Introduction

SICILIA

…the beautiful Trinacria…

(Dante, Paradiso VIII, 67)

Terra tribus scopulis, vastum procurrit in aequor, Trinacria a positu nomen adepta loci. Ovid, Fasti, Pi faria perfetta In Signuri forma ci desi di lu so cappeddru a tri pizzi, pi titulu d’onuri (Puisia, sicil.)

“Homer and the Greeks called it Thrinakie and Trinax, trident.

The Romans poetically called her Triquetra.

An ancient symbol of the orient portrayed her as a single woman’s head with three legs, named Triskelis.

“In 1302 the Treaty of Caltabellotta gave to Ferdinand the Kingdom of Sicily under the title of King of Trinacria.

“In 1358 the Treaty of Catania consecrated the Kingdom of Trinacria under the feudal dependency of the Kingdom of Sicily and of the Holy See. “There existed in Sicily a very ancient city called Trinakie, which would correspond to the site of Aidone, where an enormous mosaic was discovered along with a vast field of ruins of a city surrounded by walls of Greek design.

If one were to narrate the history of Sicily, he would revel in the evocation of the legends that speak of the early invasions of the extolled “Island of the Sun,” by ancient Peoples, noting the important history of the Aboriginal ancient people of Latium, at the foot of the Apennines which, according to Sallustio, along with the Trojans brought over by Aeneas, founded Rome, and to the Pelas. lf one were to narrate the history of Sicily, he would revel in the evocation of the legends that speak of the early invasions of the extolled “Island of the Sun,” by ancient Peoples, noting the imporgic Race whose traces remain in the Cyclopean walls existing in Sicily.

Here were ancient, primeval Peoples, the indigenous, the invaders, and Sicans, who were inhabitants of the steep places in the west of the Island, founders of ten cities, whose locations are still unknown, one of which was called Kamikos in the area of Agrigento between Castellammare del Golfo and Trapani, where Minos, King of Crete, perished, in pursuit of the fugitive Daedalus. Sicans belonged to the Iberian-Ligurian race. The ancient Siculs who belonged to the Thracian-Illarian-Cretan peoples and inhabited the eastern coasts and a large part of the interior of the Island, where they founded twenty or more cities, Centuripe among them, which later became a Roman municipality, in the valley of Simeto. Both of these non- Aryan peoples, the Sicans and the Siculs, were agricultural and were found in Sicily before the Greeks. Others came from Enotria, our thoughts become confused among the many ancient peoples such as the Etruscans, Lidites, Reti, Reseni, Epiroti, Focesi, Doric, Phoenicians, Trojans, Calcidesi, Morgeti, Carthaginians, and Romans.

The first Greek colonies arose between 735 and 727 B.C. of the Calcidesi, of the Ionic Eubea, and of the Corinthian and Doric Megara, where Nasso, Leontinum, Catana, Zancle (Messina) arose, and from their expansion Acre (Buscemi), Casmene Camarina (Comiso), Selinunte, Agrigento, Imera (Termini), Palice (Militello), while the Phoenicians founded Panormo, Solunto, and Motia.

While differentiating between the various Phoenician groups, all being of Semitic stock, and the various superimpositions of Hellenic races, one could present a more evolved contrast which, having begun in the historic epoch in the eastern lands, was perpetuated due to the innate hatreds in the newly conquered land. From here the famous cities originating in the mysterious centuries such as: the three ancient Hybla (between Gela and Syracuse), Maktorion, Eketia, Omphake, Eryke, Kakiron, the two Erbessos (one between Lentini and Syracuse, the other to the north-east of Agrigento), Mesopotonium (at Cameriana), Entella (on the left Crimiso, precisely on the same rock of Contessa Entellina), Elima (on the Elimo mountain dominating the right Crimiso or Belice, that is, on the mountain Castellazzo where Poggioreale arose), Egesta (Diceopoli), Argyrium, Myle (Milazzo), Morgantia, remembered by Livy, Enna, Heracles as the mouth of the Platani, Makella, in the area of Camporeale, Adranum (perhaps Sambuca or Palazzo Adriano), Tyndaris, thriving in the times of Cicero, Lilyboeum (Marsala) and Drepanum (Trapani) founded by the Carthaginians, Xuthia, the place where Sorino, Muyca (Modica) Acium were founded, in the area of Acireale, Naulo (Spadafora), Tissa, which King Ptolemy located at the foot of Mount Etna, Finzia and Gela in the site of Licata, Nisa where Caltanissetta is now found, the Selinuntine Baths or the Labodes Waters, so called by Sciacca in the fourth century, Simetia in the Martino Pass, writes Cluverio, Shera, according to the same Cluverio is Corleone.

Alicia at Salemi, the celebrated capital Camico, near Agrigento, as referenced by Strabone, Triocala, said by Fazello to be Caltabellotta. The participation of the Corinthians was not lacking, who founded Syracuse by the union of Ortigia, Acadino, Tiche, Neapoli, Epipoli, and Syracuse, which had a period of true splendor, and is very interesting historically and archeologically, for its site, and for its ancient memories especially of Greek and Roman life and also because it hosted the Greek Genius, where the great Poets of the time met, Aeschylus, Simonides, Pindarus, Bacchilide, Epicarmo. Under Diogenes the old Syracuse asserted itself as a great European power. Sicily was among the first to mint its coins, about fifty Sicilian cities became centers of coin minting, but Syracuse originated coins, and minted coins of bronze, silver, gold and in the quality of its coinage surpassed Catania, Agrigento and Gela; Cicero defined Syracuse as Most beautiful, and a place worthy of men and of gods.

The power of Syracuse was not maintained for long however, the heavy two-year siege with the consequent submission to the power of the Romans, in addition to the loss of the great Archimedes, brought the city to a true subjugation and an impoverishment due to the devastation it suffered, despoiled of its most precious masterpieces, exploitation that ended with the deeds of the Roman praetorian in Sicily and Caio Verre. The six famous pleas pronounced by Cicero, speaking for Syracuse: reduced, wounded, naked, humiliated:

“Quod auri, quod argenti, quod ornamentorum in meis urbibus, sedibus, delubris fuit, id mihi tu, C. Verves, eripuisti, atque abstulisti”.

After a period of thirty years better winds blew for Sicily. Caesar gave to her the Latin right of citizenship which in full form was extended by Anthony, and so Sicily was enumerated among the Senatorial provinces. Augustus visited there twice, Tiberius and Claudius restored the Ericine temple of Venus.

But we are digressing from the most ancient matters of Sicilian history that took place in those centuries that, described by Thucydides, by Diodorus and by the Syracusan Antiochus, according to the writing of the Pausania, historian of Lidia, have presented to today’s students the profound confusion, many scenes, numerous details in the fields of geography, ethics, politics and topography. it will be enough for us to know simply that this western Sicul region has always been Elimica, established in the Sican or Sicul manner, and remaining influential until the middle of the sixth century before Christ.

In addition, that epoch saw the beginning of the Hellenic movement that changed the physiognomy, not only of the northern Sicul, but of the entire Island. the fable of Odysseus (Ulysses) in Sicily is the personification, the symbol of the ancient phenomenon of the immigration into Sicily on the part of peoples lost in the mists of prehistory. Here and there on the Sicul hills, on the so-called “eagles’ nest” cliffs or rocks, served as primeval habitations, and were well-fortified, both naturally and by human skill, where cities and small fortresses were built on promontories. In many places the ancient fortresses and cities were destroyed, modified and rebuilt according to the variety of peoples that settled there, up until Greek and Roman times, peoples that all left their unique artistic and cultural imprint, as revealed by mosaics that have been brought again to the light of the sun. This is true not only of their construction arts but also for their civilization, religion and even superstition. altars, temples, and tombs testify to the succession of peoples.

The sweep of centuries, the tides of war among peoples enraged by racial hatreds and the imposition of radically diverse civilizations have rendered very complex and varied the Sicul history which is for the most part still neglected, but investigations have brought to our consciousness just how ancient it is. Research and studies, delving deeply into the obscurity of the centuries, of the habitations, implements, burial places, have brought to light the Paleolithic age and even that of the Neolithic (localities, necropolises, flint armaments, fired ceramics, in yellow, gray, and glazed). With reference to the age of copper, it would be enough to visit the location of Castelluccio (Noto) and the Tabuto mountain (Comiso).

Villages of huts built with twigs and mud, with small dark adjoining sleeping chambers, round shaped, dug from the turf or in the sandy rock. Mount Disueri, Pantalice, Cassibile, Tozzo Pantano, the mountain of Caltagirone, are valid examples of those ancient peoples in all the phases of their lives and culture.Hence, certainly from the stone age to the iron age, from the bronze age, from the cave dwellers to the ancient Greek, from the indigenous Sican-Sicul, to that of the Phoenician, from the Greek presence, to the Corinthian, to the Carthaginian, to the Roman, from the subtle Byzantine to the forthright Arab, from the statuesque Norman to the Teutonic races, Swabian, Francs, and Spanish, it is all a marvelous changing of scenes. there are atrocious hatreds and inexplicable loves, infinite heroics and incommensurate misery even in the midst of natural treasures and great art, of the many civilizations passed and not understood, as well as deaths and burials, but still rooted in the Sicilian soul. A visit to the many museums of Sicily and principally to those of Syracuse and of Palermo would be useful, even necessary, not to mention the ethnographic museum of Pitre!

For history, Saint Paul and Saint Peter the apostles, brought to Sicily the beginnings of Christianity and their first stop was Syracuse. Saint Peter also stopped at the western border disembarking where Petrosino is now found (sinus Petri). In 280, in consequence of the barbarian invasions, a horde of Francs convulsed the Island and sacked Syracuse. In Sicily, change was constant, The Goths, abandoning their forests and swamps, descended into Italy, sacked Rome and imposed themselves onto Sicily, living there for half a century, then Belisario chased them out in 539, and also allied Sicily to the Byzantine Empire. In 827, the Saracens established themselves until the eleventh century Norman invasion. The early Arab government was brutal in establishing itself, but in the end left its artistic and poetic imprint on die Island, along with a love of science and commerce and the devotion to agriculture.

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The differentiation from province to province, from country to country, with regard to habits, customs, beliefs, manners, traditions, folklore, superstitions, and the diversity of accents and roots of their words is proof of the residence on the Island of diverse peoples that superimposed on and subsequently were assimilated by the Indigenous and the Primeval, and today the Sicilian race is the result of this great confusion of blood through the many centuries of its history. In fact the Norman or Nordic type is tall in stature, light complected, with clear, blue eyes, a long nose, blond hair, a relatively long head, a tranquil character, and is entrepreneurial. the Greek type is of average stature, with smooth brown hair, a small, graceful nose, blue or brown eyes, an uncertain or suspicious glance, Caucasian coloring, and has a spirit of initiative. The Carthaginian and the Roman are of rather tall stature, good-looking, muscular, dark coloring, dark, curly hair, the whites of the eyes are clear. the African presents thick, protruding lips, the Arab carries a medium stature, dark hair, a pointed nose, dark copper coloring, black eyes, a furtive glance, and an impetuous character. He is intelligent, he is fatalistic, at times apathetic and lazy.

However, there exists in Sicily the European, or rather, the Mediterranean type, characterized by medium height, stout, muscular, and round of face, white-brown (sorrel) coloring, black, luminous, flashing eyes, and dark, thick straight hair. The individual’s psyche harbors pride, arrogance, impetuous love and hatred, steadfastness and faithfulness and a spirit of vendetta, loyal even in adversity, and easy and expressive in deeds. Genus Mu turn et suspiciosum Cicero defined the Sicilian and Pitre would explain, never there was a truer saying indeed: acutum, that is pugnax for the acts of valor for which the Sicilian has always distinguished himself, suspiciosum for the diffidence and the suspicion which easily becomes aroused in him. He is exemplary in his generosity and hospitality, he is very intelligent and works hard, he knows how to rise above adversity and to prevail, relying only on his personal merits and diligence. He is very religious, the women often tending towards mysticism and even superstition, and for them chastity is prized above all else.

 

For the Sicilian, the woman is everything, there’s trouble if someone is looking her way. He nourishes the idyllic and the tragic, as Cocchiara writes:

“the woman for the Sicilian is something sacred and magnificent, he sings of her more beautiful than the sun, queen of all of the beauties, he is admirable in the exaggeration of his flights of fancy,” in Cavalleria Rusticana [Rustic Chivalry, by Giovanni Verga, 1884] his song transports and stuns him:

Si moru e mi’nni vaiu‚ òmparaddisu. Si nun ci viu a tia mancu ci trasu.

We can’t neglect another characteristic immigration into Sicily, that of the Greco-Albanese, who, watched by George and Basil, sons of Demetius Keres, called by Alfonse the First of Aragon to subdue a revolt in the Calabrias. There are the Albanese nuclei which others joined at the end of the fifteenth century, populating the Piana dei Greci [Greek Plains], Mezzoiuso, S. Cristina Gela, Contessa Entellina, and Palazzo Adriano. Charles the Third conceded to them a college in Palermo. Gracious and picturesque is their dress, their liturgy is magnificent and their religious functions. Sumptuous, you’ll find them to be jealous conservators of their language.

Every invader has left traces in Sicily through a richness of monuments that present, even from under the soil, a canvas which, through legends and history, constitute an entire past of intellectual activity and the proof, whether in the civil or religious field, to make one breathe the satisfied air that causes one to confess how this Sicilian land is privileged among all the other regions of the world.

For the historic-archeological-natural-artistic importance it is necessary to visit at least the principal sites. for example, from the majesty of the Greek Theaters of Agrigento and Segesta one passes to the ancient ruins of Selinunte which are among the most colossal in Europe, the ruins of the Castle of Eurialo on Epipoli, those of Mussomeli, those of Monte S. Giuliano, the tower of Frederick the Second on the Umbilicus Siciliae (Erma), the Catacombs of San Giacomo, true underground city, the Castle on the Capo S. Alessio, of Solunto and of Mo tia, and most importantly the remains of the various necropolises, the Roman Amphitheater at Agrigento and Syracuse, the magnificent construction of the Greek theaters of Syracuse, of Imera, of Acre, of Taormina, and of Tindari.

The Sicilian soul is a fusion of love, fire, and happiness. its festivals are among the most beautiful and fascinating for their bizarre array of colors with crowds that move to delirious songs, sounds, dances, lavish displays of lights and giant candles (torce-cilii), banners, animals with luxuriously embroidered colored harnesses, people dressed symbolically as notable personages, fireworks, horse races without riders, where one observes the spirit of the race that animates those beasts, and other typically popular events made even more characteristic by the confusion of voices and shouts of many wandering vendors.

In the Sicilian people dwells courage and valor, he who continues to call himself Sicilian knows how to defend his own honor and that of his land. the Sicilian evenings are there to testify to that. Likewise, are the innate poetic and musical sensibilities:

cu’ voli puisia vegna ‘ n Sicilia. [ he who wants poetry comes to Sicily ]

There is generally honor in the Sicilians. the song is preferred by him, especially if sung by a peasant. On the rural roads, the trazzere, until a very few years ago, during the period of rural transportation. during the harvest, especially under the light of the moon, the echo of his lullabies held rapt the attention and was enjoyed in all its beauty. Songs, stomellas, serenades, sweet and lovely lullabies, love songs that are sentimental and melancholy, expressions of love and at times witty or burning verses of disdain, scorn and vindictiveness.

In the Sicilian dance, the ballet or tarantella is characteristic, to the sound of the lu fiscalettu (recorder) accompanied by lu tammureddu and lu circhettu with bells, the guitar and lu maridlu (kazoo), with the clapping of hands, that accompanies the singing, of the ciancianeddi (songs) that have sweet harmonic accompaniment. there is also the azzarinu (sistrum), and the ciaramedda (bagpipes).

No truer words were ever spoken than by Guerazzi, “They are accustomed to respect in Sicily‚” the cradle of Italian wisdom, whose fame was everywhere in the world when those that now scorn her as barbaric still were named among the barbarian peoples. To which Senator Buonamici echoes when he affirms, “In truth, Sicily still remains that enchanted land where the burning sun sustains and inflames genius, where the Greek genius and the Latin genius once embraced each other in order to instruct the world. The testimony of Antordano De Stefano is authoritative.”

The history of Sicily is the history of a civilization that is at the same time the history of a multiform civilization. It is the history of an Island that is at the same time the history of a world, the Mediterranean world. A history prodigiously rich in motifs and meanings that make of this land a living testimony of epochs, of thought, of art. Goethe justly affirmed that it is necessary to search here for the key to Italian history. It has always contributed actively to Italian and European culture, from both the creative point of view and the interpretative. Sicilian culture, literature and art have taken nourishment, character and sensibility, have given light to culture, to literature and to art in Italy and in Europe.

The high level of spirit and of poetry of the strong Sicilian people was inspired by the nature of this enchanting and extremely fertile land c’un suli chi la vasa a tutti l’uri, which is a true Eden for the eye and the heart for whoever is animated by passion for the beautiful. It’s a necessity to visit the Anapo stream, with its idyllic flow through Syracuse, in the midst of a majestic forest of papyrus, to look at the superb chestnut forests on Mount Etna, to the paradisiacal golden Conca, to stop and contemplate the fertile plain of Catania, the magnificent and picturesque coast that from Acireale rises to beyond Tauromenio with its enchanting location, considered among the most beautiful promontories in the world. the delightful and varied view of barrenness, of rocks and very fertile vegetation that cover Mount Pellegrino, the gigantic titan that dominates Palermo and its very rich and poetic valley covered with verdant orange trees, along with the splendid sea and the infinite horizon, it is remembered by Goethe as the most beautiful promontory in the world. Sicily adds to all of this the richness of her olive groves, of her harvests for which Sicily is not mistakenly called the granary of Italy nutricem plebis romanae Siciliam nominbat Cato.

Appreciate the fertility of her almond orchards, the enchanting pines, the forests, the luxuriant floriculture. honor the salt mines of Trapani and of Syracuse, the tuna fish operations that are among the most important, the renowned vineyards, the rich sulfur and asphalt mines, the fishing that renders this one of the most important ports of Europe, the essences derived from her citrus, the canned goods, the abundant oil wells to sing about her:

Terra di ricchizzi senza funnu. [Land of riches without end.]

One must admire the luxurious work of the artisan, inlaying, engraving, wood carving, the highly esteemed and unique ceramics and terra cotta, the lace, the workmanship of the papyrus, the palms of the cefaglioli (citrina), etc. Suffice it to say that this is one of the lands most visited by tourists in all the world. Adding to such abundance the bounty of her climate which attracts one there, the poetry of her sunsets that one enjoys there: quannu tracoddra In suli a la sira, dareri a li. muntagni o ‘nfunnu a mari, vampati d’oru lu celu rispira ‘ntra pinziddrati di culura rari.

Cicero, (Tusculane) affirmed that Sicily produced the most literary of men in the world, in every intellectual endeavor, and in all of the sciences, giving them the greatest virtue and splendor. And if we delve into her flourishing age we must confess that she has always been the mother of Genius. How many immortal names in ancient history? How can we forget Archimedes, defined by Cicero as an earthly god and a man with divine genius, and from Livy as a unique observer of the stars and of the heavens. Caronda, Diodorus Siculo, Theogenes of Megara, Senofane, Theocritus, Seusi, Timoleone, Mosca, Sofrone, Corace and so many others!

And from the late Latin period on? Oh, there are the luminous great names of Antonello of Messina who created the fusion of Flemish painting with that of Tuscan civilization, Pietro Novelli the aristocratic and precise painter of analytical description, Giacomo Serpotta the classical animator of frescos, Antonello Gagini the winner of Greek honors, Ettore Ximenes universally appreciated, Giambattista Basile the creator of that miracle of art that is the Massimo Theater of Palermo, Filippo Juvata the unsurpassed creator of the Sacristy of Saint Peter’s cathedral in Rome, Gemmellaro the prince of volcanology, Francesco Maurolico distinguished mathematician, historian, philosopher, poet.

Francesco Ferrara the most renowned of the Italian Economists, Simone Corleo profound philosopher and esteemed jurist, Alessandro Paternostro world famous jurist, Nicola Spedalieri, of whom Crispi affirmed as being the first to speak of Public Law in Italy, Jacopo da Lentini, who Dante called, “the Leader of the poets of the dolce stil nnovo [“Sweet New Style”].” Elpide, the noble hymnist interred in the Portico of the Vatican, Pirandello the creator of classic caricatures, Giovanni Verga, the most esteemed writer since Manzoni, Michele A mari the creator of historical criticism, Giovanni Meli who is said to be the Dante of Sicilv, Giovanni Grasso talented actor of world-wide fame and resounding success, Vincenzo Bellini the incomparable troubadour of melodies and trills, the swan, the greatest Singer of Sicily, Giuseppe Pitre, the creator of the Sicilian Ethnographic Museum, Angelo Musco eminent impersonator and comic who brings back the skills of the ancient mimes, and to end I recall two names, who are two of the brightest stars among the world’s statesmen, Mariano Rampolla, and Francesco Crispi.

Let’s say it, even in the area of religion eminent figures are not lacking. the holy women Lucia of Syracuse, Agatha of Catania, Rosalia of Palermo and Agatone, Papa from Palermo, for whom the epitaph in Saint Peter’s reads, “From the summit of the Apostolic See shines like a sun and resounds like a crash of thunder” (elected at the age of 103 years and died at age 107).

We feel honored to be born in Sicily, in this land that for its glories, of nature, of ingenuity and of the heart, has always been admired, praised and, envied, on this matter the verses of Ugo Antonio Amico ran:

Culla dell’arte

E dei canti e triquetra: inonorata Forse, la dove il Po, Arno, Onoa Volvon, onde, di noi corre la fama, che nemico destin volser le stelle Alla trimcria terra.[Cradle of art] [And of the songs is triquetra: un-honored]

[Perhaps, there where the Po, the Arno, the Onoa] [Create the wave, from us runs fame,] [Because enemy destiny pointed the stars] [To the tranacrian land.]

Oh, Sicily possesses every merit to see itself as valued.

In the days of Frederick II, the Palermo Court held a privileged position among the most splendid in all of Europe, so that of the sovereign was written: “Fridericus stupor mundi et immu tator mirabilis.” He gave to the city of Palermo that glory that in antiquity Syracuse had held, so that it became the world’s center of studies and the cradle of art. This exceptional civilization lives even today and is manifest above all for its works of architecture. Sicily then was revered for its language, the Sicilian vernacular, a language that erroneously so many called an Italian dialect. Dialect refers to derivation, alteration, and corruption, but the Sicilian vernacular was in use and preceded the Italian language. the Sicilian vernacular made a unique contribution. I am referring to an important publication. Within the confines of the Swabian reign, whose center was Sicily, at the dawn of the thirteenth century, an indigenous lyric tradition was created, cultured, courtly, fertile with authors and fecund with resonances.

The Sicilian poets of the Swabian Court (Giacofano Protonotaro, Guido delle Colonne, Mazzeo di Ricco, Tommaso di Sasso, Giacomo Mostacci of Pisa, Ruggero of Palermo) all connected to the Court, formed the “Sicilian School,” which constituted the first poetic and literary manifestations of the Sicilian soul, but also a literary and lyric movement of national Italian importance. In no other Region of the Peninsula had a true art successfully arisen, the dignity of incipient production in Italian vernacular, the Sicilian School initiated and formed a literary environment that should actually be considered a linguistic movement, to which it is necessary to turn in order to retrace the initial genesis of the Italian tradition. Whoever wanted to test the identity of the Tuscan voices and lyrics versus that of the Siculs succeeded in demonstrating rather that they were not professional. “the precedence for Tuscan poetry is the poetic culture in Sicily, the Tuscan derivation and imitation of the Sicilian poetry.”

Foscolo had affirmed that the first Sicilians adapted both their native written dialect and their popular language at the same time. Di Giovanni observed that the Italian literary language did not begin to resound if not from the Sicilian dialect, For the Greeks and Romans, tire Italic Vernacular existed first in Sicily, and the distinct nature of our language has existed since the times of the Carthaginians, The authoritative testimony documented by Maffei crowns the above mentioned considerations. Giovi concludes that the first school of our errant tale was the Court of Frederick the Second and that this was the arena in which the ingenious wanderers exercised their amenable and noble studies, and to eliminate any doubts we note the solemn words of Dante: ”Now this fame of the Sicilian land, if we look directly, appears that only for the shame of the Italian Princes remained, not any more in the world of the heroes, but in the guise of the plebeian they follow the superb.”

But Federico Cesare and his well-born son Manfredi, illustrious heroes, while demonstrating their nobility and their justness, while Fortune was favorable to them, followed human things and scorned bestiality, such that in those times all that the excellent Italians created, all likewise issued from the Court of this high monarchy. And because the royal seat was in Sicily, it befell that all that our predecessors created was called Sicilian. We remember, and our posterity will not be able to ever forget.”

After which the best testimony one remembers is that Petrarch sang:

i Ciciliani che fur gid primi. [ the Sicilians, who were the first ]

No one will deny that the good Vernacular was for the first time heard in Sicily and that in the Court of Frederick the Second free from every ugly plebeian element and calling itself from its birthplace, Aulico or Sicilian. The Italian Vernacular was not named Aulico, or Courtly (from our Court), and ciciliano writing, affirmed Bembo, had been considered the Vernacular writing. neither were Sienese or Genoese called courtly, nor even could it be said, later, of Tuscan or Florentine. Not being in those times, as Perticari attested, there was no Court more solemn than that of the Sicilians, in that we saw the establishment of a court vernacular in it illustrious poems were written before others were even writing.

At the same time everywhere two national languages were being established. thus, Malespini, the Florentine chronicler of the eighth century, wrote of our Latin language and our Vernacular. In the writings of the time, frequently, in order to be more precise, one wrote next to certain Latin words and phrases the corresponding Vernacular term. In fact, in those times the Latin language was spoken and written by the cultured, in addition to the mother language, and in each region there was a Vernacular in addition to Latin, that is, the language transformed by the people and at the same time a corruption of Latin intermingled with the assimilation of the various languages of the many dominant peoples of the different regions which contributed to the presence of various languages, or rather of various regional dialects.

Gradually, the Latin language was vanishing from popular use, the dialects prevailing but awakening of beautiful new cultures, the gradual influence of dialects was heard. some, it is true were rural types where they were not in progressive centers of civil commerce such as in the Northern part of the Island, which almost exclusively always remained in the power of the Skills, as Emiliano Giudici observed. A dialect existed that was neither Greek, nor Latin, nor Arabic and it was the spoken language of the people. The other dialects were gentrified with a certain return to the refinements of the Latin linguistic organization. Thus, in Sicily there was a vernacular sung and written that was no longer a Sicilian dialect and nor the Italian language, but it was already, despite local influences, a spoken language common to all the Italian poets, and that tended more and more to shift from being considered unusual, and a dialect, to becoming a language of educated persons.

Salvatorelli, in his historic Summary, again recalls how the Court of Frederick the Second was a kind of primary school of Italian lyric, the so-called “Sicilian school of Provengal Imitation;” Novellino adds, “that Court came talented people, musicians, wonderful speakers, that were all Sicilians‚” and that Zingareili defined Sicilian poets, first in our origins, flourished under the Swabians kings of Sicily, the most grand poet of all being Giacomo da Lentini, the creator of the sonnet (one of the most beautiful poetic creations). He is the symbol of an age of poetry and of culture and Dante celebrates him in Canto XXIV of the Purgatorio as “the leader among the poets of the Swabian Court.”

It is because of them that the Sicilian vernacular resounds not only on the banks of the sea that surrounds Italy, but penetrates even into the interior lands to arouse the inhabitants of Bologna, Perugia, Florence, Padua and many other cities of Lombardy who heard the lyric of our Sicilian language.

The descent from cultural heights came under the Angevins, when Sicily, not being protected by patrons, remained at the mercy of the people and its preeminence remained the southern patrimony. It conserved instead the vivacity of the imagination, the tenderness of sentiment, the sweetness of its endearments, it’s fine nostalgic delicacy, in so far as these have always been the prerogative of the fervid Sicilian fantasy and spontaneous expression of the soul of this people.

Sicily’s literature, while successfully maintaining its noble tradition, which it still maintains at a high level, in the richness of the production of its Poets, Novelists, Chroniclers, Translators of the classics of Greek, Latin, and Arabic.Sicily also has its Dante in the poetry of Meli, and her Petrarch in Veneziano, whose heritage has been skillfully collected and explained by Alessio Di Giovanni. The Sicilians’ linguistic glory therefore does not consist in the fact of having been the first to speak of love in their literary vernacular, but is principally in being its own vernacular, elevated above the other dialects of the Peninsula, even before Tuscan was about to become the literary language of the nation of Italy, but the Founder of the illustrious Court died in 1250, and therefore, with the Angevins began the decline. Guido Cavalcanti, called the creator of the Italian language, or rather of the Tuscan vernacular disciplined in grammar and rhetoric, was bom in 1258, and Dante, who then rendered Tuscan classic was born in 1265, and it was then towards the end of the thirteenth century when Sicilian was declining, that the Tuscan vernacular was perfected.

Consider that the pride of Sicilv remains a luxuriant literature, a very noble tradition, the epithets thus given to her, by calling her “Island of the Sun, Island of gold, Pearl of the Mediterranean, granary of Italy, are confessions of the value of the soil, of her esteemed people, that to her, in turn, makes an echo of that fervid imagination, and in respect for Sicily that the ancient and modern peoples all had given, and the Tourists of all the Nations form a chorus with their enthusiasm.

Its people, I say, describe it in their own language; “Terra di li rosi , “Terra di la puisia”, “Terra di la zagara” [Land of roses, Land of poetry, Land of the orange blossom]. Mongibello looks at it and is inspired to be fiery and impetuous.

But where, then, does one finish the most ardent flight of fantasy and touch the sublime summits which, hyperbolically, the enthusiast reaches when he imagines her as a diamond in the crown of the Creator:

‘N gnornu chi lu Diu Patri era cuntenti e passiava ‘ncelu cu li Santi a lu munnu pinsau fari un prisenti e di la cruna si scippau un damani, cci adattdu tutti li setti elementi, lu pasau ‘nmari ‘nfacci a lu livdnti. La chiamaru “Sicilia” li Genti, ma di lEternu Patri e lu “Damanti”

Among the Great ancients was Diodorus Siculo who justly exalted the primacy of Sicily,

“Sicilia Praestantissima est insularum, et antiquitate rerum, facile primus tenet.”

Among the Great moderns Goethe judged: “Italy without Sicily is not whole, does not leave the imagination in the spirit. in the soul of Sicily one clearly recognizes the best soul of Italy.

The Sicilian people therefore are right to sing:

Evviva, evviva sempri la Sicilia, la terra di I’anmri e di la gloria! [Long live, long live Sicily forever, the land of love and of glory]

One shouts enthusiastically to the winds:

Isuli milli, ma Sicilia nna! [There are thousands of islands but only one Sicily]

And it is precisely in this beautiful Island of the Sun that in 1642 Poggioreale arose, this is its very first, and best quality.

[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: https://www.amazon.com/History-Poggioreale-Sicily-1640-1956/dp/1072403374/ ]