Sicily: An Informal History

Sicily: An Informal History

Sicily: An Informal History

Sicily: An Informal History

Synopsis

"This work covers the extensive and varied history of the island of Sicily from the pre-historic period to the present. Sicily is a microcosm of the whole of Western and Mediterranean history, a place where more than five thousand years of history can be seen in a concentrated and accessible area. There are vivid descriptions of the island's varied historic sites, such as the prehistoric remains of the Neolithic age; the dramatic ruins of the Greek temples and theaters; the Roman villas and ampitheaters; and more. Finally, the dramatic periods of the Napoleonic Wars and the Risorgimento - the birth of the modern Italian nation - are described here in relation to the island's history, as are the events that led to Sicily's emergence into the modern industrial world. The book includes two appendices comprising a timeline of the long and varied course of Sicilian history; and a travel itinerary covering the full extent of the island and noting the many historic cities and sites described in each chapter." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Few islands have played such a significant role over such a long period of time as Sicily. Although relatively small—just under 10,000 square miles—less than a third of the size of Ireland and a fourth of the size of Cuba—Sicily has an unparalleled location. Only two miles separate it from the Italian mainland at Messina and the shortest distance to Africa is less than 100 miles. It has therefore been both a gateway and crossroads, dividing the Mediterrean into eastern and western halves and serving as a link between Europe and Africa. in fact, one of the ancient names for Sicily, [Trinacria,] reflects the triangular shape of the island with important headlands at each point. the island was a meeting place as well as a battleground, and its size and the productivity of its soil raised Sicily beyond the position of a mere trading post or stopover, and attracted conquerers and migrants. On the other hand, Sicily was not large enough to be a threat to more powerful neighbors in Europe and Africa nor strong enough to retain its independence against greater powers such as Rome or Spain.

These factors determined Sicilian history. the list of migrants and conquerors is long and includes unnamed prehistoric peoples, the Sicani, Sicels, and Elymians, Greeks and Carthaginians, Romans, Jews, Vandals, Saracens, Normans, Spaniards, and others.

What drew many of these peoples was the renowned fertility and productivity of the island. the Greek philosopher Strabo wrote in the 1st century A.D. [as for the goodness of the land, why should I speak of it when it is talked about by everyone?] Ancient Sicily was a land that produced cereals, olives, wine and fruits, and held vast forests of chestnut, pine, and fir. It was these factors which must have attracted the first settlers to the island—a process which has continued throughout her long and varied history.

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