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European Kingdoms

Italian Peninsula

 

 

 

Sicily

Sicily was apparently first settled by the Sicani people, while later arrivals, the Siculi, gave the island their name thanks to the Greeks who recorded their existence. The island was fought over for a long time between the North African city state of Carthage and the Greek colony of Syracuse which existed on the east of the island. Later it was conquered by Rome, and was temporarily a stronghold of the Vandali in the fifth century. Following recapture by the Eastern Roman empire, the island was hotly contested by the Islamic empire before it became a stronghold of the Norman counts of Apulia. Thereafter, the island passed between the major European powers, eventually being subsumed by a unified Italian kingdom in the mid-eighteenth century.

Byzantine Sicily
AD 535 - 827

A resurgent Eastern Roman empire conquered Sicily, and much of the Mediterranean coastline, in the sixth century, ruling its Italian holdings from Ravenna. But the empire's control of Italy was never complete, and it had to face continual attacks from the Lombards who had become dominant in the north and much of central Italy. The remaining Eastern Roman influence in the south was gradually whittled away after the sudden rise of the Islamic empire, although it took until 827 for the Muslims to seize control of Sicily. Details about the Roman administration of the island seem to be scanty, as they are with all their Western Mediterranean holdings, with not even a list of local governors being available.

535

Sicily is recaptured for the empire by the Eastern Roman empire during the campaigns of General Belisarius which ultimately result in the creation of the exarchate of Ravenna in mainland Italy.

Adriatic coast
Following the collapse of the Western Roman empire, Sicily became an important stronghold in the fight to hold back the tide of Islam that was sweeping northwards

638

In response to the rebellion of John of Conza, the exarchate of Ravenna creates the duchy of Naples, the sixth such division of Eastern Roman territories in Italy. A dux or duke is brought into Italy to command Naples, and he reports directly to the strategos of Sicily. The new duchy is similar in size and territory to the modern province of Naples.

652

The island undergoes its first invasion by the Islamic empire. The forces of Caliph Uthman attack the Eastern Roman defences but soon withdraw. This is probably due to a weak supply chain, but it may also be due to advancing Roman forces from Ravenna. Frustrated by his attempts to remove Pope Martin from office under the orders of Emperor Constans II, Exarch Olympus switches his allegiance. Now supporting the pope, he declares himself emperor. In the same year he marches into Sicily, although who he is about to fight, the Roman strategos or the Arabs, is not clear. Instead he is struck down by disease and dies.

661

Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II is highly interested in affairs in southern Italy, which causes him to move his capital to Syracuse on Sicily. He appoints a native of Naples, one Basil, as the new dux, the military commander of the city. This is not the first dux to be appointed, but it seems to be the first about whom anything concrete is known, the previous incumbents being foreigners who had been forced to answer directly to the strategos of Sicily. Now Naples is its own master.

695

The Islamic Wali of Ifriqiyya and the Maghreb, Hasan ibn al-Nu'man, captures Carthage in 695 and the Eastern Roman administration retreats, possibly to Caralis on Sardinia. This gives the Arabs a firm base from which to launch more sustained attacks on Sicily. The island of Pantelleria, located midway between Sicily and modern Tunisia, is captured by Arabs but internal discord prevents an attack on Sicily from being organised. Much of the eighth century is characterised by Arab naval attacks on Roman fleets in the Mediterranean, all of which keep Sicily safe.

740

Ubeidallah ibn al-Habhab al-Maousili, the Islamic Wali of Ifriqiyya and the Maghreb launches an invasion of Sicily which results in him seizing Syracuse. He readies his forces to take the rest of the island but a Berber revolt in Ifriqiyya forces him to abandon the idea.

755 - 756

The exarchate of Ravenna is briefly re-captured by the resurgent Lombards, but the following year the Carolingian Franks recapture the territory. The ex-Byzantine exarchate is handed back to Rome as the Papal States and northern Italy becomes part of the Carolingian empire. Sicily as a Byzantine possession is now more isolated.

826

Euphemius, commander of the Byzantine fleet of Sicily, forces a nun to marry him. Emperor Michael II orders General Constantine to seize Euphemius and remove his nose in punishment. Given no choice, Euphemius revolts, killing Constantine and occupying Syracuse in the process. Subsequently he is driven off the island and takes refuge with Ziyadat Allah I in Tunis. He offers Sicily to the emir in exchange for safety and a position as a general.

Venus Castle, Erice
Once again the Byzantine empire was betrayed by one of its own commanders, Euphemius, mirroring its loss of Carthage in 695, and Sicily was similarly lost

827 - 828

Ziyadat Allah promises to put Euphemius in command of Sicily in return for annual tribute. He sends an invasion force that is aided by Euphemius' own fleet. The Aghlabids win the first battle and lay siege to Syracuse for a year. A large Byzantine force sent from Palermo which is assisted by a fleet from Venice under the personal command of the doge, Giustiniano Partecipazio, is defeated. Sicily is in the hands of the Arabs as part of the Islamic empire. This loss virtually ends Roman domination of the Western Mediterranean.

Islamic Sicily
AD 827 - 965

In 827, after nearly two centuries of trying, Byzantine Sicily was occupied by the Aghlabids on behalf of the Islamic empire. Despite attempts by the Byzantines to wrest back control when the Muslims were suffering from repeated bouts of plague, Palermo was seized by 831 and converted into the Muslim capital of Sicily. It was renamed, imaginatively, al-Madinah ('The City'). Syracuse held out for longer, finally falling in 878, and Taormina fell in 902. The very last Byzantine stronghold survived until 965, by which time communications between Constantinople and Sardinia had already been severed, leaving that island isolated and pushing Rome out of the Western Mediterranean. Again, little of the island's history in this period seems to be known, and again, there does not seem to be a list of governors or rulers available.

841 - 843

Aghlabid ruler Muhammad I captures Bari and Taranto (temporarily) in 841 and Apulia and Messina in 843.

846

An Aghlabid fleet sails up the River Tiber and attacks Rome. The residents at the foreign schools - Franks, Saxons, Lombards and Frisians - help defend the fortifications, but further Saracen raids are to come.

849

A further Aghlabid incursion threatens Rome and other Italian coastal cities, so the pope organises the creation of a defensive league. The league, under the command of Caesar, son of Sergius I of Naples, sails out to meet the Saracen fleet at the Battle of Ostia. A storm divides the participants halfway through the fight and the Italians return safely to port while the Saracens are scattered. Their remnants are easily picked off or captured afterwards and the successful defence of Italy is celebrated.

Zowan Gate near Carthage
Having captured Carthage (and what became the ruins of the Zowan Gate near Carthage), Islam began to push northwards to attack Italy and Spain

878

Sicily falls out of Aghlabid control, submitting to the Abbasids directly and being governed by the Fatamids between 910-965 (using the local Kalbids as governors). During this period of transition, the Byzantines are able to reclaim the eastern section of the island, refusing to be budged for some considerable time.

915

As the latest in a series of conflicts with the Saracens, the forces of the new Byzantine strategos of Bari, one Nicolaus Picingli, assemble alongside those of various other southern Italian princes in the Christian League. It includes Landulf I of Benevento, John I and Docibilis II of Gaeta, Gregory IV and John II of Naples, Pope John X, Guaimar II of Salerno, and Alberic I of Spoleto. The allied Byzantine-Lombard army fights and defeats the Fatamids at the Battle of Garigliano, a drawn-out combination of fights and a siege. The Saracens find themselves in a worsening situation and eventually attempt to flee, only to be captured and killed. It is a militarily significant victory in the fight against Islamic advances in Italy.

948

The Fatamid caliph, Ismail al Mansur, suppresses a revolt on Sicily, and he subsequently appoints Hassan al-Kalbi to the position of emir of the island. The emir goes on to found the Kalbid dynasty, which eventually rules Sicily virtually independent of outside control.

Emirate of Sicily (Kalbids)
AD 965 - 1072

The Kalbid dynasty of emirs which governed Sicily was founded by Hassan al-Kalbi, who had been appointed to the post by the Fatamid caliph, Ismail al Mansur, in 948. Hassan was able to control the Byzantine presence in eastern Sicily and launch raids into southern Italy that continued for a century. However, a new force was by then making its presence felt in southern Italy, and from 1035 the semi-independent Kalbids (or Kalbis) gradually lost territory to the Normans of Apulia.

Palermo, the Fatamid capital of Sicily, with its numerous mosques, was a flourishing centre of Islamic sciences in the eighth century, and it played an important part in the transmission of Islamic culture into medieval Europe. Under the Kalbids, Sicilians enjoyed the benefits of land reforms which encouraged the growth of smallholdings at the expense of the great estates, and improved irrigation systems which increased harvests. For the most part, the island's population remained Romanised Catholic Christians, although the east was still dominated by Greek-speaking people, a partial survival (perhaps) of the Iron Age Greek colonies there, but also of the days of Byzantine rule and the surviving Byzantine strongholds in the east. All Christians under Islamic rule became subservient unless they converted to Islam, which of course many did, if only for a quiet life.

(Additional information from the Historical Dictionary of the Ismailis, Farhad Daftary, and from External Link: Sicilian People: The Arabs, Vincenzo Salerno.)

948 - 953

Hassan al-Kalbi

Founder of the Kalbid rulers of Sicily.

953 - 969

Ahmed I ibn Hasan al-Muizziyya

969

Yaish

Usurper.

969 - 970

Ahmed I ibn Hasan al-Muizziyya

970 - 982

Abu l-Qasim

982

The Kalbids, raiding into south-western Italy, are confronted by an army led by Holy Roman Emperor Otto II. The Kalbid forces prove their power at this time by defeating their opponents in battle near Crotone in Calabria.

Chapel of San Cataldo, Palermo
The chapel of San Cataldo in Palermo was built by the Saracen rulers of Sicily, and it operated as a mosque before its conversion into a Christian chapel

982 - 983

Jabir ibn 'Ali

983 - 986

Jafar I ibn Muhammad

986

Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad

986 - 998

Yusuf al-Kalbi

The emirate began to decline.

998 - 1019

Jafar II

1017 - 1037

Ahmed II al-Akhal

Killed by Abd-Allah Abu Hafs in 1037.

1035

The Hauteville brothers arrive in Italy from Normandy and soon found the county of Apulia. This coincides with a period of Kalbid rule that is becoming increasingly subject to internal division as factions vie for control. These factions ally themselves with the Byzantines and the Zirid governors of Fatamid Ifriqiyya, and in the meantime the counts of Apulia begin to capture their territory.

1035 - 1040

Abd-Allah Abu Hafs

Usurper.

1040 - 1053

Hasan al-Samsam / Hasan II

Ruled a highly fragmented emirate for much of his reign. Died.

1044

The Kalbids begin to disintegrate as a dynasty, paving the way for the Norman conquest of Sicily from 1061, and the island's permanent incorporation into Christendom. Under Hasan al-Samsam, the island breaks up into four minor states, or qadits. The four qadits are made up of one that incorporates Marsala, Mazara, Sciacca, and Trapani; one consisting of Castrogiovanni, Castronuovo, and Girgenti; another made up of of Catania and Palermo; and the fourth consisting of Syracuse. Hasan al-Samsam exercises very little real power during the remainder of his lifetime.

1053 - 1062/72

(Muhammed ibn Ibrahim) Ibn ath-Thumna

Emir virtually in name only.

1060/1061

There are still three qadits on the Islamic portion of Sicily when Robert Guiscard, duke of Apulia, and Roger Guiscard invade. With fresh-found blessing from Pope Nicholas II as the best way of ridding Sicily of the Muslims (and curbing Constantinople's influence in Italy), the brothers create a bridgehead by capturing Messina, on the north-eastern tip of the island.

Battle of Cerami
Roger Guiscard defeated 35,000 Saracens at the Battle of Cerami in 1063 as part of his conquest of Sicily, depicted in this oil on canvas of about 1860 by Prosper Lafaye

1065 - 1068

The four qadits of Sicily have largely been rebuilt into a single emirate by Ayyub ibn Tamim, the son of the Zirid emir of Ifriqiyya (regional governors of the Fatamids). He departs in 1068, leaving behind an island that remains divided between Arabs and Byzantines, with the Arab section sub-divided into two qadits: Syracuse, which is under the control of Ibn Abbad (known as Benavert to the Christians), and Qas'r Ianni (modern Enna), under one Hammud.

1072

Roger Guiscard captures Palermo on Sicily in 1072, supported by a formidable uprising of the island's Christian population. The Kalbid emirate is quashed, paving the way for the creation of the Norman county of Sicily. Only a pocket of Islamic resistance remains under the command of Benavert, although the city of Qas'r Ianni also holds out until 1086, when its emir, Hamud, retires gracefully and converts to Christianity.

1071/72 - 1086

Ibn Abbad / Benavert

Sole surviving Arab leader of any real importance.

1086

Opposed by the powerful nascent county of Sicily, Benavert is the last emir with a claim to meaningful control of any part of the island. With his removal, only a minor claimant remains in the form of Yusuf Ibn Abdallah, and when he in turn is removed in 1091, Sicily is entirely under Christian control.

Counts of Sicily
AD 1072 - 1154

Based in Sicily in a period of conquest that lasted for nineteen years.

1072 - 1101

Roger I Guiscard ('Bosso')

Brother of Robert Guiscard, duke of Apulia.

1091

The conquest of Sicily is completed with the removal of local emir, Yusuf Ibn Abdallah. He is deposed peacefully, and with due deference for Arab custom, and Butera and Noto, on the southern tip of Sicily are firmly in Christian hands.

Norman-Sicilian tombstone 1148
Occupation by Byzantine Greeks, Islamic Moors, and Christian Italians left Sicily with a rich cultural vein which is reflected in this tombstone for a Norman-Sicilian woman in 1148, inscribed in Latin (left), Greek (right), Hebrew (top), and Arabic (bottom)

1101 - 1105

Simon

1105 - 1154

Roger II

Duke of Apulia & Calabria (1127-1154).

1139

Pope Innocent II excommunicates his ardent enemy, Roger II, duke of Apulia and Calabria and count of Sicily, but further conflict follows during which Benevento becomes an outlying possession of the Papal States. Most of the principality's lands fall under the control of Naples which is now governed by Roger through Sicily.

1146 - 1160

Roger occupies Tunis in the Islamic Fatamid emirate of Ifriqiya.

1154

The world atlas by the Arabic geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi is commissioned by Roger II. In the same year, the county of Sicily merges with the county of Apulia to form a single Norman kingdom of Naples & Sicily.

Norman Kingdom of Naples & Sicily
AD 1154 - 1268

The accession of Roger II to the title of duke of Apulia in 1127 brought both that and the County of Sicily under his control, and his successor, William the Bad, formally united them as a Norman kingdom. Under the Normans, the general population of Sicily declined somewhat. This was most notable in Palermo, which had enjoyed one of the largest populations in Europe under the Kalbids, but whose numbers dropped from around 200,000 in the eleventh century to less than 150,000 in the twelfth. By the mid-fourteenth century it was even worse - Palermo had a population of just 50,000 or so.

1154 - 1166

William I the Bad

First king.

1166 - 1189

William II the Good

1190 - 1194

Tancred

1194

William III

1194 - 1197

Henry (VI)

HRE (1190-1197). Son-in-law of Roger II.

1197 - 1250

Frederick (II)

HRE (1212). Duke of Swabia (1212). King of Jerusalem (1225-28).

1212 - 1217

Henry

Son. Duke of Swabia (1216-1235). HRE (1220-1235).

1250 - 1254

Conrad (IV)

HRE (1250-1254).

1254 - 1266

Manfred

Killed by Charles I of Anjou

1267 - 1268

Conradin

Duke of Swabia (1254-1268). Killed by Charles I of Anjou.

1268

Conradin assembles a multinational army in Italy, determined to secure his own claim to Sicily in opposition to Charles I of Anjou. He is ably assisted by Frederick I of Baden, but the pair are defeated at Tagliacozzo, and both are soon arrested. The execution of Conradin, last of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, on 29 October 1268 triggers the gradual break-up of the duchy into a plethora of smaller states including margraviates, landgraviates, counties, bishoprics, abbacies, and the duchy of Teck. The kingdom of Naples & Sicily passes to the Angevins.

Conradin of Swabia and Friedrich of Baden awaiting sentence
This oil on canvas depicts Conradin awaiting sentence along with his ally, Frederick of Baden, as depicted by Johann Heinrich Tischbein, 1785

Aragon Kingdom of Sicily
AD 1282 - 1442

The French rulers of Sicily were massacred by the populace at Vespers on 30 March 1282, and Pedro III of Aragon was invited to take the throne while the Angevins continued to rule in Naples.

1282 - 1285

Peter I

Pedro III of Aragon (1276-1285).

1285 - 1296

James II

James II of Aragon (1291-1327).

1296 - 1337

Frederick I (II)

1309 - 1377

After residing at Poitiers for the first four years of his papacy, Pope Clement moves the papacy to an enclave in Avignon (now in France but at this time part of the lands of Frederick I), in a period known as the Babylonian Captivity.

1337 - 1342

Peter II

1342 - 1355

Louis

1355 - 1377

Frederick II (III) the Simple

1377 - 1401

Mary

1390 - 1409

Martin the Younger

Heir to Aragon. Died of malaria on Sardinia.

1408 - 1409

William III of Narbonne lands on Sardinia on 8 December 1408 to be crowned 'King of Arborea, Count of Goceano, and Viscount of Bas', but Martin I the Younger has already landed a force of his own (on 6 October), and the two meet at the Battle of Sanluri in 1409. The battle is a disaster for William, and he is forced to flee to France for assistance. Unfortunately, Martin dies of malaria a few days after the battle.

1409 - 1410

Martin the Older

Martin I the Humane of Aragon & Sicily (1395-1410).

1412 - 1416

Ferdinand I

King of Aragon & Sicily.

1416 - 1442

Alfonso I

Alfonso V of Aragon & Sicily.

1442

The kingdom of Naples & Sicily is re-united under Alfonso V of Aragon.

Aragon Kingdom of Naples & Sicily
AD 1442 - 1501

The joint kingdom occasionally passed between and was temporarily divided for family members.

1442 - 1458

Alfonso I

Alfonso V of Aragon, King of Naples & Sicily.

1458 - 1494

Ferdinand (Ferrante) I

King of Naples.

1458 - 1479

John II

King of Aragon & Sicily.

1479 - 1516

Ferdinand II

King of Aragon & Sicily.

1494 - 1495

Alfonso II

King of Naples.

1479 - 1516

Ferdinand (Ferrantino) II

King of Naples.

1495 - 1496

An alliance is formed between Naples, the Pope, Milan, Venice, and the Emperor in order to defend Italy from Charles VIII of France. The conflict sees Naples occupied by the French.

1496 - 1501

Frederick IV (III)

King of Naples. Deposed by Ferdinand II of Aragon. Died 1504.

1501

After uniting Spain, Ferdinand II of Aragon deposes his cousin in Naples and unites Sicily and Naples to the Spanish joint kingdom of Castile, Aragon, and Navarre. Local viceroys are given control of Sicily.

1551

Admiral Turgut Reis, beylerbey of Algiers, sails with a large fleet of galleys under the command of Admiral Sinan Pasha to attack Venetian ports and then effect a landing on Sicily. The city of Augusta is bombarded in revenge for Sicily's invasion and destruction of Mahdia, and for the massacre of its inhabitants.

1559

The Italian War of 1551-1559 ends with the signing of the Peace of Cateau Cambrésis between England, France and Spain. Emmanuel Philibert regains his duchy of Piedmont and Savoy in full as part of the war's ending and he departs his post in the Spanish Netherlands to take up his duties. Corsica is restored to Genoa, while Spain is confirmed in its direct control of Milan, Naples, Presidi, Sardinia, and Sicily.

1566 - 1568

Carlo d'Aragona Tagliavia

Viceroy of Sicily, Catalonia (1581-82). Governor of Milan (1583-92).

1568 - 1571

Francesco Ferdinando II d'Ávalos

Viceroy of Sicily. Former governor of Milan (1560-1563).

1571 - 1577

Carlo d'Aragona Tagliavia

Second term of office.

1641 - 1644

Juan Alfonso Enríquez de Cabrera

Viceroy of Sicily. Viceroy of Naples (1644-1646).

1647 - 1649

Gian Giacomo Teodoro Trivulzio

Viceroy of Aragon (1642), & Sardinia (1649). Gov of Milan (1656).

1662 - 1667

Francesco Caetani

Governor of Milan (1660-1662).

1670 - 1674

Claude Lamoral

Governor of Milan (1674-1678).

1696 - 1701

Pedro Manuel Colón de Portugal

Duke of Veragua. Viceroy of Valencia (1679) & Sardinia (1706).

1702 - 1715

Spain is involved in the War of Succession as Austria, Britain, and Portugal dispute the Bourbon accession. The conclusion of the war sees Spain giving up Milan, Naples, Sardinia, and the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium) to Austria, and Sicily to the duchy of Savoy (in 1713). The Papal States are forced to hand over the territories of Parma and Piacenza to Austria, a definite blow to the papacy's prestige. Philip, duke of Anjou, is recognised as the Bourbon King Philip V of Spain, but only on the condition that the Bourbon crowns of Spain and France can never be united under a single ruler.

1713 - 1720

Victor Amadeus II

King. Duke of Savoy (1675-1730). King of Sardinia (1720-1730).

1718 - 1718

Pedro Manuel Colón de Portugal

A Spanish Netherlands Belgian. Viceroy of Sardinia (1717).

1717 - 1720

King Philip V of Spain is unhappy with the arrangements set at the end of the War of Succession and occupies Sardinia and Sicily, triggering the War of the Quadruple Alliance. Austria, Britain, France, and Holland unite to defeat Spain, and peace is again declared with the Treaty of The Hague which is signed in 1720. As part of this treaty, the duchy of Savoy trades the important island of Sicily to Austria for the far less important Sardinia, which is closer to its own territory. So as not to lose out on the trade, the former dukes are promoted, and Savoy is merged with Sardinia to form a single kingdom of Sardinia.

War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought to avoid a shift in the balance of power in Europe with the proposed unification of the Bourbon kingdoms of Spain and France

1732

Otto Ferdinand von Abensberg und Traun

Later Austrian governor of Milan (1736-1743).

1733 - 1735

The War of the Polish Succession gains Naples and Sicily for the Bourbons of Spain. The Spanish Philip V reunites his possessions as the kingdom of the Two Sicilies and gives them to a younger son under an agreement that the kingdom will not be reunited with Spain. In exchange, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI gains the duchy of Parma in addition to his existing Italian possessions.

Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
AD 1735 - 1805

The Sicilian Bourbons descended from Ferdinand, second son of Charles III of Spain, king of the Two Sicilies. With interruptions aside, they managed to keep the title until they were dispossessed in 1860.

1734 - 1759

Charles

King of Spain (1759-1788). Abdicated the Sicilies to his son.

1759 - 1805

Ferdinand IV (I)

Son.

1794 - 1795

The kingdom joins the First Coalition against republican France.

1799

The Parthenopean Republic is declared in Naples in January, but the Bourbons are restored in June of the same year.

1805

The Bourbons are deposed by Napoleon Bonaparte's French First Empire, and the emperor forms his own kingdom of Naples. Protected by the British Royal Navy, the Bourbons continue to rule from Sicily but without any power over Naples.

Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
AD 1805 - 1860

Naples was restored to the kingdom in 1815.

1805 - 1825

Ferdinand IV (I)

Ruled from Sicily 1806-1814. Restored to Naples (1815).

1825 - 1830

Francis I

1830 - 1859

Ferdinand V (II)

1859 - 1860

Francis II

1860

Garibaldi defeats the Bourbons in his unification of Italy. The following year, Sicily and Naples are joined to Sardinia and Italy.