Palermo - the city of the kings of Sicily
Palermo has existed in almost 3000 years! And it is the most cosmopolitan city in the Western Europe. The population of today is a mixture of all the different people who have conquered and lived in Sicily in the past period of many many years and you sense that in the culture.
The city was founded around year 800 BC by the Phoenicians as a port by the foot of the mountain Monte Pellegrino and named "Zyz". The Phoenicians had been expelled from the Eastern part of Sicily by the Greeks. The Phoenicians were overruled by the Cartesians who later on were defeated by the Greeks but still the city kept the position as a busy centre for trade and mercantile marine. One can still see the remains of the Phoenician city wall. In 254 BC after the 1st Punic war Sicily became a provins of The Roman Empire and Palermo was the centre of a self-government.
By the downfall of the Roman Empire (the Western part) in 476 Barbarian tribes and bandits infested the island and Palermo experienced a decline in prosper. From 535 to 831 Sicily was ruled by the Byzantine Empire and the Orthodocs belief was in dominance and many churches were founded in this period. Many of these were changed to mosques though after the Arabs arrived from Tunesia in 831 and they became the new rulers until the Normans took over in 1071. The period of Arab dominance was a golden and prosperous time for Palermo which now was the city of the emirs and since for the kings. One can still see the residence of the emirs which today is the church "San Giovanni degli Eremiti". The trading business in general was doing well and the cultural life was blooming. Islam was dominating as the main belief but the Arabs were tolerant people and the believes of others were respected. The Arabs introduced new crops in the area: oranges, lemons, dates, sugar canes and the durum wheat just to mention some. Water canals were build for water supply and Palermo was the most blooming and prosperous city in the Mediterranean area only to be surpassed by Baghdad, the capitol of the Persian Empire.
After 5 months of siege the Normans commanded by the Norman count Ruggero d'Altaville entered Palermo in 1071 and the count became king Ruggero 1 de Sicilia. Having got new conquerers did not change the blooming era of Palermo and it kept its strong position. In 1098 the katolicism was back - first in Palermo and then all over the island. Just next to big square "Piazza Independenza" is placed Palazzo dei Normanni build on the foundation of a Punic fortress where there in the Arab period was build a residence for the emir. In 1132 the successer of Ruggero 1 Ruggero 2build the Palatina chapel and the whole building has been renovated and redecorated. Today the palace is open to the public.
The Preussian family, Hohenzollern, became the rulers by marriage. Later Sicily was united with the kingdom of Napoli. The nobels in Palermo
prefered the extravagant life at the court in Napoli and Palermo was abandoned. This was the beginning of another decline of the city and therefore for all Sicily.
From 1282 the dominion was Spanish and the Inquisition was seated in Palermo. Since then the French had stayed breifly but none of these has left remarkable marks
behind. Well, not exactly true! There are buildings made in a Spanish style and the Sicilian dialect holds many words of Spanish and French origin.
Now there was an unstabil period of time politically as well as for the trade. In 1861 Garibaldi, the joiner of Italy, arrived and Sicily was united with Italy.
But this is another story!
It is indeed a city worthwhile visiting!
This could be worthwhile to see: monuments and buildings
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