Encyclopedia > Sicily

  Article Content


Sicily (Sicilia in Italian) is an autonomous region of Italy and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, with an area of 25,700 sq. km and 5.1 million inhabitants. Its principal cities include the regional capital Palermo, Catania, Messina, Siracusa, Marsala and Trapani. A smaller town is Taormina.

The volcano Etna is situated close to Catania. The Aeolian islands to the north are administratively a part of Sicily, as are the Egadi Islands to the west, Ustica Island to the north-west, and the Pelagian Islands[?] to the south-west.

Sicily has been noted for two millennia as a grain-producing territory: olives and wine are among its other agricultural products. The mines of the Caltanissetta[?] district became a leading sulphur-producing area in the 19th century, but have declined since the 1950s.

Previously colonised by Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Greeks, Sicily fell to Roman forces in the First Punic War (264-241 BCE), becoming a key source of Rome's grain supply. After the division of the Roman Empire, it was ruled by the Byzantine Empire until the Arab conquest of 827-965.

The cultural diversity and religious tolerance of the period of Muslim rule continued under the Normans who conquered the island in 1060-1090 (raising its status to that of a kingdom in 1130), and the south German Hohenstaufen dynasty which ruled from 1194, adopting Palermo as its principal seat from 1220.

Conflict between the Hohenstaufen house and the Papacy led in 1266 to Sicily's conquest by Charles I, duke of Anjou: opposition to French officialdom and taxation led in 1282 to insurrection (the Sicilian Vespers[?]) and successful invasion by king Peter III of Aragón.

Ruled from 1479 by the kings of Spain, Sicily suffered a ferocious outbreak of plague (1656), followed by a damaging earthquake in the east of the island (1693). Periods of rule by the crown of Savoy (1713-20) and then the Austrian Habsburgs gave way to union (1734) with the Bourbon-ruled kingdom of Naples as the kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

The scene in 1820 and 1848 of abortive revolutionary movements against Bourbon denial of constitutional government, Sicily was joined with the kingdom of Italy in 1860 following the expedition of Giuseppe Garibaldi. In 1894 labour agitation through the radical Fasci dei lavoratori led to the imposition of martial law.

Despite some economic development in the half-century after Italian unification, Sicily was largely bypassed by the industrial growth which transformed the larger urban areas of northern Italy. The organised crime networks commonly known as the mafia extended their influence in the late 19th century: partly suppressed under the Fascist regime in the late 1920s, they recovered following the World War II Allied occupation in 1943 (the Allies landed on July 10 of that year).

An autonomous region from 1946, Sicily benefited to some extent from the partial Italian land reform of 1950-62 and special funding from the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno, the Italian government's Fund for the South (1950-84). The island returned to the headlines in 1992, however, when the assassination of two anti-mafia magistrates, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino[?] triggered a general upheaval in Italian political life.

See also: Monarchs of Naples and Sicily

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
List of rare diseases starting with A

... Acrodermatitis enteropathica[?] Acrodermatitis[?] Acrodysostosis[?] Acrodysplasia scoliosis[?] Acrofacial dysostosis ambiguous genitalia[?] ...

This page was created in 42.8 ms