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Brief history

It`s more than an island! Discover Sicily and discover the world. The world`s first multicultural society, Sicily is Italy`s (and Europe`s) most historically cosmopolitan region, having been ruled by Asians, Africans and Europeans. Sicily is black and white and a million shades of gray.

There`s no other place on Earth like Sicily. Our island is a unique place full of art, archeology, history, folklore and breathtaking scenery. And, of course, great food. Sicily is almost a nation unto itself. The enchanting land where Archimedes taught and Saint Paul preached was a Greek colony, a Roman province, an Arab emirate and a Norman kingdom. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Swabians, Angevins and Aragonese made Sicily their own, leaving behind an eclectic history that you can still touch today. And Sicily will touch you. Sicily is Europe, Africa and Asia on one island. Greek tyrants, Arab emirs, Norman knights, Byzantine bishops and Holy Roman Emperors made Sicily the place it is. Experience their legacy in Phoenician settlements, Punic cities, Greek temples, Roman amphitheatres, Norman Arab castles and Aragonese churches. Thirty centuries of history expressed in the Classical, the Romanesque, the Gothic, the Baroque...

Sikania to its most ancient peoples, Sicily was Sikelia, Plato`s utopian society, to the ancient Greeks. Later, the sonnet was created at the Court of Frederick II, and Sicily found her place in the literature of Dante and Boccaccio. Sunny Sicily is Punic Palermo, towering Taormina, ancient Agrigento, splendid Siracusa, and medieval Monreale and Cefalù.
And God created Sicily. The place where the mountains meet the sea. Sicilia, the island in the sun, is home to Heavenly beaches, majestic mountains and Europe`s greatest natural wonder, Mount Etna. Sicily`s coasts are gold with orange and lemon orchards. In northeastern Sicily you`ll find lush forests. In the central regions you`ll encounter rugged land and rolling hills. Dignified vineyards, ancient olive groves, hardy almond orchards and endless wheat fields complete the picture. Summer is amber land under a sky of blue. Winter finds palm trees dusted with snow in a surreal symphony. Spring is a rainbow of wild flowers set against greenest fields...
If you could choose just one place to visit where you could witness everything from the culture of Hellenic antiquity to the glories of the Middle Ages and the wonders of the Renaissance, shaped by a dozen civilizations, Sicily would be that place.

Yes, our island is Italian. And French and Spanish and Greek, with a few German and Arab nuances in the cultural mix. Sicily is the world`s island. A place where time and tradition have been forged by peoples and faiths from the north and south, from the east and west. Timeless beauty in eclectic diversity: Europe, Africa and Asia in one magical moment...

HISTORY
The Mediterranean Sea has played a crucial role in the development of the most ancient civilities since the XIV century BC and so has Sicily, with its fascinating and bloody history of dominations that have shaped the character of its people, as well as its territory and architecture throughout the centuries.

- Prehistoric Sicily (1270-735 BC) - Archeological remains have been found in the necropolises of Pantalica and Cassibile (nearby Syracuse). Siculi, Sicani and Elymi were the original populations of the island, but were not native peoples. The Siculi lived in the south centeral part, northwest of Syracuse; the Sicani, probably not an Indo-European population, lived on the western side; and the Elymi founded Erice and Segesta. The Carthaginians, coming from the northern African coasts, colonized Solunto, Panormo (now Palermo), Mozia and Lilibeo.

- The Greek Colonization (735-212 BC) - Naxos was the first Greek colony in Sicily, founded in 735 BC. Syracuse was funded a year later in 734 BC. The former populations (Sicani, Siculi and Elymi) completely ousted the Carthaginians in 480 BC. The battle of Himera marked the beginning of Greek supremacy on the island. It is during this period that culture and architecture flourished leaving to the island the richest archeological heritage in the Mediterranean of classical Greece. There is no village in Sicily that does not have some archeological evidence of the influence by Magna Grecee.

- Roman Sicily (212 BC-468 AC) - Sicily became a Roman province in 227 BC. The Romans built large feudal estates and imposed taxes. It was during this period that the island made its name as Rome`s "bread basket", since it provided about 1/5 of the wheat necessary to the city. Syracuse resisted against the Roman dominion, but it finally surrendered after a long and brutal assault in 211 BC. The conditions under the Romans fueled two slavery revolts that ended in bloody massacres in 131 BC and 99 BC. In spite of the continuous turmoil, Sicily managed to be one of the most important economic drivers of the Roman supremacy in the Mediterranean. In II AC, Christianity spread out in the island. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Sicily was conquered by Genserico, King of the Vandals, in 468 AC.

- Arab Sicily (827-1061) - Starting in 827, Sicily became a target for frequent Arab raids. However, only in 902 did the Arabs take total control of the island. During this period, Palermo and its surroundings turned into a prosperous symbol of Arab Sicily. The local aristocracy assisted the Emir through an assembly called Giama`a. Economy and agriculture were organized in an efficient and productive way; while arts and science were also particularly vibrant, thanks to close contact with other Mediterranean regions such as Andalusia, Maghreb and Egypt.

- Norman Sicily (1091-1190) - The Christian crusade against the Arabs began in 1061 and Roger I conquered Sicily in 1091. In 1130 Roger II obtained the title of King of Sicily and extended his jurisdiction to Naples and Capua. Palermo became the capital. Eventually, William I and William II succeeded Roger II. William II participates in the third crusade and gives to his aunt, Costance of Altavilla, the right to succession.

- Svevians and Angevins (1186-1282) - In 1186, Constance of Altavilla married Frederick I`s son, Enrich VI, in Milan. Four years later, the Svevian family obtained the right to the Kingdom of Sicily and Enrich VI became Emperor and King of Sicily. After his death in 1197, his son Frederick II, only three years old, was crowned King. Constance remained his regent until he became of age. Frederick was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1209. Known as stupor mundi, he was an extremely modern ruler for the times: he spoke nine languages, wrote manuals, and, unlike most Roman emperors, he spent most of his life just outside Germany. He died in 1250 and his son Conrad IV succeeded him. He is defeated and killed by the Guelphs lead by Carlo of Anjou in 1268.

- Sicilian Vespers and the Aragoneses (1282-1416) - In 1282, the Sicilian Vespers, a rebellion against Carlo of Anjou and the Angevin French in the island, broke out in Palermo. An assembly of barons asked Peter III of Aragon to intervene against the French. Thus began a ttwenty year war, which finally ended with the coronation of Frederick of Aragon, Peter III`s son, as King of Sicily. The Aragonese dynasty ruled Sicily until 1416.

- The Bourbons (1735-1859) - Charles III of Bourbon acquired Sicily from Austria (1734) and became King of Naples and Sicily in 1735. He was a beneficent ruler. His half-brother, Frederick VI, succeeded him to the Spanish throne and passed Naples and Sicily on to his son, Ferdinand I, in 1759. The French conquered Naples in 1799 and 1806 and Ferdinand flees to Sicily where he reigned under English protection. In 1816, Naples was restored to him and he then declared himself King of the Two Sicilies. His government fueled a revolt in 1820, forcing him to grant a constitution. With the help of Austria, he was able to restore monarchy in 1821. His successors, Francis I, Ferdinand II and Francis II, continue the ruthless policy of his regime until 1860.

- The Savoias (1860-1946) - Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, King of Sardinia, favors Garibaldi`s expedition to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1860. Thus, King Francis II was overthrown and, after a plebiscite for the annexation in 1861, Sicily became part of the new unified Kingdom of Italy and Victor Emmanuel of Savoy becomes King of Italy. The unification signified a further economic and social decline for Sicily. Between 1890 and 1930, more than a million Sicilians left the island , mostly to migrate to the United States. The new century also starts with the quake in Messina in 1908. Excluded to the process of modernization happening in Northern Italy, Sicily succumbed to an increasingly influential mafia. The Fascist regime, which came to power in 1920 managed to partly suppress it, but the mafia returned more powerful than ever after the invasion of the Allies during the II World War in 1943.

- Contemporary Sicily - Heavily bombed during the II World War, Sicily voted for the republic in 1946. Ten percent of voters dreamed of a separation of the Island from the motherland. Salvatore Giuliano, who lead a small group of bandits with close ties to the mafia, longed for the annexation of Sicily to the United States. However, he was killed in 1950. The mafia intensified its relationships with politics and the politicians of the Christian Democratic Party, spreading its power and influence beyond the island. Nowadays, thanks to the dedication and lives of public servants, the state is gaining an ever-growing control over the mafia and the problem is tackled more effectively.

TRADITIONS
Feasts represent one of the most important parts of Sicilian social life, mixing pagan myth, religious events and country fairs. The most celebrated feasts are Easter, Carnival, and the patron saints` day.
* Palermo celebrates Saint Rosalia on 14th July;
* Catania celebrates Saint`Agata for 3 days in February (3-4-5).
Other events are: the Palio dei Normanni in Piazza Armerina (Enna province), which commemorates the arrival of Roger II; the Festival of Spiga in Gangi that goes back to ancient pagan rituals dedicated to the Goddess Cerere; the Festival del Mandorlo in Agrigento and the Sagra della Ricotta in Vizzini.

  • Carts - The painted carts of Sicily (carretti) have been around for nearlythan two centuries. Once there were several thousands of them, carrying the products of the island and participating in its celebrations. The carts were fashioned from beautifully carved wood and intricately wrought metal. All visible parts were colorfully painted with religious, chivalric, historical, or other culturally symbolic designs and figures. They carried passengers, foodstuffs, wine barrels, minerals, and other cargo from place to place. Described as ungainly and awkward, they were pulled over less than satisfactory roads by horses, mules or donkeys decorated themselves in colorful harnesses and feathers.
  • Sicilian Puppets - The Sicilian Puppets Theater was defined "Masterpiece of the Oral Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO. Sicilian puppets portray epic sagas, but scene dialogues are often improvised. Puppets (from the Latin pupus: little child) are the characteristic armored marionettes of the epic popular theater, brought probably from Spain of Don Quixote to Sicily, where it reached its full development. Italy boasts three main puppet schools, two of which are in Sicily: 1) Palermitan; 2) Catanese; and 3) Campanian. The puppets differ in their armor and dimensions. For example, Palermitan puppets are smaller and more mobile than the Catanese ones.

 

The Trinacria - History and Mythology

The Trinacria - History and MythologyThe symbol of Trinacria is well-known today because present in the flag of Sicily and that of the Isle of Man. His history is articulated and still wrapped in the mystery since connects with mythology. The Trinacria, symbol of Sicily, is composed of the head of Gorgon, whose hair is interwoven snakes with wheat ears, from which of three folded legs up to the knee irradiate. The Gorgon is a mythological personality. For Hesiod (VIII - VII sec. b.C.), Greek poet, was everybody of three daughters of Forco and Ceto, two divinities of the sea: Medusa (the Gorgon par excellence), Steno ("the strong"), Euriale ("the spacious"). They had tusks of wild boar, hands made of bronze, gold wings, snakes on the head and in the waist. Were living at Esperidi (daughters of Atlas, in the island of the Blissfuls, the most western part of the world). They could petrify the men with a glance. Wheat ears are territory fertility symbol.

The three legs represent the three promontories of Sicily: Cape Peloro (or Tip of the Lighthouse, Messina: North-east), Cape Passero (Siracusa: South), Cape Lilibeo (or Cape Boeo, Marsala: West). This arrangement finds again in the Greek term "triskeles" and connects with the geographic meaning: treis (three) and akra (promontories): from which also in latin triquetra (to three tops). The arrangement of the three legs, making think of a rotation, took the researchers to go back to the religious symbology oriental, especially that of Baal, the god of the time. To Vaga (Tunisia), in the dedicated monument, over the bull there is a Trinacria. Or to that of the moon, where the three legs are replaced by sickles.

In the Near East, between VI and IV b.C, the Trinacria was carved in the coins of several towns, in ancient areas, which: Aspendo (in Panfilia, on the eastern Mediterranean sea), Berrito and Thebes (in Troade, territory about at the town in Troia, between the Scamandro and the Ellesponto), Olba (in Cilicia (between Armenia and Syria), and in some town of Lycia (south-west). Also in the absence of references to the geographic conformation, the symbol was also used at Crete, Macedonia, and in the northern center Spain. Homer, in the Odyssey, alluding to the island form, uses the Thrinakie term, which comes from thrinax ("three tips"). The theses on the sources of the Trinacria find a reference substantial in the ancient history of Greece. The Spartan fighters were carving in their shields a folded white leg up to the knee, strength symbol. This image meets again in the paintings on the ancient vases and is also in a monograph of 1863 on the subject, written by the German philosopher K.W. Goettling.

Normans, arrived to Sicily in 1072, "exported" the Trinacria in the Isle of Man, that chose her as a symbol in replacement of that precedent, a vessel, of scandinavian origin. An example of the symbolic importance of the Trinacria, in the history of Sicily, has had on August 30th of 1302 with the constitution of the Island in Kingdom of Trinacria, following the peace of Caltabellotta, to the conclusion of the "Vespro war", which saw the dispute between the Angevin and Sicilians (ally with the Aragoneses). The kingdom sovereignty was, under the point of formal view, assigned to Federico II of Aragona (1227-1337); it was actually independent of the rest of the Aragonese domains in the southern Italy. The symbol of Trinacria is also present in the coats of arms of several noble dynasties: the Stuart of Albany in England (maybe for their domain on the islands of the sea of Ireland, between which the Isle of Man), the Rabensteiner in France, the Schanke in Denmark, the Drocomir in Poland, and in that of Gioacchino Murat, king of the Two Sicilies at the beginning of the 1800.

The Trinacria is to the center in the flag of the Sicily. The flag is red and yellow, in diagonal sense, and has been approved in January 2000. The law has established that the sicilian flag must be exposed to the outside of: sicilian parliament (sicilian regional assembly); regional committee; provincial and communal councils; seats of regional provinces presidents and mayors; schools; buildings in which are constituted electoral seats in the elections for the sicilian parliament.

 








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