Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/50

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35
SICILY

was the first potentate of Italy, and came nearer than any prince since Louis II. to the union of Italy under Italian rule. He sought dominion too beyond the Adriatic: Corfu, Durazzo, and a strip of the Albanian coast became Sicilian possessions as the dowry of Manfred's Greek wife. But papal enmity was too much for him. His overlord claimed to dispose of his crown, and hawked it about among the princes of the West. Edmund of England bore the Sicilian title for a moment. More came of the grant of Urban IV. (1264) to Charles, count of Anjou, and through his wife sovereign count of Provence. Charles, Aniou* ° crowned by the pope in 1266, marched to take posses- sion of his lord's grant. Manfred was defeated and slain at Benevento. The whole Sicilian kingdom became the spoil of a stranger who was no deliverer to any class of its people. The island sank yet lower. Naples, not Palermo, was the head of the new power; Sicily was again a province. But a province Sicily had no mind to be. In the continental lands Charles founded a dynasty; the island he lost after sixteen years. His rule was not merely the rule of a stranger king surrounded by stranger followers; the degradation of the island was aggravated by gross oppression, grosser than in the continental lands. The continental lands submitted, with a few slight efforts at resist- ance. The final result of the Angevin conquest of Sicily was its separation from the mainland.

Sicilian feeling was first shown in the support given to the luckless expedition of Conradin in 1268. Frightful executions in the island followed his fall. The rights of the Swabian house were now held to pass to Peter (Pedro), king of Aragon, husband of Manfred's daughter Constance. The connexion with Spain, which has so deeply affected the whole later history of Sicily, now begins. Charles held the Greek possessions of Manfred | and had designs both on Epeiros and on Constantinople. The emperor Michael Palaeologus and Peter of Aragon became allies against Charles; the famous John of Procida acted as an agent between them; the costs of Charles's eastern warfare caused great discontent, especially in an island where some might still look to the Greek emperor as a natural deliverer. Peter and Michael were doubtless watching the turn of things in Sicily; but the tale of a long-hidden conspiracy between them and the whole Sicilian people has been set aside by Amari. The actual outbreak of 1282, the famous Sicilian Vespers, was stirred up by the wrongs of the moment. A gross case of insult offered by a Frenchman to a Sicilian woman led to the massacre at Palermo, and the like scenes followed elsewhere. The strangers were cut off; Sicily was left to its own people. The towns and districts left without a ruler by no means designed to throw off the authority of the overlord; they sought the good will of Pope Martin. But papal interests were on the side of Charles; and he went forth with the blessing of the church to win back his lost kingdom.

Angevin oppression had brought together all Sicily in a common cause. There was at last a Sicilian nation, a nation for a while capable of great deeds. Sicily now stands out as a main centre of European politics. But the land has lost its character; it is becoming the plaything of powers, instead of the meeting-place of nations. The tale, true or false, that Frenchmen and Provengals were known from the natives by being unable to frame the Italian sound of c shows how thoroughly the Lombard tongue had overcome the other tongues of the island. In Palermo, once city of threefold speech, a Greek, a Saracen, a Norman who spoke his own tongue must have died with the strangers.

Charles was now besieging Messina; Sicily seems to have put on some approach to the form of a federal commonwealth. Meanwhile Peter of Aragon was watching and pre- Aragoa. paring. He now declared himself. To all, except the citizens of the great cities, a king would be accept- able; Peter was chosen with little opposition in a parliament at Palermo, and a struggle of twenty-one years began, of which Charles and Peter saw only the first stage. In fact, after Peter had helped the Sicilians to relieve Messina, he was very little in Sicily; he had to defend his kingdom of Aragon, which Pope


Frederick.


Martin had granted to another French Charles. He was repre- sented by Queen Constance, and his great admiral Roger de Loria kept the war away from Sicily, waging it wholly in Italy, and making Charles, the son of King Charles, prisoner. In 1285 both the rival kings died. Charles had before his death been driven to make large legislative concessions to his subjects to stop the tendency shown, especially in Naples, to join the revolted Sicilians. By Peter's death Aragon and Sicily were separated; his eldest son Alphonso took Aragon, and his second son James took Sicily, which was to pass to the third j ames son Frederick, if James died childless. James was crowned, and held his reforming parliament also. With the popes no terms could be made. Charles, released in 1288 under a deceptive negotiation, was crowned king of Sicily by Honorius IV.; but he had much ado to defend his continental dominions against James and Roger. In 1291 James succeeded Alphonso in the kingdom of Aragon, and left Frederick not king, according to the entail, but only his lieutenant in Sicily.

Frederick was the real restorer of Sicilian independence. He had come to the island so young that he felt as a native. He defended the land stoutly, even against his brother. For James presently played Sicily false. In 1295 he was reconciled to the church and released from all French claims on Aragon, and he bound himself to restore Sicily to Charles. But the Sicilians, with Frederick at their head, dis- owned the agreement, and in 1296 Frederick was crowned king. He had to defend Sicily against his brother and Roger de Loria, who forsook the cause, as did John of Procida. Hitherto the war had been waged on the mainland; now it was transferred to Sicily. King James besieged Syracuse as admiral of the Roman Church; Charles sent his son Robert in 1299 as his lieutenant in Sicily, where he gained some successes. But in the same year the one great land battle of the war, that of Falconaria, was won for Sicily. The war, chiefly marked by another great siege of Messina, went on till 1302, when both sides were thoroughly weakened and eager for peace. By a treaty, con- firmed by Pope Boniface VIII. the next year, Frederick was acknowledged as king of Trinacria for life. He was to marry the daughter of the king of Sicily, to whom the island kingdom was to revert at his death. The terms were never meant to be carried out. Frederick again took up the title of king of Sicily, and at his death in 1337 he was succeeded by his son Peter. There were thus two Sicilian kingdoms and two kings of Sicily. The king of the mainland is often spoken of for convenience as king of Naples, but that description was never borne as a formal title save in the 16th century by Philip, king of England and Naples, and in the 19th by Joseph Buona- parte and Joachim Murat. The strict distinction was between Sicily on this side the Pharos (of Messina) and Sicily beyond it.

Thus the great island of the Mediterranean again became an independent power. And, as far as legislation could make it, Sicily became one of the freest countries in Europe. By the laws of Frederick parliaments were to be regularly held, and without their consent the king could not make war, peace or alliance. The treaty of 1302 was not confirmed by parliament, and in 1337 parliament called Peter to the crown. But Sicily never rose to the greatness of its Greek or its Norman days, and its old character had passed away. Of Greeks and Saracens we now hear only as a degraded remnant, to be won over, if it may be, to the Western Church. The kingdom had no foreign possessions; yet faint survivals of the days of Agathocles and Roger lingered on. The isle of Gerba off the African coast was held for a short time, and traces of the connexion with Greece went on in various shapes. If the kings of Sicily on this side the Pharos kept Corfu down to 1386, those beyond the Pharos became in 13 n overlords of Athens, when that duchy was seized by Catalan adventurers, disbanded after the wars of Sicily. In 1530 the Sicilian island of Malta became the shelter of the Knights of Saint John driven by the Turk from Rhodes, and Sicily has received several colonies of Christian Albanians, who have replaced Greek and Arabic by yet another tongue. (See Naples, Kingdom of.) (E. A. F.; T. As.)