Brief History of Sicily / The Beginning

Song: Cu ti lu dissi (Who told you) 

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   Sicily’s history is rich, immense, glorious and gets lost in the beginning of times. We are told by Tucidides, that the Lestrigons, gangs of marauders and thieves, the Lotophages, agricultural people, and the Cyclops, shepherds by profession, were the aborigines of the great Island of the Mediterranean. The legend talks about a people, the Sicanis, with a king, Cocalus, son of the Cyclop Briareous, which Timeos of Taormina (IV-III century B.C.) tells us to be an autochthon people, while Tucidides and Diodorus tell us that the Sicanis came from the Iberian peninsula, where the river Sicanus is located. All of this is in a semi-historic darkness because we do not have any documents that can witness to all of that, other than what tell us the ancient historians, who did not have strong historic leads to account for it. One thing seems to be certain: because of artifacts found near Noto, the historians have safely placed the Sicanis in Sicily at around three thousand B.C.

   Not to long after that we hear of the Siculis, who came down from the Lazio region. Tucidides tells us of this people, come from Italy led by their leader Siculus (son of king Italus who gave the name to Italy), from which took name the island and later the inhabitants. Dyonisus of Alicarnassus tells us also the same thing, and that is that: the Ausonis left Italy on the third generation prior the destruction of Troja, whose king was Siculus from whom got the name the people and the land. Although some theories gave life to the Sicanies and Siculis at about three thousand years BC, all this changed again, after the longest time, when in 1950 an archeologist of the University of Florence discovered in a cave of one of the Egadis Islands pictures representing humans, with similar pictures found also in caves near Palermo, which have been estimated to be at ten thousand years old, hence the certainty that the Sicanis were from Sicily and not come from the Iberian peninsula. With the destruction of the city of Troja, some of the refugees from the havoc, which were lucky enough to cover the marine distances, reached Sicily, settled themselves in the west coast of Sicily, funding Saegesta, and we know them as the Elimi, from their chief Elimo. We are still around the X century B.C..

The Phoenicians / X-VII Century BC

   The Phoenicians originated in what is today the modern Lebanon. Their presence is historically visible in all the Mediterranean countries and islands. They built settlements in many countries and islands of the Mediterranean, but their penetration was purely commercial. They were great travelers and traded with all the coastal city of North Africa, Spain, Italy, Greece, and it seems like, later, they even reached England. Their activities are seen as far back as the neo-paleolitic age and, it seems, they started to trade with Sicily at about the XI century B.C. They traded colored textile, of which the most wanted was the color red and glass both of their own making. They also traded in copper which they were getting in the island of Cyprus, in led and silver which they were extracting from Spain and tin which they found in the british isles.

   They will make objects with these products and, together with perfumes and art facts from Egypt, they will sell them to all the Mediterranean countries. With the intervention of the Greeks in Sicily, the Phoenicians retired themselves in western Sicily, were they had their strongest settlement, which were near the Elimi (Segesta), that were their friends and on whom they could rely upon for help against potential enemies. The first Phoenician colonies were founded around the XI-X century B.C. in the western part of Sicily: Solunto and Mozia. The biggest Phoenician settlement was Palermo on the Northern coast of Sicily (what would have been for the Phoenicians a stepping stone to commerce with Italy), which wasn’t too far from Carthage, their main colony in the northwestern coast of Africa, founded by them. Later, when Dyonisius I put siege to Mozia and dertoyed it, the Phoenician inhabitants retreated to the big island (Sicily), and precisely on the promontory, where they founded Lilibeo, the Marsala of to day. Beside the commerce and because of it, the Phoenicians brought to Sicily a cultural contribution: They invented the alphabet, a form of written communication made up by 22 symbols, all consonants, the vowels were added later by the Greeks, and the Sicilians were the first European people to use the alphabet, given their commercial relationship with the Phoenicians.

The Colonization of Sicily / VIII-III Century BC

   In the VIII century B.C. the Greeks, scouting the Mediterranean sea, discovered our big island: They circumnavigated it and discovered that it had three distinctive points, those that we now know to be Cape Peloro, to the East, Cape Passero to the South and Cape Lilibeo to the West. Because of the natural shape of the island, they called it Trinacria, from the greek word trinacrios, which means triangle. Althouh we have some history of Sicily prior to the presence of the Greeks, we can say that Sicily's civilized history began with the colonization on the part of the Greeks. Some historians say that the reason for the Greeks to look for other land, was the overpopulation in their own land, heavy taxation, rampant corruption, poverty and the pursuit of a better and happier life. In tune with this line of thinking, they brought with them such richness of cultural patrimony, to make Sicily very attractive to the best and unequaled minds of the time. Later even Plato was drawn to Sicily with the excuse to tutor Dionysus I and II.

   The colonization of Sicily started very early on, there is, as soon as the Greeks recognized the great potential of the island. Tired of the many restrictions and the oppressive laws in their own mother land, they sought a land that will give them freedom and a democratic way of life as dreamed by them. It starts almost with a legend, of how Daedalus of Athens, fugitive from Crete, by order of Cocalus, king of the Sicanies, founded Hikkar (later called Carini) as a fortress against Saegesta. King Minos, from Crete, comes chasing Daedalus. Cocalus receives Minos as honored guest and at night he has him killed by his daughters while they are giving him a bath (Remember Morat of the Frech revolution?). His people, now without a leader, decided to stay and founded Minoa, which is later destroyed and then refunded in honor to Hercules and called Eraclea. From now on the Greeks start streaming in.

   The first Greek colony was Naxos, founded in 750 BC, while in 734 BC some people, lead by Archia, come from Corinth, landing at Ortigia, built a little town calling it Syracosion, from the wet land nearby called Syraca. Successively were born Palazzolo Akreide in 664 BC and Camarina in 598 B.C.. With the name of the nearby river Gela, the town of Gela was founded in 589 BC, by a people come from Crete, which also later founded Agrigento in 581 BC. The most western city founded by the Greeks was Selenunte. In 459 BC there is an attempt by the Siculi to regain control of their own land. Ducetius, a Siculus leader moved war to the greeks of Syracuse, conquering many cities, among which Agrigento and taking Mozia from the Cathegeneans. After about 10 years of military successes, Ducetius was defeated by Syracuse, taken prisoner and exiled to Corintho. He escaped from Corintho and again brought an army against Syracuse, but some time later he died and Syracuse occuoied all the Siculi's cities but and destroyed their capital Trinakia.

   All the Sicilian cities have independent government and some are better equipped than others be it militarily or commercially, but seems that all have a common desire for the arts. The friendly and great commercial ties among these cities brought to the coming and flourishing of the greatest minds of the Greek world: Historians, mathematicians, poets, sculptors, philosophers and more with an astounding literary, historic and artistic production, especially sponsored by the courts of Agrigento and Syracuse, which was crucial, to the development of all Europe. From now on Sicily becomes everybody's aim. For its geographical location and its strategic position, Sicily is regarded, by all, highly important and even vital to conquer. The wealthy will come here for the climate, to take a vacation or to reestablish their health, others come driven by greed or political reasons. Many others come to build villages and towns and have a place to live.

   It is important to notice that Sicily was important even more to the common people, once it was discovered how fertile was the landthe. An English researcher, Anton Gardner, writes in a book about the history of Sicily, that "Sicily was so fertile, so that the island became a magnet for emigrants: the America of the ancient world". As a matter of fact even Marcus Tullius Cicero in one of his famous Orationes, calls Sicily the bread-basket of Rome, just because of the great production of food stuff, While Julius Ceasar, for the same reason, gave the Sicilians Roman citezenship, a great honor for any foreigner.


   Messina's was founded by the Greeks around the VIII century BC with the name of Zancle, which means "sickle". It was said that when Saturn, who was an agricultural god, came down to take hold of Sicily, he simply jumped the strait from Italy into Sicily. In the jump he lost his sickle, which fell on the coast forming a beach with the form of a sickle. Hence the name of the town. This town started as a home port for pyrates, killers, thieves and all kind of bad people. In 379 a town named Messene was founded in Messenia, Greece. These people lost a war and were taken prisoners and made slaves. After a while, tired of the situation, they were able to steal some ships and take out to sea. They went in the island of Sardinia and there they stayed for a time deciding what to do next. Anaxilas, tyrant of Rhegium (Italy), tired of having the Zancleans as across the sea neighbors, sent for the Messeneans and invited them to Italy. He told them that the Zancleans, on the opposite side possessed prosperous and fertile land and many riches and that he was ready to give that to them, and that he will help them to conquer it. They accepted, and Anaxilas carried them in to Sicily.

   Anaxilas moved against the Zancleans and defeated them on the sea, while the Messeneans did the same by land. After that, the Zancleans and the Messeneans made a treaty to live together as one people, changing the name of the city to Messene. The Messeneans then founded Milazzo, called first Mili, while people from Syracuse founded Imera. The Greeks progress in almost every branch of knowledge, at this point, is outstanding, when we read about the history of their time. By studying their achievements, we can tell how far along they are in mathematics, astrology, philosophy, literature, and many other subjects. It is for this reason that they, before anybody also, were to occupy the big Island of the Mediterranean, almost in its entirety. The Greeks left a big mark in the civilization of Sicily (second to them are the Arabs). They tried to import into Sicily all of their costumes, but not all took roots. All that was good took hold, but their illicit way of living, the depravation of their time, never was embraced by the local population. Our language is flooded by their root language, as is by the Arab's root language.

The Wars in Sicily

   After the Greeks came to Sicily and established themselves with new form of government and as local powers, they start thinking about expanding their territories, so they begin to wage war on each other. In 552 Syracuse wages war on Camarina, because she rebels, and Syracuse occupies it. Ippocrates, ruler of Gela, doesn't like the new neighbors, so he moves war to Syracuse and captures Camarina for himself. Dead Ippocrates in 492 BC, Gelon goes to power, while Enesidamus his collegue thinks to move to Agrigento, where his son Teron, takes possession of the city in 488 BC. Some year later Gelon captured Syracuse, establishes himself there and leaves Gela in the hands of his brother Geron.

   Gelon to consolidate his power and to have powerful allies, marries the daughter of Teron of Agrigento. Teron made strong by the alliance moves against Imera and captures it. Teril leader of Imera asks Anaxilas of Rhegium for help, who in turn begs the Carthaginian to intervene. The Carthaginians send a powerful army at the command of Amilcare and together with the army of Anaxilas they land at Panormus. They move toward Imera where they are defeated by the combined army of Gelon and Teron in the Battle of Imera in 480 BC.

Athens On The Move

   Because of the length of the peloponnesiac war, between Athens and Sparta, a war that lasted 27 long years, Athens found itself bankrupt. The Greeks of Athens needed a way to replenish the state's coffer, and they thought the best way was that of moving the war in Sicily, already a prosperous and rich country. The elders of the State were opposed to such a move which would further aggravate the terrible economic situation of the country, and so were the oracles. But the hawks had the best. They got ready a powerful fleet of one hundred and twenty ships and sailed toward Sicily.

   This great expedition launched by Athens in 415 against Sicily had as leaders the great Lamacus and the admiral Nicia, very distinguished commanders. They destroyed Ikkar (now Carini) and while kept at bay by Messena and Imera, by betrayal, they were able to capture Catania. When they finally moved against Syracuse, in the battle of the Falconara, Lamacus was killed fighting, by Calligrates, commander of the Syracusan army, while Nicia was taken prisoner and thrown in jail, to be executed later during the victory celebration ceremonies. Nicia had begged his captors to spare him, and when he found out that he was going to die in public he killed himself. This war had been a long and exhausting one, and the people of Sicily needed a much deserved rest: physically, economically and spiritually. The victory of Syracuse over Athens I 415 BC, left the supremacy of the Mediterranean to Syracuse, which contained the expansionistic aspirations of Carthage at bay for the next two centuries, thanks to Dionysus I, Dionysus II, Timoleontes and Agatocles.

Carthage in Sicily

   With the founding of Carthage, IX century BC, the Phoenician penetration on the island little by little was transformed in military occupation. Carthage started to occupy and putting claims on territory already occupied by the Sicano-Siculi and later by the Greeks. This was the starting point of the hostility between Cartage and Sicily. Sicily many times in the past had had many skirmishes with Carthage. The biggest contact that Carthage had with Sicily was when, in 480 BC, its enormous army, with Amilcare Barca as its leader, was sent in Sicily to occupy it all. Syracuse and Agrigento put together their armies and in the battle of Imera the army of Carthage was soundly defeated and Amilcare himself killed. It was not long after, though, when, invited by Saegesta, which had always some complaint against its neighbor, Hannibal, a general of Carthage and Amilcare's nephew, thinking that the time had come to teach a lesson to those Sicilians from Imera, who had decimated his uncle Amilcare's army in 480, and slain the same Amilcare, put together a mighty army and came ashore in that point of the Island where later was going to be Marsala.

   Some cities, especially those of western origin, as Segaesta, received that army amicably. This was well accepted by Hannibal who had great expectation from this campaign. He first destroyed Selenunte, and then marched to Imera, where the Imeresi were not match for the preponderant Carthaginian army. The Imerese resistance was easily crushed, and by Hannibal's orders not one civilian was killed. Hannibal had a diabolical plan: he ordered to bring all the prisoners (they were thirteen thousand) down in the plain were his uncle had died, and there he gave orders to kill them all by sword, one by one. From here Hannibal moves to Agrigento and puts siege to the city, which, by virtue of well trained mercenary and the help that many cities of the Island were sending in, kept Hannibal out for long time.

   It was during this siege that Hannibal became ill and died. Imilcones took charge of the army and finally he succeeded to take Agrigento. The losses suffered by the Africans were so great, that Imilcones decided to give up the plans to occupy all Sicily and to try instead to keep what they had conquered till now. After a while Dionysus, the tyrant of Syracuse, who did not trust the Carthaginians living "next door", thought of freeing the Island from them. He put the word out to prepare for a big war, and many arms maker went to Syracuse from every corner of Sicily. It is now that the "catapulta"(catapult), a machine to launch rocks, fire balls and all kinds of projectiles, is invented by the Sicilians. The hostility between Sicily and Carthage lasted through Dionysus I, Dionysus II and Agatocles. The Carthageneans were pushed out from almost every corner of Sicily, but they were never rooted out completely.

The Romans / II BC to VI AD

   With the death of Agatocles the empire of Syracuse starts to weaken due to internal power struggles. The Mamertins, mercenaries from Campania that had worked for Agatocles, wanted their share of the power, and when they were excluded, they occupied Messena. As if this was not enough, Carthage, taking advantage of the moment, comes to Sicily with a powerful army. The Sicilians, out of breath due to the immediate past wars, call Pirrus king of Epirus for help (278 BC). Pirrus makes a defense treaty with the Sicilians and swept the Carthageneans out of almost every part of Sicily. Pirrus' army was stopped at Cape Lilibeous and was incapable of rooting out the defenders. This inability made Pirrhus lose face with the Sicilians and, called by greeks of Taranto, to help against the Romans, he left Sicily in a hurry.

   In the mean time Geron had become the ruler of Syracuse, and after having consolidated his power over that city and other conquered cities, in 249 B.C., put together a strong army to take away Messene from the Mamertins. These were mercenaries from Campania which had taken Messene by betrayal. After a long siege Geron conquered Messene with the help of Carthage with whom he had made a defense treaty. The Mamertins, who were priding themselves to be descendants from Mars, god of war (the same god of the Romans), asked the Romans for help. These came, occupied Messene, made a defense treaty with Geron, gave him all his territory, and battled the Carthageneans out of Sicily in a war that lasted twenty four years. This was the First Punic War (264-241).

   In the Second Punic War (218-201), the Romans, among other things, had to fight Syracuse, to teach her some manners because she had had the guts to grow independent. The Romans, in 215 B.C., with a powerful army, put siege to Syracuse. It was a long and painful siege for both powers. In this siege the Sicilians distinguished themselves with many acts of valor. One of the sons of Syracuse was the mathematician and inventor Archimedes. He brought many pains to the Romans during the siege. Among other things Archimedes burnt ships of the roman fleet in the bay, by positioning mirrors on the towers of the city. Archimedes was the inventor of the lever and it was at that time that he said:" Give me a point of support and I will lift the world." Having figured the value of Pie, Archimedes ran out in the streets of Syracuse, forgetting that he was naked, yelling: "Eureka", Eureka...!" (I found it, I found it!).

   Marcus Claudius Marcellus was the leader of the roman army that was fighting Syracuse and when, after three years of siege, the city fell, he gave orders not to kill Archimedes. The soldiers did not know the inventor, and one of them killed Archimedes in his study while he was working. Marcus Marcellus wept the loss of the great mathematician and gave him a high honor burial. Carthage is reduced to a small commercial entity now, but the Roman senate, especially Cato the Elder, is not happy with Carthage around. One day he goes to the assembly and shows the senate a fig, and tells them that fig is still fresh, as anybody can ascertain, and it comes from Carthage. That shows how close Carthage is to Rome and because of this how dangerous it can be to Rome, therefore, he conclude that Delenda est Carthago (Carthage must be destroyed).

   The senate soon after, because of a minor breach in the peace treaty by Cartage, started the Third Punic War against Carthage (149-146) Sicily for the longest time has become the theater where the wars against Carthage are fought. Sicilians don't fight anymore for their own freedom, they side with one or another power. A sense of powerlessness pervades the great Island. The youths have no goal, they are indifferent to all that goes on around them. Scipio the Younger comes down from Rome with a great army and let it be known that all the youths in Sicily have to come to him armed and with horses. The Sicilian youths obey but they transpire such a sense of apathy that the general sends them away after having enlisted only the horses.

   Scipio then moves against Cartage, destroys it and the prisoners are sold into slavery. The Romans do the best they can not to influence the way of life of the Island. Still they, so not to lose grip on the Sicilians, bring some innovations to the political and judicial side of their daily life. The many republics of Sicily may continue to govern themselves but with the participation of a Roman Consul, Quaestor or Praetor, while a deputy of the republic, elected by the people, will represent them in Rome. The Roman domination lasted the longest in Sicily. The Romans, as any other occupying army, imposed their own taxes, for the collection of which they charged their own Consul, Quaestor or Praetor.

   These in turn, along with the local magistrate of the land, see ways of personal gain either by befriending key persons or by abusing the power given them by their own republic and the corrupt representatives of Rome. They adjudged the contracts to the highest bidders, which were local contractors, and to them gave power to collect taxes. These contractors, protected by their own representative in Rome, will do so by adding very high percentages for their own profit. It is said that the Quaestor Verre delegated by the Roman Empire to collect taxes, became so rich to have made loans to Rome itself. He was one of the biggest thieves of the time, and was accused by the great roman orator Cicero, of bringing economic disaster to Sicily, because of his greed.

Servile Wars in Sicily / 134-100 BC

   Later Sicily reappears on the stage of history with the servile wars. These were brought about by the slaves' rebellions. There were two of these wars that shook Sicily: one was led by Eunus D'Apomea and the other, later, led by Carius. Both wars took thousands of Roman soldiers' life: they were ferocious and cruel wars, and both were won one by the Consul Rupilius and the second by the Consul Marcus Aquilius. Because of these rebellions many were the curtailment imposed on the civil rights of the Sicilian, and one of these curtailment was that all the inhabitant of Sicily were forbidden to own or bear arms. Rome, as other occupying countries had done, made of Sicily a glamorous vacation retreat, and numerous Roman aristocrats came to Sicily to enjoy the balsamic power of the Sicilian climate. A this point Rome is at the apogee of its power. With all its enemies defeated the Empire is enjoying the so much wanted Pax Romana (the Roman Peace). But, as all that is created by man comes to an end, when Rome was at the apogee of its power, also the corruption of its officials was at its highest pick, setting the bases for its fall.

New Invasions in Sicily / 440-535 AD

   With the weakening and the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D., things change drastically in Sicily. The Roman Empire at this point was already divided in two: the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western. Sicily was delegated to the Eastern Empire, and governed by a Governor whose officials were economically bleeding dry the Great Island. Nobody cares anymore for Sicily beside imposing and collecting enormous taxes. This is a time of sudden changes, and from now on Sicily, because of the instability of its rulers, goes through many and different occupations. It is for the indifference of the Empire that Sicily in 440 AD. falls in the hands of the Vandals and later in the hands of the Goths. Still later Sicily falls innthe hands of the Ostrogots and then again in the hands of the Vandals.

Bizantine Intervention / 535-827

   Finally, after almost a century of atrocities, Belisario, a general of Emperor Giustinian I, freed Sicily from the Vandals. The succession of many emperors on the throne of Constantinople and the enormous taxes and abuses they imposed on the Island brought Sicily to its knees, so much so that in 718 and in 781 the opposition against Constantinople were so strong to cause rebellions that anticipated the future attempts of autonomy of the Sicilians. In 663 the Byzantine Emperor Constant II wanted to transfer the capital of the empire back to Rome. Since Italy was being ruled, in part by the Longobards, Constant II made ready a powerful army to fight the Longobards. He laanded at Taranto, occupied Apulia and devastated it entering finally in Rome.

   The Longobards came back, and at the battle of Benevento Constant was defeated and fled to Calabria first and then to Sicily, where , in the same year, he established his capital at Syracuse, bringing more economic disaster to the Sicilians. He reigned there till 668 when he was killed by conspirators. His son, Constantino IV, took the capital back to Constantinople. In this time Sicily distinguishes itself by making great contributions to the Catholic Church. In 678, Agathon, a palermitan was elected pope, and Leo II, also from Sicily, was elected pope in 682. Leo II was elected in 686, Conon, also born in Palermo, was elected pope in 687. Sergius I followed in 687, and Steven III in 768-772 was the last Sicilian pope.

The Arabs / 827-1060

   The Muslim Arabs, who for long time had their eyes on Sicily and at different times had made many incursions in Sicily, without never having conquered the all Island, decide that finally this is the moment, while the Byzantine Empire is busy in Asia Minor, to take Sicily. The Muslims chose Marsala (Marsa Ali, the port of Ali, so called by the Arabs) as the landing site... This is a ferocious people, they ravage cities and countriside, killing indiscriminately, asserting their power in a barbaric way. As if this wasn’t enough, they push their forces all the way up to Apulia (Puglia), extending their empire in Africa and Europe like they had never before. Once settled their empire the Moors organize Sicily in three “Valli”, Val di Mazara, in the North-Western pat, Val Demone, in the North-Eastern zone and Val di Noto, in the South-Eastern part of Sicily. The capital was Palermo where the governor, called Emir, resided. Palermo at that time reached great importance and development. The city had about three hundred thousand inhabitants, great industries and a rich commerce.

   The Arabs gave great importance to the agriculture in Sicily with the cultivation of oranges, lemons, sugar cane, rice and the mulberry three which was vital to the silk industry.They divided the people in Tributary, those who paid taxes, Vassals, those who were their subject, as conquered people, and the servant peasants, those who worked the land, while, at this point they left free the Christians to practice their religion. The Arabs brought to Sicily great riches of science, literature, philosophy, astrology, arts and more. This people, in time, lost their violent way and, in a way, merged with the local inhabitants, and while pushing their way of every day life onto the Sicilians, they accepted, in part, the way of living of the Sicilians, so much so that later, if not for certain traits, the two people will seem only one.Some time after their destruction of many Sicilian cities, completed by Hibraim, a man came to power, Imilcon, from the lineage of the “Fatemides” (from Fatima daughter of the prophet Muhammad), who was a man of good nature and justice.

   It is with him that the Sicilians started seeing some light, some hope of living again. It was under his rule that orders were given to let the Sicilians rebuild their homes.This is a transcript of a letter of the Emir of Sicily to a subordinate of the province of Palermo:-...Mohammed ben Aabol Allah, your lord Adelkum el Cbir kisses your forehead, greets you abundantly and says: my great person commands to let the people rebuild their demolished cities...,My greatness of Adelkum el Cbir says to you, Mohammed ben Aabol Allah, that the chosen men must take with them wives and children, because in short time the demolished buildings will be rebuilt and they will be used as dwelling for them.

   To each who rebuilds a home, to him it will be given free from any tax, because my Greatness so orders: in this way everybody will want to build well and beautify his home....The Muslims Arabs did great things in Sicily. They, together with their civilization, left indelible marks on our Island. It would take volumes and volumes to go through their innumerable accomplishments in the arts, in philosophy, in mathematics, in astronomy, etc. etc. The Moors ruled Sicily for almost three centuries. It was by the beginning of the second century that the Moors started to fight each other for the egemony of Sicily, marking, thus, the weakening and the beginning of the end of the Moors’ Empire.

The Normans of Hauteville / 1060

   The Normans were a people of the North, probably from Sweden, those who we know as the Vikings, who, by the end of the tenth century, were exercising brigandage as a way of living, becoming a problem for France.They had their own army, which fought in a ferocious way, and were very disciplined, overcoming any sacrifice, even that of their own life, that was expected from them for the common goood, which was: kidnaping, ambushing, stealing, in towns and in the country side. It was a French ruler, Charles III, who tried to contain this people, offering them a land of their own, if they would convert to the Christian faith, and stop ravaging the country side. They accepted and were given that part of the country that we now know to be Normandy, and were recognized by the Crown.

   That is how they became known as the “Normans”.In the XI century Tancredi of Hauteville was Count of Normandy and he had five sons: William, Dragon, Robert, Unfred and Roger.These boys, as the French aristocracy, participated to the Crusades, and in lack of them, they did very next thing: built their own army and became mercenaries, lending themselves to the highest bidder. As mercenaries they came to Italy more than once called to help whomever needed them.It was in a contracted job that the army for whom they were fighting found itself without a leader, having the leader defected suddenly to the enemy. The enemy was the Byzantine Empire, and the army with whom the Normans mercenaries were fighting for were the army of the Puglie. William, called The Iron Arm, the oldest of the five brothers, was elected Count by his brothers and took charge of the whole army and became the undisputed leader of the Puglie. This is 1042. From now on it is a continuous and fast ride of the ascension to power of the Normans and the creation of the first kingdom. of Sicily.

   William died in 1046, leaving room for his brother Dragon. This new count was assassinated in 1051 and Unfred, his brother, took the title of Count along with the authority over the land. Unfred took sick early in his years and, before dying, in 1057, gave the title to his brother Robert. Soon Robert, called The Guiscard, became the most powerful man of the land. There had been all along a problem: They had never had any legal authority. The occasion came in 1058, when Benedict X and Nicholas II claimed the Papacy. Robert was called in to help against Benedict X. Robert and his man stormed the town where Benedict X had secured himself, and took him prisoner.No need to say that Pope Nicholas II showed his appreciation and in 1059 he nominated Robert Duke of Puglie, Calabria and Sicily. There was only one problem: none of these lands was completely free. Formally and legally these lands belonged to the Eastern Roman Empire. Only a little problem: Part of Apulia and part of Calabria were in the hands of the Greeks and the rest, with Sicily included, was in the hands of the Muslims.

   This did not matter, what counted was that Robert had achieved official recognition among the aristocracy of the time. Blessed with papal consent, Robert, with his army, started a campaign of conquest. In 1060 he freed Calabria from the last remnants of the Byzantine rule and made his brother Roger Count of Calabria. In 1061 he crossed the Strait of Messina and took Messina from the Arabs. In 1071 captured Bari, the last stronghold of the Byzantine Empire.These brothers, having always had a keen sense of proprietorship, noticed that the land did not belong to the Byzantine Empire, nor the Greeks anyway, who were asking them for help to get it back from the Moors, and, much less, to these last ones, who had occupied it for the last 250 years. So they decided to make it their own.

The Normans in Sicily / 1060-1194

Palermo - Cappella Palatina
Palermo - Cappella Palatina

   Taking advantage of political chaos existing at the time amongst the many Muslim chiefs, Duke Robert pressed on to Sicily, and in 1072 Palermo, after a brief siege, fell in the Norman's hands. Robert invested his brother Roger as Grand Count of Sicily, so Roger was, now, Count of Calabria and Sicily. Roger took very much at heart his title and started a systematic fight against the Muslim of Sicily, and it took him about 19 years to complete the geographic and demographic conquest of that land, which was lived in by Greeks, Moors, French, Latins, and, of course, Sicilians. After the death of Duke Robert in 1082, Roger took residence in Palermo, and, at the same time, he installed his nephew William (Robert's son) as Duke of Puglie.

   It took Roger 30 years to completely conquer Sicily from the Arabs, while he learned many things about the people that soon would be his own. Sicily was rich in human resources: the Arabs were great warriors, mathematician and scientist. The Greeks were great navigators and also had good knowledge of medicine; and the Latins were rich in history and literature. So he envisioned the great State that he wanted to make: uniting all Sicily under one ruler, and his people would be the most respected people of the world putting down the basis of the first absolute state in Europe. Having settled all the external problems, Roger took care of the internal affair of Sicily being mindful of the welfare not only of his soldiers, but even of the Sicilians and all those people that elected to stay in Sicily, after the occupation, which now have to be considered his people.

   Many Moslems poets fled during the conquest of Sicily by the NormansMany elected to stay and Roger tolerated the religions and the languages of each people, promoted immigration and commerce and started the re-christianization and the re-latinization of Sicily in the religious and linguistic sense respectively. Roger worked very hard in unifying Sicily under all aspects, making the Arabs, the Latins, the Normans, Greeks and the Sicilians feel at home. Basing his common sense on the Roman jurisprudence, and adapting some laws to suit his needs, he made sure that all those different people were treated equally, under the law. It is due to Roger's generosity for keeping in the Island great minds among the Arabs and the Greeks, being ultimately responsible for one of the greatest historical, literary and scientific patrimony that remained in Sicily. The Grand Count died in 1101, leaving two children: Simon eight and Roger six years old. He was buried in Mileto, Calabria as for his wish. To Roger succeeded his son Simon and, with his premature death, Roger's second son, Roger II, succeeded to his brother as Count of Sicily: He was only ten years old.

Sicily the Kingdom of the Mediterranean / 1130

   Roger II continued on the footsteps of his father. At the death of his cousin William, Duke of Puglie, Roger II annexed all the duchy of Southern Italy as rightful successor and forced all the aristocracy of the land to swear allegiance to him. He now was holding Naples, Capua, Puglie and Calabria, together with Sicily. Because of the belligerence of the barons of lower Italy, in 1129, he convoked a parliament to which he invited not only the aristocracy and the clergy but the civic representatives as well asking them to give him the title of king. They consented and Roger had the title validated by the antipope Anacletus II, forming in so doing the first absolute state, as for his father dream, and the first European parliament following his father's dream. Roger II was now the king of Sicily, a Kingdom of a united country, the Kingdom of Sicily, which survived for more than seven centuries.

   In 1139, Roger II, to put away for ever any doubt about his kingship (because Pope Anacletus had actually been an anti-pope) convinced Pope Innocent II, to reconfirm him. The pope consented and Roger was crowned in the court of Palermo, on the 25 of December, in a never seen lavish, official gala ceremony, as king of Sicily. Roger II had this ceremony done on the 25 of December, to drive in the mind of his subjects his divine right to the Kingship, he had a mosaic done in the church of the Martorana in Palermo, where he is crowned king by Jesus Christ Himself. Roger chose, as residence of his court, Palermo, and created such an environment where Sicilian, Latins, Greeks, Jews, Arabs and Normans could live together amicably, making his court the best and biggest cultural center in the known world. Roger II himself spoke three languages: Greek, Arabic and Latin. By the end of his life he had expanded his realm within almost every land in the Mediterranean sea. His reign was steady and stable and lasted almost fifty years. Roger II died in 1154.

The Two Williams / 1154-1189

   To him succeeded his son William, who was as crafty as his father, but not as generous. William, called The Bad, had many problems with the papacy, with the Roman and the Byzantine Empire, and with the aristocracy of all Southern Italy, who were bickering and fighting among themselves. By 1156, William had subdued all the warring parties and forced Pope Adrianus IV to recognize the Sicilian Monarchy to which he added, as his holdings, Abruzzi and Marche. William I reigned only for eleven years, he died in 1266. At his death his son William II, who was given the epithet of William The Good, was crowned king in the Cathedral of Palermo when he was only three or four years old, but others assumed the regency till he was of age.

   At about 14 years of age he was married to the daughter of Henry II of England. This wedding was celebrated in Palermo, and, the English aristocracy, come down for the occasion, were astonished at the magnificence and luxury of the Sicilian Court and the standard of living of the Sicilians, which was the best in all Europe. Unfortunately no heirs came from this union between William II and Joan of England, leaving the throne opened to any claimant. William II died in 1189, at the young age of thirty five. With his death the blood of the Normans on the throne of Sicily becomes very thin.

Henry VI / 1194-1197

   After William II death many were the pretenders to the crown of Sicily. Tancredi, still in the Norman's lineage, Count of Lecce, was elected king by the parliament of Palermo. Tancredi's reign was difficult as he had to fight many to keep his crown. The Barons of the Puglie rebelled against him and called Henry the VI for help, Richard Lion Heart moved war against Tancredi, the Mores rebelled too, but he was able to stand his ground and kept everybody in check. Because of all this strife, the vision of Roger I and Roger II for a united Sicily under one law and equality for all, had all but disappeared. Skirmishes started to appear between Moslems and Christians, the former felt threatened in their religion and values, while the later felt that the moment had come and do not want to tolerate the Moslems anymore. One small incident provoked by the Christians led to a riot of the Moors which was very bloody and had to be put down by force. Unrest and tensions permeated the kingdom for lack of guidance.

   Two months after the death of Roger II a daughter was born to him: Constance D'Hauteville. She, later, was given in marriage to Henry, son of Frederick Barbarossa. At the death of the Suebian Frederick Barbarossa, Henry, his son, assumed the crown of the Holy Roman Empire of Germany. Soon as settled, Henry, claiming the kingdom of Sicily for his wife Constance, descended into Italy with a powerful army and speedily and decisively came all the way down to Naples and took it. At Salerno he is momentarily defeated by Tancredi, losing even his wife to the enemy, who takes her prisoner. Tancredi, recognizing that Constance is one of his own blood released her. While Tancredi is Salerno his son Roger died at very young age. As he received the news of his son's death, he rushed to Palermo were he died a few months later of broken heart, in February of 1194. Sibilla, his wife, took the regency for their young son William III.

   Henry, unopposed now, overran Southern Italy and triumphantly entered Palermo in November of 1194. Henry VI was a ferocious and cruel man: He spread violence and death everywhere. He treated the Sicilians as enemies, but his cruelty was mostly directed at the Moslems, making many of them flee for their own lives. It is now more than at any time that the Moslems, with their heart in pain leave Sicily, the land that they had come to regard as their own; after all, at this point, they were Sicilians, different only in their religion. As for the royal family, Henry first sent Sibilla and her children out of the country, and kept William III, with the excuse that he had to stay, to be educated for the crown, for the good of the kingdom, and then, to assure his own future and that of his heirs, he had William III blinded, castrated and thrown in a jail where he died after a long suffering. This marks the end of the Norman's era in Sicily.

Frederick II / 1197-1266

   Henry VI took sick in Messina on his way to a Crusade, and died of malaria in 1197. Three years before, in 1194, a son had been born to him, so at Henry's death, Constance assumed the regency for their son, Frederick. Less than a year later, in 1198, Constance died, entrusting her son and the reign to Pope Innocent III. Constance, to make sure that her son Frederick will be raised in Palermo and as a true Sicilian, and that his kingdom will be preserved, had him crowned king in 1197, when he was barely three years old. At fourteen, his legal age, he became ruler De Facto, and at fifteen, in 1209, he was married to Constance of Aragon, widow of the king of Hungary. In the mean time the Holy Empire of Germany remained unattended, and Pope Innocent III convinced Frederick to move his court to Germany in 1215. Frederick was not happy away from his beloved Sicily and his Court of Palermo, and because the Sicilian aristocrats were fighting among themselves, trying to grab as much land as they could for themselves, as they used to do after the death of Roger II, he decided to return.


Frederick II, King of Sicily
Frederick II, King of Sicily


   Frederick returned to Sicily in 1220, with the big dream of uniting the kingdom of Sicily to the empire of Germany. Once again, as other had done, he had to reestablish law and order. After his return to Palermo, he convinced Pope Honorious, with the promise that he will defend the power of the Church, to crown him Emperor. Frederick II traveled all the way to Rome, and, in 1221, he was crowned Emperor of the Holy Empire of Germany and king of Sicily. Returned to Sicily soon after, he initiated a purge to bring back law and order. He outlawed gambling and prostitution and imposed great punishments for law-breakers. Blasphemy was banned, evicted all the Genoese merchant and made Jews wear signs to be recognized by the other citizens. With the advent to the papal throne of Pope Gregory IX, Frederick was forced to go on a Crusade. In the Canal of Sicily his fleet was ravaged by an epidemic, and he returned back to Bari. Pope Gregory did not believe him and the two leader came to an angry confrontation. Frederick disbanded the papal forces and the Pope excommunicated him.


Enna / Frederick II Tower
Enna / Frederick II Tower


   Again Frederick, to show his good will to the Pope, left for a Crusade where he swept Palestine, and occupied Jerusalem, without raising a finger. Returned to Italy he was met once again by the army of the Pope and Frederick forced the Pope to sign a peace treaty in 1229. Finally Frederick, finding himself at peace, started to realize the vision that he had sought for long time by calling and protecting numerous literates and scientist, making Sicily the biggest and the most brilliant cultural center of Europe. Once again Sicily is the talk of Europe: The fame of its beauty, natural and artistic is the marvel of the nations. Under Frederick Sicily reacquired the lost magnificence and again is admired as the Garden of Europe. Now that peace and welfare are in the land, Frederick gives himself to his studies. From his writings, one of the best works is the Liber Augustalis, were he lays down the foundation of the Absolute Monarchy.

   Frederick, for his tenacity and common sense on how to keep so many different people united and happy, for his love of knowledge, with which he brought so many brilliant minds to his court, for his wise and intelligent way of governing, for his intelligence as man of letters and science, for his great knowledge of languages (he spoke seven languages), was called Splendor Mundi, The Marvel of the World. He founded, what was called later, the Sicilian School of Poetry. It was the School where the first literature in vulgar language (non latin) was born, giving the first sparks of that Humaism that was to come, and even Dante admitted the Sicilian School of the court of Frederck II was the first and best we ever had. The Sicilian School produced what would have been the future official Italian language.

   Due to the premature death of Frederick II, the course of history took a different path, the School was dismantled and moved from Sicily to Tuscany, where Dante affirmed the tuscan language as the new vulgar language calling it the "Sweet New Style" (Il Dolce Stil Nuovo). Under Frederick was also born for the first time an absolute monarchy that united not only Sicily but even southern Italy, preceding Italy itself which was a group of autonomic cities and Europe where monarchy was still in a forming state. After such grand history, created by the Normans, it is good to know that the Grand Count Roger his buried in Mileto, Roger II is buried in the Cathedral of Palermo, and William I and William II are both buried in the Cathedral of Monreale. At Frederick death, in 1256, succeeded his son Conrad, designed by his father to be the next king of Germany and Sicily, and as Conrad the IV to be the Emperor of the Holy German Empire.

Charles of Anjou and the Angevins / 1266-1282

   Meanwhile Manfred, Frederick illegitimate son, while Conrad was out of the country, made himself Regent of the kingdom, and, then, after fighting against the army of pope Innocent IV, and winning, had himself crowned King of Sicily in the Cathedral of Palermo. The Pope, which had never liked the Germans, called the French against Manfred, and precisely Charles I of Anjou, brother of Louis IX, king of France. The French army faced the forces of Manfred, and in the battle of Benevento, Manfred was defeated and all his army was passed by the sword, including Manfred himself, who by Charles order, was thrown under a bridge. His soldiers, being of a better heart, covered the corpse with rocks, but Charles, irate, had them unearth the body and put it on the bank of the river as food for the animals.

   The last of the Suebes, and still with a very thin Norman blood, was Conrad Jr. son of Conrad the IV and direct nephew of Frederick. After Manfred's death, Conrad Jr. was called, out of Germany, to lead his army against Charles I of Anjou. Conrad Jr. came down from Germany and occupied many Italian cities, entering and occupying even Rome, after defeating Charles' army and the Vatican forces. Here Conrad was proclaimed Emperor. Soon after that, still during the festivities, Conrad left, suddenly, with his army, toward Sicily. About a week later, Charles faced him with his forces. Conrad was winning, although with heavy losses, when reinforcement reached the almost defeated Charles' army. The table turned, Conrad defeated fled, but betrayed by a friend, was given into the hands of Charles' soldiers. Charles had him decapitated in the Piazza del Carmine of Naples and thrown into a trench.

   Charles of Anjou terrorized Sicily, Italy and even all of Europe with his cruelty. He persecuted the Sicilians, the Moslems, the Greeks, the Latins and all who were not French. He fired everybody from public office in Sicily, and installed all French employs. The Sicilians and all from southern Italy were taken their land away, their belongings, their freedom and even their women. The hate against the French grew fuller than an overflowing river, it was coming off every Sicilian's pore.

The Sicilian Vespers / 1282

   In Sicily was and still is a custom to celebrate with a picnic the day after Easter. That day is called Pasquetta (Little Easter). In that day people swarm to the countryside with food and drinks to have a good time. The 20 of March 1282, the people of Palermo were swarming outside the city limits to celebrate the Pasquetta. To the Sicilians was forbidden to bear arms, while the French went always armed. That afternoon a big group of people were assembled in a clearing, around the church of the Holy Spirit, there were today is the great St. Ursula cemetery. A French soldier, with the name of Drangott, eyed a pretty young girl, went to her, and with the excuse of checking for arms proceeded to search her. The young lady embarrassed fainted. A Sicilian young man, outraged, threw himself at the French soldier, and before anybody could stop him, took the sword away from the soldier and killed him. It was like a match: In a lightning all the French soldiers around were killed, and the crowd, having become an infuriated mob, overran the city, running and screaming all night: Death to the French!, and all night was a carnage of French soldiers.

   It is said that even in encountering persons in civilian clothes, they were asked to pronounce the Sicilian word ciciri (chick peas), and if one happen to be French, he could not pronounce such a word correctly (The French pronounced that word kikiri) and he or she was killed. The insurrection, already secretly in the making, spread very quickly to every part of the island, and in very little time the French were thrown out of Sicily. All this started in Palermo at the time that the church's bells were tolling the Vesper, the end of the work day, and for this reason this insurrection remained in the annals of history as The Sicilian Vespers.

   For Charles this was a bitter pill to swallow, and tried with every means to regain control of the situation. The Sicilian courage proved to be too much for his army. The Sicilian sent Charles fleet to the bottom of the sea and forced Charles to flee to Naples. Charles could not give up Sicily and he tried numerous times, with the help of the papacy, to regain it. Because of this the so called ninety year war came about, a series a wars with which, through different fronts and different people, the French and the papacy tried to get Sicily back, with grave political repercussions all over Europe. The war was finally ended by pope Gregory XI with the treaty of Avignon of 1372, where finally the Church gave up its temporal dominion. The Sicilian Vesper was that revolution that for the first time in history affirmed the unitary value of a people, that value that later provoked the revolutionary movements of the Europe of the XIX century. It is during the Sicilian Vesper that was born the Sicilian Flag.

   With the treaty stipulated by the Palermo and Corleone's fighters, to join against the Angevins, their common enemy, the red of the flag of Corleone was combined with the gold of the flag of Palermo, in a diagonal design, with a golden eagle in the middle. Centuries later the flag was approved by the Sicilian parliament as the Sicilian flag. and in place of the eagle was put the Trinacria, a face with three running legs, Symbol of Sicily.

The House of Aragon / 1282-1412

   In a parliamentary strategic move the Sicilian Barons chose Peter of Aragon to be the king of Sicily. With Peter the Sicilians had some problems, because Peter wanted to get an agreement with Charles of Anjou, but under the strong refusal of the Sicilians, Peter, finally, took sides with the Sicilians. That did not stop big problems from coming to the Sicilian people. The house of Anjou had not given up on Sicily and Pope Benedict IV siding with the Anjou dynasty, excommunicated Peter and the Sicilian and convinced Charles to move against Peter of Aragon. Peter had the best over Charles, and even took prisoner Charles' son, Charles the Lame, who remained Peter's prisoner till after his father's death.

   In 1285 all the major contenders to the throne of Sicily, one after the other, died. To king Peter succeeded his third son Frederick the III as king of Sicily (he was Constance's son, daughter of Manfredi, son of Frederick II). Frederick's dream was that of continuing in the foot steps of his grandfather: to return Sicily to the royal grandeur, and give it autonomy. Pope Boniface VIII thwarted all of Frederick good ideas. The Pope, seeing how hard it was to get the Angevins to take Sicily back, with his cunning convinced Frederick's sister Yolanda to marry Robert, Charles of Anjou's son. After the matrimony, Pope Boniface convinced James II of Aragon to lead an army against his brother Frederick of Sicily. James defeated Frederick fleet, but did not pursue the occupation of Sicily, instead he returned to Spain with his army. Pope Boniface, feeling that his interest over Sicily were violated, called Charles of Valois to lead Robert of Anjou's army against Frederick.

   During Charles' campaign, pestilence broke out in Sicily and his army was almost destroyed by the disease. He was forced to sign the peace of Caltabellotta with which the Angevins had to leave Sicily for good. This did not put an end to the Sicilians' concern for a peaceful era. Frederick from Sicily, Robert from Naples and the Pope from Rome, were always thinking about how to outsmart one another. The fortunes were alternate: At times Robert will have the best, others Frederick. At one time a great army of the Angevins reached Sicily, coming ashore near Carini. They never accomplished much on this occasion for lack of food and potable water and by a disease that broke out at that time, Robert had to turn back and cross the strait of Messina to the main land.

   Frederick, aware of an intrigue being fashioned by Pope John XXII and Robert of Anjou, let it be known that the war was still on against Robert. For this Frederick was excommunicated and with him all the Sicilians, and for fourteen years the churches were closed in Sicily. In all his forty years of reign Frederick fought many big and powerful enemies, and although he died, in 1337, as king of Sicily, he was not allowed to fulfill his dream to make of Sicily what his grandfather Frederick II , wanted Sicily to be: The greatest kingdom of Europe if not of the world, and give it autonomy. To Frederick succeeded his son Peter II. Under him the Sicilians kept on being beleaguered by more wars. Along with the unrest among the Sicilian aristocrats, Robert of Anjou, favored by Pope Benedict XII, came down against Sicily and occupied Termini. At this occasion, Peter II, , because did not want to fall in line with the Pope's directives, was excommunicated with all the Sicilians. Once again, Robert of Anjou sends forces against Sicily and occupies Milazzo and the islands of Lipari.

   King Peter died in 1342, same year as Robert of Anjou, and with his demise Sicily experienced more uncertainty. Again, the Angevins, seizing the moment, sent enormous forces against Sicily, and this time the damage is great. The Angevins, come down with a big fleet and a powerful army, occupy Agrigento, Trapani, Palermo, and Syracuse. From now on, Sicily, between weak Sicilian rulers, the treachery of some aristocrats, strife and jealousy amongst the local Barons and the conjures of foreign aspirants to the throne of Sicily, becomes a theater of anarchy, with political and economic decadence. Sicily and the Sicilians are exploited more and more economically, socially and politically. They become poorer and poorer for heavy taxation and loss of freedom, losing even the will to work. All this brought to foreign rule and the loss of every glimpse of autonomy forever. In the fifteenth century Sicily fell completely under the influence of the Aragonese dynasty, which abolished the kingdom and regarded Sicily as a possession. Even so, starting with Alphonse of Aragon, Sicily, for the first time in a long while, enjoyed peace and tranquility. As we said, the new state of affair took away the kingdom from Sicily and made of the island a vice regency, losing every hope for autonomy.

   To Alphonse, King good and just, in 1458, succeeded John of Aragon. Under his rule Sicily was theater of many bloody insurgencies due to the barons internal strife. At the same time Sicily was afflicted by many Moslems incursions where the Sicilians fought and distinguished themselves for their courage.

The Spanish Rulers / Charles V of Austria / The Habsburg Dynasty / 1479-1713

   To king John succeeded his son Ferdinand II, the Catholic, who married Isabel of Castille. Under Ferdinand, two terrible abhorrent incidents were cast over Sicily: The Holy Office of the Inquisition, and the expulsion of the Jews. In 1483, the Grand Inquisitor, Thomas Torquemada, was able to convince, against the protests of the Sicilian people, Pope Sixtus IV to establish the Office of the Inquisition in Sicily, and the same Grand inquisitor, in 1492, convinced King Ferdinand to expel, with an edict, the Jews from Sicily, where they had resided for the last fourteen centuries. The Jews were the life of Sicily for their economic contribution alone, and the opposition to the Edict from all member of the Sicilian society was great. The opposition came down from the same Viceroy, but to no avail.

   The next Viceroy that Ferdinand sent to Sicily was Ugo Moncada. Moncada worked tirelessly and forcibly for the crown. He treated the Sicilians as personal possession, and went as far as letting his men molest women as the soldiers of Charles of Anjou had done before. Again, that was the last straw: The Sicilian went on a rampage, killing the Spanish soldiers, almost repeating the Sicilian Vespers. Moncada had to flee Palermo to save his life. It is soon after this point that Ferdinand dies without heirs. As a result, his grandson, Charles V of Austria, succeeds him as the king of Spain. In the mean time due to scarcity of food and general malcontent, unrest was widespread in Sicily. Insurgency and rebellion were at the order of the day, with the biggest conspiracy led by Gian Luce Squarcialupo, a conspiracy to overthrow the Spaniards and free Sicily from outside rulers. Unfortunately he was unable to master enough help from the populace. The nobles organized a counter-coup to Squarcialupo, and making an accord with the Viceroy, were able to capture and suppress the insurgents.

   After calm had returned to the Island, Charles V became more agreeable toward the Sicilians and because the Sicilians supplied Charles with great help on the expedition to Tunis, against the Moslems, where the Sicilians distinguished themselves above all others, Charles promised to respect Sicily and the Sicilians. For the first time in a long while the Sicilians regarded a ruler with respect, admiration and almost affection. The victory over the Moslems in Tunis was not the end of piracy in the Mediterranean. Charles did not finish the job then as he should have, and the pirates infested the sea, just about immediately, keeping the coastal towns of Sicily and of the Balkans very unsafe. Charles Empire was large, he used to say that the sun never set over his empire, and he was right when we think that his empire reached all the way to the far land of America. Just because of the size of the Empire, he had trouble keeping it united and at peace, and finally, tired of the unending job, he abdicated, in 1556, in favor of his son Philip II. He retired in the monastery of San Jeronimo, in Spain, where he died in 1558.

   Philip II recognizing that the Turkish threat was paralyzing commerce on the sea and terrorizing the people of the coastal town, in 1571 formed an alliance with the Pope Pius V, Venice, the Knights of Malta and the House of Savoy, to free the sea and the land from the Turkish danger once and for all. On October 7,1571, the allied forces met the Turkish armada at Lepanto. After a furious and bloody battle the alliance completely defeated the Turks. The Sicilian contribution to this feat was great, be it in man power and equipment, be it in courage. The Sicilians though were getting tired of the foreign yoke, because Philip II, as all others never did anything to help and make life easier for them. On the contrary, given the government of the Island to Viceroys, these treated the Sicilians only for the profit they could bring to crown and to themselves. Philip II, as many others, gave free hand to the Office of the Inquisition, and, because of this, hundreds of Sicilians were burned at stake or tortured, many times for just a suspicion or a jealous accusation. The loss of the autonomy, the advent of the Viceroys, who were exploiting the Sicilians, excessive taxation, coupled with periods of famine and pestilence, exasperated the Sicilian people to the point of insurgency, of which there were a few in the Sixteen century.

   A result of loss of freedom for a people is a refined sense of cunning, duplicity, deception, which in turn are seeds for banditry. This latest phenomena although it had been playing hide and seek for the last two centuries, under Philip II becomes extensive, threatening the authorities and the aristocracy. It takes a very strong, decisive and clever Vicar General, Prince Francesco Moncada of Paterno', appointed by the new Viceroy, to get a hold on it. Philip II conquered the Philippine Islands(named after him). To Philip II, in 1621, succeeded his son Philip III. Unwilling to govern, he entrusted the government to his prime minister, Francisco Gomez de Sandoval, Duque de Lerma and later to his son Cristobal, Duque de Uceda. Under his viceroys the beautification of the Sicilian Cities, especially Messina and Palermo continued steadily. The Duke of Maqueda, nominated Viceroy of Sicily by Philip III, in 1600 cut in Palermo the street that today still bears his name. Also under Philip III, piracy, which had been growing on the seas, became very threatening to the coastal towns of Sicily and Italy.

   Philip assembled another armada, but was never able to get rid of the Moslems. To Philip III, succeeded his son Philip IV. He was, like his father a weak ruler, and entrusted the administration of the government affairs to his prime minister. He was an enthusiast of the arts, and gave himself to promoting them. In 1624, Sicily suffered a great pestilence, during which Filiberto of Savoy, Viceroy of Sicily, in helping others, what he considered his duty, lost his life to that disease. During that tragic period the people of Palermo, prayed to the Virgin Rosalie to stop the onslaught. It is said that in that occurrence a hunter had a vision, in which the Virgin Rosalie told him where her remains were and to go and take them in a procession throughout the city. It was done and the pestilence abated. It is for this reason the "Festino" (the Great Feast) for Saint Rosalie was established, in which, every year, in the month of July, the city of Palermo observes three days of lavish festivities in honor of this Saint, who became the Patron Saint of the city.

   In 1646, famine recurred once again. The authorities caught by surprise for lack of emergency supplies, tried to resolve the situation by reducing the weight of the loaf of bread and at the same time raising the price. This sparked an insurrection which, starting in Messina, soon spread to Palermo and to all the other towns of Sicily. In all of the XVII century revolts and repression alternate with almost regular timing, for a lot of different reasons, which all have the same base: The hard and abusive way of governing by the court of Spain, through its Viceroys. To Philip IV, in 1665 succeeded Charles II. Charles had emotional problems and he was physically and mentally weak. His reign was more a regency by factions of his court, and under him things did not get any better in Sicily.

Louis XIV and the Quadruple Alliance

   In the XVII century, insurgency, conspiracy e repression followed each other alternatively for many reasons, which mostly were class driven, given the abuse of the aristocracy, even if the bad government of the viceroys was part of those reasons. Messina, in 1671, formed two parties: one by the people or the democratic party, to defend themselves against the abuses of the nobles, and one was formed by the nobles or aristocratic party, to better be able to abuse the people. The abuses of the nobles got to such a point that in 1674 the people of Messina rose up in arm against the nobles of the city, looting and burning the nobles houses. The viceroy came from Palermo and, with his forces, brought calm in the city. It was a false calm. A couple of years later Messina revolted again and this time made the viceroy flee with all his forces. Messina now fearing for retaliation against its just acquired freedom , asked Louis XIV of France for help. Louis XIV, fierce enemy of the kingdom of Spain, was only too happy to comply, and sent a big army and a powerful fleet to protect Messina, with the intent to occupy all of Sicily.

   Louis XIV, after five years of resounding victories, on land and sea, against the Spanish and Dutch forces, feeling that his victories over the seas would alarm and prompt the English to intervene, suddenly ended all hostilities against Spain, abandoning Messina to deal with the wrath of the returning Spaniards. The biggest tragedy of all came to Sicily with the great earthquake of 1693. This earthquake was like none others, it shook Sicily, what sounded and seemed like, from the foundation. There was a feeling that the time had come for the coming true of the prophecy, by which Sicily will sink and the seamen crossing the Mediterranean, free of the big Island, would say:- Ic olim Trinacria fuit.-( Here once was Sicily).

   With this earthquake Sicily did not go to the bottom of the sea, but when was all done, 60,000.00 people had lost their lives. Charles II, who had ruled by regency when he was a minor, and by Spanish or Austrian faction later, at his death, in 1700,left as heir to the throne of Spain the Duke of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV of France and first of the Spanish Bourbons, who became king as Philip V. Philip V was only sixteen when he became king, and Louis XIV became his adviser. Louis started to introduce french institutions in Spain and he replaced all key post in government with french diplomats. Louis did not stop there, but he took active intervention in the government of Spain's dominions. This alarmed the European powers, and they formed a powerful league against Louis XIV and his grandson Philip. War broke out in 1704 and lasted till 1709. France was defeated badly and finally in 1713 all was put to rest with the treaty of Utrecht, which kept Philip V king of Spain, but stripped him of Sicily, which was given to the Duke Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy by will of England.

The House of Savoy / 1713-1720

   After the longest time Sicily had again its own ruler, and this time was Italian, the Sicilians were in a bliss. The euphoria of the Sicilian people was not shared by Vittorio Amedeo II, he was in Sicily by the will of England, but his heart was in northern Italy where he was the ruler of Piedmont. He stayed in Sicily less than one year and then he went back to Northern Italy where he was duke of Piedmont leaving in his place a Viceroy. Once again the Sicilians were betrayed and abandoned. In 1718 Spain tried to take back Sicily. A Spanish Armada blockaded Palermo and the Spanish forces landed, occupying Palermo. Vittorio Amedeo II complained to England which viewed the occupation as a threat to its supremacy on the seas and as an affront to the treaty of Utrecht.

Charles VI of Austria / 1720-1734

   With the occupation of Sicily by Spain, once again the Quadruple Alliance came together with England, Germany, the Netherlands and Danmark. In 1720 Spain was pushed back to its borders, Vittorio Amedeo II was given Sardinia, while Sicily went to The Emperor Charles VI of Austria. Sicilians expressed jubilantly the advent of Charles VI as king of Sicily, but the jubilation did not last too long. The greed of this new ruler proved equal if not worse then that of all the previous rulers. In 1729, Spain again sent a powerful Armada to blockade Palermo, cutting out any resource to Charles. After five years of siege, the pressure of the spanish forces proved to be too much for Charles and left Sicily. Finally with a treaty by England, France and Spain Charles VI was kept out of Sicily, giving way to the Bourbons.

The Bourbons In Sicily / 1734-1860

   In 1734 the Spanish forces were landing fast, when the viceroy with the Empress of Austria and all the entourage fled in a hurry to Syracuse, from where they sailed away to safety. The Spanish forces entered in Palermo in glory once again, making Charles III of Bourbon, son of Philip V, king of the two Sicilies. Once again the Sicilians' hopes went high with the advent of this king. Once the Spanish forces occupied key posts in Messina and Palermo, Charles III descended from Naples, which he had previously conquered, to enter and take possession of Sicily. He entered first Messina and then on May 18 1735 he entered Palermo. Charles was crowned in Palermo on July 3, 1735, and the euphoric jubilation of the Sicilians was at its peak. Since the coronation was done in Palermo, they assumed that at long last they had their own king. After the coronation Charles stayed in Palermo only five more days, and with great pain and broken hearts the Sicilians saw their king leave for Naples, returning Sicily to the vice-regency. Although far from Sicily, Charles III was one of the best rulers of Sicily in the longest time. From Naples Charles gave permission to the Sicilians to set up their own Council of Sicily and electing their own Council President.

   He also reinstated the charters and privileges of the Kingdom of Sicily that had been taken away long time ago. He treated Sicilians with respect and generosity. Charles was responsible for many changes in favor of all his subjects, be them in Italy or in Sicily. He often consulted with the Council of Sicily for feedback to bring changes for the betterment of the Sicilians' welfare. He started construction of the House for the Poor in Palermo, started the maiolica factory of Capodimonte, significantly reduced brigandage in Sicily, started the nomination of Sicilians as bishops, limited the power of the Office of the Inquisition and started shelters to assist abandoned children. In 1759 Ferdinand VI, Charles' brother and king of Spain, died and Charles had to assume the crown of the Spanish kingdom. For this reason he gave the kingdom of Naples and of Sicily to his son Ferdinand, when he was only eight.

   Once in charge of the new realm, Charles got too busy with the affairs of Spain, and he did not even look back once to his old subjects, leaving them in the hands of his Viceroy, Marquis Giovanni Fogliani of Aragon. This Viceroy did a lot of good for the Sicilians, yet because of a bad harvest and consequent famine, the people in Palermo rose up against Fogliani, not for a fault of his own, but more because he surrounded himself with people which instead of helping him in good government, were exploiting him and giving him bad advice. During this revolt, the people of Palermo rose against the viceroy and with threats and insults drove him out of Palermo. Ferdinand IV from Naples let it be known that thing better calm down in Sicily. Because of this up rise, later, three men were arrested, and, condemned to death, were killed, quartered and exposed at the Four Corners (location at the center of the city), for all to view and serve as a warning to any with revolutionary ideas.

   In 1774, at the end of his mandate, the Marquis of Aragon was renamed viceroy once again, but, in short time Ferdinands' prime minister, was able to have the king recall him and replace him with the Marquis Domenico Caracciolo. This latest Viceroy was responsible for convincing Ferdinand to shut down the Holy Office of the Inquisition, and, finally, after three centuries, the kingdom of the two Sicilies was free of the horrible monster that had been the Inquisition. Caracciolo was Sicily's Viceroy for five years. In 1786 he was recalled by Ferdinand to be his Prime Minister. To Caracciolo succeeded the Prince Francesco D'Aquino of Caramanico. Caramanico was more subtle than Caracciolo, and in little time he achieved many reforms, some in favor of the Barons, many in favor of the people. He achieved many land reforms and eliminated the taxes that Barons were collecting from the people, and gave juridical and civil rights to the people. He also promoted education in Sicily, charging Agostino De Cosmi, noted pedagogue, to establish schools allover Sicily.

   Caramanico died in 1795 under suspicious circumstances. It was suspected that he died of poisoning due the jealousy of a close adviser of Ferdinand. The resentment, discontent and grief caused by his death, was great allover Sicily. Prince of Caramanico was, maybe, the first victim, in Sicily, of the French Revolution. He had been suspected of a possible conspiracy with the Jacobins, given his past relationship with many personalities in the French government when he was Ambassador to France. After the death of Caramanico, hysterical fear permeated the realm of Ferdinand: Fear of Jacobins conspiracy was seen everywhere, and the response to such a threat was the implementation of a police state with the elimination of every freedom, resulting in an absolute government, in an almost tyranny. The line adopted by Ferdinand toward his subjects was very hard.

   He forbade travel in and out of the country, curtailed the in coming of tourists from other countries, prohibited assembling, and jailed and put to death people for mere suspicions. In 1799, under the threat of advancing French troops, Ferdinand fled to Sicily, where he established himself and where among all other abuses he enacted a reign of terror with a royal militia to guard against Jacobins. This militia, in the name of the king was using all kinds of abuse and abominations against the Sicilians. Later that year, 1799, Ferdinand regained the kingdom of Naples through the virtue of his General Cardinal Ruffo, who routed out the French and took possession of the realm. The return of the kingdom of Naples to Ferdinand saw the worst repression in its history. All those that had favored the French and even those suspected of having favored the French, even without proof, commons and nobles alike, were tortured, summarily tried and executed. It was worse than the French Revolution itself, only this was carried out by a king and not by a mob. While the massacre was being perpetrated in Naples, the king and the queen were enjoying themselves in Palermo as if what was happening in Naples was unknown to them.

   In 1802, after things had calmed down a bit, Ferdinand returned to Naples. In 1805, under threat of yet another invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte, now king of Italy, Ferdinand tried to bluff Napoleon with gifts, soon after Napoleon saw the double dealings of the monarch and in 1806, Napoleon's Brother, Joseph, marched on Naples. Ferdinand had to flee once again and retreat to Sicily, while Napoleon installed his brother Joseph as king of Naples, and, later, replacing his brother with His brother-in-law Joachim Murat. Ferdinand, in Sicily, threatened By Napoleon forces, negotiated a strong treaty with the English, which were concerned for their naval hegemony in the Mediterranean. In 1808 Ferdinand and England came to an agreement, for the defense of the Island where the English were granted acceptance by the kingdom of control over court affairs and all military forces in Sicily. The English pushed for a new and more liberal constitution as they presided over court and military affairs for Sicily, while Ferdinand dedicated himself to hunting from morning to dusk.

   The new constitution, drafted by the abbot Paolo Balsamo, in 15 articles, was adopted by the Sicilian Parliament in July 1812, and it abolished the Sicilian feudal system. This document also abolished torture and gave, for the first time, to the people, the right not to be tried a second time for the same crime, after a not guilty verdict, and the right to appeal a sentence, with the institution of the Supreme Court of Appeals, and the right to express any political view and freedom of speech. The nobles protested and opposed strenuously these reforms as did the king, but the more liberal aristocrats sided with the English and they had the best. Because of an attempt by the king to reacquire the past power, the English forced him to relinquish his royal powers to his son Francesco, and had the queen, who was at the core of all dissent, live the Island for good. The queen reached Vienna, in 1814, where she died the same year. Ferdinand remarried within two months with the princess of Partanna (Palermo). Because of the new constitution and the heavy hand that the British were playing against the conservative aristocracy, the latter were always causing new crisis with the government and the populace, driving the split within the nobles deeper and deeper.

   It was at this point that the conservative side of the aristocracy advocated a return of Ferdinand to power. Ferdinand on that occasion, returned to Palermo from his retreat, and with the promise that he will never attempt to regain his past power without English approval, obtained permission to stay at the royal palace. Soon after, successfully contriving with his supporter, he reclaimed the throne with all the powers, and the British decided not to obstruct him. The year after, 1815, Ferdinand dissolved the Sicilian Parliament and returned to Naples, reclaiming his realm there. In 1816 he abolished the Sicilian Constitution and renamed himself Ferdinand I king of the two Sicilies. At this point he forgot all about those Sicilians that had sided with him, had defended him and had done everything possible to make his life enjoyable, and entrusted the welfare of the Sicilians to Neapolitan officials, who made Sicily completely dependent on Naples: abolishing the Sicilian legal System and instituting once again a police state, returning the land to a reign of terror. In 1820 feelings of discontent and liberalism were sweeping across Europe. Insurrections were springing from everywhere, and Ferdinand VII of Spain was the first to be forced to reenact the Spanish Constitution of 1812.

   After an insurrection in Naples, Ferdinand I was forced too to reenact the constitution of 1812. That was not enough. The wind of rebellion was now sweeping across Italy, especially in the kingdom of the two Sicilies, from Naples all the way down to Messina. This movement had not reached Palermo yet, because Palermo was happy for the reinstatement of the constitution, but when the Palermitans found out that Ferdinand had reinstated the Spanish constitution instead of the Sicilian, the Palermitans took matters in their own hands and made the Viceroy flee in a hurry. There was blood shed, but Palermitans succeeded in occupying military posts and take possession of great number of arms and tons of ammunition. Naples tried to restore law and order with non violent means, but when all failed the king sent regular forces to occupy the city. This did not snuff the spirit of revolution in the Sicilians, especially among the nobles who were tired to see the Island completely as a subject of Naples. The situation remained very much fluid. For this reason, Ferdinand, in February of 1821, again abolished the constitution in Sicily a to make sure that his wishes will not be opposed, he struck a deal with Austria, by which an army of 50,000 Austrians came down and occupied Palermo.

   The Austrian troops operated abusively and repressively pushing the people to the brink of revolution time and time again. Every time there was an insurrection, the revolutionary, with no arms and no support, were squashed down by the kings forces, while the royal police will track down the responsible, give them a mock trial and execute them summarily. Francis I succeeded Ferdinand I in 1825 , and as soon as he became king he forgot the liberal ways he had adopted in Sicily toward the Sicilians, and adopted his father's repressive conduct. To him in 1830, succeeded his son Ferdinand II, who pursued his father's policies. Under this ruler many were the Sicilian patriots who lost their lives for the love of freedom. Because of this and the continued repression, the wind of liberty was now in the blood of the Sicilian people, each rebellion coming with more organization and more resolve. In 1849 Ferdinand II dissolved the Sicilian Parliament once more, and later that year, to further punish the rebels, he ordered the bombardment of many Sicilian cities. Because of this atrocity he was given the nickname of King Bomba.

   In the mean time, Giuseppe Mazzini, a revolutionary leader from northern Italy, in exile, was inciting, with letters and pamphlet, the Sicilians to revolt and to unite Sicily with all the other Italian states in the republic of Italy, only that the Sicilians were toying with the idea of a Sicily united with Italy under an Italian ruler. That's why in secret meetings of the revolutionaries a toast was preceded by the cry: Long Live Verdi, the Italian opera composer, only that the five letters in the word VERDI, represented the initials of Vittorio Emanuele Re D'Italia (Victor Emmanuel king of Italy). Francis II succeeded Ferdinand II in 1859. He continued the autocratic repressive regime of the last three predecessors, and an uprising in late 1859 was met with the usual repression that had met the others. Nothing at this point could dampen the spirit and the thirst for freedom of the Sicilians. Hunted down, tortured and put to death by the bourbon police Commissioner Salvatore Maniscalco, they kept reorganizing and springing forth from every corner of the Island. In Carini insurgents took against the bourbon troops and although 250 of them perished in that battle, they killed 320 soldiers.

   It is about time, Giuseppe Garibaldi is waiting from Genoa the call of the Sicilians. On the 4th of April 1860 an insurrection flared in Palermo. The Bourbons repressed this latest outburst in the city quickly, but within a day or two all the military outpost outside Palermo were assaulted and captured by the people. The news of the insurrection moved at great speed throughout Sicily, and while the royal army had easy success in the city, it proved to be another matter in the country side, were the enemy was almost invisible: The guerrilla type units will attack and before you know it they were gone.

The Unification of Italy / Garibaldi Freedom Fighter / 1860-1861

   It is now that the call comes to the Hero of the Two Worlds in the voice of Rosolino Pilo, Nino Bixio and noted other patriots. Garibaldi, with the tacit consent of Vittorio Emmanuel and his Prime Minister Camillo Benso di Cavour, left Quarto with the legendary 1000 Red Shirts on May 6, 1860, and on May 11 eluding the Bourbons' fleet landed at Marsala. The Sicilians there, fearing to be an occupation army, at first were terrorized by the new arrival. It took Garibaldi some doing to persuade those people that he was on their side and had come as a liberator. He needed help, he needed food for his soldiers, he needed information. With the help of prominent Sicilians and with his charisma, little by little he convinced the people, and he got what he wanted. The men left the farms, the work and the families and, armed in anyway possible, followed him.

   He promised land reforms, abolition of certain taxes, especially heavy for the working people, and, the millenary dream of the Sicilians, autonomy. Garibaldi was sincere in his promises, because he was thinking for himself to become the dictator of Sicily. Thousands of Sicilians joined him on his trek of liberation. In the great battle of Calatafimi he defeated the bourbon army. With his whirl winding success he captured the most skeptic Sicilian hearts, and a popular uprising helped him to capture easily Palermo. At this juncture Garibaldi emitted some dictatorial decrees as new laws and giving titles to distinguished Sicilians. Of these, a hero of the uprising, from Carini, in the province of Palermo, by the name of Antonino Curreri was made Captain by Garibaldi's dictatorial decree.

   The bourbons were being pushed out inexorably, and in August of the same year, Garibaldi crossed the Strait of Messina reaching Naples with lightning speed on September 7. On October 3 he fought the biggest battle of his life at the Volturno River, where he definitively defeated Francesco II army, forcing him to abdicate the throne. Garibaldi was a great strategist, but his experience in government administration and in politics was very lacking, and when he tried to actuate his reforms, he had great opposition from the large landowners and from the Sicilian aristocracy that was looking at him as a trouble maker when it came down to these matters. Other things that contributed to the opposition, even by the common people, was the fact that he started to introduce the laws and institutions of the reign of Piedmont. He introduced the lira, the decimal system of weight and measures, the Italian royal flag and a new language. Instead of reintroducing the Sicilian Parliament, he introduced the different ways of the Piedmontese parliament. Malcontent was everywhere and had started to be felt by Garibaldi.

   For this reason, Garibaldi in October 1860 ordered a referendum over the annexation to Italy, by which 95.5 per cent of the people voted in favor. The problem was that this results had been obtained with lies, misinformation, non information at all and even threats. Most of the Sicilians were told that they were voting for Garibaldi or against Garibaldi, and the majority of Sicilians loved Garibaldi. They were unaware that Garibaldi had capitulated to Camillo Benso di Cavour, prime Minister of king Victor Emanuel of Piedmont. On November 1860, Garibaldi handed Sicily over to Victor Emmanuel. Angered at being ignored by the new king in the reorganization of the new Government, he retired to his home in the island of Caprera.

Sicily in the kingdom / 1861-1923

   As soon Cavour was openly in charge, he made clear that autonomy for Sicily was out of the question. Once more the dream of the Sicilians had been crushed by a man seemingly friendly, from a country that had been looked upon to be the true protector. He imposed on Sicily the northern laws and institutions with their whole impact, without stopping to notice who Sicily, its people, its institutions, its history and culture were. He affirmed that southern Italy (it includes Sicily) was corrupted and needed the government of Piedmont to straiten it up. Cavour was misguided, to say the least, by his self confidence in government affairs and by the wrong information that he was fed by interested parties. The result was that the autonomist sentiment strengthened more than ever. People resented the imposition of foreign laws, the delays in the distribution of land, the conscription (in Sicily there had never been conscription, and this brought disruption and more poverty to the families, and they were the most, that lived by the land, if the man would be taken away for military service) and the new taxes.

   The ignorance of the Sicilian traditions and history by the Northerners showed to be too oppressive and incomprehensible for the Sicilian people. Gangs of criminals fighting each other for territory control and power became numerous. Soon the functionaries sent down by Cavour became corrupted by easy gains over a people for the majority illiterate, and the antagonism between the North and the South widened to the point that it still exist in the modern days. There were four police departments now in Sicily, versus the one under the Bourbons, often fighting each other over questions of jurisdiction, while operating in one accord with the criminal gangs, from which they where getting kickbacks for protection. It is at this juncture that the word mafia, was associated with criminal activity by the government of the North, and maybe rightly so at their own eyes due to their oppression. Delinquency, as in any other country, existed in Sicily for the longest time, the one with the characteristics of the mafia started during the Bourbons and established itself more after the annexation of Sicily to Italy. Mafia for the Sicilian people meant independence and protection against the oppression of the government and the aristocracy.

   Because of incomprehension and fear on the mind of the new administration, the word mafia was associated with all that was illegal, outlawed and individualistic, giving them reason to initiate periods of brutal repression which drove the mafia underground making it a truly outlawed and powerful organization. Because of this persecution and the corruption in the government official, who were in tune with the local aristocracy and large land owners, the underground movement started the business of protection, obtaining profitable concessions from the large land owners, like the rental of land by which the owner was given the profits while he would pay the renter handsomely plus other benefits. In so doing the mafia disappeared in the official language of the government, but it became the protector of the upper class and the government functionaries, who would dispense favors for getting favors. The administration understood that the mafia friendship was most valuable during election and in many other matters, and bestowed its favors on it and its silence on its business. Corruption became rampant. The public system went in shamble, while public education, obligatory by law, was impeded by the government by not building schools, keeping the people illiterate for easier handling of the masses.

   The Northern administration never understood Sicily and used to say that the Sicilian problem would better be dealt by the police and the military. In 1863, the Italian parliament gave full power to General Govone, who instituted military tribunal and summarily executed on the spot anybody suspected of not being aligned with the government. Because of the Omerta' (law of silence), executions and torture were at the order of the day, and after a while General Govone was happy to report to the parliament the order had been restored in Sicily and that no other means would have worked in a land which had not yet completed the cycle which brought a people from barbarism to civilization. These repressions and others, economic and political, the new system of taxation, which was taxing people beyond their means, brought to exasperation and desperation where clandestine organizations, in 1866, drove the people of Palermo to an insurrection which was brought to an end by the steady bombing of Palermo by the Italian navy. The Italian government concluded that Sicily could not be governed by conventional means and for the next ten years kept the Italian army stationed there.

   This brought more anti-government sentiment because the people for this and for the abuse of the army, felt like they were under a foreign occupation. People could not turn to the authority for protection and justice. They had to turn to friends and in virtue of a favor received they had to condescend to unspoken future obedience. The mafia, as a protector, gains again more strength. Because of this the bad apples would sell to the government, and the local administration would give these people employment in order to obtain information about what is going on in the secret organizations. This brought to great corruption, local and administrative, which kept people in fear.

   This will be better understood by an example: The chief of police in Palermo, was hiring criminals in his police force to help him track down people with seemingly open antigovernment feelings. This people in turn will commit crimes, some in grand scale, without being fired or at least punished. When the new Procurator general of the Justice Department, in 1871, found out, ordered the arrest of the chief of police, but the government stepped in and put aside the warrant of arrest, transferring the Procurator General to another location and to a lower job. The indifference, the unwillingness and, for this, the inability of the government to help Sicily, kept Sicily in a state of stasis, where the island did not make any progress economic, social and political. The corruption kept the money flowing in any direction but toward where was most needed, like construction of schools, hospitals, bridges, roads and any social program necessary for the Sicilians to get out of the rut in which they had been plunged after centuries of arrogation. At the beginning of the XX century, many towns in Sicily could not be reached not even on horse back and many Sicilians had never seen a two wheel means of transportation. Because the economic condition were becoming worse instead of better, with time, movements of insurrection started to breed underground.

   In 1871 a distinguished Sicilian, Francesco Crispi, was nominated Prime Minister of Italy; this was because the liberals had great influence in Sicily and from there they were getting the strength needed, there is a third of the elected members of parliament, to have a majority at the government. To make Italy militarily strong, Crispi raised taxes higher than they already were. Not only that, but he left the same corrupted functionaries in power, who more and more pushed the burden of taxation over the peasants and the workers for hire pushing the economic condition in a dipper slump than it already was. Things became so bad under Crispi that later was said that he lost sight of the reality of Sicilian life. Another nail on the coffin, if not the last one, was driven by the invasion of the American wheat and lemons, which drove the price of the Sicilian product at an all time low. By 1891 the cost of living, in the last twenty years, in Sicily had doubled, while the cost of labor had remained the same. Discontent was widespread among the people, and those signs of insurrection were getting more visible.

   It was at this time that a movement, which later was taken up by Mussolini as his own, was born with the name of <<Fasci>>. It was and embryonic movement to organize people, and to search for better pay, better life condition and land ownership, almost like a unionist movement of our days. The people of this movement started to organize labor strikes, demonstrations against large land owners and big for profit organizations, and because of the political climate , instances of violence were common. Some of these movements were led by socialist and in these cases violence was greater, and while the local authorities used now larger repression, it only resulted in more attacks, even toward government offices. By this time Francesco Crispi, who had lost his job to Giovanni Giolitti, regained the nomination of Prime Minister, and to suppress the insurrection that was growing larger, sent down to Sicily the Italian fleet with 30,000.00 troops. A senator at this instance said that Sicily was like an oriental country which could only be governed by force.

   To justify all the repression and those statements, since Italy annexed Sicily, it had always been affirmed at the government and in the upper Italian circles, that Sicily did not have an economic problem. And now the large land owners petitioned the government to abolish obligatory education, which was at the root of all the unrest. When Crispi finally understood the mistakes he had made toward Sicily and wanted to make some kind of reparation, he was opposed by those member of parliament coming from Sicily, who had been elected through the influence of the large land owners and were bound to them. Under Crispi's auspices, a special commissioner was sent to Sicily to make tax, and land reforms among other things, and take Sicily finally on the road of autonomy. He was vigorously opposed, ostracized and frustrated by the local politicians, who, together with the bureaucracy, because they wanted the staus quo, made sure that all his experiments failed. All this was possible mainly because of the corruption in Rome. After Crispi again G. Giolitti was nominated Prime Minister, and he was another who thought of Sicily in terms of member of parliament that he wanted on his side.

   He made sure that his liberals will be elected through favors, intimidation and even murder. He could only use this methods only in Sicily and lower Italy, therefore the elected people that went to Rome were the most corrupted ones, who would defend and favor the interest of their protectors: the powerful and the rich. By the end of the first decade of the XX century, a better prosperity had been achieved by the government for Italy, but of the money allocated for the development of Sicily, between 1860 and 1920 only 2,5 per cent had been spent for that reason, and most of the opposition against development came from the large land owners and the aristocracy, toward whom the government did nothing to stop them.

The Cooperatives

   As was mentioned above, by the end of the XIX century, the <<Fasci>> were born from the unhappiness of the people against obstructionism and corruption of the government and for the right of the people to work and with better pay and benefits. This organization gave the people the knowledge of their strength through unity. Another good thing that this organization gave to the peasants was the Farmer's Cooperative, which brought to them more knowledge on the means of cultivation through the introduction of the chemical fertilizers, organization in exportation, marketing at national level, and a credit union form of loaning with low interest rates, while showing to the government that it was possible for the peasants to own land with good productive results. At this time through pressure from the government, the Bank of Sicily started making agricultural loans to the small land owners, only to be discovered later by an investigator that this bank was charging a rate of interest reaching in many cases 400 per cent, while the Cooperative was only charging 7%.

   The imbalance that the government was favoring against Sicily, started an exodus from Sicily, which having started in small number before the end of the XIX century, for desperation, due to lack of work, in the years before WW I, more than a million and one half of young people had left the Island. This was very hard on the Sicilian family, which had never seen their loved ones leave voluntarily which was against the Sicilian family traditions. The suffering that the Sicilian family went through, due to absence of loved ones and lack of help, hit the very fabric of their values and was indescribable. Because of this mass exodus, Sicily, in the beginning of the second decade of 1900, was receiving from its emigrant an influx of over $25 million a year, a windfall never seen in Sicily. Agriculture took off and many of the emigrant returned to buy land for a better future for themselves and their families, with a better position in society and less deference toward the upper class. It his now that the middle class first appears in Sicily.

   This new found way of life was once again disrupted first by Giolitti imperialism, when he moved to the conquest of Libia, where he poured great part of the Italian wealth, pushing up prices and inflation, and then by the start of WW I. The first took the scarce resources out of Sicily to colonize Libia, which turned out to be a mirage, and the second took the working youth away, plus it cut off the way out for the Sicilian market, which was very much dependent on exportation.

Fascism / 1922-1943

   To the youth that had gone to war to defend the mother land was promised work, land and a better living standard. When back from the war the same young men found home a vaster emptiness: Sicily was poorer then before and they had been betrayed by the government which had not enacted any reform in their favor. Consequently the exodus to other countries grew bigger even if many countries started to put quotas and restrictions on emigration. At this time the fighting for a new politic was growing fast among the fascists and socialist of northern Italy. In 1922, Mussolini, after having joined the fascists, with which he had been at war for the longest time, climbed to power and he slightly tried to bring some changes in Sicily, and he did this to suit his political needs, but could not fight the large land owners and the owners of the industries. So, while in Africa, Mussolini, was building schools and beautiful roads, many towns in Sicily, in 1930, could be reached only through dry river beds.

   For this, and other reasons, Sicily was the least and the less fascist of all the Italian regions. Again, as Giolitti, Mussolini wanted to make Italy militarily strong. For this Mussolini helped much to bring industrialization to northern Italy, opening many new factories, making available there many and good paying jobs, while Sicily was left to produce low cost food stuff and prime material, and corruption at local and national level remained unchanged. This is the way he approached the ever looming "Southern Question". He said:-The old governments have invented the Southern Question (pertaining the solution of social, economic and political problems in southern Italy and, mostly, in Sicily), making a point of never solving it. There is no southern question nor northern question, there is a national question.- The South, the underdevelopment were shelved in the mind of Mussolini.

   Mussolini in Sicily had enjoyed from the support of the mafia, which had assumed a position of protectionism toward Mussolini and his politics. Once he consolidated his hold over the party and his power over the government, he did not want to be identified with mafia. It was bad for the party and himself. So he made the decision to clean up Sicily from the mafia. In 1925 Mussolini, under advice, chose Cesare Mori, a man that he despised because at one time was opposed to him and worked against him. But he was a ruthless police official who had distinguished himself on the job with his iron fist. A vigorous campaign was launched against the mafia by the government, with the excuse of eliminating lawlessness in Sicily, but the real reason was that of consolidating fascism in Sicily, where most of the people did not even know what fascism was.

   Cesare Mori assaulted Sicily with 800 men, unlimited power and with a wealth of information about the mafia. The campaign against the mafia was fought with the information given by the large land owners who wanted to regain their power from the land renters over the peasantry and those who had received land from the state in land reforms demonstrations. As a consequence, the upper class amassed enormous reaches while the people suffered more because the regime ignored the working class, but only in Sicily! The brutal fight of the regime against the mafia did not reach its goal and was a complete failure. Mori tried hard to rut out the mafia, by using all means available to him. He confiscated the property of those accused to be in the mafia and was so exited at the idea of being his own dictator that he lost every sense of limitation. With all this, even giving the mafia a great hit, his incursion was more a police action with no social consequences. The extra power that was given to the local fascists administrations exacerbated the people, to the point of siding with the so called mafia.

   He was able to touch only the small and weakest groups and when he stepped on bigger toes, close to the party and Mussolini, Mori was recalled and removed from the job. For these reasons and with the lowering of food-stuff production, due to government interference, the regime lost interest in Sicily, where Mussolini spent 1.59 per cent of the total monies appropriated for Sicily, which was less than the previous government had spent in Sicily up to 1922. With the Great Depression of 1930, conditions almost of famine could be observed in various parts of Sicily.

Sicily in WW II

   More time went by and more Mussolini got disillusioned with the Sicilian large land owners and their lack of cooperation with the regime. In 1940 finally he passed a law for the division of land, and he sent a committee to Sicily to implement that law, but, as a curse, WW II broke out and that law never became implemented. WW II, although wanted by Hitler, for Italy was actually caused by Mussolini's imperialistic ideas and his pride, not to be outdone by Hitler, whom Mussolini despised and judged unworthy of himself. The difference was that Hitler was well armed and his army was trained and prepared and had high morale, while Italy was not armed, beside the Navy, and the army was not ready to die for an unknown cause. This war dipped Sicily in more poverty and, above all, in an incredible scarcity of food: Wheat and all food stuff was requisitioned by the regime to be distributed in rations. This brought to more abuse by the brokers, more corruption among the officials of the local administrations, trusted by the government, and more black market in the essential food stuff, bringing the price at time to unreachable heights for most people.

   Coupling this with everything else, the Sicilian people were not at all happy with Mussolini's nationalistic ideas and were showing it in their way by not obeying Mussolini's regime and its directives. This exasperated Mussolini to the point that toward the end of spring 1943, he put out and order to transfer all the Sicilian officials to the main land, to avoid that they would side with the Allied Forces, if they would land in Sicily. As other fascist laws, this one was also ignored. The suffering of the Sicilian people during this last war was simply horrendous, and all because of a misguided, selfish and megalomaniac man. Let it be told once and for all: Mussolini was a selfish opportunistic man since day one.

   Once again, because of the strategic geographical position, Sicily, which had immensely suffered because of the Mediterranean fronts, became theater of yet another foreign invasion. While Mussolini was telling the world and, above all, the Germans, that the Allied forces would not be able to land in Sicily, because of the strong forces displayed on the coasts of Sicily, his generals were complaining that their artillery had to be pulled by mules to move them from one place to another. So happened that in July 1943 the Allied Forces, calling Mussolini's bluff, landed at Gela, without shooting a round. Same thing happened , soon after, on the opposite coast of Sicily, where at Augusta the Allied landed without an incident.

   Only when the Allied started to push Northward, they met strong German opposition on the plains of Catania, where very soon raged the most violent and bloody battle of that war. In a few days of battle around 10,000 men, Americans, Germans and Italians fell under intensive fire. After such a big sacrifice the allied made the mistake of letting the Germans slip away with their equipment through the Strait of Messina. Once again, in the annals of history, a foreigner dominated the Island. The war was a disaster for the island, the damages were enormous, Palermo and Messina were almost deleted. With the fall of the Fascism and the end of the hostility, new hopes of freedom and autonomy were reborn within the Sicilians. Much stronger and more powerful came back the idea of separatism, and there were even rumors of an annexation to the U.S.

   The mafia, as a ghost of the past, reappeared on the Sicilian forefront. Very strong rumors circulated that the Allies used the mafia to facilitate the take over of Sicily. As a matter of fact Calogero Vizzini and Genco Russo, at one time arrested by Cesare Mori in the campaign against the mafia of 1925, with the help of the Allies became very prominent in the local administrations, while Luky Luciano, forgiven his thirty years for murder, facilitated the landing of the Allies and Vito Genovese, wanted for murder in United States, appeared as a linking officer for one of the American military units. In all fairness, it is to be said that the sudden fall of Fascism left a void in the local power and Vizzini and Russo were ready to fill it. They had been victims of the fascist persecutions as gangsters, for which they became strong anti-fascist later, and this gave the Allies a reason to close an eye and trust them instead of the politicians which all had been more or less fascist, except for the communist which were not welcome by the Allies.

The Autonomy of Sicily / 1946

   In 1944 the Allies, smashing the new hope of the Sicilians for an autonomy, gave Sicily to the Italian administration, and this almost caused a civil war against Italy. An army of undesirable, gangsters, peasants, poor people, and even intellectuals leaning for separatism was formed, and in 1946, Italy, to avoid the civil war gave Sicily autonomy with the string attached to the central government of Rome. Along with that concession Italy promised to pay Sicily a special compensation annually as a recompense for the unjust treatment that Sicily had received since 1861. This was mostly done to appease the left, but since the left did not find a way to stay united, the right won the major elections and the status quo was again reestablished, with the contribution by most Sicilian politicians and the higher stratum of the Sicilian society. One of the worst thing that happened in Sicily was the elimination of the Sicilian Highest Court, its power was transferred to the Constitutional Court of Rome and the president of the Sicilian Region lost his power over the police.

   In the meantime the special compensation that Italy had to pay Sicily, as promised with an article of law, was paid with always increasingly delays. Under this kind of influence from the central government, which once again, will go to any extent to win elections and keep the majority, the Sicilian officials grew more and more corrupt perpetuating clientelism and nepotism. The agrarian reform was minimal and from 1950 the peasants started to leave the fields for a better work in the industries. For lack of interest from the central government the Sicilian product suffered more for lack of funds and due too to high cost of transportation, in favor of the product of the other Mediterranean countries. The entering of Italy in the Common market in 1958 gave the Sicilian agriculture the last rites, always for the disinterest of the government.

   In 1953, thanks to some laws which favored intervention in Sicily to foreign companies, oil was discovered in Ragusa, and soon after, the Italian Co. ENI discovered oil in Gela, along with great deposits of natural gas and potassium. These industries developed with the subsidies of the central government, but the profits were transferred to the North to finance those companies interests. Between the late 40's and late 70's many government agencies were instituted for the development of the little industry in Sicily, these were all strongly opposed by the big companies, especially of the North, causing these agencies, managing great sums of money, to become corrupt and using the money to create jobs for clients and to help the big companies. This political corruption of the agencies grew to the point of creating non existing clerical jobs by the thousands. When a stop was finally put to it, the politicians created a loophole, creating temporary jobs, which, after a time, was easy to be integrated in the regular work force. Altruism was and still is inexistent, while individualism is predominant, causing the deterioration of the economy and control by non-Sicilian.

   In this political climate of corruption mafia and protectionism took off once again, this time only at higher speed. Not only was easy to make a lot of money with contractual jobs and in many other fields, but the new thing of the century sprung up in all its power: drug, with the easiness with which it could be imported and the will of the young people to use it. Soon the mafia understood the enormous profits it could make with drugs and all the other illegal businesses, and it made of Italy and Sicily a battle field where at time blood ran in rivers. As the corruption came from the top, the police departments and the judiciary had their hands tied and could not do much to stop the onslaught over our land. Then little by little either for fear or for profit many members of the police went corrupt themselves together with public officials, adding to the chaos of our land. But, as the Sicilian saying goes: the fish starts to rotten at the head. When finally some people were given the job to clean up Sicily, they were brutally murdered, at time with their own families and body guards, with the silent acquiescence of the politicians who had a lot to hide. Such people, amongst the most notable, were the General of the Carabinieri, Carlo Alberto Della Chiesa, who, while waiting in his car at cross road of Palermo for the traffic light to change, was murdered together with his wife and his body guards, in September 1982, the judges Giovanni Falcone, in May 1992 and Paolo Borsellino in July 1992.

   Nobody was supposed to know their itinerary, when they went out, but they died just the same ambushed by gun fire of by bombs placed under little bridges where they were going to pass over with their cars. Many and lengthy investigations were done, thousands of people were arrested and even if a lot of higher level people were involved, only those most vulnerable were punished. All this caused much indignation among the Sicilian people, but, again, as usual, they were unable to lift a finger because the cause was from higher up in the government, and they, furious for a while fell back in the now centuries old apathy and suspicion acquired in many centuries of bad government and mistreatment, and once again the good name of Sicily was being dragged in the mud.