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The Peoples of Sicily 
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Old 12-21-2010, 01:22 PM   Post #1
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Default The Peoples of Sicily

Sure the source is questionable, but it does seem rather honest, even if a bit sensational, e.g. i do wonder if they are exaggerating the presence of some peoples in order to attract a wider tourist market? But nevertheless, its comprehensible and easy to follow. I will just quote a couple of sentences which stand out to me.

Peoples of Sicily

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Sicanians
Elymians
Sicels
Phoenicians
Greeks
Carthaginians
Romans
Vandals-Goths
Byzantines
Arabs
Normans
Swabians
Angevins
Aragonese
Albanians
Spanish
Jews

The Sicanians

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Their origins are elusive. Of Sicily's three most ancient peoples (Sicanians, Sicels, Elymians), the indigenous Sicanians (or Sicans) of central and western Sicily were present at the earliest date, as the evidence suggests a more recent introduction of the Sicel ("Siculian") civilization in eastern Sicily and the Elymian one in the northwest.

our study of Sicanian (and "Proto-Sicanian") recorded history is extremely limited compared to that of the ancient Assyrians, Chinese, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans.

Sicanians are said to be indigenous to Sicily because theirs is the earliest society which can be identified as inhabiting our island. Humans were present in Sicily at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch, about 10,000 years ago. Cave drawings confirm a presence by 6000 BC

There is little evidence that the Sicanians ever made wide use of any written language before the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet

The theory of the Sicanians' Iberian origin is supported by a rather few linguistic factors thought to be shared with early Iberian tongues, though the evidence is hardly conclusive.

That the Sicans apparently assimilated more rapidly and easily than the Sicels with the colonising Greeks suggests at least some affinity, if not commonality, between Sicanian and Hellenistic culture.

The Elymians

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As a result of their rapid assimilation with the Greeks, the Elymians remain the most mysterious of Sicily's three ancient "indigenous" peoples (Sicanians, Sicels, Elymians). By 1100 BC (BCE), the Elymians (or Elymi, Elimi or Elami, from the Greek Elymoi) had established several cities in northwestern Sicily, apparently displacing the Sicanians in these areas, though there is evidence of amalgamation. Unlike the Sicanians, a native people, the Elymians probably arrived from Asia Minor (now Turkey) in a migration that took them to northern Africa.

Elymians were probably descendants of an eastern Mediterranean society influenced by the Greeks, Phoenicians, Assyrians and other peoples.

While the Elymians, at least in their remote origins, were probably west Asian, the Sicels of eastern Sicily were probably Italic. Unlike the Sicels, the Elymians appear never to have sought independence from the Greeks who colonised their corner of Sicily, nor did they engage in open conflict with the Phoenicians who established coastal outposts at Motia, Palermo and other places.

We do not know how many Elymians were alive when the Greeks arrived, but theirs was clearly the smallest population of the three native societies of Sicily, and this doubtless contributed to the speed of their assimilation and amalgamation.

The Sicels


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The Sicels (or Sikels, from the Greek Sikeloi), though considered one of the three "indigenous" societies of Sicily (with the Sicanians and Elymians), were an Italic people who arrived several centuries before the Phoenicians and Greeks, probably between 1200 and 1000 BC (BCE), perhaps shortly after the arrival of the Elymians. It is fair to say that we probably know more about the Sicels than we do about the Sicanians or Elymians, from archeological as well as Greek literary sources. Though the Elymians assimilated with the Greeks quite readily and easily, the Sicels constituted a highly developed society that the Greeks respected profoundly, even if occasional conflicts arose between Sikelian and Hellenic populations. Indeed, it took several centuries for the Sicels to complete assimilate and amalgamate with their Greek neighbors. Except for the Romans, the Sicels were the only predominantly Italic people to settle in Sicily in large numbers as colonists.

There are theories that the Sicels came from Liguria or Latium, and some scholars have also suggested an affinity with the Lucanian culture. A close link with the Etruscans (themselves early arrivals from beyond Italy) seems less likely. The Sicels' distinctive religious cults, characterised by worship of the Palikoi and other deities, co-existed well with veneration of the Hellenic gods.

It is generally accepted that the Sicels were related to various Italic peoples, such as the Italoi and Opicans, who were eventually assimilated by Oscan-speaking peoples, and this explains a degree of cultural affinity with the Italoi (of nearby Calabria).

The Phoenicians


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They founded settlements across the Mediterranean --places like Palermo, Carthage, Ibiza and Cadiz-- and their alphabet was the precursor of Greek, Roman, Aramaic and Hebrew writing (and indirectly Cyrillic and Arabic as well). Yet, the Phoenicians have been overshadowed by the societies they influenced, particularly the Greeks and Romans. The Bible's Old Testament refers to "Canaanites" generically in referring to the early Phoenicians who inhabited the eastern Mediterranean coast of what is now Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and part of Syria.

It has been suggested that the Phoenicians, essentially a Semitic people, arrived in the Middle East from the Persian Gulf sometime around 3000 BC. However, the evidence for this remains inconclusive. Today, their primary descendants include the Lebanese, Palestinians, many Syrians and some Egyptians. Beyond the shores of the eastern Mediterranean, the people of Sicily, Spain, Sardinia, Tunisia and Malta boast at least some Phoenician blood, as well as a distinguished Phoenician cultural heritage.

Their trading colonies in western Sicily were founded around 800 BC and included Motia and Solunto as well as what are now Marsala and Palermo.

Sicily's native peoples (the Sicanians, the Sicels and the Elymians) used the Phoenician alphabet almost unaltered.

The Phoenicians' Semitic language was closely related to Hebrew and distantly related to Aramaic and to the Semitic languages of Mesopotamia, such as Assyrian and Babylonian, yet Phoenician civilization was clearly distinct from these other cultures.

In Sicilian history, the Phoenician presence began around 800 BC and lasted until around 500 BC.

It is fair to say that the Phoenicians dominated Mediterranean sea travel, trade and commerce for over two thousand years, a reality which probably made the ambitious Greeks at least slightly envious.

Bearing in mind that in Sicily the Phoenicians were essentially traders and the Greeks primarily colonists

The Phoenician-Carthaginian influence represents one of two major Semitic colonizations in Sicily, the other being that of the medieval Saracens (Moors). Until 1492, there were also Jewish communities present in many cities.

Thus far, genetic traces of the Phoenicians have been more clearly identified in the population of Malta than among Sicilians, though much research remains to be undertaken in this area. It is reasonable to presume that the Phoenician-Carthaginian genetic link, if identified, would be more pronounced in western Sicily than in the island's eastern regions.
The Ancient Greeks

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Beginning around 800 BC (BCE), following several centuries of sporadic contact with Sicily's smaller islands and coastal areas, the Greeks began what is now considered the first mass colonization of Sicily and southern peninsular Italy. As Magna Graecia (Megara Hellas), this region eventually became home to more Greeks than Greece itself. Within a few centuries, the Greeks completely assimilated the native Sicanians, Sicels and Elymians, challenging the Carthaginians for control of Sicily.

Greek society was influenced by the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean (particularly the Assyrians, Babylonians and Egyptians). In turn, Greek culture evolved and influenced ancient Roman society --at least as much so as the Etruscans.

Moving from east to west, the Greeks eventually colonised the entire island. Their rapid amalgamation with the Elymians of northwestern Sicily was accomplished so rapidly and so completely that archeologists cannot always distinguish one civilization from the other.

The Ionians were the first Greeks to establish a permanent presence in Sicily, where they encountered an Italic society, the Sicels, hence the Greeks' name for the island, Sikelia.

Among Sicily's ancient peoples, the Greeks left the greatest genetic and historic patrimony. Until the mass settlement of hundreds of towns by the Saracens (Arabs) in the Middle Ages, Sicily's ancient and medieval (Byzantine) Greek heritage constituted the most prominent aspect of the island's culture.

The Carthaginians


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Carthage, near modern Tunis, was founded around 800 BC (BCE) by Phoenicians from Tyre, who called it "Karthadasht," meaning "new city."

At the height of its power, Carthage controlled much of the coastal central and western Mediterranean, including parts of North Africa, France, Spain, Corsica, Sardinia, western Sicily and numerous small islands (Malta, Lampedusa, Ibiza). Punic, the Carthaginian language, was a dialect of Phoenician spoken in the Carthage region well into the Christian era, long after Phoenician ceased to be spoken in Phoenicia or elsewhere.

The cities of Zis (Palermo) Solus (Solunto), Lilybaeum (Marsala) and Motya (Mozia) were the most important Carthaginian centres in Sicily, inherited by Carthage from their ancestors (the "original" Phoenicians), though Eryx (Erice) and other cities were certainly influenced by Phoenician and Carthaginian culture. It was not unusual for certain Greek cities of western Sicily to trade with the Carthaginians despite an official state of war.

In many respects, the cultures of the Carthaginians, Greeks and Romans --and even the people themselves-- were remarkably similar. Roman culture owed much to Hellenic culture, and the Greeks had been strongly influenced by the Phoenicians. Objectively speaking, there is no historical indication that the few Carthaginian cities of Sicily were any less prosperous than the Greek ones.

Though the distinction between Phoenicians and Carthaginians was primarily social rather than genetic, Phoenician populations were known to amalgamate to some extent with "native" peoples such as Elymians and Iberians.

The Romans


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Their heritage is the world's. Their empire --though vast-- was only half as large as the Mongol Empire, but more than twice as influential in shaping society on a global scale long after its demise. It is the standard by which other societies are measured. At its greatest extent, it encompassed Italy and every land touching the Mediterranean (Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Albania, Egypt, Palestine and Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya), Austria, Armenia, most of Britain (including Wales and part of Scotland), Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria and most of the Balkans, Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Kuwait, small parts of Persia (Iran) and Arabia, southern Ukraine, Switzerland and half of Germany. Its sphere of influence was far wider, extending into Germany, Denmark, Poland, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Influenced by the Etruscans of central Italy and the Greeks of the south, Roman society evolved from a tribal Italic culture (akin to those of the Ligurians and Lucanians) to become one of the most sophisticated societies of all time.

Sicily became the first Roman province in 227 BC (BCE), although it remained essentially Greek for centuries. True, the Romans Latinized Sicilian society, though perhaps not as much as is often believed. However, the accomodation of local cultures was a key factor in preserving the vast Roman Empire for a thousand years, and this experiment was first attempted (with success) in Sicily. In many ways, Greek civilization represented the Romans' mother culture. Though Latin was introduced, Greek (the "intellectual" language of upper-class Romans) continued to be widely spoken throughout the Roman rule of Sicily and the regions to the east. In most cases, bilingual societies emerged, with Latin used by the invading Romans and in official inscriptions but the local vernacular being preserved in everyday speech, though perhaps influenced by Latin.

The Vandals and Goths


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They cannot be said to have influenced Sicily to the extent of the Greeks or Romans, but the Vandals and Goths (specifically the Ostrogoths) controlled the island for a brief interlude which ushered in the Middle Ages. Little visible evidence of the Vandals or Goths remains, but they may have intermarried with Sicilians to some extent.

The Vandals descended from Germanic tribes present in central Europe in the earliest days of the Roman Empire. Some of these tribes had migrated from Scandinavian areas sometime after 1000 BC (BCE). They were warlike and largely illiterate. Many of the tribes were migratory by nature, staying in particular regions long enough to hunt and farm but leaving few lasting monuments or settlements

By AD 350, the Goths had become identified as two distinct populations, the Ostrogoths ("East Goths" of the Black Sea area) and the Visigoths ("West Goths" of the Lower Danube who later occupied Spain).

The Vandals looted Rome in 455 and took control of Sicily in 468. In Sicily they found a prosperous economy and Christian culture.

The Byzantines


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It has often been said that the Byzantines were Greek, but they were much more. Ethnically, the earliest Byzantines were, in fact, essentially Greek, with Roman, Balkan, Armenian, Slavic and western Asian strains. They called themselves "Romans" and spoke Greek, though Latin was also spoken in some quarters. Linguistically and culturally, their society was not very different from that of the Sicilians in the sixth century.

The Byzantine Empire was geographically its largest under Justinian I (ruled 527-565), who extended it to include Sicily and Peninsular Italy, seizing power from the Ostrogoths. Following a brief period of rule by the Vandals and Ostrogoths, Sicily, which --at least nominally-- was previously part of the Western Empire, was conquered (actually liberated) by the Byzantine general Belisarius in 535 as part of a Gothic-Byzantine war. Carthage, which was controlled by Vandals, had been conquered by the Byzantines a year earlier.

In Sicily, the few centuries of Byzantine rule were peaceful and prosperous, though taxation was high.

Islam was growing, and Muslim Arab armies controlled Egypt, Syria and Palestine by 642. By 652, Muslim-Arab pirates based in Tunisia were undertaking isolated raids on the Sicilian coast.By 750, the Byzantine Empire, though influential, was greatly reduced in size, encompassing Asia Minor (Turkey), Greece, Sicily, and parts of the Balkans and peinsular Italy.

By 800, there were Arab merchants living in several Sicilian cities. In 805 and again in 813, the governor of Sicily signed trade treaties with the Aghlabids of Tunisia. Matters in Constantinople were not so serene. In 827, the Emperor ordered the arrest of Euphemius, governor of Sicily and a distinguished general. This prompted a revolt in which the general declared himself emperor. Faced with further dissension, Euphemius sought help from the Aghlabid emir, offering him Sicily (a profitable source of tax revenue) in return. The emir accepted, and soon a multi-ethnic force of at least ten thousand Persians, Berbers, Arabs and Spaniards occupied the western city of Mazara.

Byzantine rule did not result in a mass "colonization" of Sicily like those of the ancient Greeks or medieval Arabs, but there was certainly immigration and trade.

The Arabs

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They ruled Sicily for two centuries and a few decades but their influence was nothing short of monumental. Under their administration, the island's population doubled as dozens of towns were founded and cities repopulated. The Arabs changed Sicilian agriculture and cuisine. Their scientific and engineering achievements were remarkable. More significantly, they changed society itself. To this day, many Sicilian social attitudes reflect the profound influence --often in subtle ways-- of the Arabs who ruled a thousand years ago but who (with the Greeks and others) are the ancestors of today's Sicilians.

Though most parts of Sicily were conquered by Arabs, certain areas where settled by people who, strictly speaking, were Muslim Berbers. Like many Berbers, some Arabs were nomadic.

Three families from Muhammad's tribe ruled the expanding Arabian empire for the next few centuries, namely the Umayyads (661-750), the Abbasids (750-850) and the Alids (Fatimid dynasty in northern Africa from 909 to 1171). In practice, certain regions --including Sicily-- were actually controlled by particular (if minor) families, or often under local emirs (there were several in Sicily when the Normans arrived in 1061).

Three Arab dynasties ruled Sicily --first the Aghlabids (a "minor" family based in Tunisia which had broken away from the Abbasids of Baghdad) and then, from 909, the Fatimids, who entrusted much of their authority to the Kalbids in 948. In that year, Hassan al-Kalbi became the first Emir of All Sicily. By 969, the Fatimid dynasty (descended from the Prophet's daughter, Fatima) were moving their geographic center of power to Cairo, leaving their Tunisian capitals (Madiyah and Al Quayrawan) and western territories to the care of what in Europe would be called "vassals."

Sicily's Christians and Jews (Sicily was at least half Muslim by 1060) were highly taxed, and clergy could not recite from the Bible or Talmud within earshot of Muslims. Christian and Jewish women (who like Muslim ones were veiled in public) could not share the public baths with Muslim women --many of whom were ex-Christians converted to Islam to contract financially or socially advantageous marriages to Muslim men. Non-Muslims had to stand in the presence of Muslims. New churches and synagogues could not be built, nor Muslims converted to other faiths. A number of large churches, such as the cathedral of Palermo, were converted to mosques. (The Arabic inscription shown above is still visible on one of its columns.)

By 1200, this was beginning to change. While the Muslim-Arab influence continued well into the Norman era --particularly in art and architecture-- it was not to endure. The Normans gradually "Latinized" Sicily, and this social process laid the groundwork for the introduction of Catholicism (as opposed to eastern Orthodoxy). Widespread conversion ensued, and by the 1280s there were few --if any-- Muslims in Sicily. Yet, the mass immigration of north-African Arabs (and Berbers) was the greatest Sicilian immigration since that of the ancient Greeks, leaving today's Sicilians as Saracen as Hellenic.

Had the Normans not conquered Sicily, it might have evolved into an essentially Arab society not unlike that which survived in some parts of Spain into the later centuries of the Middle Ages, and the Sicilian vernacular language (as we know it) would have developed later.

The Normans


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To call them "Vikings" (Norsemen) is to oversimplify the culture of the medieval Normans, for their society, heritage and genetic make-up were as Frankish and Roman as they were Norse.

In fact, they were descended not only from Vikings but from Franks, Romans and Celts, and their language was a dialect of French. Unlike their Viking forebears, the Normans were Christians, and their society was highly evolved in its government, law, art, architecture and literature, which during the twelfth century profoundly influenced not only Normandy but England and southern Italy.

Like the conquest of England, the Normans' conquest of Italy was characterized by social and political motivations, though it was much slower than the English campaign. The patriarchs of Rome (the popes) resented Byzantine influence in Italy, and the power of the Lombard feudatories (in peninsular Italy) was viewed as a nuisance. There were also more racist motives. Whereas the competition between Saxons and Normans for England was largely a question of Saxon English-ness versus Norman greed, the campaign against the Sicilian Arabs had all the makings of a "holy war," whether justified or not. The Papacy made it clear that restoring Sicily to Latin Christiandom (separating its Orthodox Christians from Constantinople's influence) was at least as important as reducing the influence of Islam on the island. In the event, the Normans did not Latinize Sicily rapidly enough for Papal tastes, nor did they immediately seek to convert the island's Muslims. In fact, they were often at odds with the popes.

For all that, the Normans were not the first northern European invaders to reach Sicilian shores during the Middle Ages. That distinction belongs to the Vandals and Goths, whose rule was short-lived and left few visible traces. By contrast, vestiges of Norman Sicily are everywhere to be found. --particularly churches and castles.

More important than this was the evolution of the social fabric of Norman Sicily, adapting essentially Arab institutions to European realities. Throughout the Norman era (roughly from1070 to 1200), ethnic and religious tolerance were generally accepted as integral parts of Sicilian society. Though there were conflicts, multicultural co-existence usually prevailed. The Church, but also the Sicilian language, was gradually Latinized. European institutions such as feudalism were introduced. In effect, Norman Sicily became part of Europe rather than Africa (under the Moors) or Asia (under the Byzantines).

It is generally believed that most red-haired and blue-eyed Sicilians owe their coloring to the medieval Normans or the Lombards who often accompanied them. Yet we do not know how many Normans settled in Sicily. Most were men, most were knights or other soldiers, and many were feudatories, effectively constituting the earliest medieval Sicilian landed aristocracy. Most married Sicilian-born women. The best estimate of the Norman migration places it at fewer than eight thousand persons arriving between 1061 and 1161, but even this is highly speculative. It certainly was not a mass immigration comparable to those of the Arabs (Saracens) or ancient Greeks. The first Norman incursions into Sicily were measured in hundreds of Norman knights accompanied by greater numbers of non-Norman infantry, and not all of them remained here.

The Swabians


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Swabia is a region of southwestern Germany which in the twelfth century included part of Bavaria and eastern Switzerland. Swabia takes its name from a Germanic people, the Suabi, and borders the region once ruled by the Alemanni, another Germanic tribe.

Some historians regard the Swabian (or Suabian) period as a continuation of the Norman rule of Sicily. However, Sicily changed greatly under the Swabians. Despite Frederick's quarrels with the Papacy, leading to excommunication, the church in Sicily became almost completely Latinized during his long reign. By 1250, there were no Byzantine parishes in Sicily --only a few Orthodox monasteries remained. Following a series of revolts, a few thousand Muslim Arabs were "exiled" to Lucera in Apulia, while thousands more converted to Catholicism. By 1250, mosques were a rare sight. In 1200, Sicily was a multicultural kingdom; by the end of the Swabian era a half-century later it was an essentially "European" one. This was true of customs, language (Sicilian) and law. All bore the mark of Arab and Byzantine influences but were now almost "Italian."

The Angevins


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Anjou is a region of west-central France traditionally held as a fief of the French ruling family. The term "Angevin" refers to both the "Plantagenet" dynasty of England from 1154 to 1399 (descendants of Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, and Matilda, daughter of Henry I) and the dynasty that ruled southern Italy from Naples beginning in the thirteenth century.

In Sicily, the changes were immediate. Thousands of French troops arrived, and taxes were increased.

The Angevin presence in Sicily was short-lived. Understandably --in light of the Vespers-- their descendants in Sicily were few. To historians, the Angevin legacy in Sicily is essentially a dynastic question. For the remainder of the Middle Ages into the modern era, the island might occasionally be ruled from Palermo but its rulers were Aragonese (and Spanish).


The Aragonese


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The Aragonese period of Sicily can be said to have lasted from 1282 until 1492, bridging the medieval and modern eras. The Kingdom of Aragon, which by the middle of the thirteenth century encompassed Catalonia and other lands, was an ethnically diverse region with its own language and a flourishing capital, Barcelona. Indeed, Aragon emerged as a powerful "Spanish" state in an age when most of the Iberian monarchies were struggling against the Moors, a conflict which was to continue well into the last years of the fifteenth century. Until the end of the Middle Ages, Spain was not a unified nation.

Socially, feudalism became the norm, though in reality (despite claims to the contrary) very few Sicilian noble families identified in the eighteenth century are descended in the male line from ancestors living before 1400. Also, most Sicilians bearing Spanish surnames are descended not from Aragonese forebears but from Spanish ones arriving well after 1500.

The Albanians


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In Italy, Alfonso and his successors offered refuge to thousands of Albanians.

In Sicily, several towns were founded or repopulated by the Albanians, who in Sicilian records were often described as "Greeks," Albanians, Slavs or even "Tartars." These "Arbereshe" communities still exist today.

The Albanians arriving in Sicily were Orthodox Christians. By 1600, under the Spanish rule of Sicily, their parishes had fallen under Roman Catholic "Uniate" jurisdiction, though use of the Byzantine rite was permitted. In towns settled by the Albanians, there are usually two main churches --one "Latin" and the other "Greek." Today, the Martorana parish (in Palermo) is part of the Byzantine Catholic diocese of Piana degli Albanesi.

The Albanians in Sicily came from various parts of Albania, but their Sicilian communities were linked by common bonds, and marriages between spouses from different Arberesh towns were not unusual. It would be fair to describe the Albanians' arrival as the largest single historical "immigration" into Sicily, as distinguished from a military conquest or mass colonization. By 1500, there were probably over a thousand Albanian families in Sicily, and many thousands of today's Sicilians are their descendants.

The Spaniards


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Catholicism was the only religion; even the immigrant Albanians were soon converted from Orthodoxy, and the Jewish Sicilians (a small but prosperous community) were forced to convert or emigrate in the 1490s.

In the Spanish period and its immediate aftermath, artists were appreciated so long as, like Serpotta, their work did not openly challenge accepted conservative aesthetics, while great writers and philosophers of the day were met with suspicion, even disdain. In architecture, many great medieval churches were given new facades and interiors of concrete and stucco ornamentation, as it was believed that emerging Baroque styles were the epitome of Human expression; in Sicily movements such as the Gothic (even when they resulted in Milan's splendid cathedral) were wrongly viewed as "Protestant" or, worse, "foreign." In certain important respects, the island was becoming isolated from the world's great social, scientific and artistic developments.

On several occasions, groups of Spanish migrated to Sicily, mostly as craftsmen, soldiers or farmers. A number of Spanish surnames borne by Sicilian families were those of ancestors who arrived after 1500 and not, as is sometimes claimed, during the medieval Aragonese period.

The Jews


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the Jews of Sicily may be said to have shared cultural similarities with the Sephardim (of Spain) and the Mizrahim of northern Africa and the Middle East.

The infamous Spanish edict of 1492 brought to an end the Jewish influence in Sicily. It outlawed the practice of the Jewish religion, and though a number of Jews left Sicily the greater number (like the conversos of Spain) converted to Catholicism and stayed. By the 1520s, acts of baptism and marriage in Sicilian churches near formerly Jewish communities listed a number of families bearing surnames such as de Simone (son of Simon), Siino (Sion) and Mosé (Moses), or Nero or Porpura (for the colours of the fabrics they dyed), and baptismal names such as Isacco, Beniamino, Abramo, Iasué and Davide, formerly rare among Sicilian Christians.

In 1492 the Jewish Sicilians were a small but important part of the island's population, as much as six percent by some estimates. They were hardly "outsiders" in any conventional sense.

The first Jews to arrive in Sicily probably settled as traders in Syracuse during the final centuries of the ancient Greek era. The Romans brought some Jews to Sicily as slaves or poorly-paid servants, though it appears that only a minority arrived under such conditions. By the time the Arabs arrived there were flourishing Jewish communities in Messina, Panormos (Palermo), Syracuse, Mazara and elsewhere. The Normans were tolerant and even protective of the Jewish population, and the same might be said of the Swabians. Indeed, the Jews of Sicily experienced little overt antagonism from their fellow islanders until the fourteenth century. The Spanish and Sicilian Christians certainly understood the differences between Muslims and Jews, but both were Semitic peoples whose way of life (at least superficially) seemed quite similar.

The infamous edict of 1492 was issued in an atmosphere of zeal in a time when Catholicism's influences (including the Inquisition) had displaced those of the tolerant twelfth century. The Moors had finally been defeated in Spain, and the Jews were a convenient target. Easy prey, it could be said. Christianised Jews were allegedly the focus of a riot in Palermo in 1516, and even if the story is untrue it proves that Sicilians descended from Jews were still identified as such a generation after the infamous edict.

Estimates vary widely, but in the early 1490s there may have been as many as 25,000 Jews in Sicily. Of the Jews who then departed for Rome, Ancona, Venice, Malta or elsewhere, some adopted surnames such as Palermo or Messina in reference to their city of birth --though this is not to imply that all Italians bearing such surnames are descended patrilineally from Jewish forebears.
http://www.bestofsicily.com/mag/art201.htm

I will update this thread further with genetic perspectives found from research. Are there any groups missing? It appears in any case Sicillians have been quite isolated from Northern Europeans even compared with Southern Italians, who atleast where somewhat affected by Lombards from up north, even if minor. I believe the success of Islam in Sicily may also make sense with Sicillians appearing to have a greater SW Asian affinity than Greeks (despite Greeks having a better W Asian affinity) based on genome studies so far.
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Last edited by Spin; 12-21-2010 at 01:28 PM.
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Old 12-21-2010, 01:49 PM   Post #2
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Originally Posted by Spin View Post
Are there any groups missing?
Italians, both Southern and Northern, that settled there during the "Reconquista" and after.

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It appears in any case Sicillians have been quite isolated from Northern Europeans even compared with Southern Italians, who atleast where somewhat affected by Lombards from up north, even if minor.
Lombards were a mixed bag even before crossing the Alps, they were not all Northern European.

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I believe the success of Islam in Sicily may also make sense with Sicillians appearing to have a greater SW Asian affinity than Greeks (despite Greeks having a better W Asian affinity) based on genome studies so far.
The Moors conquest was a slow affair, it tooks nearly 100 years to be completed and after another 100 years then came the Normans. Historians tend to think this was due to the low number of invaders.

Saying "today's Sicilians as Saracen as Hellenic" is an exaggeration, IMO.
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Old 12-22-2010, 02:24 AM   Post #3
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Originally Posted by bandini View Post
Italians, both Southern and Northern, that settled there during the "Reconquista" and after.
Thanks, i'll have to read about that.

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The Moors conquest was a slow affair, it tooks nearly 100 years to be completed and after another 100 years then came the Normans. Historians tend to think this was due to the low number of invaders.

Saying "today's Sicilians as Saracen as Hellenic" is an exaggeration, IMO.
Not sure of anyone who would say that, but for now, it seems as if the Greeks had a far far greater influence. Besides, in admixture-related tests Sicillians are coming out usually with no greater than 3-4% genome coverage which relates closely to Mozabite Berbers.

For comparisons sake, here is a Y-DNA pie chart of Sicillians, Southern Italians and Cypriot Greeks. (who lack the Thracian, Illyrian, Balkanian and minor Slav origins apparent in some Greeks)

http://www.nature.com/ejhg/journal/v...l#figure-title

http://www.familytreedna.com/pdf/capelli2005.pdf
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File Type: jpg SouthItalyYDna.jpg (33.7 KB, 12 views)
File Type: jpg CyprusYDna.jpg (31.9 KB, 12 views)

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Old 12-22-2010, 03:06 AM   Post #4
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Interesting list of invaders. It is a good thing that part of the world had history and historians to note it all down. In the rest of Europe, their history is largely unknown or invented.

I found the reference to the Arabs incorrect. The number of Arabs, true Arabs of Bedouin or from the centre or south of the Arabian Peninsula in Europe was extremely small. Their presence is over exaggerated even by Southern Europeans themselves out of ignorance or stupidity. The main Muslim group were the Berbers from Tunisia in Sicily and South Peninsula Italy, Moroccan Berbers for Iberia.

It is interesting that the Moors from Sicily came to Malta after they finally subdued the Greek east of Sicily, and those Berbers have contributed more to Maltese genetics than they did in their Sicilian homeland. I said Sicilian homeland because by the time they reached Malta after defeating the Byzantine Greeks, they had been in Sicily for a number of generations probably mixing with the locals.
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Old 12-22-2010, 03:30 AM   Post #5
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Default Sicily Y chromosome haplogroups, East and West

I think this is a much better representation of haplogroups present in Sicily and shows the differences between the West (North African+Lombard) and the East (Magna Graecia).

You have to factor in also that urban zones differ from rural zones in their frequencies of haplogroups with some urban zones in Sicily having for example double digit J1 compared to some parts of the countryside where J1 is zero.

European Journal of Human Genetics (2009) 17, 91–99; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2008.120; published online 6 August 2008
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Old 12-22-2010, 04:02 AM   Post #6
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Default Capelli's effort of 2004

This is Capelli's PCA of Mediterranean Basin populations including various Jewish populations: Sephardi, Ashkenazim, Djerba Island Jews and Kurdish Jews. It also includes Muslim and Christian Lebanese, Cypriots, various Turkish groups, Middle Easterners proper and various Iberians.

It is interesting how Capelli lumps the Ashkenazim Jews with the Middle Eastern groups, and the Christian Lebanese, Muslim Kurds, Sephardi Jews and Kurdish Jews with Central Basin Europeans like Italians.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/1...05.00224.x/pdf
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Old 12-22-2010, 09:28 AM   Post #7
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Thanks, i'll have to read about that.
We were talking about that some time ago, you may want to check this:

http://anthrocivitas.net/forum/showp...3&postcount=56

and following posts.

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Their presence is over exaggerated even by Southern Europeans themselves out of ignorance or stupidity.
Moors heritage was also used for political reasons in the past.

Between 1782 and 1795, Giuseppe Vella, a Maltese monk, concocted a fake Arabian code stating that the Kingdom of Sicily claimed its legitimacy and foundation from the Arab Emirate and not from the Norman Kingdom (as stated by the Neapolitan crown.)

This operation was supported by Sicilian nobility that didn't tolerate the Neapolitan policy aimed at curbing their influence and undermining their feudal power (Caracciolo, the Neapolitan vice-king was heavily influenced by Illuminist ideas and was the enemy no. 1 of Sicilian feudal lords.)

In short, the Neapolitan crown sent down to Palermo professors and experts of Arabic who demonstrated the code to be a fake and Giuseppe Vella got 15 years in prison.

This story is known as "La minsogna saracina" (the Saracen lie.)
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Old 12-22-2010, 09:29 AM   Post #8
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The muslim rule seems to be characterized by religious apartheid according to the text above!
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Old 12-22-2010, 09:44 AM   Post #9
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The muslim rule seems to be characterized by religious apartheid according to the text above!
Haha, well its probably no lie, they probably were very damn harsh, that doesn't mean Muslims in general are. Hey . . . . atleast they are credited for having been more sophisticated than even the Normans, hence why they happily left some architecture and forms of governance which the Berber and Arab muslims founded. I would say the Vandals for fair reasons, get a worse reputation by this author, as complete illiterate brutes.
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Old 12-22-2010, 10:24 AM   Post #10
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The thing that suprises me about sicilians is that despite the fact they have had tons of people invading and conquering their island the people living there now look prety homogenous.They also look very similar to mainland southern italians.

I think the reason is because there wasnt very much intermariage going on between the native sicilians and the invaders.
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