeoffed in 1059 by Pope Nicholas II with all his territorial acquisitions in Apulia and Calabria and in Sicily. In return he had to pay tribute and had to undertake not to recognize any sovereignty of Byzantium.

    After the calbites died out in 1053, Sicily had split up into several small principalities that were at odds with one another. One of the princes now called the Normans for help. In response to this call for help, Robert Guiskard's younger brother, Roger, crossed to Sicily in 1061 and conquered Messina . Until 1064 he was able to bring the north-east of Sicily under his control. After Roger's return to Calabria to raise more soldiers and expand a fleet, the brothers undertook further campaigns of conquest to Sicily. In 1072 Palermo was conquered. Robert Guiskard returned to Apulia, appointed his brother as Roger I Count of Sicily and Calabria and left him with the rest of the conquest of the island and the establishment of a government. The further conquest of Sicily turned out to be difficult and protracted. It was not until 1088 that Enna , which was important for the conquest of the inland, and in 1091 the last Muslim base on Sicily, the city of Noto, fell . Part of the Arab population fled abroad, but many stayed and worked with the conquerors.

    Since the Norman conquest was not followed by a wave of settlers (like the Arab one, for example), the Normans only remained a thin upper class in Sicily. Roger was therefore dependent on taking over the existing administrative structures. Jews and Muslims had to pay their own taxes (like Jews and Christians under Arab rule), but were allowed to judge and appoint judges according to their own laws. Roger himself ran a court based on the Byzantine model, in which the ruler was aloof from his subordinates and ruled absolutistically.

    Roger supported the Byzantine Christians, especially Greek monasteries, but already in 1083 installed a Latin archbishop in Palermo and founded new Latin bishoprics. Thus he initiated the Latinization of Sicily, which was almost completely completed around 1200. In 1098 Roger received the title of “ Apostolic Legate ” from Pope Urban II and thus the power to appoint bishops himself.

    Map of the Kingdom of Sicily 1154

    Rogers I son Roger was still a minor when his father died (1101). In 1113 at the latest, however, as Roger II , he took over the rule from his mother, the regent Adelheid von Savona . In addition to his county of Sicily and Calabria, he inherited the Duchy of Apulia in 1127 and the Principality of Taranto in 1128 , and in 1140 he conquered the Duchy of Naples . In addition to Sicily, his rulership now also included all of southern Italy up to the Papal States . Roger II used his newly won position of power and the weakness of a divided papacy to have the antipope Anaclet II elevate himself to King of Sicily in 1130 . He installed his eldest son Roger as Duke of Apulia. In 1139 Pope Innocent II confirmed the royal dignity of Rogers II against recognition of the pope's feudal sovereignty.

    A number of Norman kings followed, ending with King Wilhelm II . He was the last of the Norman kings in Sicily and died in 1189 without a biological heir. Wilhelm's aunt Konstanze , wife of the Staufer emperor Heinrich VI, was entitled to inheritance . Initially, however, Tankred from Lecce , illegitimate son of Roger III, usurped . and thus grandson of Roger II with the help of the anti-Hohenstaufen party and support from Pope Clement III. the throne. After his death in 1194, rule over Sicily finally passed to the Staufers .

    Hohenstaufen dynasty

    Stauferburg Castello Ursino in Catania

    Since Wilhelm II did not have a biological heir, he had taken precautions to secure the succession before his death. He had Konstanze , daughter of King Rogers II, with Heinrich VI. , the son and heir of Friedrich Barbarossa from the Staufer family, married.

    The settlement of the Sicilian succession to the throne aroused the displeasure of the Pope, who wanted to keep the emperor out of southern Italy in order to assert claims himself. And part of the Sicilian nobility also opposed this approach. After Wilhelm's death there was a war for Sicily, which was led by Emperor Heinrich VI. was won. At the death of Henry VI. and his wife Konstanze was their son Friedrich II. was still a minor and Pope Innocent III. took over the reign of Sicily, which resulted in a period of anarchy . It ended when Friedrich II took over the rule. During his reign, Sicily played an important role in the politics of the first half of the 13th century. Friedrich had the island's Muslim population - an estimated 20,000 people - deported to Lucera in northern Apulia. He also shifted the focus of the Kingdom of Sicily to the mainland and had the Liber augustalis code drawn up, which remained valid for southern Italy and Sicily until the 19th century. For a time he placed the island, which was administratively divided into a western and an eastern part, under a legal advisor . Friedrich II died in 1250 and left the kingdom to his son Konrad . Konrad's brother Manfred was initially his deputy and from 1258 himself King of Sicily.

    Reign of Anjou and Aragon

    In order to escape the Hohenstaufen embrace of the Holy Roman Empire and Sicily, the Pope concluded an agreement in 1265 with Charles I of Anjou , Count of Provence and brother of the French King Louis IX. that Sicily transferred to Karl. The military dispute with Manfred was won by Karl through his victory in the battle of Benevento in early 1266, but it was not until the victory over the Staufer Konradin and his execution in 1268 that he became the undisputed ruler of the kingdom.

    With the help of French officials, Charles set up a centralized and efficient administration. An enormous tax pressure was exerted on the population, which repeatedly led to revolts, which, however, were initially suppressed. In 1282 the so-called Sicilian Vespers took place : the citizens of Palermo rose up against Charles and drove him off the island. Peter III , King of Aragon , who through his marriage to a daughter of Manfred's with the house of Hohenstaufen was related and at whose court many Sicilian nobles by Charles takeover had taken refuge, was crowned the new king after his landing in Sicily. Only the Kingdom of Naples remained for the Anjou, which was confirmed in the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302 .

    Sicily under Spanish, Savoyard and Austrian rule

    Sicily on a historical map by Ignazio Danti , south is on this illustration above

    In 1504 the King of Sicily also proclaimed himself King of Naples, after which Spain ruled Sicily for centuries. Anti-Spanish uprisings took place in Palermo in 1647 and in Messina in 1674 . In January 1693 there was great destruction in the southeast of the island due to several tremors. Various cities, such as Noto , were abandoned and rebuilt elsewhere.

    In 1713 Sicily fell to Savoy due to the War of the Spanish Succession , which after only seven years ceded the area to Austria in exchange for Sardinia . In 1735, after a campaign of conquest, Sicily returned to Spain.

    Kingdom of Naples-Sicily and Kingdom of the Two Sicilies

    From 1735, after centuries of separation, Lower Italy and Sicily were again under common rule as in the Middle Ages, but the royal seat was now Naples. After Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Naples , King Ferdinand withdrew to Sicily, but in 1815 he was able to take possession of Naples again. In 1816 he united the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies .

    Union with Italy

    After Giuseppe Garibaldi's free corpses had taken Sicily ( Train of the Thousand ), the island was united with the new Kingdom of Italy in 1861 . However, the government in the north had little sympathy for the south. Political power lay with the bourgeois elites of the north, who had wanted and pushed through the founding of Italy. The Italian tax policy was designed accordingly: favoring trade, commerce and industry and at the same time high burdens for farms. Agricultural Sicily was therefore structurally disadvantaged. Tensions arose repeatedly, leading to an uprising in Palermo in 1866 and expanding into the Fasci Siciliani , a movement under socialist auspices, from 1891 to 1894 . The uprisings were put down. Relations between North and South, however, remained permanently marked by deep mistrust. While prosperous industries developed in northern Italy at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, the south and with it Sicily continued to fall back economically. At the end of the 19th century, the Italian emigration to the USA began, in which the Sicilians played an important role.

    Mussolini and World War II

    Even the Mussolini regime , which had ruled Italy since 1922 and was committed to the creation of an Italian empire, found no means of countering the underdevelopment of the south. Mussolini sent the 'iron prefect' Cesare Mori to Sicily in the mid-1920s to fight the mafia. Despite the continuing problems, economically weak Italy entered World War II on Germany's side . In the summer of 1943, the Allied conquest of Sicily ( Operation Husky ) from North Africa brought about the overthrow of Mussolini and the surrender of the Italian government. The USA presumably also resorted to members of the Mafia with their precise local knowledge, who under Mussolini had been forced to give up and emigrate mainly to New York ; as a result, the mafia again gained a firm foothold in their homeland.

    In 1944 the Esercito Volontario per l'Indipendenza della Sicilia was created , which sought the independence of Sicily.

    Autonomous Region of the Republic of Italy

    In 1946 Sicily became an autonomous region within the Republic of Italy and received extensive rights of self-government. The post-war decades were nevertheless marked by further economic decline and high unemployment. Many Sicilians emigrated to the north of Italy and the USA. Since the end of the 1950s, West Germany had also been a destination for Sicilian emigration. Since Italy co-founded the European Economic Community in 1957 , Sicily has been one of the European regions that has always received high allocations from the various funding sources ( agricultural subsidies and funds from the European Structural Funds).

    The assassination of the Prefect of Palermo, Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, in 1982, revealed the weakness of the government towards the Mafia, which terrorized the whole island against state power. 1986/1987 the maxi-trial against the Sicilian crime syndicate Cosa Nostra took place in Palermo. Since 1992 the mafia has continued to assassinate politicians, judges and other bearers of state power.

    See also


    Popular scientific literature

    • Brigit Carnabuci: Sicily (= DuMont art travel guide ). 5th edition. DuMont Reiseverlag, Ostfildern 2009, ISBN 978-3-7701-4385-6 , pp. 10–76 (section “Cultural history of Sicily”).
    • Bernd Rill : Sicily in the Middle Ages. The empire of the Arabs, Normans and Hohenstaufen. Belser, Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-7630-2318-6 .

    Overview works

    • Thomas Dittelbach: History of Sicily - From antiquity to today. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-58790-0 .
    • David Engels , Lioba Geis, Michael Kleu (eds.): Between ideal and reality. Rule in Sicily from antiquity to the late Middle Ages. Franz Steiner, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-515-09641-6 .
    • Wolfgang Gruber, Stephan Köhler: Sicily's history. Island between the worlds . Mandelbaum, Vienna 2013, ISBN 978-3-85476-422-9 .

    Statutory history

    • Robert Leighton : Sicily before History. An Archaeological Survey from the Palaeolithic to the Iron Age , Cornell University Press, Ithaca 1999.
    • Salvatore Piccolo, Jean Woodhouse: Ancient Stones. The Prehistoric Dolmens of Sicily , Thornham / Norfolk (UK) 2013.


    middle Ages

    • Sarah Davis-Secord: Where Three Worlds Met.Sicily in the Early Medieval Mediterranean , Cornell University Press, Ithaca 2017.
    • Theo Broekmann: Rigor iustitiae. Domination. Law and Terror in the Norman-Staufer South (1050–1250) (= symbolic communication in the premodern ). Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2005. ISBN 3-534-18060-7
    • Vincenzo d'Alessandro: Politica e società nella Sicilia aragonese , Palermo 1963.

    Modern times, recent history

    • Lucia Vincenti: Shoah. Storia degli ebrei in Sicilia durante il fascismo , Bonanno, 2019.
    • Salvatore Francesco Romano: Storia dei fasci siciliani , Laterza, Bari 1959.

    Web links

    Commons : History of Sicily  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


    1. ^ Salvatore Piccolo: Ancient Stones. The Prehistoric Dolmens of Sicily. Brazen Head Publishing, Thornham / Norfolk 2013.
    2. To a beginning a little before 2200 BC. Some more recent 14 C dates suggest. See, among others, Gianmarco Alberti: A Bayesian 14 C chronology of Early and Middle Bronze Age in Sicily. Toward an independent absolute dating. In: Journal of Archaeological Science 40 (2013) pp. 2502-2514.
    3. On the prehistoric layers of Mozia : Lorenzo Nigro: Mozia nella Preistoria e le rotte Levantine. I prodromi della colonizzazione fenica tra secondo e primo millennio AC nei receti scavi della Spienza , in: Alberto Cazzella, Alessandro Guidi, Federico Nomi (ed.): Ubi minor… Le isole minori del Mediterraneo centrale dal Neolitico ai primi contatti coloniali. Convegno di Studi in ricordo di Giorgio Buchner, a 100 anni dalla nascita (1914-2014) Anacapri, 27 ottobre - Capri, 28 ottobre - Ischia / Lacco Ameno, 29 ottobre 2014 (= Scienze dell 'Antichità 22-2, 2016), Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome 2016, pp. 339–365 Online version at Academia.edu .
    4. Thucydides: The Peloponnesian War. 6.2.2, who apparently quotes Antiochus of Syracuse regarding the origin of the Sikanen from the Iberian Peninsula .
    5. See, among others, Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War 6.2.
    6. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War 6,2,5.
    7. FGrHist 556 F 46 (Jacoby); Dionysus of Halicarnassus, Antiquitates Romanae 1,22,41.
    8. Diodorus 5: 6.
    9. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War 6,2,3.
    10. For the prehistoric finds of Mozia, see Lorenzo Nigro: Mozia nella Preistoria e le rotte Levantine. I prodromi della colonizzazione fenica tra secondo e primo millennio AC nei receti scavi della Spienza. In: Alberto Cazzella, Alessandro Guidi, Federico Nomi (eds.): Ubi minor… Le isole minori del Mediterraneo centrale dal Neolitico ai primi contatti coloniali. Convegno di Studi in ricordo di Giorgio Buchner, a 100 anni dalla nascita (1914-2014) Anacapri, 27 ottobre - Capri, 28 ottobre - Ischia / Lacco Ameno, 29 ottobre 2014. (= Scienze dell 'Antichità 22-2, 2016) , Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome 2016, pp. 339–365, early Phoenician imports especially p. 353 ff. - Online version at Academia.edu
    11. Ekkehard Eickhoff : Sea war and sea politics between Islam and the West. The Mediterranean under Byzantine and Arab hegemony (650–1040). de Gruyter, Berlin 1966, p. 189.
    12. Hubert Houben : The Normans. Beck, Munich 2012, p. 74 ff.