The Castle of Calatabiano: Sicily’s Arab culture and prosperity

Castello di Calatabiano, Catania

The Castle of Calatabiano, in the province of Catania, was likely destroyed when the Arabs conquered Sicily – a war that had began in 827, with Palermo falling into the hands of the enemy, and ended only in 902, when the troops led by emir Ibrahim Ibn Achmet demolished Taormina. After completely vanquishing the city, they attacked the nearby castles, including – quite likely – Calatabiano’s Byzantine fortress.

After years of violence and death, nobody could have guessed what would happen in Sicily after the war.

“Once the Arabs settled in permanently,” Roberto Barbieri mentions in the book he edited, “Uomini e tempo medievale” (Jaca Book, Milan 1988), “Sicily in general – which had never emerged from the influence of Byzantine culture – and Palermo in particular became some of the most important centers of the Islamic world on the Mediterranean. The island recorded noticeable economic growth, and new species (rice, oranges, sugar canes, palm trees) were introduced and allowed agriculture to flourish.”

According to Barbieri, “The island became a crossroads of trade routes that went from East to West; it attracted tradesmen coming from Italy’s maritime republics, France, Spain, and even Syria, Iraq, and Persia. Thus, Islam did not bring only Saracen pirates…”

So a great, unique culture could be born even from a terrible, bloody war.

Photos via: ©Luigi Strano, ©

August 26, 2015

The Castle of Calatabiano: Sicily’s Arab culture and prosperity

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