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The Arabs were in fact a big problem at that moment. Their national hero Mohammed died in 632.
Before him, the Arabs were divided into different tribes, living in the desert of the Arabian peninsula.
Mohammed united them and gave them a new religion: "there is only one God, Allah, and his prophet is Mohammed. Allah made men good and bad, so the believers (in Arab muslim) must have full faith (in Arab islam) in Him, because He will do everything in the wisest way".
Fanatically, the Arabs started to extend their religion, and consequently their domination, from East to West. Henceforth, they conquered the Northern part of Africa and from there they attacked Spain, and from Spain, Europe.
In 732, the Frankâs King, Charles Martel, stopped them at Poiters. Everywhere they began unbelievable acts of cruelty and ferocity. On their way, they massacred people and destroyed everything. No wonder the Oriental Emperor got so scared! He was unfortunately so much under the influence of the new advancing religion, that he started many cruel persecutions against the Christians in Sicily. And only because they did not believe in his heretical monotheistic theories.
In 668, the Emperor was assassinated in Syracuse. His body was transported to Constantinople and his son, Emperor Costantine IV, reinstated the ancient capital. Meanwhile, the Arabs made several incursions along the Sicilian coasts. To give you an idea, from 700 to 750, they ransacked the Eastern coast eleven times! It was only in 827, that the Arabs landed in Mazara del Vallo with an organized army. They were actually called in by the Byzantine Commander Euphemius from Messina, who rose against the Emperor. But he was defeated by some faithful Byzantine soldiers, and he went to ask for help from the muslim Emir of Tunis. Together, they started the conquest of Sicily, and after 50 years of ferocious fighting and terrible destructions, the Arabs became lords of the island. Their domination was very tolerant, and Palermo became one of the great centres of art and scholarship in the world.
Agriculture was very much improved by introduction of new crops, such as date palm, cotton, lemon, sugar cane, oranges, mulberries. The fertility of the island was increased to the highest degree, with a very effective system of canalization and terrace-cultivation.
The Arab rule lasted more tan 200 years, and left a big mark upon Sicily. In the meantime, the Byzantines tried several times to regain possession of the island, but always in vain. The most important attempt was made by George Maniakes, who went on fighting for four years and captured Syracuse and Messina, in 1038-1042. Among his soldiers, there was also a group of mercenary Normans. The next invaders.
In Sicily, the Normans were called in by Ibn-a-Thumnah, the Muslim lord of Syracuse and Catania. Like the Greeks, the Arab lords were always fighting one other for the supremacy over their territories.
And once when Ibn-at-Thumnah was beaten by the Arab lord of Catania, he asked the Normans for help.
At the same time Pope Nicholas II decided to reconquer all the territories in the South of Italy still in the hands of the Arabs.
He called upon a group of "mercenaries" from the Northwest of France (the Normans), and he promised them sovereignty over Sicily if they managed to chase out the "infidels".
In response the French Count Roger of Hauteville with his knights came to conquer the island. From Messina, he conquered all the Arab cities, one by one. The Arabs were not able to make a common front against them. For thirty more years, heavy fighting went on all over Sicily.
In 1130 the Norman Roger II was crowned King in Palermo, and Sicily was united with the Southern part of Italy.
Roger was probably the wealthiest ruler in Europe, and his court in Palermo the most brilliant. Meanwhile Messina flourished as a supply base for the Crusaders. His successors were William I, the Bad, and William II, the Good, who died without a male heir. So that his aunt, Constance Altavilla, daughter of Roger II, became the only heir of the Norman Kingdom.