Largest island in the Mediterranean (q.v.), separated from the Italian mainland by the Strait of Messina (q.v.). While Sicily linked Italy to Africa (qq.v.), it also divided the Mediterranean (q.v.) into eastern and western parts. Conquered by Gaiseric (q.v.) in 475, it remained in Vandal (q.v.) hands until the Ostrogoths (q.v.) captured it in 491. Belisarios (q.v.) took the island for Justinian I (q.v.) in 535-536, after defeating the Vandals in North Africa (q.v.). Arab raids on the island began in 652, and when Constans II (q.v.) took up residence in Syracuse (q.v.) from 663-668, it was ostensibly to defend Sicily against the Arabs (q.v.). Despite Sicily's elevation to the status of a theme (q.v.) by ca. 700, Arab raids continued throughout the eighth century. In 826 the Aghlabids (q.v.) invaded the island, capturing Palermo (q.v.) in 831. Syracuse (q.v.) fell in 878 and by 902, when Taormina (q.v.) fell, the Aghlabids had effective control of the island. Byzantine expeditions to recover Sicily, most notably under George Maniakes (q.v.) from 1038-1042, failed. What Byzantium (q.v.) was unable to do the Normans (q.v.) succeeded at. Their conquest began in 1060 and was completed by 1091. Norman rule, which produced such architectural gems as the Capella Palatina and Cefalù (built by Roger II [q.v.]), and Monreale (built by William II [q.v.]), were decorated in the Byzantine style, perhaps using Byzantine artisans. Henry VI of Germany (qq.v.), married to Constance, daughter of Roger II, inherited Sicily after the death of William II in 1189. The death of Frederick II's son Manfred (qq.v.) in 1266 allowed Charles I of Anjou (q.v.), with papal support, to claim Sicily as his own. However, the Sicilian Vespers (q.v.), conspired for by Michael VIII Palaiologos (q.v.), ejected Charles from Sicily in 1282.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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