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11. The City of Foreigners: Palermo and the Mediterranean from the 11th to the 15th Century

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Chapter Summary

Far more than was the case with other great ports of the Mediterranean, medieval Palermo derived an essential part of its identity from the sea. Aside from merchants, the sea also brought conquerors, mercenaries, migrants, slaves and adventurers. The gradual Islamic conquest of Sicily in course of 9th century had initially had effect of jeopardising its network of traditional trading links in Mediterranean, of which Syracuse, the island's Byzantine capital, and the Sicilian cities on the east coast, represented one pole, Constantinople and the eastern Mediterranean the other. The decision to make Palermo the main centre of the island had the effect of shifting medieval Sicily's centre of gravity towards the western Mediterranean. From the 10th century onwards, archaeological evidence points to the expansion of Sicilian trade both on the western and southern shores of the Muslim Mediterranean and on the northern shores of the same sea under Christian rule.

Keywords: Christian rule; Islamic conquest; medieval Palermo; Mediterranean; Muslim; Sicily; Syracuse



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