Colloquium in Middle East History



Spring 2013

HIME 4511 (1)

Colloquium in Middle East History

"Muslim Sicily and the Medieval Mediterranean World"

Joshua M. White

Located at the heart of a politically and religiously divided Mediterranean Sea, Sicily was a commercial and cultural crossroads in the mid-twelfth century. The island’s capital, Palermo, was Europe’s largest city and its population was a diverse mix of Arabic-speaking Muslims, Greek Orthodox, Latin Christians, and Jews. Its Norman king, Roger II, patronized verse in Arabic and Latin, built monumental churches that uniquely intertwined Byzantine, Romanesque, and North African motifs, and oversaw a trilingual chancery. The historian Ibn al-Athir later described him as a “baptized sultan.” How did Sicily come to be this way? Why did this exceptional period of diversity and religious tolerance come to an abrupt end? What can Sicily tell us about the medieval Mediterranean as a whole?

Starting with the Arab invasions of the then Byzantine-ruled island in 827 and concluding with the extinguishing of the last free Muslim community on the Italian peninsula in 1300, this course uses Muslim Sicily to delve into broader political, social, and cultural currents in the history of the medieval Mediterranean world. Topics include: inter-confessional relations, invasion and migration, travel and trade, intellectual and scientific exchange, art and architecture, administration, and legitimacy.



Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904



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