Kingdom of Sicily

Last updated
Kingdom of Sicily

Regnum Siciliae(in Latin)
Regnu di Sicilia(in Sicilian)
Regno di Sicilia(in Italian)
Kingdom of Sicily naval flag.svg
Flag (from 14th century)
Arms of the Aragonese Kings of Sicily (Shape Variant).svg
Coat of arms (from 14th century)
Motto: Animus Tuus Dominus "ANTUDO"
Kingdom of Sicily 1190.svg
The Kingdom of Sicily in 1190.
Status Personal unions with:
Holy Roman Empire
(also with the Kingdom of Jerusalem: 1225–1228)
Crown of Aragon
Kingdom of Spain
Duchy of Savoy
Habsburg Monarchy
Kingdom of Naples
Capital Palermo
Government Feudal monarchy
Roger II
Charles I of Anjou
Ferdinand III
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Coat of Arms of Roger I of Sicily.svg County of Sicily
Coat of Arms of Robert Guiscard.svg County of Apulia and Calabria
Blank.png Duchy of Amalfi
Zirids around 1000CE.png Zirid dynasty
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies Flag of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1816).svg

The Kingdom of Sicily (Latin : Regnum Siciliae, Italian : Regno di Sicilia, Sicilian : Regnu di Sicilia, [1] [2] [3] [4] Catalan : Regne de Sicília, Spanish : Reino de Sicilia) was a state that existed in the south of the Italian peninsula and for a time the region of Ifriqiya from its founding by Roger II of Sicily in 1130 until 1816. It was a successor state of the County of Sicily, which had been founded in 1071 during the Norman conquest of the southern peninsula. The island was divided into three regions: Val di Mazara, Val Demone and Val di Noto; val being the apocopic form of the word vallo, derived from the Arabic word wilāya (meaning 'district').


In 1282, a revolt against Angevin rule, known as the Sicilian Vespers, threw off Charles of Anjou's rule of the island of Sicily. The Angevins managed to maintain control in the mainland part of the kingdom, which became a separate entity also styled Kingdom of Sicily, although it is commonly referred to as the Kingdom of Naples, after its capital. The island became a separate kingdom under the Crown of Aragon.

After 1302 the island kingdom was sometimes called the Kingdom of Trinacria. [5] Often the kingship was vested in another monarch such as the King of Aragon, the King of Spain, or the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1816 the island Kingdom of Sicily merged with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In 1861 the Two Sicilies were amalgamated with Sardinia and several northern city-states and duchies to form the Kingdom of Italy.


Norman conquest

By the 11th century mainland southern Lombard and Byzantine powers were hiring Norman mercenaries, who were descendants of French and Vikings; it was the Normans under Roger I who conquered Sicily, taking it away from the Arab Muslims. After taking Apulia and Calabria, Roger occupied Messina with an army of 700 knights. In 1068, Roger I of Sicily and his men defeated the Muslims at Misilmeri but the most crucial battle was the siege of Palermo, which led to Sicily being completely under Norman control by 1091. [6]

Norman kingdom

Roger II Sicily.jpg
Roger II, the first king of Sicily.
Weltliche Schatzkammer Wienc.jpg
The royal mantle.
Scribes 01 Kingdom of Sicily Petrus de Ebulo.PNG
Scribes of and for the various populations of the Kingdom of Sicily: Greeks, Saracens, Latins.

The Norman Kingdom was created on Christmas Day, 1130, by Roger II of Sicily, with the agreement of Pope Innocent II. Roger II united the lands he had inherited from his father count Roger I of Sicily. [7] These areas included the Maltese Archipelago, which was conquered from the Arabs of the Emirates of Sicily; the Duchy of Apulia and the County of Sicily, which had belonged to his cousin William II, Duke of Apulia, until William's death in 1127; and the other Norman vassals. Roger declared his support for the Antipope Anacletus II, who enthroned him as King of Sicily on Christmas Day 1130. [8]

In 1136, the rival of Anacletus, Pope Innocent II, convinced Lothair III, Holy Roman Emperor to attack the Kingdom of Sicily with help from the Byzantine Emperor John II Comnenus. Two main armies, one led by Lothair, the other by Duke of Bavaria Henry the Proud, invaded Sicily. On the river Tronto, William of Loritello surrendered to Lothair and opened the gates of Termoli to him. [9] This was followed by Count Hugh II of Molise. The two armies were united at Bari, from where in 1137 they continued their campaign. Roger offered to give Apulia as a fief to the Empire, which Lothair refused after being pressured by Innocent. At the same period the army of Lothair revolted. [8] [10]

Then Lothair, who had hoped for the complete conquest of Sicily, gave Capua and Apulia from the Kingdom of Sicily to Roger's enemies. Innocent protested, claiming that Apulia fell under papal claims. Lothair turned north, but died while crossing the Alps on 4 December 1137. At the Second Council of the Lateran in April 1139, Innocent excommunicated Roger for maintaining a schismatic attitude. On 22 March 1139, at Galluccio, Roger's son Roger III, Duke of Apulia, ambushed the papal troops with a thousand knights and captured the pope. [10] On 25 March 1139 Innocent was forced to acknowledge the kingship and possessions of Roger with the Treaty of Mignano. [8] [10]

Roger spent most of the decade, beginning with his coronation and ending with the Assizes of Ariano, enacting a series of laws with which Roger intended to centralise the government. He also fended off several invasions and quelled rebellions by his premier vassals: Grimoald of Bari, Robert II of Capua, Ranulf of Alife, Sergius VII of Naples and others.

It was through his admiral George of Antioch that Roger then conquered the littoral of Ifriqiya from the Zirids, taking the unofficial title "King of Africa" and marking the foundation of the Norman Kingdom of Africa. At the same time Roger's fleet also attacked the Byzantine Empire, making Sicily a leading maritime power in the Mediterranean Sea for almost a century. [8]

Roger's son and successor was William I of Sicily, known as "William the Bad", though his nickname derived primarily from his lack of popularity with the chroniclers, who supported the baronial revolts which William suppressed. In the mid-1150s, William lost the majority of his African possessions to a series of revolts by local North African lords. Then, in 1160, the final Norman African stronghold of Mahdia was taken by Almohads. His reign ended in peace (1166). His elder son Roger had been killed in previous revolts, and his son, William II, was a minor. Until the end of the boy's regency in 1172, turmoil in the kingdom almost brought the ruling family down. The reign of William II is remembered as two decades of almost continual peace and prosperity. For this more than anything, he is nicknamed "the Good". However he had no issue, which event marked a succession crisis: his aunt Constance, the sole heir to the throne as the daughter of Roger II, was long confined in a monastery as a nun with her marriage beyond consideration due to a prediction that "her marriage would destroy Sicily" until 1184 when she was betrothed to Henry eldest son of Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor and the future Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor. William named Constance and Henry the heirs to the throne and had the noblemen swear oath, but the noblemen did not want to be ruled by a German, so the death of William in 1189 led the kingdom to decline. [9]

With support of the noblemen Tancred of Lecce seized the throne. He had to contend with the revolt of his distant cousin Roger of Andria, a former contender who supported Henry and Constance but was tricked to execution in 1190, and the invasion of King Henry of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor since 1191 on behalf of his wife in the same year. Henry had to retreat after his attack failed, with Empress Constance captured and only released under the pressure of the Pope. Tancred died in 1194, and Constance and Henry prevailed and the kingdom fell in 1194 to the House of Hohenstaufen. William III of Sicily, the young son of Tancred, was deposed, and Henry and Constance were crowned as king and queen. Through Constance, the Hauteville blood was passed to Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. [9]

Hohenstaufen kingdom

Imperial troops storming Salerno in 1194
Jindrich6 triumf.jpg
Triumph march of Henry VI into Palermo
Woodcut illustration of Constance of Sicily, her husband HRE Henry VI and her son HRE Frederick II - Penn Provenance Project.jpg
Woodcut illustration of Constance of Sicily, her husband Emperor Henry VI and her son Frederick II

The accession of Frederick in 1197, a child who would then become also the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1220, greatly affected the immediate future of Sicily. For a land so used to centralised royal authority, the king's young age caused a serious power vacuum. His uncle Philip of Swabia moved to secure Frederick's inheritance by appointing Markward von Anweiler, margrave of Ancona, regent in 1198. Meanwhile, Pope Innocent III had reasserted papal authority in Sicily, but recognised Frederick's rights. The pope was to see papal power decrease steadily over the next decade and was unsure about which side to back at many junctures. [11]

The Hohenstaufen's grip on power, however, was not secure. Walter III of Brienne had married the daughter of Tancred of Sicily. She was sister and heiress of the deposed King William III of Sicily. In 1201 William decided to claim the kingdom. In 1202, an army led by the chancellor Walter of Palearia and Dipold of Vohburg was defeated by Walter III of Brienne. Markward was killed, and Frederick fell under the control of William of Capparone, an ally of the Pisans. Dipold continued the war against Walter on the mainland until the claimant's death in 1205. Dipold finally wrested Frederick from Capparone in 1206 and gave him over to the guardianship of the chancellor, Walter of Palearia. Walter and Dipold then had a falling out, and the latter captured the royal palace, where he was besieged and captured by Walter in 1207. After a decade, the wars over the regency and the throne itself had ceased. [9]

The reform of the laws began with the Assizes of Ariano in 1140 by Roger II. Frederick continued the reformation with the Assizes of Capua (1220) and the promulgation of the Constitutions of Melfi (1231, also known as Liber Augustalis ), a collection of laws for his realm that was remarkable for its time. [11] The Constitutions of Melfi were created in order to establish a centralized state. For example, citizens were not allowed to carry weapons or wear armour in public unless they were under royal command. [11] As a result, rebellions were reduced. The Constitutions made the Kingdom of Sicily an absolute monarchy, the first centralized state in Europe to emerge from feudalism; it also set a precedent for the primacy of written law. [10] With relatively small modifications, the Liber Augustalis remained the basis of Sicilian law until 1819. [12] During this period, he also built the Castel del Monte, and in 1224, he founded the University of Naples, now called Università Federico II. [13] It remained the sole athenaeum of southern Italy for centuries.

After the death of Frederick, the Kingdom was ruled by Henry VII of Germany and Conrad IV of Germany. The next legitimate heir was Conrad II, who was too young at the period to rule. Manfred of Sicily, the illegitimate son of Frederick, took the power and ruled the kingdom for fifteen years while other Hohenstaufen heirs were ruling various areas in Germany. [11] After long wars against the Papal States, the Kingdom managed to defend its possessions, but the Papacy declared the Kingdom escheated because of disloyalty of the Hohenstaufen. [14] Under this pretext he came to an agreement with Louis IX, King of France. Louis's brother, Charles of Anjou, would become king of Sicily. In exchange, Charles recognized the overlordship of the Pope in the Kingdom, paid a portion of the papal debt, and agreed to pay annual tribute to the Papal States. [14] [15] The Hohenstaufen rule in Sicily ended after the 1266 Angevin invasion and the death of Conradin, the last male heir of Hohenstaufen, in 1268. [15]

Angevin Sicily

Church of the Holy Spirit in Palermo. Vespro22.jpg
Church of the Holy Spirit in Palermo.

In 1266, conflict between the Hohenstaufen house and the Papacy led to Sicily's conquest by Charles I, Duke of Anjou. With the usurpation of the Sicilian throne from Conradin by Manfred of Sicily in 1258, the relationship between the Papacy and the Hohenstaufen had changed again. Instead of the boy Conradin, safely sequestered across the Alps, the Papacy now faced an able military leader who had greatly supported the Ghibelline cause at the battle of Montaperti in 1260. Accordingly, when negotiations broke down with Manfred in 1262, Pope Urban IV again took up the scheme of disseising the Hohenstaufen from the kingdom, and offered the crown to Charles of Anjou again. With Papal and Guelph support Charles descended into Italy and defeated Manfred at the battle of Benevento in 1266 and in 1268 Conradin at the battle of Taglicozzo.

Opposition to French officialdom and taxation combined with incitement of rebellion by agents from the Crown of Aragon and the Byzantine Empire led to the successful insurrection of the Sicilian Vespers followed by the invitation and intervention by king Peter III of Aragon in 1282. The resulting War of the Sicilian Vespers lasted until the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302, dividing the old Kingdom of Sicily in two. The island of Sicily, called the "Kingdom of Sicily beyond the Lighthouse" or the Kingdom of Trinacria, went to Frederick III of the house of Aragon, who had been ruling it. The peninsular territories (the Mezzogiorno), contemporaneously called Kingdom of Sicily but called Kingdom of Naples by modern scholarship, went to Charles II of the house of Anjou, who had likewise been ruling it. Thus, the peace was formal recognition of an uneasy status quo. [15] The division in the kingdom became permanent in 1372, with the Treaty of Villeneuve. Though the king of Spain was able to seize both crowns in the 16th century, the administrations of the two halves of the Kingdom of Sicily remained separated until 1816, when they were reunited in the Kingdom of Two Sicilies.

The insular kingdom of Sicily under the Crown of Aragon and Spain

Martin I king of Sicily in 1390-1409. Martin1Sicilsky.jpg
Martin I king of Sicily in 1390-1409.

Sicily was ruled as an independent kingdom by relatives or cadet branch of the house of Aragon until 1409 and thence as part of the Crown of Aragon. The Kingdom of Naples was ruled by the Angevin ruler René of Anjou until the two thrones were reunited by Alfonso V of Aragon, after the successful siege of Naples and the defeat of René on 6 June 1443. [16] Eventually, Alfonso of Aragon divided the two kingdoms during his rule. He gave the rule of Naples to his illegitimate son Ferdinand I of Naples, who ruled from 1458 to 1494, and the rest of the Crown of Aragon and Sicily to Alfonso's brother John II of Aragon. From 1494 to 1503 successive kings of France Charles VIII and Louis XII, who were heirs of Angevins, tried to conquer Naples (see Italian Wars) but failed. Eventually the Kingdom of Naples was reunited with the Crown of Aragon. The titles were held by the Aragonese kings of the Crown of Aragon and Kingdom of Spain until the end of the Spanish branch of the House of Habsburg in 1700.

Malta under the Knights

Philippe de Villiers de l'Isle Adam takes possession of the island of Malta, 26 October 1530 by Rene Theodore Berthon. Prise de Malte en 1530.jpg
Philippe de Villiers de l'Isle Adam takes possession of the island of Malta, 26 October 1530 by René Théodore Berthon.

In 1530, in an effort to protect Rome from Ottoman invasion from the south, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, as Charles I of Spain, gave the Islands of Malta and Gozo to the Knights Hospitaller in perpetual fiefdom, in exchange for an annual fee of two Maltese falcons, which they were to send on All Souls' Day to the Viceroy of Sicily. [17] The Maltese Islands had formed part of the County, and later the Kingdom of Sicily, since 1091. The feudal relationship between Malta and the Kingdom of Sicily was continued throughout the rule of the Knights, until the French occupation of Malta in 1798. [17]

The occupation was not recognized, and Malta was de jure part of the Kingdom of Sicily from 1798 to 1814. After the Maltese rebellion against the French, Malta was under British protection until it became a British crown colony in 1813. This was officially recognized by the Treaty of Paris of 1814, which marked the end of Malta's 700-year relationship with Sicily.

After the War of the Spanish Succession (Savoy and Habsburg rule)

From 1713 until 1720 the Kingdom of Sicily was ruled briefly by the House of Savoy, which had received it by the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht, which brought an end to the War of the Spanish Succession. The kingdom was a reward to the Savoyards, who were thus elevated to royal rank. The new king, Victor Amadeus II, travelled to Sicily in 1713 and remained a year before returning to his mainland capital, Turin, where his son the Prince of Piedmont had been acting as regent. In Spain the results of the war had not been truly accepted, and the War of the Quadruple Alliance was the result. Sicily was occupied by Spain in 1718. When it became evident that Savoy had not the strength to defend as remote a country as Sicily, Austria stepped in and exchanged its Kingdom of Sardinia for Sicily. Victor Amadeus protested this exchange, Sicily being a rich country of over one million inhabitants and Sardinia a poor country of a few hundred thousand, but he was unable to resist his "allies". Spain was finally defeated in 1720, and the Treaty of the Hague ratified the changeover. Sicily belonged to the Austrian Habsburgs, who already ruled Naples. [18] Victor Amadeus, for his part, continued to protest for three years, and only in 1723 decided to recognize the exchange and desist from using the Sicilian royal title and its subsidiary titles (such as King of Cyprus and Jerusalem).

The two kingdoms under the house of Bourbon of Spain

Royal Palace of Ficuzza Real Casina di Caccia della Ficuzza, luglio 2010.JPG
Royal Palace of Ficuzza
La Palazzina Cinese di Palermo, residence of Bourbon Palazzina cinese 0001.JPG
La Palazzina Cinese di Palermo, residence of Bourbon

In 1734, Naples was reconquered by King Philip V of Spain, a Bourbon, who installed his younger son, Duke Charles of Parma, as King Charles VII of Naples, starting a cadet branch of the house of Bourbon. Adding to his Neapolitan possessions, he became also King of Sicily with the name of Charles V of Sicily the next year after Austria gave up Sicily and her pretensions to Naples in exchange for the Duchy of Parma and the Grand-Duchy of Tuscany. This change of hands opened up a period of economic flourishing and social and political reformations, with many public projects and cultural initiatives directly started or inspired by the king. He remained King of Sicily until his accession to the Spanish throne in 1759, the treaties with Austria forbidding a union of the Italian domains with the crown of Spain.

Charles abdicated in favour of Ferdinand, his third son, who acceded to the thrones with the names of Ferdinand IV of Naples and III of Sicily. Still a minor, Ferdinand grew up amongst pleasures and leisure while the real power was safely held by Bernardo Tanucci, the president of the regency council. During this period most of the reformation process initiated by Charles came to a halt, with the king mostly absent or uninterested in the matters of state and the political helm steered by Queen Maria Carolina and prime ministers Tanucci (until 1777) and John Acton. The latter managed to disentangle Naples and Sicily from the influence of Spain and Austria and to place them nearer to Great Britain, then represented by ambassador William Hamilton. This is the period of the Grand Tour, and Sicily with its many natural and historical attractions is visited by a score of intellectuals from all over Europe that on one side bring to the island the winds of the Enlightenment, and on the other side will spread the fame of its beauty in the continent.

In 1799 Napoleon conquered Naples, forcing king Ferdinand and the court to flee to Sicily under the protection of the British fleet under the command of Horatio Nelson. While Naples was formed into the Parthenopaean Republic with French support and later again a kingdom under French protection and influence, Sicily became the British base of operation in the Mediterranean in the long struggle against Napoleon. Under British guidance, especially from Lord William Bentinck who was commander of British troops in Sicily, Sicily tried to modernise its constitutional apparatus, forcing the King to ratify a Constitution moulded over the British system. [18] The island was under British occupation from 1806-14. [19] The main feature of the new system was that a two-chamber parliament was formed (instead of the three of the existing one). The formation of the parliament brought the end of feudalism in the Kingdom.

After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 Ferdinand repealed all reforms and even cancelled the Kingdom of Sicily from the map (after a history of 800 years) with the creation of the brand-new Kingdom of the Two Sicilies with capital Naples in 1816. The people of Sicily rebelled to this violation of its centuries-old statutes (which every king, including Ferdinand, had sworn to respect) but were defeated by the Neapolitan and Austrian forces in 1820. In 1848-49 another Sicilian revolution of independence occurred, which was put down by the new king Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, who was nicknamed Re Bomba after his 5-day bombardment of Messina. The increased hostility of the peoples and the elites of Sicily towards Naples and the Bourbon dynasty created a very unstable equilibrium, kept under control only by an increasingly oppressive police-state, political executions and exiles.

Unification with the Kingdom of Italy

The beginning of the Expedition of the Thousand at Quarto. Partenza da Quarto.jpg
The beginning of the Expedition of the Thousand at Quarto.

On 4 April 1860 the latest revolt against the Bourbon regime broke out. Giuseppe Garibaldi, funded and directed by the Piedmontese prime minister Cavour, assisted the revolt with his forces, launching the so-called Expedition of the Thousand. He arrived at Marsala on 11 May 1860 with ca. 1,000 Redshirts. Garibaldi announced that he was assuming dictatorship over Sicily in the name of King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia. On 15 May the Redshirts fought the Battle of Calatafimi and within weeks Palermo was freed from the troops of general Lanza, who even being superior in number, inexplicably retreated. Francis II of the Two Sicilies tried to regain control of the Kingdom. On 25 June 1860 he restored the constitution of the Kingdom, adopted the Italian tricolour as the national flag, and promised special institutions for the Kingdom. [20]

On 21 October 1860 a plebiscite regarding the unification with Italy was conducted. The outcome of the referendum was 432,053 (99%) in favour and only 667 in opposition to the unification. With three separate armies still fighting within the Kingdom, this outcome was far from an accurate depiction of public opinion. Substantial inconsistencies as well as the absence of secret ballot further complicate the interpretation of the referendum, which Dennis Mack Smith describes as being "obviously rigged". [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] Most Sicilians viewed the unification as acceptance of the House of Savoy, in which belonged Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy. [18]


During the Norman Kingdom of Sicily, the local communities maintained their privileges. The rulers of the Hohenstaufen Kingdom replaced the local nobility with lords from northern Italy, leading to clashes and rebellions against the new nobility in many cities and rural communities. These revolts resulted in the destruction of many agrarian areas and the rise of middle class nationalism, which eventually led to urban dwellers becoming allies of the Aragonese. [11] This situation was continued during the short rule of the Angevin until their overthrowing during the Sicilian Vespers. The Angevin began feudalising the country, increasing the power of the nobility by granting them jurisdiction over high justice. [28] During the 15th century due to the isolation of the Kingdom, the Renaissance had no impact on it. [29]

At the same period the feudalisation of the Kingdom of Sicily was intensified, through the enforcement of feudal bonds and relations among its subjects. The 1669 Etna eruption destroyed Catania. In 1693, 5% of the Kingdom's population was killed because of earthquakes. In that period there were also plague outbreaks. The 17th and 18th century were an era of decline of the Kingdom. Corruption was prevalent among the upper and middle classes of the society. Widespread corruption and maltreatment of the lower classes by the feudal lords led to the creation of groups of brigands, attacking the nobility and destroying their fiefs. [18] These groups which were self-named "Mafia", were the foundation of the modern Sicilian Mafia. The escalation of revolts against the monarchy eventually led to the unification with Italy. [30]


During the reign of Frederick II ( 1198-1250 ) the kingdom had a population of about 2.5 million. [31] During the Hohenstaufen era, the Kingdom had 3 towns with a population of over 20,000 each. [32] After the loss of the northern provinces in 1282 during the Sicilian Vespers and several natural disasters like the 1669 Etna eruption, the population of the Kingdom of Sicily was reduced. [18] In 1803 the population of the Kingdom was 1,656,000. [33] The main cities of the Kingdom at that period were Palermo, Catania, Messina, Modica, Syracuse. [33]

Population of the Kingdom of Sicily in 1803 [33]
Val di Mazzara643,000
Val di Demona521,000
Val di Noto 459,000
Lipari Islands 18,000
Aegadian Islands 12,000
Pantelleria Island 3,000
Total Population1,656,000
Population of the main cities of the Kingdom of Sicily in 1803 [33]
Palermo 120,000
Catania 40,000
Messina 36,000
Modica 23,500
Syracuse 17,000


The high fertility of the land led the Norman kings to bring settlers from neighbouring regions or to resettle farmers to areas where cultivation of land was needed. This led to an increase in agricultural production. The main sources of wealth for the Kingdom of Sicily in that period were its maritime cities, most important of which were the ancient port cities of Naples and its nearby counterpart Amalfi, from which local products were exported. The main export was durum wheat, with other exports including nuts, timber, oil, bacon, cheese, furs, hides, hemp and cloth. [9] Grain and other dry products were measured in salme, which was equivalent to 275.08 litres in the western part of the Kingdom, and 3.3 litres in the eastern part. The salma was divided in 16 tumoli. One tumolo was equivalent to 17,193  litres. Weight was measured in cantari. One cantaro was equivalent to 79.35 kilograms (174.9 lb) and was divided in one hundred rottoli. Cloth was measured in canne. One canna was 2.06 meters long. [5] By the end of the 12th century Messina had become one of the leading commercial cities of the kingdom.

Under the Kingdom, Sicily's products went to many different lands. Among these were Genoa, Pisa, the Byzantine Empire, and Egypt. Over the course of the 12th century, Sicily became an important source of raw materials for north Italian cities such as Genoa. As the centuries went on, however, this economic relationship became less advantageous to Sicily, and some modern scholars see the relationship as definitely exploitative. [34] Furthermore, many scholars believe that Sicily went into decline in the Late Middle Ages, though they do not agree about when this decline occurred. Clifford Backman argues that it is a mistake to see the economic history of Sicily in terms of victimization, and contends that the decline really began in the second part of the reign of Frederick III, in contrast to earlier scholars who believed that Sicilian decline had set in earlier. [35] Where earlier scholars saw late medieval Sicily in continuous decline, Stephen Epstein argued that Sicilian society experienced something of a revival in the 15th century. [36]

Various treaties with Genoa secured and strengthened the commercial power of Sicily. [9]

The feudalisation of society during the Angevin rule reduced royal wealth and treasury. The dependence of the Angevin on north Italian commerce and financing by Florentine bankers were the main factors which led to the decline of the Kingdom's economy. [28] The continuation of the economic decline combined with the increased population and urbanization led to decrease of agrarian production.

In 1800 one-third of the available crops was cultivated with obsolete methods, exacerbating the problem. In the later period of Spanish rule, the trading system was also inefficient compared with previous periods because of high taxes on exports and monopolising corporations which had total control of prices. [37]


Example of a Messinese augustale. Augustale.jpg
Example of a Messinese augustale.

The Norman kings in the 12th century used the tari, which had been used in Sicily from 913 as the basic coin. One tari weighed about one gram and was 16 13 carats of gold. The Arab dinar was worth four tari, and the Byzantine solidus six tari. [9] In the kingdom one onza was equivalent to thirty tari or five florins. One tari was worth twenty grani. One grana was equivalent to six denari. After 1140 the circulation of the copper coin romesina stopped and it was replaced by the follaris. Twenty four follari were equivalent to one Byzantine miliaresion.

After defeating the Tunisians in 1231 Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor minted the augustalis. It was minted in 21 12 carats and weighed 5.28 grams. [38] In 1490 the triumphi were minted in Sicily. They were equivalent to the Venetian ducat. One triumpho was worth 11 12 aquilae. One aquila was worth twenty grani. In transactions tari and pichuli were mainly used. [5]


During the Norman reign, several different religious communities coexisted in the Kingdom of Sicily. They were: Latin Christians (Roman Catholics), Greek-speaking Christians (Greek Catholic), Muslims and Jews. Although local religious practices were not interrupted, the fact that Latin Christians were in power tended to favor Latin Christianity (Roman Catholicism). Bishops of the Greek rite were obliged to recognize the claims of the Latin Church in Sicily, while Muslim communities were no longer ruled by local emirs. Greek-speaking Christians, Latin Christians, and Muslims interacted on a regular basis, and were involved in each other's lives, economically, linguistically, and culturally. Some intermarried. Christians living in an Arabic-speaking area might adopt Arabic or even Muslim names. [39] In many cities, each religious community had its own administrative and judicial order. In Palermo, Muslims were allowed to publicly call for prayer in mosques, and their legal issues were settled by qadis, judges who ruled in accordance with Islamic law. [9]

After the establishment of Hohenstaufen authority Latin- and Greek-speaking Christians maintained their privileges, but the Muslim population was increasingly oppressed. The settlements of Italians brought from northern Italy (who wanted Muslim property for their own) led many Muslim communities to revolt or resettle in mountainous areas of Sicily. [40] These revolts resulted in some acts of violence, and the eventual deportation of Muslims, which began under Frederick II. Eventually, the government removed the entire Muslim population to Lucera in Apulia and Girifalco in Calabria, where they paid taxes and served as agricultural laborers, craftsmen, and crossbowmen for the benefit of the king. The colony at Lucera was finally disbanded in 1300 under Charles II of Naples, and many of its inhabitants sold into slavery. [40] The Jewish community was expelled after the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition from 1493 to 1513 in Sicily. The remaining Jews were gradually assimilated, and most of them converted to Roman Catholicism. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

Sicily Island in the Mediterranean and region of Italy

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions and is officially referred to as Regione Siciliana. It has 5 million inhabitants.

Conradin Duke of Swabia, King of Jerusalem and King of Sicily (1252-1268)

Conrad, called the Younger or the Boy, but usually known by the diminutive Conradin, was the Duke of Swabia, King of Jerusalem, and King of Sicily.

Frederick III of Sicily King of Sicily

Frederick II was the regent of the Kingdom of Sicily from 1291 until 1295 and subsequently king of Sicily from 1295 until his death. He was the third son of Peter III of Aragon and served in the War of the Sicilian Vespers on behalf of his father and brothers, Alfonso ΙΙΙ and James ΙΙ. He was confirmed as king by the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302. His reign saw important constitutional reforms: the Constitutiones regales, Capitula alia, and Ordinationes generales.

Manfred, King of Sicily King of Sicily

Manfred was the last King of Sicily from the Hohenstaufen dynasty, reigning from 1258 until his death. The natural son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, Manfred became regent over the kingdom of Sicily on behalf of his nephew Conradin in 1254. As regent he subdued rebellions in the kingdom, until in 1258 he usurped Conradin's rule. After an initial attempt to appease pope Innocent IV he took up the ongoing conflict between the Hohenstaufens and the papacy through combat and political alliances. He defeated the papal army at Foggia on 2 December 1254. Excommunicated by three successive popes, Manfred was the target of a Crusade (1255–66) called first by Pope Alexander IV and then by Urban IV. Nothing came of Alexander's call, but Urban enlisted the aid of Charles of Anjou in overthrowing Manfred. Manfred was killed during his defeat by Charles at the Battle of Benevento, and Charles assumed kingship of Sicily.

Kingdom of Naples Former state in Italy from 1282 to 1816

The Kingdom of Naples comprised the part of the Italian Peninsula south of the Papal States between 1282 and 1816. It was established by the War of the Sicilian Vespers (1282–1302), when the island of Sicily revolted and was conquered by the Crown of Aragon, becoming a separate kingdom also called the Kingdom of Sicily. In 1816, it reunified with the island of Sicily to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Sicilian Vespers successful rebellion in Sicily on Easter, 1282 against the rule of the French-born king Charles I

The Sicilian Vespers was a successful rebellion on the island of Sicily that broke out at Easter 1282 against the rule of the French-born king Charles I, who had ruled the Kingdom of Sicily since 1266. Within six weeks, approximately 13,000 French men and women were slain by the rebels, and the government of Charles lost control of the island. This began the War of the Sicilian Vespers.

Southern Italy Macroregion of Italy

Southern Italy or Mezzogiorno is a macroregion of Italy meant to broadly denote the southern half of the Italian state.

Battle of Malta

The Battle of Malta took place on 8 July 1283 in the entrance to the Grand Harbour, the principal harbour of Malta, as part of the War of the Sicilian Vespers. An Aragonese fleet of galleys, commanded by Roger of Lauria, attacked and defeated a fleet of Angevin galleys commanded by Guillaume Cornut and Bartholomé Bonvin.

Roger of Lauria Italian admiral

Roger of Lauria was an Italian admiral in Aragonese service, who was the commander of the fleet of the Crown of Aragon during the War of the Sicilian Vespers. He was probably the most successful and talented naval tactician of the medieval period. He is known as Ruggero or Ruggiero di Lauria in Italian and Roger de Llúria in Catalan.

Flag of Sicily Flag of the Italian region of Sicily

The flag of Sicily shows a triskeles symbol, and at its centre a Gorgoneion and a pair of wings and three wheat ears.

Emirate of Sicily Sicily under Islamic rule during the Middle Ages (827-1091)

The Emirate of Sicily was an Islamic kingdom that ruled the island of Sicily from 831 to 1091. Its capital was Palermo, which during this period became a major cultural and political center of the Muslim world.

Sicilian revolution of 1848

The Sicilian revolution of independence of 1848 occurred in a year replete with revolutions and popular revolts. It commenced on 12 January 1848, and therefore was the first of the numerous revolutions to occur that year. Three revolutions against Bourbon rule had previously occurred on the island of Sicily starting from 1800: this final one resulted in an independent state surviving for 16 months. The constitution that survived the 16 months was quite advanced for its time in liberal democratic terms, as was the proposal of an Italian confederation of states. It was in effect a curtain raiser to the end of the Bourbon kingdom of the Two Sicilies which was started by Giuseppe Garibaldi's Expedition of the Thousand in 1860 and culminated with the Siege of Gaeta of 1860–1861.

War of the Sicilian Vespers

The War of the Sicilian Vespers or just War of the Vespers was a conflict that started with the insurrection of the Sicilian Vespers against Charles of Anjou in 1282 and ended in 1302 with the Peace of Caltabellotta. It was fought in Sicily, Catalonia and elsewhere in the western Mediterranean between the kings of Aragon on one side against the Angevin Charles of Anjou, his son Charles II, the kings of France, and the Papacy on the other side. The war resulted in the division of the old Kingdom of Sicily; at Caltabellotta, Charles II was confirmed as king of Sicily's peninsular territories, while Frederick III was confirmed as king of the island territories.

History of Sicily aspect of history

The history of Sicily has been influenced by numerous ethnic groups. It has seen Sicily sometimes controlled by external powers — Phoenician and Carthaginian, Greek, Roman, Vandal and Ostrogoth, Byzantine Greek, Islamic, Norman, Aragonese and Spanish — but also experiencing important periods of independence, as under the indigenous Sicanians, Elymians and Sicels, and later as the County of Sicily and Kingdom of Sicily. The Kingdom was founded in 1130 by Roger II, belonging to the Siculo-Norman family of Hauteville. During this period, Sicily was prosperous and politically powerful, becoming one of the wealthiest states in all of Europe. As a result of the dynastic succession, then, the Kingdom passed into the hands of the Hohenstaufen. At the end of the 13th century, with the War of the Sicilian Vespers between the crowns of Anjou and Aragon, the island passed to the latter. In the following centuries the Kingdom entered into the personal union with the Spaniard and Bourbon crowns, preserving however its substantial independence until 1816. Although today an Autonomous Region of the Republic of Italy, it has its own distinct culture.

History of Islam in southern Italy Wikipedia list article

The history of Islam in Sicily and Southern Italy began with the first Arab settlement in Sicily, at Mazara, which was captured in 827. The subsequent rule of Sicily and Malta started in the 10th century. Islamic rule over all Sicily began in 902, and the Emirate of Sicily lasted from 831 until 1061. Though Sicily was the primary Muslim stronghold in Italy, some temporary footholds, the most substantial of which was the port city of Bari, were established on the mainland peninsula, especially in mainland Southern Italy, though Muslim raids, mainly those of Muhammad I Abu 'l-Abbas, reached as far north as Naples, Rome and the northern region of Piedmont. The Muslim raids were part of a larger struggle for power in Italy and Europe, with Christian Byzantine, Frankish, Norman and local Italian forces also competing for control. Muslims were sometimes sought as allies by various Christian factions against other factions.

Elizabeth of Carinthia, Queen of Sicily Queen consort of Sicily

Elizabeth of Carinthia (1298–1352) was an influential queen and royal family member in the Kingdom of Sicily, who lived and ruled in a tumultuous time. The daughter of the Otto, the penultimate duke of Carinthia and lord of Carniola from the House of Gorizia, she married Peter II of Sicily in 1323 and became the Queen of Sicily. During her time as Queen, Elizabeth ensured that the royal lineage of the Aragonese in Sicily continued. Two sons eventually ascended the throne, Louis of Sicily and Frederick IV of Sicily. Elizabeth was the regent for her young son Louis from 1348 until her death in 1352.

Muslim settlement of Lucera settlement of Lucera by the Muslim population of Sicily, enacted by Frederick II and lasting from 1220 to 1300

The Muslim settlement of Lucera was the result of the decision of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen dynasty (1194–1250) to move 20,000 Sicilian Muslims to Lucera, a settlement in Apulia in southern Italy. The settlement thrived for about 75 years. In 1300, it was sacked by the Christian forces of Charles II of Naples and its Muslim inhabitants were exiled or sold into slavery.

Sicilian Parliament

The Sicilian Parliament was the legislature of the Kingdom of Sicily.

Swabian Sicily denotes the period in the history of Sicily during which it was ruled by the Hohenstaufen dynasty, lasting from Frederick II's's accession to the island's throne in 1198 until Manfred of Sicily's defeat by Charles I of Anjou in 1266. It has been particularly researched by German scholars such as Ernst Kantorowicz and Willy Cohn.


  1. Documenti per servire alla storia di Sicilia: Diplomatica, Volumes 14-16 (in Italian). U. Manfredi Editori. 1891-01-01. p. XXXII.
  2. Vio, Michele Del (1706-01-01). Felicis, et fidelissimæ urbis Panormitanæ selecta aliquot ad civitatis decus, et commodum spectantia privilegia per instrumenta varia Siciliæ ... opera don Michaelis De Vio . (in Italian). in palatio senatorio per Dominicum Cortese. p. 314.
  3. Gregorio, Rosario (1833-01-01). Considerazioni sopra la storia di Sicilia dai tempi normanni sino al presenti, Volume 3 (in Italian). dalla Reale Stamperia. p. 303.
  4. Mongitore, Antonino; Mongitore, Francesco Serio e (1749-01-01). Parlamenti generali del regno di Sicilia dall' anno 1446 sino al 1748: con le memorie istoriche dell' antico, e moderno uso del parlamento appresso varie nazioni, ed in particolare della sua origine in Sicilia, e del modo di celebrarsi, Volume 1 (in Italian). Presso P. Bentivenga. p. 109.
  5. 1 2 3 4 N. Zeldes (2003). The former Jews of this kingdom: Sicilian converts after the Expulsion, 1492–1516. BRILL. pp. 5, 69, 296–97. ISBN   90-04-12898-0.
  6. "Chronological - Historical Table Of Sicily". In Italy Magazine. 7 October 2007. Archived from the original on 27 July 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  7. Douglas, David. The Norman Fate, 1100-1154. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Houben, Hubert (2002). Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler between East and West. Cambridge University Press. pp. 7, 148. ISBN   0-521-65573-0.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Donald Matthew (1992). The Norman kingdom of Sicily. Cambridge University Press. pp. 4–6, 71–74, 86–92, 285, 286, 304. ISBN   0-521-26911-3.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Malcolm Barber (2004). The two cities: medieval Europe, 1050–1320. Routledge. p. 211. ISBN   0-415-17414-7.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 David Nicolle (2002). Italian medieval armies 1000–1300. Osprey Publishing. pp. 5–10, 18–19, 34. ISBN   1-84176-322-5.
  12. James Ross Sweeney, Stanley Chodorow (1989). Popes, teachers, and canon law in the Middle Ages. Cornell University Press. ISBN   0-8014-2264-7.
  13. Hunt Janin (2008). The University in Medieval Life, 1179–1499. McFarland. p. 132. ISBN   978-0-7864-3462-6.
  14. 1 2 Katherine Fisher (2004). Magna Carta. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 53, 84–85. ISBN   0-313-32590-1.
  15. 1 2 3 Steve Runciman (1958). The Sicilian Vespers: a history of the Mediterranean world in the later thirteenth century. Cambridge University Press. pp. 32–34, 209, 274. ISBN   0-521-43774-1.
  16. Allan W. Atlas (1985). Music at the Aragonese court of Naples. Cambridge University Press. p. 1. ISBN   0-521-24828-0.
  17. 1 2 Carolyn Bain (2004). Malta & Gozo. Lonely Planet. p.  23. ISBN   1-74059-178-X.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 Danforth Prince (2007). Frommer's Sicily. Frommer's. p. 314. ISBN   978-0-470-10056-1.
  19. W. H. Clements, "The Defences of Sicily, 1806-1815," Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Autumn 2009, Vol. 87 Issue 351, pp 256-272
  20. Alfonso Scirocco (2007). Garibaldi: citizen of the world. Princeton University Press. p.  279. ISBN   978-0-691-11540-5.
  21. Smith, Denis Mack (1992-03-01). Italy and Its Monarchy. Yale University Press. p. 17. ISBN   0300051328.
  22. Smith, Denis Mack (1985-04-18). Cavour and Garibaldi 1860: A Study in Political Conflict. Cambridge University Press. p. 389. ISBN   9780521316378.
  23. Finkelstein, Monte S. (1998-01-01). Separatism, the Allies and the Mafia: The Struggle for Sicilian Independence, 1943-1948. Lehigh University Press. p. 14. ISBN   9780934223515.
  24. Hess, Henner (1998-01-01). Mafia & Mafiosi: Origin, Power and Myth. NYU Press. p. 155. ISBN   9781863331432.
  25. Lukacs, John (1968-01-01). Historical Consciousness: The Remembered Past. Transaction Publishers. p. 116. ISBN   9781412825146.
  26. Ziblatt, Daniel (2006-01-01). Structuring the State: The Formation of Italy and Germany and the Puzzle of Federalism. Princeton University Press. p. 102. ISBN   0691121672.
  27. Noble, Thomas F. X. (1994). Western civilization. Houghton Mifflin. p. 895.
  28. 1 2 Samantha Kelly (2003). The new Solomon: Robert of Naples (1309–1343) and fourteenth-century kingship. BRILL. p. 134. ISBN   90-04-12945-6.
  29. [ citation needed ]
  30. Lucy Riall (1998). Sicily and the unification of Italy: liberal policy and local power, 1859–1866. Oxford University Press. p. 206. ISBN   0-19-820680-1.
  31. Kenneth M. Setton (1985). A History of the Crusades, Volume V: The Impact of the Crusades on the Near East. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 313. ISBN   0-299-09144-9.
  32. Perry Anderson (1984). Lineages of the Absolutist State. Verso. p. 146. ISBN   0-86091-710-X.
  33. 1 2 3 4 Jedidiah Morse. A compendious and complete system of modern geography: or, A view of the present state of the world. Thomas and Andrews. p. 503.
  34. Henri Bresc (in Un monde mediteranéen) claims that Sicily was relegated to being an agricultural satellite for wealthier northern Italian cities, and sees the Sicilian people as an early proletariat
  35. Backman, The Decline and Fall of Medieval Sicily, 1995.
  36. Epstein, An Island for Itself: Economic Development and Social Change in Late Medieval Sicily, (2003).
  37. Desmond Gregory (1988). Sicily: the insecure base: a history of the British occupation of Sicily, 1806–1815. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. p. 35. ISBN   0-8386-3306-4.
  38. Peter L. Bernstein (2000). The power of gold: the history of an obsession. John Wiley and Sons. p.  90. ISBN   0-471-25210-7.
  39. Metcalfe, Alex. Muslims and Christians in Norman Sicily. Arabic Speakers and the End of Islam, (2003).
  40. 1 2 The best discussion of the fate of Sicilian Muslims can be found in Julie Taylor, Muslims in Medieval Italy: The Colony at Lucera (2003), but is also discussed in Alex Metcalfe, The Muslims of Medieval Italy (2009).