Bronte's history

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Bronte's history

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.

Strongly wanting 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.

Benedetto 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.»

Meanwhile  the East Emperor, Michele IV, was yearning for a military shipment for the conquest of Sicily.

The 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, conquered it.

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.

Giorgio Maniace, despite his many victories, was accused of treason by the commandant of the Byzantine fleet Stefano and, brought to Constantinople, was imprisoned.

In 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:

 one placed on the banks of the Simeto, nearby the Malpertuso spring, subsequently turned into "Grangia Basiliana",

 another 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 pre-existing civilizations.

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 productive fields.

This underpass that characterize some little streets of the In­ner Center of Bronte is called "Catoio".
Shows a certain Arab origin; usually leads to a courtyard, that used to lodge several families originating from the same far­mhouse united to defend themselves from the bandits.

Altogether the Arab rule can be considered among the most pleasing at our history: good farmers, introduced the new plant growing (citrus, pistachio, cotton, etc), built irrigation channels and gave the start to the paper and silk industry.
Bronte obtained big benefits from the citrus and pistachio cultivation being aIl Pistacchio: l'oro di Bronteble, with this last one, to change much of its stony land in highly productive fields.
The pistachio, for the extraordinary union between the plant and this ground, had, in the territory in Bronte, a big development, changing the economy (of Arab origin are the terms frastuca and frastucara  which respectively refer to the fruit and the plant).

Translated by Sam Di BellaITALIAN VERSION

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