Alex Metcalfe, Lancaster University
The Muslim conquest of Byzantine Sicily in the ninth and tenth centuries was a slow process that created a frontier colony with a 'booty economy'. When a centralised administration eventually emerged, it was short-lived: the island was soon to be divided by thirty years of civil war followed by another thirty years of disruption during the Norman conquest (1061-90). Indeed, we do not possess a single, original charter from the period of Muslim rule. Under the Normans, the earliest documents recorded grants of lands and men, and were written in Arabic, Greek and/or Latin. But what were the precedents for these? Were they an Italo-Norman innovation? Had they relied on older material in Arabic and Greek from the Islamic period? Or had they imported Byzantine models along with Greek scribes from the south Italian mainland which was also under their rule? To investigate this problem, this paper adopts an unusual methodology: it first raises and then solves a linguistic puzzle, the corollary of which can be applied to the history illuminating it from a new angle. The result invites a fundamental reassessment of the origins and earliest forms of administration and statecraft in Norman Sicily.
Hiroshi Takayama, The Administration of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily (Leiden, 1993) pp. 26-40.
Jeremy Johns, Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 1-10 and 59-62.
Alex Metcalfe, The Muslims of Medieval Italy (Edinburgh, 2009), pp. 112-124, 150-57, 261-72.
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