The Arab presence
Of the Arab
presence in Sicily we know from history books that,
taking advantage of the military decline of Constantinople
and the weakening of the Byzantine fleet in the
Mediterranean, the Arabs concentrated an army of about
20.000 infantrymen in Tunisia.
to affirm their faith, Islam against Christianity, and
trusting in the divine support, they sailed on June 14th,
827 from the Sûsah harbor and began the "Gihad".
The Holy War, having as an end also the conquest of Sicily,
was completed in 902, exactly after 75 years.
Since that moment and up to 1038, the Arabs were the
uncontested masters of the island.
Radice writes that second the "arab-siculo code" of the
Vella «under the Moslem, Bronte or
Brondu would have had in 830 1658 inhabitants, of which 994
Muslim and 644 Christians.»
the East Emperor, Michele IV, was yearning for a military
shipment for the conquest of Sicily.
favourable moment was when the emir Kalbita Ahmas al-Akhal,
following internal struggles with the other tribe for the
management of local power in the island, asked the support
of the Byzantines against the Zirita dynasty.
Michele IV accepted the invitation and, having prepared an
army composed by Greek, Slav and Norman mercenaries, sent it
under the command of the valiant general Giorgio Maniace.
Disembarked at Messina, the general, in a very short time,
favorable moment allowed
him to conquer as well 13 towns of Oriental Sicily up to
Siracusa and, as a proof of the victory achieved there, he
sent to Constantinople the relics of Santa Lucia.
During a fight happened between Randazzo, Troina and
Grotte della Farina (Ghiran ad-Daqiq), Giorgio Maniace
beat the Abd-Allah Arabs and, in his honor, the place of the
battle took his name.
Here, the Maniace,
founded about 1040, a monastery dedicated to the Virgin
Maria, to thank the sky for the victory against the Arabs.
At least, that is what the historians say; But we know that
the reality was well different and consisted in the wish to
return Sicily to the "divinum cultum" levering on the
Basilian monasticism of Greek rite.
Maniace, despite his many victories, was accused of treason
by the commandant of the Byzantine fleet Stefano and,
brought to Constantinople, was imprisoned.
1042 the Arabs reoccupied Maniace destroying what had
been there realized, but bringing also wealth and new
cultivations to the zone.
Searched for, with
long study, every source, every vein of water to canalize it
in a rational way and make it flow to the grounds and new
industrial plants for manufacturing paper and silk.
The tradition wants that, also in Bronte,
two paper mills were installed by the Arabs:
placed on the banks of the Simeto, nearby the Malpertuso
spring, subsequently turned into "Grangia
along the valley of the Simeto, in Cuntarati district, few
kilometers from the center, also lived in, for a few
centuries, by monks that used it as a paper mill,
manufacturing of wool and skin tannery (Today it is the
Masseria Lombardo, where is still possible to see
ancient collection basins, terracotta channels and remains
of wooden structures).
Overall, the Arab
domination can be considered among the happiest in our history:
in the Simeto Valley the Arabs found fertile ground, they
integrated and managed to live in perfect symbiosis with the
Good farmers, introduced the cultivation of new plants (citrus,
pistachio, cotton, etc.), built irrigation channels and started
the paper and silk industry. Bronte obtained great benefits from
the cultivation of citrus fruits and pistachio, succeeding with
the latter to transform a lot of "scarce" soil into highly