The Sicilian Vespers: Was There a Sicilian Nationalism in the Late Middle Ages?

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:30 PM
Virginia Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Francesco Paolo Tocco, University of Messina
The sicilian Vespers represent indeed one of the most relevant historical events of the medieval

Mediterranean, broadly characterized by nationalistic features. The 1282 antiangevin insurrection,

in fact, from its first beginnings was clearly signed by the desire for independence of a "sicilian

nation", justified both by dynastic reasons and by a not better specified sicilian character. A desire

strenghtened during the kingdom of Frederick III of Aragon. The sicilian historiographical tradition,

then, masterfully established by Michele Amari, has strengthened the Vespers’ nationalistic

interpretation. Nevertheless, the most recent historiography cannot avoid showing its perplexities

towards concepts like sicilian or, even, sicilian race, even more so that in 1282 Sicily was coming

out from an ethnic earthquake that totally removed from the isle the islamic people, replacing them

by emigrants coming from the most different areas of the italian peninsula. So, if a nationalistic

interpretation of the Vespers is no longer possible, it's however essential to understand what

Sicilians meant speaking of themselves as a nation, under the light of the medieval culture. This

new interpretation is also imposed by the following ages of sicilian history, marked by the hostility

against the iberian conquerors and rulers, and by the objective fact that Sicily, being an isle, is

facilitated in restraining exclusive self representations.

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