Valley of the Temples in Agrigento

Valley of the Temples in Agrigento

Segesta Ruins

 Segesta Ruins

The first inhabitants of Sicily were the Sicans, Elymi, Ausonians and Sicels. But it was only with the arrival of the Greek colonizers that Sicily entered “Great History” (8C BC). The Greeks founded almost all the first Sicilian cities along the coast: Naxos, Syracuse, Lentini, Catania, Messina. Their inhabitants, in turn, founded new cities: Taormina, Megara Hyblaea, Gela, Selinunte, Himera, Milazzo, Agrigento, Segesta, Lilybaeum, etc. These cities were first ruled by Oligarchies and later by Tyrannies. The most powerful Tyranny was that of Syracuse, which eventually subjugated all the other cities. But it soon came into conflict with Carthage, which had managed to consolidate its presence in the western tip of Sicily, taking control of Motya, Panormos and Solunto. The conflict ended with the victory of the Syracusans in the battle fought at Himera (480 BC). The war between the two powers, however, continued with alternating fortunes until Rome took the place of Syracuse, inheriting its historical role. Only after the three Punic Wars and the destruction of the Carthaginian Empire did the Romans gain effective control of Sicily. The island was then made into a Province, with a Praetor in Syracuse and two Quaestors, one in Syracuse and the other at Lilybaeum. Sicilian agriculture was strongly developed under Roman rule, and the island enjoyed a period of peace which lasted for centuries. It later passed under the jurisdiction of the Eastern Roman Empire, and a new era of peace began, with the introduction of the Christian faith and of Byzantine culture.
 In 827, however, the island was invaded by the Saracens, who  imposed their iron rule. During the second half of the 11C, a Christian army led by Robert “the Guiscard” and his brother Roger I of Hauteville, who had been mandated by the Pope in Rome, freed the island from Arab control. In 1130 the Kingdom of Sicily was created and, at Christmas that same year, Roger II of Hauteville was proclaimed first King of Sicily. He extended the Sicilian dominion, creating a vast kingdom which stretched from Montecassino to Albania and the North African coasts of Tunisia and Libya. The Hauteville dynasty gave another two great sovereigns to Sicily, William I and his son William II. Men of science and letters, politicians and artists from all over the world gathered at Palermo’s court, turning it into a magnificent centre of international culture. After the death of William II, in 1189, the Hauteville dynasty was replaced by that of the Hohenstaufens. The short and tragic reign of Henry VI was followed by a return to ancient splendour in 1208, with the accession to the throne of Henry’s son, the great Frederick (I of Sicily; II of the Empire).

S.Giovanni degli Eremiti in Palermo

View of S.Giovanni degli Eremiti in Palermo:
is an Arab Bulding

Roger II with his Armed Forces

Roger II with his Armed Forces

Frederick of Swaba

Frederick of Swaba

Hayez, I Vespri Siciliani

The Sicilian Vespers:
Painting of Francesco Hayez (1846)
A great statesman, well-versed in administration, natural science and mathematics, he promoted the development of a new, pre-Renaissance culture at his court. On his death (1250), a period of political unrest began. The crown of Sicily (a vassal of the Holy See) was assigned by the Pope to Charles of Anjou, the brother of the King of France. The Angevins (French) went so far as to subject Sicily to military occupation. This led to the Vespers Revolution, which broke out in Palermo on Easter Monday 1282, causing the expulsion of the Angevins from the island. The legitimate heir to the throne was King Peter of Aragon who, supported by the Sicilian nobility, was crowned King of Sicily (Crown of Trinacria), which had replaced the Angevins (supported by France), proved to be weak. In the 14C, in fact, the great aristocratic families gained effective control of the island thanks to their economic and military power. The most important – the Alagona, Peralta, Ventimiglia and Chiaramonte families – as a matter of fact divided Sicily into four spheres of influence. This was the period of the four Vicars. In 1392 – after about one century of political weakness on the part of the Crown of Trinacria, and after the doubtful outcome of the Vespers War against the Angevins of Naples (they maintained the title of Kings of Sicily) – the Aragonese of Spain strongly repressed Sicilian aspirations to autonomy. In 1415, Sicily was joined to the Crown of Aragon and was thus ruled by Viceroys. In the 15C King Alfonfo “the Magnanimous” (of Aragon and Sicily) managed to reunite the two parts of the ancient State (Sicily and southern Italy), which he refunded as the Kingdom of the two Sicilies.
France fomented a series of revolts, which broke out between the 16C and the 17C. In 1672, during the war against Spain, Messina eventually rose up in arms, openly supported by the France of Louis XIV. But, in spite of their victories at sea and on land, in 1678 the French abandoned Augusta and Messina; the latter was severely punished by the Crown, and thus entered an irresistible process of decline. At the beginning of the 18C, Sicily was involved in the Spanish and Polish wars of succession (1700-1738). During a thirty-year period, the island was forced to yield its crown first to the Savoy dynasty, then to the Emperor of Austria Charles VI and, finally, to the Spanish Charles of Bourbon, who began the dynasty of the Bourbons of Naples and restored the autonomy of the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily. Due to the French invasion, King Ferdinand of Bourbon moved to Palermo for a few years. Here he had to yield to the aspirations to autonomy of the aristocracy by promulgating a Constitution (1812). However, when monarchic authority was restored in 1816, he repudiated the Constitution and dissolved the Sicilian Parliament. In 1820-21 the first anti-Bourbon uprising broke out. During the revolution of 1848, the supporters of the cause of independence created an autonomous Parliament in Naples, and later proposed that an independent Sicily and the other Italian State should join to form a federation. The Revolution was put down by military force. The war of 1860-61 eventually ended with the annexation of Sicily and southern Italy to the Kingdom of Italy, ruled by the House of Savoy. On 15 May 1946, a legislative decree granted regional autonomy to Sicily on the basis of a special Statute. In April 1947, the first Sicilian Regional Parliament was appointed.  
1943: Landing in Sicily by Allied Forces

1943: Allied Forces Landing in Sicily 

Norman Palace in Palermo
Norman Palace in Palermo.
This Palace Build by Roger II, Today is
the Seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly