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10. Palermo as a Stage for, and a Mirror of, Political Developments from the 12th to the 15th Century

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Chapter Summary

Tommaso Fazello, a 16th century Sicilian historian, defined the site upon which Palermo arose as "an amphitheatre imagined by nature", thereby identifying the essentially theatrical vocation of the island's capital city. At the centre of this plain, on a hill, arose the ancient city, founded by the Phoenicians and then by turns a Greek, Roman and Byzantine settlement, ringed by walls. The structure of the city developed along a straight road, which ran from the port to the Acropolis. The arrival of the Muslims in Sicily, in 827 AD, would make Palermo, conquered after a long siege, the island's capital: the ancient fortified city began to be called al-qaṣr. The long, straight road running across it was paved, and lined with shops, oratories and mosques, amongst them the great mosque. The city outgrew its walls, with three quarters and a military and administrative citadel, known as the Khāliṣa, the elect.

Keywords: Acropolis; al-qaṣr; Khāliṣa; Palermo; Phoenicians; Sicily; Tommaso Fazello

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