Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/49

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
34
SICILY

Tancred.


against the Eastern empire, won Corfu (Korypho; the name of

Korkyra is forgotten) for a season, and carried off the silk-workers

from Thebes and Peloponnesus to Sicily. But Manuel Comnenus

ruled in the East, and, if Roger threatened Constantinople,

Manuel threatened Sicily. In Africa the work of Agathocles was

more than renewed; Mahdia and other points were won and kept

as long as Roger lived. These exploits won him the name of

the " terror of Greeks and Saracens." To the Greeks, and still

more to the Saracens, of his own island he was a protector and

something more. His love for mathematical science, geography,

&c, in which the Arabs excelled, is noteworthy.

Roger's son William, surnamed the Bad, was crowned in his

father's lifetime in 1151. Roger died in n 54, and William's

,,„.., , sole reign lasted till 1 166. It was a time of domestic re-

Willlaml. ,...,.„ , , . . ,

and 11. belhons, chiefly against the king s unpopular ministers,

and it is further marked by the loss of Roger's African conquests. After William the Bad came (1166-1189) his son William the Good. Unlike as were the two men in themselves, in their foreign policy they are hardly to be distinguished. The Bad William has a short quarrel with the pope; otherwise Bad and Good alike appear as zealous supporters of Alexander III. and as enemies of both empires. The Eastern warfare of the Good is stained by the frightful sack of Thessalonica; it is marked also by the formation of an Eastern state under Sicilian supremacy (1186). Corfu, the possession of Agathocles and Roger, with DurazzO, Cephalonia and Zante, was granted by William to his admiral Margarito with the strange title of king of the Epeirots. He founded a dynasty, though not of kings, in Cephalonia and Zante. Corfu and Durazzo were to be more closely connected with the Sicilian crown.

The brightest days of Sicily ended with William the Good. His marriage with Joanna, daughter of Henry of Anjou and

England, was childless, and William tried to procure

the succession of his aunt Constance and her husband, King Henry VI. of Germany, son of the emperor Frederick I. But the prospect of German rule was unpopular, and on William's death the crown passed to Tancred, an illegitimate grandson of King Roger, who figures in English histories in the story of Richard III.'s crusade. In 1191 Henry, now emperor, asserted his claims; but, while Tancred lived, he did little, in Sicily nothing, to enforce them. On the death of Tancred (11 94) and the accession of his young son William III., the emperor came and conquered Sicily and the Italian possessions, with

an amount of cruelty which outdid any earlier war or /ft m revolution. First of four Western emperors who wore

the Sicilian crown, Henry died in 1197, leaving the kingdom to his young son Frederick, heir of the Norman kings through his mother.

The great days of the Norman conquest and the Norman reigns have been worthily recorded by contemporary historians. For few times have we richer materials. The oldest is Aim6 or Amato of Monte Cassino, who exists only in an Old-French translation. We have also for the Norman conquest the halting hexameters of William of Apulia, and for the German conquest the lively and partial verses of Peter of Eboli. 1 Of prose writers we have Geoffrey Malaterra, Alexander abbot of Telesia, Romuald archbishop of Salerno, Falco of Benevento, and above all Hugo Falcandus, one of the very foremost of medieval writers. Not one of these Latin writers was a native of the island, and we have no record from any native Greek. Occasional notices we of course have in the Byzantine writers, and Archbishop Eustathius's account of the taking of Thessalonica is more than occasional. And the close connexion between Sicily and England leads to many occasional references to Sicilian matters in English writers. The relations between the various races of the islands are most instructive. The strong rule of Roger kept all in order. He called himself the defender of Christians; others, on account of his favour to the Saracens, spoke of him as a pagan. He certainly encouraged Saracen art and literature in every shape.

1 Petri Ansolini de Ebulo de rebus Siculis carmen (republished in the new edition of Muratori's Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, by E. Rota, torn, xxxi., Citta di Castello, 1904).


His court was full of eunuchs, of whom we hear still more under William the Bad. Under William the Good the Saracens, without any actual oppression, seem to be losing their position. Hitherto they had been one element in the land, keeping their own civilization alongside of others. By a general outbreak on the death of William the Good, the Saracens, especially those of Palermo, were driven to take shelter in the mountains, where they sank into a wild people, sometimes holding points of the island against all rulers, sometimes taking military service under them. The Jews too begin to sink into bondmen. Sicily is ceasing to be the land of many nations living side by side on equal terms.

The Germans who helped Henry to win the Sicilian crown did not become a new element in the island, but only a source of confusion during the minority of his son. Frederick — presently to be the renowned emperor Frederick II., ^, mi *?"!£ t " Fridericus stupor mundi et immutator mirabilis " — w _ was crowned at Palermo in n 98; but the child, deprived of both parents, was held to be under the protection of his lord Pope Innocent III. During his minority the land was torn in pieces by turbulent nobles, revolted Saracens, German captains seeking settlements, the maritime cities of Italy, and professed French deliverers. In 12 10 the emperor Otto IV., who had overrun the continental dominions, threatened the island. In 121 2, just when Frederick was reaching an age to be of use in his own kingdom, he was called away to dispute the crown of Germany and Rome with Otto. Eight years more of disorder followed; in 1220 the emperor-king came back. He brought the Saracens of the mountains back again to a life in plains and cities, and presently planted a colony of them > on the mainland at Nocera, when they became his most trusty soldiers. His necessary absences from Sicily led to revolts. He came back in 1233 from his crusade to suppress a revolt of the eastern cities, which seem to have been aiming at republican indepen- dence. A Saracen revolt in 1243 is said to have been followed by a removal of the whole remnant to Nocera. Some, however, certainly stayed or came back; but their day was over.

Under Frederick the Italian or Lombard element finally prevailed in Sicily. Of all his kingdoms Sicily was the best-beloved. He spoke all its tongues; he protected, as far as circumstances would allow, all its races. The heretic alone was persecuted; he was the domestic rebel Of the church; Saracen and Jew were entitled to the rights of foreigners. Yet Frederick, patron of Arabic learning, sus- pected even of Moslem belief, failed to check the decline of the Saracen element in Sicily. The Greek element had no such forces brought against it. It was still a chief tongue of the island, in which Frederick's laws were put forth as well as in Latin. But it was clearly a declining element. Greek and Saracen were both becoming survivals in an island which was but one of the many kingdoms of its king. The Italian element advanced at the cost of all others. Frederick chose it as the court speech of Sicily, and he made it the speech of a new-born literature. Sicily, strangely enough, became the cradle of Italian song.

Two emperors had now held the Sicilian crown. On Frederick's death in 1250 the crown passed to his son Conrad, not emperor indeed, but king of the Romans. He was nominally succeeded by his son Conradin. The real ruler under both was Frederick's natural son Manfred. In 1258, on a false rumour of the death of Conradin, Manfred was himself crowned king of Palermo. He had to found the kingdom afresh. Pope Innocent IV. had crossed into Sicily, to take advantage of the general discontent. The cities, whose growing liberties had been checked by Frederick's legislation, strove for practical, if not formal, independence, sometimes for dominion over their fellows. The 5th century B.C. seemed to have come back. Messina laid waste the lands of Taormina, because Taormina would not obey the bidding of Messina. Yet, among these and other elements of confusion, Manfred succeeded in setting up again the kingly power, first for his kinsmen and then for himself. His reign continued that of his father, so far as a mere king could continue the reign of such an emperor. The king of Sicily