The colors of Sicily


The Arab's domination in Sicily

In their raids in the Mediterranean, after have conquered the islands of Malta and Pantelleria, the Saracens (as they were called the Arabs in West), moved to the conquest of Sicily that they were able to tear to the Byzantines with a series of raids and military countries. The conquest for the Isle from part of the Arabs was an easy thing, also if they employed 50 years for the complete conquest almost, in it as was dealt with chase the Greci-Binzantini from the island, become, in the meantime, weak and almost barbaric. Historians said that Sicily would not ever have fallen in Arabic hand if the Byzantine had appeared more resolved government. The Saracen army, composed also from Berbere troops and Andalusi, disembarked on the southern coast of the island, to Mazara del Vallo, June 14, 827; the first clash with the Byzantines happened July 15, this makes us to understand the island's state of defence. The first conquered places were; Biscari, Palazzolo, Chiaromonte; in 859 it was the time of Cefalù, in 864 Noto comes conquered, and in 878 Siracusa was felt after a siege lasted years. The conquest of the island was finished.  The Arabs didn't conquer that city decayed from the ancient greatness; also the Christianity didn't come in struggle with the conquerors, but it rather mixed up with them. Sicily was the first center of dependent Emirate from the Tunisian's dynasty of the Aghlabiti that governed it with their emissaries, it then was an independent province with an own dynasty the one of the Fatimi. During the 200 years of their domination, the Arabs after all were nor rough nor barbaric, they carried the culture, the poetry, the arts, the Oriental sciences that put roots in the ancient ground of Sicily, and they adorned their kingdom with stupendous monuments marking an epoch in the European civilization. Palermo more than each other city distinguished itself for luxury and for wealth and presented itself with all the characteristics of an Oriental city. It would be beautiful to  read "Arabic history from Sicily" of Ibn Kalta, and so what he wrote about Ibn Hamdis of Noto (Siracusa), both writers arabo-siculi, of which many texts have gone lost. The main memoirs points that testify the Arabic presence in Sicily are those of their architecture. No Mosque is not known, and the same Alkazar (the actual Palace of the Normanni of Palermo), doesn't leave more recognize the part built from the Arabs with certainty, and well little of other monuments of that age has arrived up to us; but what remains - pieces of a mosque incorporated in the church of S. Giovanni of the Hermits; pieces of incorporated castles, like in that of the Zisa, or of Favara, and in the following amplifications in Normann's epoch - it's sufficient to document the continuity of the Arabic tradition in Sicily.

A poetry by Ibn Hamdis which remembers his native city

"May God guards a house of Noto, and may flow on her the bulgy clouds!
With nostalgia filial anèlo to the country, toward which the abodes of the beautiful women attracts me.
And whoever has left the soul to footprint of an abode, to that greed with the body make returns.
Hurray that populated and cultured earth, they also live in her the traces and the ruins!
I anèlo to my earth, in whose dust one were consumed the limbs and the bones of my ancestors."
The Norman's domination in Sicily

At the beginning of the XI century did their appearance the first Normanni mercenaries (children of families without feud), that came to offer their presents to the varied gentlemen from southern Italy that they were fought between them; the descendants of these commanders, they must found in little more than a century one of most powerful kingdoms of the Mediterranean. The first investiture for his presents got Rainolfo Drengot, that saw confer from the Duke from Naples, the County of Anversa (1030). This was the first Normanno nucleus to have a possession. In the meantime, Giorgio Maniace had stayed order in the 1038, to send away the Arabs from Sicily from the Emperor Byzantine Michele Paflagonio. The General Maniace asked help to Guglielmo of Altavilla said Arm of iron, which with around 300 men between which Drogone and Umfrido arrived in Sicily and made escape the Arabs from the cities of Messina and Siracusa. Unfortunately in 1040 Maniace must return precipitately to Constantinople, due to an false accuse  of betrayal from the Emperor Costantino IX which jealous of his successes saw it like a possible danger for his Throne, Maniace left at Messina the Wife and the Crisafo child, (from these bears the dynasty of the Crisafi, Grisafi, Grifasi) he also was abandoned by the Normanni that for military strategy had left the island, nothing could be done because the lands occupied in precedence by his father return in Arabic hand.  The conquest of Sicily from part of the Normanni happened with the brothers of Guglielmo of Altavilla, Ruggero and Roberto Guiscardo the Astute, they completed the conquest of Calabria (1057/ 1060) and always in the 1060 took of Messina, helped from the Emir of Siracusa Bencumen, which was in war against his Belcamend brother, Emir of Agrigento. This was the beginning of the conquest of the Isle. In truth the enterprise was not easy, the two brothers employed 30 years to conquer it, also because they must return a pair of times in Calabria to consolidate their dominion on those earths. In the 1071 Riccardo with the army and Roberto with the fleet besieged the capital city of the Palermo island, at that time the more populous and more flourishing city from Italy, extraordinarily rich and center of the splendid Oriental life. The Arabs opposed a brave defence opposing the assailants for a long time, it is narrated that the doors of the city were not closed ever for show their trust in the result of the defence, but with a stratagem the assailants entered Palermo from two opposite sides and the Saracens besieged in the inside of the city capitulated. Surrendering Palermo to the winner, to condition that is them guaranteed the life and the free exercise of their cult. 
The Normanni saved up Arabic Palermo. They took possession of the splendid city without pour blood, and without commit devastations, the Saracens were let free of live in their way second their religion. The Normanni were tolerant toward the Saracens, they accepted the arts and the sciences, they in their palaces used the Arabic style, the Arabic language continued to have taught. With the taking of Palermo subsequently came conquer Trapani, Catania and Siracusa in the 1088, Enna (call Cars Iannar from the Arabs, and become with the Normanni Castrogiovanni), Agrigento in the 1091. As the conquered island came uniform in this way: Roberto took the title of Duke from Sicily and held for himself  Palermo and half of the island, Ruggero became Count and taking the other half from Sicily, their nephew Tancredi was made Count of Siracusa. 
At  the death of Ruggero, Roberto the Guiscardo assures the descent to the nephew,  Ruggero II gives birth second child of 
Ruggero, which, although he has inherited the Dukedom of the Puglia and the Principality of Capua also, he choosed Sicily like real residence and crown King (Rex Siciliae) in Cathedral of Palermo in the native of the 1130. With Ruggero II the kingdom of Sicily became a modern State. He rearranged the monarchy that wanted splendid, powerful and sure, he knew how to hold to brake all the enemies, both inside and external, he conquered the island of Malta, Corinto and Atene, he knew how to hold distance the Greek emperor, which was not been still resigned to have lost Sicily. Ruggero II always distinguished itself for talent, value and prudence, he had elegant and uninhibited ways. He died at the age of 59 years in the 1154.
His successor Guglielmo I the Bad, for his trifle, he was the only child stayed after the death before the father of his 4 brothers, Anfuso, Ruggero, Enrico and Tancredi.
Staying under him the Sicily kingdom suffered a period full of disorders, revolutions and confusion of each kind, he died to the age of 45 years in the 1166.
His child Guglielmo II the good climbed to the throne to the age of 11 years. To him quite a lot monuments of the religious architecture of that period are owed, like Cathedral of Monreale and the Cathedral of Palermo. He died at the age of 36 years, and with him the direct line of the dynasty is extinguished  for lack of virile heirs in Sicily.

* Giorgio Maniace ( 998? 1043 in Macedonia).
Byzantine General. After have taken back to the Arabs Edessa (1031) and Sicily (1035-38), was unfairly accused of betrayal in the full of successes,
for that reason he rebelled, he passed in Greece and he put the army send in rout against him from the Emperor Costantino IX Monomaco,
but he died  when the victory was getting closer.
(Michel Mourre - Universal History - Ediz. Mondadori 1974)

Federico II di Svevia

Federico II of Svevia was born at Jesi (Ancona) in 1194, nephew of Federico I the Barbarossa; his mother Costanza came down from the Normann's house.
Raised from the mother in the ideal climate of Sicily, and far from the German's relatives, also if having the title of King of Germany, he preferred to stay in Sicily and he choosed like residence Palermo's court. His kingdom was illuminated from the arts, from the sciences and from the literature, Sicily owes him the big title of thankfulness of have stayed the crib of the Italian literature in that period and of having done the capital city of the Empire of Palermo. The father Arrigo VI in his compiled will before die in 1197 he recognized the Pope like first Lord of the kingdom and entrusted him the guardianship of the child. When Federico reached major age, the Pope like Lord of the kingdom must have recognized and promise that once engaged the title of Emperor, he would have left his kingdom to the hereditary child, and that he would have left for the Crusades. Gotten the Imperial crown, Federico, churches to the Pope an extension for the Crusade in Saint Land, and the consent of be titled king of Sicily and Germany, during this period took advantage  for rearranging the kingdom and organize the economy. He founded the first University of State at Naples (1228) also with the assignment to form his bureaucracy. He competed also with Republics marinate (Genoa, Pisa, Venice, Amalfi), in 1240 sent to Tunisi in mission with the title of consul of the kingdom from Sicily, the Trapani's Enrico Abbate, he was entrusted of strengthen the friendly relationships with that country in open concourse with the other powers marinate, thing that happened and for a certain period in commercial traffic with the Africa north only through the Sicilian fleet. With the advent of Pope Gregorio IX, Federico was forced to maintain the preceding accords and must leave for the Crusade against the Muslis, but once joint in Palestina, instead of fight the infidels, he agreed with the Al-Kamil Sultan and he got free access for the Christians to Jerusalem and he became crown king also, having married Jolanda wedding of Brenne heir of this title in seconds. The Pope disdained from this behaviour, he excommunicated Federico, and the contrast became incurable, and after varied attempts of pace and of struggles, in the 1245 Federico was solemnly excommunicated and deposed from Emperor and from King in the Council of Lione: since then his fortune began to stagger. In the 1248 during the siege of the city of Parma, he suffered a decisive defeat, and in the following year his Enzo child was made imprisoned in the battle of Fossalta from the Bologna and kept imprisoned for 20 years in a tower of Bologna. Federico died suddenly to Lucera (Foggia) in the December of the 1250, in the the last period his kingdom was marked from conspiracies and betrayals.

Grifasi - Almanacco Siciliano - (immagine riservata)
M. & A. Grifasi - 18/01/98
Electronic version is copyrighted © 1998
Torna alla pagina principale
Back to main page

Angelo Grifasi did the translation

Site colours design by Grifasi Studio ® - Milano - Italy

This page is on-line since: January 18, 1998 - Pagina indicizzata da:
Any form of whole or partial reproduction, of  texts, is generally not permitted, with the exception of any with an expressed permission