Emirate of Sicily

Emirate of Sicily

إمارة صقلية  (Arabic)
Italy in 1000. The Emirate of Sicily is coloured in light green.
Italy in 1000. The Emirate of Sicily is coloured in light green.
StatusProvince of the Aghlabid Emirate of Ifriqiya (831–909) and of the Fatimid Caliphate (909–948), after 948 autonomous emirate under the Kalbids. After 1044: various emirates in war.
CapitalBal'harm (Palermo)
Common languagesSicilian Arabic, Byzantine Greek, Vulgar Latin
Islam (state)
Chalcedonian Christianity(Eastern Orthodox)
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Theme of Sicily
County of Sicily
Today part of Italy

The Emirate of Sicily (Arabic: إِمَارَة صِقِلِّيَة‎, romanizedʾImārat Ṣiqilliya) was an emirate on the island of Sicily which existed from 831 to 1091.[1] Its capital was Palermo.

Muslim Moors, who first invaded in 652, seized control of the entire island from the Byzantine Empire in a prolonged series of conflicts from 827 to 902, although Rometta in the far northeast of the island held out until 965. An Arab-Byzantine culture developed, producing a multiconfessional and multilingual state. The Emirate was conquered by Christian Norman mercenaries under Roger I of Sicily, who founded the County of Sicily in 1071. The last Muslim city in the island, Noto, was conquered in 1091.

Sicilian Muslims remained citizens of the multi-ethnic County and subsequent Kingdom of Sicily, until those who had not already converted were expelled in the 1240s. Until the late 12th century, and probably as late as the 1220s, Muslims formed a majority of the island's population, except in the northeast region of Val Demone which remained predominantly Byzantine Greek and Christian even during Islamic rule.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] The Islamic and Arabic influence remains in some elements of the Sicilian language, as well as in architecture and place names.

First Muslim attempts to conquer Sicily

In 535, Emperor Justinian I returned Sicily to the Roman Empire, then ruled from Constantinople exclusively. As the power of what is now known as the Byzantine Empire waned in the West, Sicily was invaded by the Rashidun Caliphate during the reign of Caliph Uthman in the year 652. However, this first invasion was short-lived, and the Muslims left soon after. By the end of the 7th century, with the Umayyad conquest of North Africa, the Muslims had captured the nearby port city of Carthage, allowing them to build shipyards and a permanent base from which to launch more sustained attacks.[9]

Around 700, the island of Pantelleria was captured by Muslims, and it was only discord among the Muslims that prevented an attempted invasion of Sicily at that time. Instead, trading agreements were arranged with the Byzantines, and Muslim merchants were allowed to trade goods at the Sicilian ports.

The first true conquest expedition was launched in 740; in that year the Muslim prince Habib, who had participated in the 728 attack, successfully captured Syracuse. Ready to conquer the whole island, they were however forced to return to Tunisia by a Berber revolt. A second attack in 752 aimed only to sack the same city.