Kingdom of Sicily 1130-1266.


History defines our heritage. Every generation or two, a book is published that brings us an overarching, slightly-original view of a time and place. Welcome to the medieval Kingdom of Sicily!

The Legacy of Southern Italy
Despite its name, the kingdom, the Regnum Siciliae, embraced much more than Sicily. It also encompassed most of southern peninsular "mainland" Italy, including the regions of Campania, Puglia, Calabria, Basilicata, Abruzzo and Molise, and part of what is now Lazio, along with Malta and other islands. The story recounted in these pages brings us myriad facts and details — from the foundation of the kingdom in 1130 until the demise of its last "native" dynasty in 1266. The kingdom.It's the story of a multicultural, multiconfessional society and the ethnogenesis of the collective culture of the people of southern Italy seen today. Much that we identify with this region and its people originated in the Kingdom of Sicily under the Hautevilles and Hohenstaufens during the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries. The Neapolitan and Sicilian languages, religious practices, folk traditions, and of course the cuisine. Spaghetti, lasagna, sfogliatella, rice balls and cannoli all trace their origins to this era. This is living history.

Chronicling the Past
While scholars will find it useful, this work is written with a clarity devoid of excessive academic jargon and arcane terminology, with terms carefully explained in the text and glossary. At 900 pages and some 900,000 words, with over 1300 endnotes and dozens of genealogical tables and maps (along with 7 appendices, a timeline, a glossary and a 40-page bibliography), this is the lengthiest general history of the subject published in English in decades. Besides historical events, government, law, religion(s), art, architecture and the economy, it considers many aspects of life in the kingdom overlooked in other works. Family life, cuisine, medicine and folklore are integral topics. Movements such as environmentalism and vegetarianism are addressed. Betrothals, sexuality and gender are considered, along with knighthood, monasticism, witchcraft, contraception and abortion. The details seem endless, with iconography, coinage, heraldry, phylogeography, climate change and weights-and-measures among the many things described.

Siculo-Neapolitan Autohistory
While this peer-reviewed book's point of view is fundamentally neutral and cosmopolitan, its orientation is subtly Siculo-Neapolitan. That's because, unlike the greater number of histories about southern Italy written in English, in the original, by Anglophone authors, this one was written by historians based in southern Italy who have roots in this region and a personal familiarity with its society and culture. They are not visitors, guests or "foreigners." This book is what anthropologists call autohistory — history written by people whose ancestors lived it. Over the years, Lou Mendola and Jackie Alio have contributed much to the field, from the first English translations of medieval chronicles and poetry to studies of topics such as Sicilian queenship. They have lectured students at universities, where their books have been used in undergraduate courses, and both are "resources" (lecturers) for YPO. This is the first history of its kind written in English, chapter by chapter, by both a woman and a man in southern Italy, a trend the authors could be said to have begun in 2013 with their book The Peoples of Sicily: A Multicultural Legacy. To these two authors, being historians isn't just what they are but who they are. Unlike most foreign historians, they didn't simply "choose" to write about southern Italy; rather, the place chose them.

Observed Professor David Abulafia, CBE, who wrote the foreword, "I definitely think one's background helps to determine how to approach one's subject — in my case the Sephardim and the Mediterranean." Professor Abulafia's many accomplishments include a stint as Chairman of the History Faculty of the University of Cambridge. Academics working in this field will need no introduction to this singular scholar, known for Frederick II: A Medieval Emperor (1988). He has also written bestsellers such as The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean (2011) and The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans (2019). He was one of the first recipients of the British Academy Medal, and in 2020 he was awarded the Wolfson History Prize. His life's work shines the light of knowledge into the dark crevices of history to reveal more about the past than we thought we knew.

Timeless Scholarship
Despite its scholarly approach, this unique volume is eminently readable. While the text avoids the excessive use of esoteric academese, it underwent review by leading scholars.

Rethinking Norman-Swabian Italy
Lou Mendola and Jackie Alio.This book is not, strictly speaking, royal biography, nor is it the story of one faith or gender, and it is hardly Eurocentric. Significantly, and in stark contrast to most major histories of the kingdom, women are not marginalized. Among them we meet Margaret of Navarre, who as Queen of Sicily was the most powerful woman of Europe and the Mediterranean for five years, Trota of Salerno, author of a medical treatise, Nina of Messina, the first woman known to compose poetry in an Italic tongue, and the elusive Bint Muhammad ibn Abbad, who led a rebellion alongside her father in the mountains of western Sicily. This approach reflects current ideas about social balance and inclusivity.

Multicultural Kingdom
"What unites us," it has been said, "is far greater than what divides us." Despite an insidious Latinization, the kingdom epitomized the coexistence of cultures. We find the Italianized Lombards of Salerno, the Byzantine Greeks of Bari, the Muslim Arabs and Berbers of western Sicily, Grecophone communities in Calabria and eastern Sicily, and many Jews eventually united by the Hauteville dynasty. At the royal court were scholars and philosophers from as far afield as Morocco, Constantinople and England. Here was the epitome of social and intellectual diversitude. The kingdom's first legal code, the Assizes of Ariano enacted by King Roger II in 1140, actually refers to "the diversity of our peoples."

Living Kingdom
The serious study of the Middle Ages is sometimes dismissed as being less than relevant to life in our times. For cognoscenti passionate about Euro-Mediterranean history, this book is an interesting read. For students, it's a useful reference. For those descended from ancestors in southern Italy, it is a reminder of familial heritage, something worthy of placement on a shelf between the family history and the family Bible. This is history that touches modern times in unexpected ways — recent decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States reflect views formulated by Thomas Aquinas in southern Italy during the Hohenstaufen era, while the views of animal rights espoused by Francis of Assisi have gained currency in the modern era. At its best, history lends us a few sage clues about how to confront a complex future. We can learn from the past as long as we remember it.

The table of contents and a list of the authors' books follow.




Introduction: Discovering the Kingdom

Maps and Charts


1. Before the Normans

2. The Normans

3. Trial by Fire

4. Christians East and West

5. Apulia and Calabria

6. Sicily

7. Polycultural Cities

8. Consolidation

9. Rites of Passage

10. Geopolitics

11. Regnum Siciliae

12. Normanization

13. Power

14. Continuum

15. Inheritance

16. Parenti Serpenti

17. Regency

18. Leadership

19. Multicultural Monastery

20. Reign

21. Dynasticism

22. Regnancy

23. Regnum Vivum

24. Lingua dellu Regnu

25. Hegemony

26. Society and Law

27. Culinary Culture

28. Permanency

29. European Kingdom

30. Catholic Kingdom

31. Hereditament

32. Kingship


Conclusion: The Living Kingdom

Genealogical Tables


Appendix 1: Assizes of Ariano

Appendix 2: Margaret's Pendant

Appendix 3: Constance's Crown

Appendix 4: The Contrasto

Appendix 5: Coronation Rite

Appendix 6: Historiography

Appendix 7: Twin Kingdoms



Sources and Bibliography


Also by Louis Mendola and Jacqueline Alio

The Peoples of Sicily: A Multicultural Legacy

Sicilian Studies: A Guide and Syllabus for Educators

Norman-Arab-Byzantine Palermo, Monreale and Cefalù

Sicilian Court Culture 1061-1266

Kingdom of Sicily 1130-1266 Study Guide

By Jacqueline Alio

Queens of Sicily 1061-1266

Sicilian Queenship

The Ferraris Chronicle
(translation and notes)

Margaret, Queen of Sicily

Women of Sicily: Saints, Queens and Rebels

By Louis Mendola

The Kingdom of Sicily 1130-1860

Sicilian Genealogy and Heraldry

The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies 1734-1861

Sicily's Rebellion against King Charles
The Story of the Sicilian Vespers by John of Procida
(translation and notes)

The Chronicle of Nicholas of Jamsilla
(translation and notes)