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The Swabian, the Angevin and the Aragon dominations


The decline of the Norman kingdom opened the way for the imperial ambitions of the Swabians.
Their domination witnessed radical developments in jurisprudence, Latin literature, experimental sciences and vernacular poetry. Frederick II layed the foundations of a State centred in royal hands and Sicily found itself caught up in imperialistic politics leading to heavy taxation.

Successively, the Angevins took over in 1268, when Charles of Anjou was designated King of Sicily, years later the death of Frederick II. Their domination was however unpopular among the Sicilians, who were never well disposed to the arrogance of their new overlords.
The revolution of the Sicilan Vespers in 1282, caused the physical elimination of the French and the expulsion of the Angevins from the island, one of the island’s most well-known historical events. It all started on Easter Monday as the bells were ringing out, calling the faithful to Vespers. An insult from a French soldier directed at a Sicilian lady was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Since 1266, in fact, the Angevin French had been ruling Sicily with an iron rod, imposing high taxes and generally insulting and mistreating the local population at will. As rioting broke out in the streets of Palermo, the French were massacred in their hundreds. News quickly travelled around the island and the revolt became evermore widespread until the entire island became practically free of Angevin rule. The last stagglers of the Angevin army were given shelter in the Castle of Sperlinga by the townsfolk. They lasted a year. Testament to this kindness is testified to by a phrase engraved into the walls: “Quod Siculis placuit sola Sperlinga negavit” (Sperlinga alone refused what pleased the Sicilians). On hearing the news, the King of Naples, and therefore Sicily, Charles of Anjou, was furious. War was announced and the Sicilians, not having an army of their own appealed to various sponsors for protection. They made rather a bad miscalculation by asking the Pope for aid – his reply, so it is said, was to excommunicate the entire island.

Eventually, however, after the inevitable twists and turns, plots and counterplots, the Sicilians  chose as their sovereign Peter III of Aragon. This choise was the prelude to a long period of continuous wars with the Angevin kingdom of Naples and eventually of a civil war, which lasted about 90 years and ended with the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302: Sicily was given to Frederick III of Aragon and Charles of Anjou took Naples.
Sicily’s decline under the rule of the Aragons was hastened by the power of the barons who became the real dominating force on the island.

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