History of Islam in southern Italy

The history of Islam in Sicily and Southern Italy began with the first Muslim settlement in Sicily, at Mazara, which was captured in 827.[1] The subsequent rule of Sicily and Malta started in the 10th century.[2] Islamic rule over all Sicily began in 902, and the Emirate of Sicily lasted from 965 until 1061. Though Sicily was the primary Muslim stronghold in Italy, some temporary footholds, the most substantial of which was the port city of Bari (occupied from 847 until 871), were established on the mainland peninsula, especially in mainland Southern Italy, though Muslim raids reached as far north as Rome and Piedmont. The Muslim raids were part of a larger struggle for power in Italy and Europe, with Christian Byzantine, Frankish, Norman and local Italian forces also competing for control. Muslims were sometimes sought as allies by various Christian factions against other factions.

The first permanent Arab settlement on Sicily occurred in 827, but it was not until Taormina fell in 902 that the entire island fell under their sway, though Rometta held out until 965. In that year the Kalbids established the independence of their emirate from the Fatimid Caliphate. In 1061 the first Norman liberators took Messina, and by 1071 Palermo and its citadel (1072) were captured. In 1091 Noto fell to the Normans, and the conquest was complete. Malta fell later that year, though the Arab administration was kept in place,[3] marking the final chapter of this period.[4] The conquests of the Normans established Roman Catholicism firmly in the region, where Eastern Christianity had been prominent during the time of Byzantine rule and even remained significant during Islamic period.[5][6] Widespread conversion ensued, leading to the disappearance of Islam in Sicily by the 1280s. In 1245, Muslim Sicilians were deported to the settlement of Lucera, by order of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.[7] In 1300, Giovanni Pipino di Barletta, count of Altamura, seized Lucera and exiled or sold into slavery its population, bringing an end to the medieval Muslim presence in Italy.[8]

Arabischer Maler der Palastkapelle in Palermo 004
Arabic painting made for the Norman kings (c. 1150) in the Palazzo dei Normanni, originally the emir's palace at Palermo.

First Islamic attacks on Sicily (652–827)

The first attacks by Islamic ships on Sicily, then part of the Byzantine Empire, occurred in 652 under the Rashidun Caliphate of Uthman. These were Arab warriors directed by the Governor of Syria, Muawiyah I, and led by Mu'awiya ibn Hudayj of the Kindah tribe, and they remained on the island for several years. Olympius, the Byzantine exarch of Ravenna, came to Sicily to oust the invaders but failed. Soon after, the Arabs returned to Syria after collecting a sufficiently large amount of booty.

A second Arab expedition to Sicily occurred in 669. This time, a strong, ravaging force consisting of 200 ships from Alexandria attacked the island. They sacked Syracuse, Sicily and returned to Egypt after a month of pillaging. After the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb (completed around 700), attacks from Muslim fleets repeated in 703, 728, 729, 730, 731, 733, and 734. The last two Arab assaults were met with substantial Byzantine resistance.

The first true conquest expedition was launched in 740. In that year, Habib ibn Abi Obeida al-Fihri, who had participated in the 728 attack, successfully captured Syracuse. Though ready to conquer the whole island, the expedition was forced to return to Tunisia by a Berber revolt. A second attack in 752 aimed only to sack Syracuse again.

In 805, the imperial patrician of Sicily, Constantine, signed a ten-year truce with Ibrahim I ibn al-Aghlab, Emir of Ifriqiya, but this did not prevent Muslim fleets from other areas of Africa and Spain from attacking Sardinia and Corsica from 806–821. In 812, Ibrahim's son, Abdallah I, sent an invasion force to conquer Sicily. His ships were first harassed by the intervention of Gaeta and Amalfi and were later destroyed in great number by a tempest. However, they managed to conquer the island of Lampedusa and to ravage Ponza and Ischia in the Tyrrhenian Sea. A further agreement between the new patrician Gregorius and the emir established the freedom of commerce between southern Italy and Ifriqiya. After a further attack in 819 by Mohammed ibn-Adballad, cousin of Amir Ziyadat Allah I of Ifriqiya, no subsequent Muslim attacks on Sicily are mentioned by sources until 827.


Conquest of Sicily (827–902)

Euphemius and Asad

The Muslim conquest of Sicily and parts of southern Italy lasted 75 years. According to some sources, the conquest was spurred by Euphemius, a Byzantine commander who feared punishment by Emperor Michael II for a sexual indiscretion. After a short-lived conquest of Syracuse, he was proclaimed emperor but was compelled by loyal forces to flee to the court of Ziyadat Allah in Africa. The latter agreed to conquer Sicily, with the promise to leave it to Euphemius in exchange for a yearly tribute. He entrusted its conquest to the 70-year-old qadi, Asad ibn al-Furat. The Muslim force numbered 10,000 infantry, 700 cavalry, and 100 ships, reinforced by the fleet of Euphemius and, after the landing at Mazara del Vallo, by knights. The first battle against Byzantine troops occurred on July 15, 827, near Mazara, resulting in an Aghlabid victory.

Asad subsequently conquered the southern shore of the island and laid siege to Syracuse. After a year of siege and an attempted mutiny, his troops were able to defeat a large army sent from Palermo backed by a Venetian fleet led by doge Giustiniano Participazio. However, the Muslims retreated to the castle of Mineo when a plague killed many of their troops and Asad himself. They later returned to the offensive but failed to conquer Castrogiovanni (the modern Enna, where Euphemius died), retreating back to Mazara. In 830, they received a strong reinforcement of 30,000 African and Spanish troops. The Spanish Muslims defeated the Byzantine commander Theodotus in July and August of that year, but a plague once again forced them to return to Mazara and then to Africa. The African Berber units sent to besiege Palermo captured it in September 831 after a year-long siege.[9] Palermo, renamed al-Madinah, became the Muslim capital of Sicily.[10]

Abu Fihr Muhammad ibn Abd-Allah

In February 832, Ziyadat Allah sent his cousin Abu Fihr Muhammad ibn Abd-Allah to the island and appointed him as the wāli of Sicily.[10] He defeated the Byzantines in early 834, and in the following year his troops reached as far as Taormina. The war dragged on for several years with minor Ahglabid victories, while the Byzantines resisted in their strongholds of Castrogiovanni and Cefalù. New troops arrived in the island from the new Emir Al-Aghlab Abu Affan and occupied Platani, Caltabellotta, Corleone, Marineo, and Geraci, granting the Muslims total control of western Sicily.

In 836, Muslim ships helped their ally, Andrew II of Naples, when he was besieged by Beneventan troops,[11] and with Neapolitan support Messina was also conquered in 842. In 845, Modica also fell, and the Byzantines suffered a crushing defeat near Butera, losing about 10,000 men. Lentini was conquered in 846, and Ragusa followed in 848.

Abbas ibn Fadhl

In 851, the governor and general Al-Aghlab Abu Ibrahim died. He was succeeded by Abbas ibn Fadhl. He started a campaign of ravages against the lands still in Byzantine hands, capturing Butera, Gagliano, Cefalù, and, most important of all, Castrogiovanni, in winter 859.[12] Many of the captives from Castrogiovanni were sent to the Caliph Al-Mutawakkil, as a representation of Abbas ibn Fadhl's victory.[13] In response, the Byzantine emperor sent a large force in 859–860 under Constantine Kontomytes, but the army and the fleet carrying it were defeated by Abbas. Byzantine reinforcements led many of the cities subjugated by the Muslims to revolt, and Abbas devoted the years 860–861 to reduce them. Abbas died in 861, replaced by his uncle Ahmed ibn Yaqub and, from February 862, by Abdallah, son of Abbas; the latter was in turn replaced by the Aghlabids with Khafagia ibn Sofian, who captured Noto, Scicli, and Troina.

Jafar ibn Muhammad

In the summer of 868, the Byzantines were defeated for the first time near Syracuse. Hostilities resumed in the early summer of 877 by the new sultan, Jafar ibn Muhammad al-Tamini, who besieged Syracuse; the city fell on May 21, 878. The Byzantines now maintained control over a short stretch of coast around Taormina, while the Muslim fleet attacked Greece and Malta. The latter fleet was, however, destroyed in a naval battle in 880. For a while, it seemed that the Byzantines could regain Sicily, but new land victories for the Muslims re-established their control. A revolt in Palermo against Governor Seuàda ibn Muhammad was crushed in 887.

The death of the strong Emperor Basil I in 886 also encouraged the Muslims to attack Calabria, where the imperial army was defeated in the summer of 888. However, the first inner revolt was followed by another in 890, mostly spurred by the hostility between Arabs and Berbers. In 892 an emir was sent from Ifriqiya by Ibrahim II ibn Ahmad to Palermo but was ousted again a few months later. The prince did not relent and sent another powerful army to Sicily under his son, Abu l-Abbas Abdallah, in 900. The Sicilians were defeated at Trapani (August 22) and outside Palermo (September 8), the latter city resisting for another ten days. Abu l-Abbas moved against the remaining Byzantine strongholds and was also able to capture Reggio Calabria on the mainland on June 10, 901.

As Ibrahim was forced to abdicate in Tunis, he decided to lead in person the operations in southern Italy. Taormina, the last main Byzantine stronghold in Sicily, fell on August 1, 902. Messina and other cities opened their gates to avoid a similar massacre. Ibrahim's army also marched on southern Calabria, besieging Cosenza. Ibrahim died of dysentery on October 24. His grandson stopped the military campaign and returned to Sicily.

Aghlabid Sicily (827–909)

At this point (902), Sicily was almost entirely under the control of the Aghlabids with the exception of some minor strongholds in the rugged interior. The population had been somewhat increased by Muslim migrants from Iberia, North Africa, and the Middle East. The emir in Palermo nominated the governors of the main cities (qadi) and those of the less important ones (hakim), along with the other functionaries. Each city had a council called a gema, composed of the most eminent members of the local society, which was entrusted with the care of the public works and of the social order. The conquered Sicilian population lived as dhimmi or converted to Islam.

The Arabs initiated land reforms that increased productivity and encouraged the growth of smallholdings, a mere dent in the dominance of the landed estates. The Arabs further improved irrigation systems. With about 300,000 inhabitants, Palermo in the 10th century was the most populous city in Italy.[14] A description of the city was given by Ibn Hawqal, a Baghdad merchant who visited Sicily in 950. A walled suburb called the Kasr (the citadel) was (and remains) the center of Palermo, and the great Friday mosque stood on the site of the later Roman cathedral. The suburb of Al-Khalisa (Kalsa) contained the sultan's palace, baths, a mosque, government offices, and a private prison. Ibn Hawqal reckoned there were 7,000 individual butchers trading in 150 shops.

Fatimid Sicily (909–965)

In 909, the African Aghlabid dynasty was replaced by the Fatimid Caliphate, an Ismaili Shi'i dynasty. Three years later, the Fatimid governor was ousted from Palermo when the island declared its independence under Emir Ibn Qurhub.[15] His failed siege of Taormina,[16] which had been rebuilt by the Christians; weakened his influence.[16] By 917, a Fatimid fleet, brought by pleas from a dissatisfied Sicilian faction, placed Palermo under siege. After a six-month siege, Ibn Qurhub and his son were captured and executed.[16]

The island was governed by a Fatimid emir for the following 20 years. In 937, the Berbers of Agrigento revolted again but after two resounding successes were decisively beaten at the gates of Palermo. An army was then sent by the new Fatimid caliph, Al-Qa'im bi-Amr Allah, to besiege Agrigento twice until it fell on November 20, 940. The revolt was totally suppressed in 941 with many of the prisoners sold as slaves and Governor Khalil boasting to have killed 600,000 people in his campaigns.

Independent emirate of Sicily (965–1091)

Italy 1000 AD
Southern Italy circa 1000, showing the Kalbid emirate before its collapse.

After suppressing another revolt in 948, the Fatimid Caliph Ismail al-Mansur named Hassan al-Kalbi as emir of the island. As his charge soon became hereditary, his emirate became de facto independent from the African government. In 950, Hassan waged war against the Byzantines in southern Italy, reaching up to Gerace and Cassano allo Ionio. A second Calabrian campaign in 952 resulted in the defeat of the Byzantine army; Gerace was again besieged, but in the end Emperor Constantine VII was forced to accept having the Calabrian cities pay a tribute to Sicily.

In 956, the Byzantines reconquered Reggio and invaded Sicily; a truce was signed in 960. Two years later a revolt in Taormina was bloodily suppressed, but the resistance of the Christians in Rometta led the new Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas to send an army of 40,000 Armenians, Thracians, and Slavs under his nephew Manuel, who captured Messina in October 964. On 25 October, the Byzantines were defeated in a fierce battle with the Kalbids. Manuel, along with 10,000 of his men, was killed in the fray.

The new Emir Abu al-Qasim (964–982) launched a series of attacks against Calabria in the 970s, while the fleet under his brother attacked the Adriatic coasts of Apulia, capturing some strongholds. As the Byzantines were busy against the Fatimids in Syria and with the partial conquest of the Bulgarian Empire, the German Emperor Otto II decided to intervene. The allied German-Lombard army was defeated in 982 at the Battle of Stilo. However, as al-Qasim himself had been killed, his son Jabir al-Kalbi prudently retreated to Sicily without exploiting the victory. In 1006 a new Saracen fleet was defeated again near Reggio Calabria by the Pisans.[17]

The emirate reached its cultural peak under the emirs Jafar (983–985) and Yusuf al-Kalbi (990–998), both patrons of the arts. The latter's son Ja'far was instead a cruel and violent lord who expelled the Berbers from the island after an unsuccessful revolt against him. In 1019, another uprising in Palermo was successful, and Ja'far was exiled to Africa and replaced by his brother al-Akhal (1019–1037).

Italy and Illyria 1084 AD
Southern Italy in 1084, showing the remains of the Kalbid emirate, then fought over by multiple claimants, on the eve of the final Norman conquest.

With the support of the Fatimids, al-Akhal defeated two Byzantine expeditions in 1026 and 1031. His attempt to raise a heavy tax to pay his mercenaries caused a civil war. Al-Akhal asked the Byzantines for support while his brother abu-Hafs, leader of the rebels, received troops from the Zirid Emir of Ifriqiya, al-Muizz ibn Badis, which were commanded by his son Abdallah.

The local population conquered by the Muslims were Roman Rite Catholic Sicilians in Western Sicily and partially Greek speaking Orthodox Christians, mainly in the eastern half of the island (the Churches were in union until 1054 and the split was final after the sack of Constantinople in 1204), but there were also a significant number of Jews.[18] These conquered people were afforded a limited freedom of religion under the Muslims as dhimmi, protected peoples, but were subject to some legal restrictions. The dhimmi were also required to pay the jizya, or poll tax, and the kharaj or land tax, but were exempt from the tax that Muslims had to pay (Zakaat). Under Arab rule there were different categories of Jizya payers, but their common denominator was the payment of the Jizya as a mark of subjection to Muslim rule in exchange for protection against foreign and internal aggression. The conquered population could avoid this subservient status simply by converting to Islam. Whether by honest religious conviction or societal compulsion large numbers of native Sicilians converted to Islam. However, even after 100 years of Islamic rule, numerous Greek speaking Christian communities prospered, especially in north-eastern Sicily, as dhimmi. This was largely a result of the Jizya system which allowed subservient co-existence. This co-existence with the conquered population fell apart after the reconquest of Sicily, particularly following the death of King William II of Sicily in 1189.

Decline (1037–1061) and Norman conquest of Sicily (1061–1091)

In 1038, a Byzantine army under George Maniaces crossed the strait of Messina. This included a corps of Normans which saved the situation in the first clash against the Muslims from Messina. After another decisive victory in the summer of 1040, Maniaces halted his march to lay siege to Syracuse. Despite his conquest of the latter, Maniaces was removed from his position, and the subsequent Muslim counter-offensive reconquered all the cities captured by the Byzantines.

The Norman Robert Guiscard, son of Tancred, invaded Sicily in 1060. The island was split between three Arab emirs, and the Sicilian population rose up against the ruling Muslims. One year later, Messina fell, and in 1072, Palermo was taken by the Normans.[19] The loss of the cities, each with a splendid harbor, dealt a severe blow to Muslim power on the island. Eventually all of Sicily was taken. In 1091, Noto in the southern tip of Sicily and the island of Malta, the last Arab strongholds, fell to the Christians. By the 11th century, Muslim power in the Mediterranean had begun to wane.[20]

Many oppressive measures were introduced by Frederick II to please the popes who were afraid of Islam close to the papal state.[21] This resulted in a rebellion by Sicilian Muslims,[22] which in turn triggered organized resistance and systematic reprisals[23] which marked the final chapter of Islam in Sicily. The existence of Muslims was constant issue during Hohenstaufen rule in Sicily under Henry VI and his son Frederick II. It was dealt with by the conversion of most Muslims to Catholicism; and the loss of large numbers during rebellions. The annihilation of Islam in Sicily was completed by the late 1240s when the final deportations to Lucera took place.[24]

Deportation of the last Muslims from Lucera (1300)

Some of the expelled Muslims were deported to Lucera (Lugêrah, as it was known in Arabic). Their numbers eventually reached between 15,000 and 20,000,[25] leading Lucera to be called Lucaera Saracenorum because it represented the last stronghold of Islamic presence in Italy. The colony thrived for 75 years until it was sacked in 1300 by Christian forces under the command of the Angevin Charles II of Naples. The city's Muslim inhabitants were exiled or sold into slavery,[26] with many finding asylum in Albania across the Adriatic Sea.[27] After the expulsions of Muslims in Lucera, Charles II replaced Lucera's Saracens with Christians, chiefly Burgundian and Provençal soldiers and farmers,[28] following an initial settlement of 140 Provençal families in 1273.[29] A remnant of the descendants of these Provençal colonists, still speaking a Franco-Provençal dialect, has survived till the present day in the villages of Faeto and Celle di San Vito.


Emirate of Bari (847–871)

Emperor Louis II before Bari
The joint capture of Bari by German and Franco-Lombard troops led by the Emperor Louis II in 871.

The Adriatic port city of Bari, in the Apulia region of southern Italy, was captured by a Muslim army in 847, then remained under Muslim control for the next 25 years. It became the capital of a small independent Islamic state with an emir and a mosque of its own. The first ruler of Bari was Khalfun, a Berber leader who had probably come from Sicily. After his death in 852, he was succeeded by Mufarraq ibn Sallam, who strengthened the Muslim conquest and enlarged its boundaries. He also asked for official recognition from Baghdad Caliph al-Mutawakkil's governor in Egypt as wāli (i.e., prefect ruling over a province of the Abbasid empire). The third, and last, emir of Bari was Sawdan, who came to power around 857 after the murder of Mufarraq. He invaded the lands of the Lombard Duchy of Benevento, forcing duke Adelchis to pay a tribute. In 864, he obtained the official investiture asked by Mufarrag. The town was embellished with a mosque, palaces and public works.

In 870 the German Emperor Louis organised a response, fighting his way deep into Apulia and Calabria but bypassing major population centres like Bari or Taranto. A few towns were freed of Muslim control and the various Muslim bands encountered were universally defeated.[30] Encouraged by these successes, Louis attacked Bari with a ground force of Germans, Franks and Lombards and aided by a Croatian fleet (of Sclavini).[30] In February 871 the citadel fell and Sawdan was captured and taken to Benevento in chains.[30] In 1002 a last attempt of Saracen conquest was stopped, when a Venetian fleet defeated Muslims besieging Bari.[31]

Latium and Campania

Throughout the ninth century, Arab ships dominated the Tyrrhenian Sea.[32] Their pirates prowled the Italian coast launching hit and run attacks against the cities of Amalfi, Gaeta, Naples, and Salerno.[33] During this period, as the cities took command of their own defences, the Duchies of Gaeta and Amalfi gained their independence from the Duchy of Naples. The Christian states of the Campania were not yet prepared, however, to ally against the new Saracen threat. Amalfi and Gaeta regularly teamed up with the Saracens and Naples was hardly better, all much to the chagrin of the Papacy.[34] In fact, it was Naples that first brought Saracen troops to the south Italian mainland when Duke Andrew II hired them as mercenaries during his war with Sicard, Prince of Benevento, in 836. Sicard immediately responded with his own Saracen mercenaries and the usage soon became a tradition.

In 846 the Duchy of Naples, in alliance with maritime powers of Gaeta, Amalfi and Sorrento, defeated a Saracen fleet near Licosa. Before the battle, the alliance had already recaptured Ponza which had fallen into the possession of the Saracens earlier that year.[35] Three years later, the same coalition of maritime cities, supported by the Papal States, defeated another Arabic fleet near the recently refortified Ostia. The Saracen survivors were made prisoners, enslaved and sent to work in chain gangs building the Leonine Wall which was to encompass the Vatican Hill. Rome would never again be threatened by an Arab army.[36]

In 880 or 881, Pope John VIII, who encouraged a vigorous policy against the Muslim pirates and raiders, rescinded his grant of Traetto to Docibilis I of Gaeta and gave it instead to Pandenulf of Capua. As Patricia Skinner relates:

[Pandenolf] began to attack Gaeta's territory, and in retaliation against the pope Docibilis unleashed a group of Arabs from Agropoli near Salerno on the area around Fondi. The pope was "filled with shame" and restored Traetto to Docibilis. Their agreement seems to have sparked off a Saracen attack on Gaeta itself, in which many Gaetans were killed or captured. Eventually peace was restored and the Saracens made a permanent settlement on the mouth of the Garigliano river.[37]

In 898 the Abbey of Farfa was sacked by "Saracens", who burned it to the ground.[38] Abbot Peter of Farfa managed to organise the community's escape and salvaged its library and archives. In 905, the monastery was again attacked and destroyed by "Saracens".[39] Other areas of historical Saracen presence in central and southern Italy include, Saracinesco, Ciciliano and Nocera Inferiore.

The Saracen camp at Minturno (in modern-day Lazio) by the Garigliano River became a perennial thorn in the side for the Papacy and many expeditions sought to get rid of them. In 915, Pope John X organised a vast alliance of southern powers, including Gaeta and Naples, the Lombard princes and the Byzantines; 'though, the Amalfitans stood aloof. The subsequent Battle of the Garigliano was successful, and all Saracens were captured and executed, ending any presence of Muslims in Lazio or Campania permanently.[40] In 999 a last Saracen attempt of conquest of Salerno was thwarted by an alliance of Lombards, led by Prince Guaimar III, and a band of Norman pilgrims returning from Jerusalem.[41][42]


Starting from 705–706, the Saracens from North Africa (recently conquered by the Arab armies) harassed the population of the coastal cities. Details about the political situation of Sardinia in the following centuries are scarce. Due to Saracen attacks in the 9th century, Tharros was abandoned in favor of Oristano after more than 1,800 years of habitation; Caralis, Porto Torres and numerous other coastal centres suffered the same fate. In 805, the imperial patrician of Sicily Constantine signed a ten-year truce with Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab, emir of Ifriqiya, but this was not an impediment to the pirates from Africa and Muslim Spain to attack repeatedly Sardinia between 806 and 821.[43]

In 1015 and again in 1016 the Emir Mujāhid al-‘Āmirī of Denya (Latinized as Museto) from the taifa of Denia, in the east of Muslim Spain (al-Andalus), attacked Sardinia and attempted to establish control over it. The twelfth-century Pisan Liber maiolichinus, a history of the 1113–1115 Balearic Islands expedition, records that Mujāhid controlled all of the Sardinian coastal plain.[44] The local Sardinian ruler, Salusio, the judge of Cagliari, was killed in the fighting and the organised resistance broke down.[45] In both these years joint expeditions from the maritime republics of Pisa and Genoa repulsed the invaders and preserved Sardinia as a part of Christendom. These Pisan–Genoese expeditions to Sardinia were approved and supported by the Papacy, making them precursors of the Crusades, which began eighty years later.[46] In 1022 new attempts were made by other Saracens, until in 1052 the people of Pisa, after long and bloody fighting in alliance with Genoa and Sardinian Giudicati, were able to drive them from the island.

Invasion of Otranto

In 1480, an Ottoman Turkish fleet invaded Otranto, landing nearby the city and capturing it along with its fort. Pope Sixtus IV called for a crusade, and a massive force was built up by Ferdinand I of Naples, among them notably troops of Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, despite frequent Italian quarreling at the time. The Neapolitan force met with the Turks in 1481, thoroughly annihilating them and recapturing Otranto.

In 1537, the famous Turkish corsair and Ottoman admiral Barbarossa tried again to conquer Otranto and the Fortress of Castro, but the Turks were eventually repulsed from the city.

Ottoman incursions on the south and west coasts of Italy continued into the 17th-century. Pozzuoli and Castellamare in the Bay of Naples were attacked in 1548; Ischia in 1544; Reggio in Calabria in 1594 (cathedral destroyed); and Vieste, Vasto and Manfredonia were raided and sacked in 1554, 1560, and 1620 respectively.[47]

Islamic and Arabic influence and legacy

Arabic art and science continued to be heavily influential in urban Sicily during the two centuries[48] following the Christian reconquest. Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily in the early 13th century, is said to have been able to speak Arabic (as well as Latin, Sicilian, German, French, and Greek) and had several Muslim ministers. The heritage of the Arabic language can still be found in numerous terms adapted from it and still used in the Sicilian language. Another legacy of Muslim rule is the survival of some Sicilian toponyms of Arabic origin, for example "Calata-" or "Calta-" from Arabic qalʿat (قلعة) "castle".

See also


  1. ^ "Assessment of the status, development and diversification of fisheries-dependent communities: Mazara del Vallo Case study report" (PDF). European Commission. 2010. p. 2. Retrieved 28 September 2012. In the year 827, Mazara was occupied by the Arabs, who made the city an important commercial harbour. That period was probably the most prosperous in the history of Mazara.
  2. ^ Krueger, Hilmar C.; Musca, Giosue (1966). "Review of L'emirato di Bari, 847-871 by Giosuè Musca". Speculum. Medieval Academy of America. 41 (1): 761. doi:10.2307/2852342. JSTOR 2852342.
  3. ^ Krueger, Hilmar C. (1969). "Conflict in the Mediterranean before the First Crusade: B. The Italian Cities and the Arabs before 1095". In Baldwin, M. W. A History of the Crusades, vol. I: The First Hundred Years. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 40–53.
  4. ^ Jellinek, George (1994). History Through the Opera Glass: From the Rise of Caesar to the Fall of Napoleon. Kahn & Averill. ISBN 0-912483-90-3.
  5. ^ Kenneth M. Setton, "The Byzantine Background to the Italian Renaissance" in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 100:1 (Feb. 24, 1956), pp. 1–76.
  6. ^ Daftary, Farhad. The Ismāʻı̄lı̄s: Their History and Doctrines. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37019-1.
  7. ^ Julie Taylor, Muslims in Medieval Italy: The Colony at Lucera, (Rowman & Littlefield Inc., 2003), 18.
  8. ^ Caroline Bruzelius, The Stones of Naples: Church Building in the Angevin Kingdom, 1266-1343, (Yale University Press, 2004), 107.
  9. ^ Previté-Orton (1971), vol. 1, pg. 370
  10. ^ a b Islam in Sicily Archived 2011-07-14 at the Wayback Machine, by Alwi Alatas
  11. ^ Previté-Orton (1971), p. 370
  12. ^ J. B. Bury, History of the Eastern Empire, (Cosimo Classic, 2008), 307.
  13. ^ J. B. Bury, History of the Eastern Empire, 307.
  14. ^ Overview of Italy in the late 9th century at cronologia.leonardo.it
  15. ^ Farhad Daftary, The Isma'ilis: Their History and Doctrines, (Cambridge University Press, 1990), 156.
  16. ^ a b c Alex Metcalfe, Muslims of Medieval Italy, ed. Carole Hillenbrand, (Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 47.
  17. ^ Salvatori 2002, 23; Heywood 1921, 22 n2.
  18. ^ Archived link: From Islam to Christianity: the Case of Sicily, Charles Dalli, page 153. In Religion, ritual and mythology : aspects of identity formation in Europe / edited by Joaquim Carvalho, 2006, ISBN 88-8492-404-9.
  19. ^ Saracen Door and Battle of Palermo
  20. ^ Previte-Orton (1971), pg. 507-11
  21. ^ N.Daniel: The Arabs; op cit; p.154.
  22. ^ A.Lowe: The Barrier and the bridge, op cit;p.92.
  23. ^ Aubé, Pierre (2001). Roger Ii De Sicile - Un Normand En Méditerranée. Payot.
  24. ^ Abulafia, David (1988). Frederick II: A Medieval Emperor. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-9004-X.
  25. ^ "The Military Factor in Social Change Vol. 2". google.it.
  26. ^ Julie Taylor. Muslims in Medieval Italy: The Colony at Lucera. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books. 2003.
  27. ^ Ataullah Bogdan Kopanski. Islamization of Shqeptaret: The clas of Religions in Medieval Albania. Archived 2009-11-25 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "Mercenaries in Medieval and Renaissance Europe". google.it.
  29. ^ "Italian City States 1250-1453 by Sanderson Beck". beck.org.
  30. ^ a b c Kreutz, 45.
  31. ^ Crouzet-Pavan, Elisabeth; Cochrane, Lydia G. (16 February 2005). Venice Triumphant: The Horizons of a Myth. JHU Press. p. 60.
  32. ^ Skinner, 32–33.
  33. ^ Skinner, see first chapter. See also the vast literature on the coming of the Normans to southern Italy.
  34. ^ Skinner, 2–3.
  35. ^ Michele Amari, Storia dei Musulmani di Sicilia, lt=Le Monnier, 1854, Vol. I, p. 364
  36. ^ Barbara Kreutz (1996). Before the Normans: Southern Italy in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 25–28.
  37. ^ Skinner, 33, based on Leo of Ostia and the Chronica Monasterii Cassinensis.
  38. ^ Mary Stroll, The Medieval Abbey of Farfa: Target of Papal and Imperial Ambitions, (Brill, 1997), 32-33.
  39. ^ Mary Stroll, 24-25.
  40. ^ Peter Partner (1 Jan 1972). The Lands of St. Peter: The Papal State in the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance (illustrated ed.). University of California Press. pp. 81–2. ISBN 9780520021815.
  41. ^ Joranson, 355 and n 19.
  42. ^ Brown, R. Allen (1984). The Normans. Woodsbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer. p. 97. ISBN 0-85115-359-3.
  43. ^ Casula, Francesco Cesare (1994). La Storia di Sardegna. Sassari, it: Carlo Delfino Editore. ISBN 978-88-7138-084-1.
  44. ^ Omnia cum plano tenuit montana tyrampnus (III, 74). Bruce 2006, 132. For the Latin text of the Liber, cf. this PDF.
  45. ^ Bruce 2006, 134.
  46. ^ Tyerman 2006, 55.
  47. ^ Between Salt Water and Holy Water: A History of Southern Italy, by Tommaso Astarita.
  48. ^ Georgina Masson (1957). Frederick II of Hohenstaufen. A Life. London: Secker & Warburg. ISBN 0-436-27350-0.

Further reading

  • Amari, Michele (1854), Storia dei Musulmani di Sicilia (in Italian), I, Florence
  • Amari, Michele (1858), Storia dei Musulmani di Sicilia (in Italian), II, Florence
  • Gabrieli, Francesco; Umberto Scerrato (1993). Gli Arabi in Italia. Cultura, contatti e tradizioni. Milan: Garzanti Scheiwiller. ISBN 88-7644-024-0.
  • Masson, Georgina (1957). Frederick II of Hohenstaufen. A Life. London: Secker & Warburg. ISBN 0-436-27350-0.
  • Metcalfe, Alex (2009). Muslims of Medieval Italy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-2007-9.
  • Previte-Orton, C. W. (1971). The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-05993-3.
  • Musca, Giosuè (1964). L'emirato di Bari, 847-871. Bari: Dedalo Litostampa.
  • Skinner, Patricia (1995). Family Power in Southern Italy: The Duchy of Gaeta and its Neighbours, 850–1139. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Taylor, Julie Anne (April 2007). "Freedom and Bondage among Muslims in Southern Italy during the Thirteenth Century". Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. 27 (1): 71–77. doi:10.1080/13602000701308889.

The Aghlabids (Arabic: الأغالبة‎) were an Arab dynasty of emirs from the Najdi tribe of Banu Tamim, who ruled Ifriqiya, nominally on behalf of the Abbasid Caliph, for about a century, until overthrown by the new power of the Fatimids.

Arab raid against Rome

The Arab raid against Rome took place in 846. Muslim raiders plundered the outskirts of the city of Rome, sacking the basilicas of Old St Peter's and St Paul's-Outside-the-Walls, but were prevented from entering the city itself by the Aurelian Wall.

Arabs in Italy

Arabs in Italy (Italian: Arabi in Italia, Arabic: عرب إيطاليا‎) are mostly expatriates from a range of Arab countries, particularly Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Eritrea the Palestinian Territories, and Iraq; and also small groups from Jordan, Algeria and Sudan. As a result of mixed marriages and naturalization, the category includes many Italian nationals and second-generation children of expatriates.


Ciciliano is a comune (municipality) in the Metropolitan City of Rome in the Italian region Latium, located about 35 kilometres (22 mi) east of Rome.

Ciciliano borders the following municipalities: Capranica Prenestina, Castel Madama, Cerreto Laziale, Pisoniano, Sambuci, San Gregorio da Sassola.

At one time, it was a stronghold of the Saracens.

Emirate of Sicily

The Emirate of Sicily (Arabic: إِمَارَة صِقِلِّيَة‎, translit. ʾImārat Ṣiqilliya) was an emirate on the island of Sicily which existed from 831 to 1091. Its capital was Palermo.

Muslim Moors, who first invaded in 652, seized control of the entire island from the Byzantine Empire in a prolonged series of conflicts from 827 to 902, although Rometta in the far northeast of the island held out until 965. An Arab-Byzantine culture developed, producing a multiconfessional and multilingual state. The Emirate was conquered by Christian Norman mercenaries under Roger I of Sicily, who founded the County of Sicily in 1071. The last Muslim city in the island, Noto, was conquered in 1091.

Sicilian Muslims remained citizens of the multi-ethnic County and subsequent Kingdom of Sicily, until those who had not already converted were expelled in the 1240s. Until the late 12th century, and probably as late as the 1220s, Muslims formed a majority of the island's population, except in the northeast region of Val Demone which remained predominantly Byzantine Greek and Christian even during Islamic rule. The Islamic and Arabic influence remains in some elements of the Sicilian language, as well as in architecture and place names.

Islam in Italy

Muslim presence in Italy dates back to the 9th century, when Sicily came under control of the Abbasid Caliphate. There was a large Muslim presence in Italy from 827 (the first occupation of Mazara) until the 12th century. The Norman conquest of Sicily led to a gradual decline of Islam, due to conversions and emigration of Muslims toward Northern Africa. A small Muslim community however survived at least until 1300 (the destruction of the Muslim settlement of Lucera). Thereafter, until the 20th century, Islam was virtually non-existent in Italy.

During the 20th century, the first Somali immigrants from Somalia began to arrive. In more recent years, there has been migration from Albania, Bangladesh, India, Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia.

Islam in Malta

Islam in Malta, although only recently being reintroduced in a sizeable number in the latter half of the 20th century, has had a historically profound impact upon the country—especially its language and agriculture—as a consequence of previous centuries of Muslim control and presence on its islands. Today, the main organizations represented in Malta are the Libyan World Islamic Call Society and the minority Ahmadiyya.


The Kalbids were a Muslim Arab dynasty in Sicily, which ruled from 948 to 1053.

In 827, in the midst of internal Byzantine conflict, the Aghlabids arrived at Marsala in Sicily, with a fleet of 10,000 men under the command of Asad ibn al-Furat. Palermo was conquered in 831 and became the new capital. Syracuse fell in 878 and in 902 the last Byzantine outpost, Taormina, was taken. At the same time various Muslim incursions into southern Italy occurred, with new Emirates being founded in Taranto and Bari. During this period there were constant power struggles amongst the Muslims. Nominally the island was under rule of the Aghlabids and later the Fatimids.

After successfully suppressing a revolt the Fatimid caliph appointed al-Hasan al-Kalbi (948–953) as Emir of Sicily, the first of the Kalbid dynasty. The Fatimids appointed the Kalbids as rulers via proxy before they shifted their capital from Ifriqiya to Cairo in 969. Raids into southern Italy continued under the Kalbids into the 11th century, and in 982 a German army under Otto II was defeated by Abu'l-Qasim in the Battle of Stilo near Crotone in Calabria. The dynasty began a steady period of decline with the Emirate of Yusuf al-Kalbi (990-998) who entrusted the island to his sons and created space for interference from the Zirids of Ifriqiya. Under al-Akhal (1017–1037) the dynastic conflict intensified, with factions allying themselves variously with Byzantium and the Zirids. Even though neither of these powers could establish themselves in Sicily permanently, under Hasan as-Samsam (1040–1053) the island fragmented into small fiefdoms. The Kalbids died out in 1053, and in 1061 the Normans of southern Italy arrived under Roger I of Sicily and began their conquest, which was completed in 1091. The Muslims were allowed to remain and played an important role in the administration, army and economy of the Norman kingdom until the 12th century.

Under the Kalbid dynasty, Sicily, and especially Palermo, was an important economic centre of the Mediterranean. The Muslims introduced lemons, Seville oranges and sugar cane, as well as cotton and mulberries for sericulture, and built irrigation systems for agriculture. Sicily was also an important hub for trade between the Near East, North Africa and the Italian maritime republics such as Amalfi, Pisa and Genoa.


Khniss (Arabic: خنيس‎) is a small city in the Tunisian Sahel region, located on the central coastline of Tunisia, 30km south of Soussa and about 180 km from the capital Tunis. Its population is estimated at around 12,000.

Khniss is the hometown of the famous Tunisian linguist Abu Isaak Al Khounaysi who taught linguistics and grammar in the first Islamic university and research center in Africa built by the Aghlabites in Kairouan according to the Tunisian historian Hassan Hosni Abdul-Wahab.The exact significance of the word Khniss remains mysterious. Some invoke a possible meaning of Church as a deformation of the Arabic word "kanis", others suggest a link to the word "khounais" meaning depression in Arabic. Others think the city and its name are of Berber origins, however the word itself is not known. In Iraq there is an old historical Assyrian village with the name of Khniss. Also in Morocco there is a village in a Berber area with the same name. Although this may give more credit to a version arguing for a Berber origin of the word, all these guesses and hints needs further investigations.

The people of Khniss are known as peaceful, hard working, honest, and hospitable. The city is characterized by a disproportionately large number of brilliant teachers, academia, doctors, and engineers, all passionate and proud of their modest origins.


Lucera (Lucerino: Lucére) is an Italian city of 34,243 inhabitants in the province of Foggia in the region of Apulia, and the seat of the Diocese of Lucera-Troia.

Located upon a flat knoll in the Tavoliere Plains, near the foot of Daunian Mountains, Lucera was the capital of Province of Capitanata and the County of Molise from 1579 until 1806.

Muslim conquest of the Maghreb

The Muslim conquest of the Maghreb (Arabic: الفَتْحُ الإسْلَامِيُّ لِلمَغْرِبِ‎) continued the century of rapid Arab Early Muslim conquests following the death of Muhammad in 632 AD and into the Byzantine-controlled territories of Northern Africa. In a series of three stages, the conquest of the Maghreb commenced in 647 and concluded in 709 with the "Byzantine" Roman Empire losing its last remaining strongholds to the then-Umayyad Caliphate.

By 642 AD, under Caliph Umar, Arab Muslim forces had laid control of Mesopotamia (638), Syria (641), Egypt (642), and had invaded Armenia, all previously territories split between the warring Byzantine and Persian Empires, and were concluding their conquest of the Persian Empire with their defeat of the Persian army at the Battle of Nahāvand. It was at this point that Arab military expeditions into North African regions west of Egypt were first launched, continuing for years and furthering the spread of Islam.

In 644 at Madinah, Caliph Umar (Omar) was succeeded by Uthman ibn Affan (Othman), during whose twelve-year rule Armenia, Cyprus, and all of Iran, would be added to the growing Islamic empire; Afghanistan and North Africa would receive major invasions; and Muslim sea raids would range from Rhodes to the southern coasts of the Iberian Peninsula. The Byzantine navy would be defeated in the eastern Mediterranean.

Muslim settlement of Lucera

The Muslim settlement of Lucera was the result of the decision of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen dynasty (1194–1250) to move 20,000 Sicilian Muslims to Lucera, a settlement in Apulia in southern Italy. The settlement thrived for about 75 years. In 1300, it was sacked by the Christian forces of Charles II of Naples and its Muslim inhabitants were exiled or sold into slavery.

Naval warfare

Naval warfare is combat in and on the sea, the ocean, or any other battlespace involving a major body of water such as a large lake or wide river.

Nocera Inferiore

Nocera Inferiore (Neapolitan: Nucere, IPA: [nuˈ(t)ʃɛːrə], locally [nuˈ(t)ʃæːrə]) is a city and comune in Campania, Italy, in the province of Salerno, at the foot of Monte Albino, 20 kilometres (12 mi) east-south-east of Naples by rail.

Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture

The term Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture, Norman-Sicilian culture or, less inclusive, Norman-Arab culture, (sometimes referred to as the "Arab-Norman civilization") refers to the interaction of the Norman, Latin, Arab and Byzantine Greek cultures following the Norman conquest of Sicily and of Norman Africa from 1061 to around 1250. This civilization resulted from numerous exchanges in the cultural and scientific fields, based on the tolerance showed by the Normans towards the Greek-speaking populations and the Muslim settlers. As a result, Sicily under the Normans became a crossroad for the interaction between the Norman and Latin Catholic, Byzantine-Orthodox and Arab-Islamic cultures.

Ottoman invasion of Otranto

The Ottoman invasion of Otranto occurred between 1480 and 1481 at the Italian city of Otranto in Apulia, southern Italy. Forces of the Ottoman Empire invaded and laid siege to the city and its citadel. According to a traditional account, after capture more than 800 of its inhabitants were beheaded. The Martyrs of Otranto are still celebrated in Italy. A year later the Ottoman garrison surrendered the city following a siege by Christian forces and the intervention of Papal forces led by the Genoese Paolo Fregoso.

Outline of Islam

Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Allah) and that Muhammad is a messenger of God.The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Islam.

Sicily (theme)

The Theme of Sicily (Greek: θέμα Σικελίας, thema Sikelias) was a Byzantine province (theme) existing from the late 7th to the 10th century, encompassing the island of Sicily and the region of Calabria in the Italian mainland. Following the Muslim conquest of Sicily, from 902 the theme was limited to Calabria, but retained its original name until the middle of the 10th century.


Taormina (Sicilian: Taurmina; Latin: Tauromenium; Greek: Ταυρομένιον, Tauromenion) is a comune (municipality) in the Metropolitan City of Messina, on the east coast of the island of Sicily, Italy. Taormina has been a tourist destination since the 19th century. Its beaches on the Ionian sea, including that of Isola Bella, are accessible via an aerial tramway built in 1992, and via highways from Messina in the north and Catania in the south. On May 26–27, 2017 Taormina hosted the 43rd G7 summit.


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