Sicily; key historical events

Page last modified 17/11/2020


Home Page

See also Italy for Italian Unification (Garibaldi) and other history

See also Roman Empire

See Earthquakes for major Italian earthquakes


10/2013, Governor of Sicily declared a State of Emergency after hundreds of migrants had died at sea attempting tocross to Italy from Africa.

1893, 40,000 troops had to be sent to Sicily to quell unrest there caused by poverty.

1850, Sicilian agriculture was being transformed after James Lind, surgeon for the British Navy, calculated in the mid 18th century that scurvy had done more damage to the British Navy than the French and Spanish fleets combined. Lemon juice was found to prevent scurvy, and Sicily was one of the few places in Euripe where they could be reliably cultivated. Sicialian exports of lemon juice rose 740 barrels in 1837 to 20,707 in 1850.

3/9/1848, Carlo Filangieri landed at Messina, Sicily, to suppress a movement on the island to secede from Naples. The independence forces were crushed by 5/1849, with much loss of life.

13/4/1848.Sicily declared itself independent from Naples.

12/1/1848, In Palermo, an uprising began against the misrule of Ferdinand II of Naples.

7/1831, A temporary volcanic island, called Grahame’s Island, appeared 50 km off Sciacca, Sicily. It attained a height of 50 metres and a circumference of 2 km before volcanic action ceased in August. Thereafter, erosion totally obliterated the new island.

17/11/1617, A naval battle between Sicily and Venice ended inconclusively.

31/3/1282, The French were massacred in Sicily (Sicilian Vespers).  The Sicilians resented Angevin rule.

26/2/1266, Manfred, King of Sicily, killed in the Battle of Benevento. This was during the long-running power struggle in Italy between the Guelfs, who supported the Papacy, and the Ghibelines, who supported the Holy Roman Empire. The death of Manfred, son of Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, was a severe blow to the Germans.


Norman rule of Sicily 1059-1154

1194, Norman rule in Sicily ended with the death of King Tancred of Lecce, son of Roger III, who had seized the throne of Sicily in 1189 when William II died. Tancred was succeeded by his youngest son, William III. However 8 months later Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, husband of Roger III’s daughter Constance, invaded Sicily and was crowned in Palermon Cathedral on 25/12/1194. On 26/12/1194 Constance gave birth to the future Frederick II.

28/5/1156, William of Sicily destroyed the Byzantine fleet at Brindisi, and recovered Bari from Greek barons who had been encouraged by Pope Adrian IV to revolt.

26/2/1154. King Roger II of Sicily died and was succeeded by his son William the Bald. William ruled for 12 years.

25/12/1130, The Norman King Roger II was crowned King of Sicily in Palermo Cathedral by the anti-Pope Anacletus, who thereby gained a powerful supporter for his claim on the Papacy against the Pope Innocent II.

1101, Roger I of Sicily died. aged 70. He was succeeded by his 8 year old son, who rules as Roger II from 1112. Roger I had finally subdued the whole of Sicily, taking the town of Enna from the Muslims in 1087 and expelling the Muslims from SE Sicily in 1091. Roger I was succeeded by his eldest son, Simon; however Simon died in 1105 and was succeeded by his younger brother, Roger II.

15/7/1085, Norman Duke Robert Guiscard died, aged 60, of fever after regaining Corfu and Cephalonia, which his son Bohemund had lost  Duke Guiscard was succeeded by his 54-year old brother, Roger Guiscard, who had conquered Sicily, and ruled until 1101.

10/1/1072, The Normans conquered Palermo, Sicily.

16/4/1071. The Norman, Robert Guiscard, took Bari after a three year siege. On 10/1/1072 Robert Guiscard and his brother Roger took Palermo in Sicily.

1059, Pope Nicholas II invested the Norman leader, Robery Guiscard, with the Dukedoms of Apulia, Catalonia and Sicily. The Papacy had initially been opposed to the growth of Norman power in southern Italy, but a Norman victory at Civitato in 1053 forced the Popes to reconsider.

1016, The Normans were ‘invited’ to help liberate southern Italy from Arab Muslim rule.


Arab rule of Sicily

1/8/902. The Arabs captured Taormina, which completed their conquest of Sicily from Byzantium.

878, Taormina, Sicily, fell to the Saracens.

831, Palermo, Sicily, fell to the Saracens.

827, First Islamic incursion into Sicily.

740, The Saracen invasions of Sicily began.


Back to top