Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/48

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
33
SICILY

Christians everywhere welcomed the conqueror. But at Troina they presently changed their minds, and joined with the Saracens to besiege the count in their citadel. At Catania Becumen was set up again as Roger's vassal, and he did good service till he was killed. Roger soon began to fix his eye on the Saracen capital. Against that city he had Pisan help, as the inscription on the Pisan duotno witnesses (cf. Geoff. Mai. ii. 34). But Palermo was not taken until 1071, and then only by the help of Duke Robert, who kept the prize to himself. Still its capture was the turning-point in the struggle. Taormina (Tauromenium) was won in 1078. Syracuse, under its amir Benarvet, held out stoutly. He retook Catania by the help of a Saracen to whom Roger had trusted the city, and whom he himself punished. Catania was won back by the count's son Jordan. But progress was delayed by Jordan's rebellion and by the absence of Roger in his brother's wars. In 1085 Syracuse was won. Next year followed Girgenti and Castrogiovanni, whose chief became a Christian. Noto held out till 1090. Then the whole island was won, and Roger completed his conquest by a successful expedition to Malta.

Like the condition of the Greeks under the Saracens, so the condition of the Saracens under the Normans differed in different Saracens places according to the circumstances of each conquest. under The Mahommedan religion was everywhere tolerated, Norman i n many places much more. But it would seem that, â„¢' e " just as under the Moslem rule, conversions from

Christianity to Islam were forbidden. On the other hand, conversions from Islam to Christianity were not always en- couraged; Saracen troops were employed from the beginning, and Count Roger seems to have thought them more trustworthy when unconverted. At Palermo the capitulation secured to the Saracens the full enjoyment of their own laws; Girgenti was long mainly Saracen; in Val di Noto the Saracens kept towns and castles of their own. On the other hand, at Messina there were few or none, and we hear of both Saracen and Greek villeins, the latter doubtless abiding as they were in Saracen times. But men of both races were trusted and favoured accord- ing to their deserts. The ecclesiastical relations between Greeks and Latins are harder to trace. At the taking of Palermo the Greek bishop was restored; but his successors were Latins, and Latin prelates were placed in the bishoprics which Count Roger founded. Urban II. visited Sicily to promote the union of the church, and he granted to the count those special ecclesiastical powers held by the counts and kings of Sicily as hereditary legates of the Holy See which grew into the famous Sicilian monarchy (Geoff. Mai. iv. 29). But Greek worship went on; at Messina it lingered till the 15th century (Pirro, Sicilia sacra, i. 420, 431, 440), as it has been since brought back by the Albanian colonists. But the Greeks of Sicily have long been united Greeks, admitting the authority of the see of Rome.

In its results the Norman conquest of Sicily was a Latin

conquest far more thorough than that which had been made

by the Roman commonwealth. The Norman princes

Linguistic protected all the races, creeds and tongues of the

mSicUr island, Greek, Saracen and Jew. But new races came

to settle alongside of them, all of whom were Latin

as far as their official speech was concerned. The Normans

brought the French tongue with them; it remained the

court speech during the 12th century, and Sicily was thrown

open to all speakers of French, many of whom came from

England. There was constant intercourse between the two

great islands, both ruled by Norman kings, and many natives of

England filled high places in Sicily. But French was only a

language of society, not of business or literature. The languages

of inscriptions and documents are Greek, Arabic and Latin, in

private writings sometimes Hebrew. The kings understood

Greek and Arabic, and their deeds and works were commemorated

in both tongues. Hence comes the fact, at first sight so strange,

that Greek, Arabic and French have all given way to a dialect

of Italian. But the cause is not far to seek. The Norman

conquest opened Sicily to settlers from Italy, above all from

the Norman possessions in Italy. Under the name of Lombards,

xxv. 2


they became an important, in some parts a dominant, element. Thus at Messina, where we hear nothing of Saracens, we hear much of the disputes between Greeks and Lombards. The Lombards had hardly a distinct language to bring with them. At the time of the conquest, it was already found out that French had become a distinct speech from Latin; Italian hardly was such. The Lombard element, during the Norman reign, shows itself, not in whole documents or inscriptions, but in occasional words and forms, as in some of the mosaics at Monreale. And, if any element, Latin or akin to Latin, had lingered on through Byzantine and Saracen rule, it would of course be attracted to the new Latin element, and would help to strengthen it. It was this Lombard element that had the future before it. Greek and Arabic were antiquated, or at least isolated, in a land which Norman conquest had made part of western Europe and Latin Christendom. They could grow only within the island; they could gain no strength from outside. Even the French element was in some sort isolated, and later events made it more so. But the Lombard element was constantly strengthened by settlement from outside. In the older Latin conquest, the Latin carried Greek with him, and the Greek element absorbed the Latin. Latin now held in western Europe the place which Greek had held there. Thus, in the face of Italian, both Greek and Arabic died out. Step by step, Christian Sicily became Latin in speech and in worship. But this was not till the Norman reigns were over. Till the end of the 12th century Sicily was the one land where men of divers creeds and tongues could live side by side.

Hence came both the short-lived brilliancy of Sicily and its later decay. In Sicily there were many nations all protected by the Sicilian king; but there was no Sicilian nation. Greek, Saracen, Norman, Lombard and Jew could not be fused into one people; it was the boast of Sicily that each kept his laws and tongue undisturbed. Such a state of things could live on only under an enlightened despotism; the discordant elements could not join to work out really free and national institutions. Sicily had parliaments, and some constitutional principles were well understood. But they were assemblies of barons, or at most of barons and citizens; they could only have repre- sented the Latin elements, Norman and Lombard, in the island. The elder races, Greek and Saracen, stand outside the relations between the Latin king and his Latin subjects. Still, as long as Greek and Saracen were protected and favoured, so long was Sicily the most brilliant of European kingdoms. But its greatness had no groundwork of national life; for lack of it the most brilliant of kingdoms presently sank below the level of other lands.

Four generations only span the time from the birth of Count Roger, about 1030, to the death of the emperor Frederick II. in 1250. Roger, great count of Sicily, was, at his death in 1101, succeeded by his young son Simon, and he in 1105 by the second Roger, the first king. He inherited all Sicily, save half Palermo — the other half had been given up — ■and part of Calabria. The rest of Palermo was soon granted; the Semitic capital became the abiding head of Sicily. On the death of his cousin Duke William of Apulia, Roger gradually founded (1127-1140) a great Italian dominion. To the Apulian duchy he added (1136) the Norman principality of Capua, Naples (1138), the last dependency of the Eastern empire in Italy, and (1140) the Abruzzi, an undoubted land of the Western empire. He thus formed a dominion which has been divided, united and handed over from one prince to another oftener than any other state in Europe, but whose frontier has hardly changed at all. In 1130 Roger was crowned at Palermo, by authority of the antipope Anacletus, taking the strange title of " king of Sicily and Italy." This, on his reconciliation with Pope Innocent II., he exchanged for " king of Sicily and of the duchy of Apulia and of the principality of Capua." By virtue of the old relations between the popes and the Normans of Apulia, he held his kingdom in fief of the Holy See, a position which on the whole strengthened the royal power. But his power, like that of Dionysius and Agathqcles, was felt in more distant regions. His admiral George of Antioch, Greek by birth and creed, warre-