The History of Sicily

Park of Selinunte

In the heart of the Mediterranean lies its largest island, beautiful Sicily. Due to the excellent strategic position, Sicily was always welcoming new cultures and it has enriched the history of Sicily. Today, Sicily can proudly say it’s a cultural and touristic hot spot that guarantees you an unforgettable holiday.

How well do you actually know Sicily; possibly a place you wish to visit? Let’s find out, so back to ancient times we go to learn more about Sicilian history. Back then, three groups of the ancient people of Italy lived here, the Sicani, the Elymians and the Sicels. The importance of the Sicani has to be emphasized. Their cave drawings are dated back to the 8th millennium BC. How impressive is that!

The most iconic part of Sicilian history has to be the Greek and Roman era. Among many Greek settlements Syracuse is the most important one. The Greek influence left a special mark on Sicily’s culture and economy. The island’s commerce was blooming and the architecture was impeccable. Thanks to Greek religion and their magnificent architects, we’ve got many amazing ancient locations to visit. Some of them, especially those in Agrigento’s Valle di Templi, are a part of world’s most precious heritage. The rise of the Roman Empire had a lot to do with this island. Sicily was the granary for the Empire. It was the centre of a slave rebellion in two Servile Wars. Also, it was the place where Christianity first appeared in the Empire and started spreading like wildfire.

The next few centuries were hectic for Sicily. The constant shift of authority resulted with a mixture of many different cultures and customs on this island. Vandals and Ostrogoths, German and Goth tribes, ruled here until the 6th century. Then, a powerful Empire from the East takes over with dominance. Byzantine was a successful ruler of Sicily for over a century. At one point, even the capital of the Byzantine Empire was transferred from Constantinople to Syracuse.

Ancient influences were, and still are, highly important for Sicily, but we can’t deny the fact that the Arabs and Saracens, have made a lot of positive changes to upgrade Sicilian society. They brought citrus fruits, pistachios, sugarcane and many other valuable agricultural items for trade and everyday use. Their reign lasted for two centuries and they were soon replaced by the Normans.

With the Norman dynasty, comes an era of European interference and governance. From this time on, the Catholic Church gained supremacy over Sicily, replacing the Orthodox Church. Immediately after, the Spanish dynasty, the French Bourbons and the Austrian Habsburg dynasty were taking turns on the Sicilian throne.

All this foreign influence led to the creation of something new, something native and authentic for Sicily. After all, this was the time of a great national revival in Europe. Sicily and Naples merged and became the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It took forty-five years to unite Sicily with the rest of Italy. Finally, on March 17th, 1861, Sicily became a part of the kingdom.

Conquerors have come and gone, but Sicily stayed strong, often closed to non-native influence. Still, all those different cultures during the centuries left a phenomenal heritage behind. That’s what makes Sicily unique. That’s what makes it a perfect place to visit this summer. You just need to choose to follow the path of the past.