History in Palermo

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This Palermo History guide will give you an overview of the events and people that shaped this city and how it evolved throughout the years.


In the area where modern day Palermo is located were found human settlements evidence dating back to 8000 BC. The Phoenicians built a small trading settlement on the Palermo shore in 734 BC that the Greeks named Panormus. The settlement was a commerce center until the Sicilian Wars between the Greeks and the Carthaginians created unrest. In 276 BC, Palermo became a Greek colony but three decades later, the first Punic War led the Romans to the area to chase the Carthaginians out. The city became an important Roman trade center and Christianity was introduced.

5th Century

The Roman Empire began falling apart and several different Germanic tribes took control of Palermo. First the Vandals in 440, then the Goths, the Ostrogothics in 488, then the Gothic War erupted between the Ostrogoths and the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire).

6th and 7th Centuries

The Muslims conquered Sicily and created the Emirate of Sicily, where the natives were granted freedom of religion if they paid a tax. Their rule was short-lived but in that short time, the Muslims introduced new agricultural items and techniques. The Normans, descendants from the Vikings, conquered the island and reintroduced Christianity.

9th to 11th Century

In 831, the North African Arabs conquered Palermo and established the Arabian Emirate of Sicily, reigning until 1072 when Robert Guiscard and his army reinstated Christianity once again.

12th to 18th Century

The 12th century saw a boom in construction of significant buildings, such as the Palermo Cathedral. In 1194, Sicily fell to the Holy Roman Empire and Emperor Frederick II took residence in Palermo. All Muslims in Palermo were expelled during the Roman rule. In 1479, the Kingdom of Spain ruled the island until 1713, then Sicily was ruled successively by Savoy (1713-1720) and Austria (1720-1734). In 1734, under Bourbon possession, Charles III held his coronation as the King of Sicily in Palermo. He had numerous houses built and accordingly, industry and trade grew.

19th Century

From 1820 until 1848, Sicily was once again subjected to major upheavals and Giuseppe La Masa led an insurrection that proclaimed a president, Ruggero Settimo and a constitution. In 1849, the Bourbons reconquered the island and ruled until 1861, when the island of Sicily became a part of the Kingdom of Italy.

20th Century

Near the beginning of the century, Palermo expanded mostrly to the north beyond the city walls. During World War II, the Allies invaded Sicily in 1943 and in July, they bombarded the harbor and its surrounding areas. You can still see many of the devastated buildings today. Ensuing these events, an era of Mafia control and gangsterism took place where the state had to share economic and administrative control of the area with the Mafiosi families. Agriculture was declining and many people moved into the cities. Palermo saw an explosion of new construction, especially to the north of the city, with new houses seemingly sprouted overnight. Palermo struggled for many years to recover from WWII and the following uncontrolled growth. Today, Palermo is an important business and trade center and it has become a popular tourism destination.

February 18, 2010 new by miss_frenchye

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