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3. From a Small Town to a Capital: The Urban Evolution of Islamic Palermo (9th–mid-11th Century)

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Chapter Summary

The author depicts unmistakable features of a Mediterranean capital with a high demic density, characterised by an advanced urbanistic fabric and by vibrant economic and social structures integrated into Fatimid economic and political framework. This chapter concentrates on reviewing the salient points raised by recent research and speculation, all of which has served to promote a more coherent picture of the urban development of Palermo during the period of around two centuries in which it was the capital of Islamic Sicily. Like other cities of ancient foundation conquered by Islam, Byzantine Panormos had to undergo adaptations and modifications so as to respond to new needs linked to religious ritual to political and administrative requirements and to those relating to social life. A new layout, attributable to the direct intervention of the Fatimids, would instead shift city in a new direction, at turn of the first third of the 10th century.

Keywords: Byzantine Panormos; Fatimid; Islamic Sicily; Palermo; urbanistic fabric



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