A Concise History of Palermo

Palermo History Books

Separating Northern Africa and Europe, and providing passage between the Orient and the West, the Mediterranean Sea has always been one of human history’s focal points. Sicily is set in the middle of the sea and, as you might expect, its capital city has seen a fair share of drama throughout the centuries.

Palermo has been passed around like a hot potato from one grand civilization to another, with eighteen different rulers, by my count. Here’s a guide, as succinct as possible, to the tumultuous history of this ancient city.

8000 BCThe first evidence of human activity in Palermo is cave drawings by an extinct tribe known as the Sicani.
734 BCThe Phoenicians establish the city, naming it “Ziz”, and later pass it onto their successors, the Carthaginians. Palermo quickly becomes an important point of commerce.
276 BCFollowing the Pyrrhic War, Palermo passes to the Greeks, who call it Panormus, meaning “all-port”.
246 BCAfter just three decades of Greek rule, the Romans take over. Palermo becomes an important trade center for Rome, and Christianity is introduced during their rule.
440 ADAs the Roman Empire is collapsing, King Genseric and the Vandals take possession of Palermo, but are unable to hold it for long: another Germanic tribe, the Ostrogoths, soon usurp them.
536During the Gothic War, the Byzantine Empire takes over Palermo, and manage to hold onto power for almost 400 years.
904Palermo enters a golden age after being conquered by the Moors and named the capital of the Emirate of Sicily. It becomes an important center of learning, and the 2nd largest European city (behind Cordoba).
1072Under Roger II and the Normans, Christianity returns to Palermo. The Palazzo Normanni is established in Palermo during the Normans’ reign, along with the Cathedral. The Kingdom of Sicily is equaled in power only by the Kingdom of England, also a Norman possession.
1194The Holy Roman Empire takes over, but eventually cedes control to the powerful House of Anjou (1266), who can only hold onto Palermo for sixteen years. In 1282, the House of Aragon ascends to power.
1479A great number of Palermo’s finest buildings are constructed during the rule of the Spanish Kingdom, who own Sicily until 1713. Following Spanish rule, the city is run for short periods by the House of Savoy and Austria.
1734The period of the House of Bourbon is marked by strife and warfare, with the populace staging insurrections against the unpopular French rulers.
1861Led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, Palermo frees itself from the French and becomes a part of the Kingdom of Italy, which is where it’s stayed ever since.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. brian

     i am very interested in all sorts of History so i find this Concise History of Palermo very interesting

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