By 877 all the major cities of Sicily had fallen to the broad pincer
attack of Saracen forces that began in 827 with invasion
of the southern coast of the island by Saracens from Africa and
was followed in 831 by invasion of the northeast
by Saracens from the Iberian peninsula.
resistance persisted from several enclaves on the east coast, such
as Taormina and Rametta. Final victory in Sicily eluded the Saracens
as their rulers lapsed into a period of civil war, Syracuse erupted
in recurring revolts, and the Saracens were occupied with military
adventures against the forces of the Byzantine [Eastern Roman] Empire
on the Italian mainland. Finally the Saracen conquest was completed
with the fall of Taormina in 963 and Rametta in 965.
not bring peaceful possession. In 1038 the Byzantine Empire launched
a counterthrust under the leadership of Maniaces, its chief general
of the time. Assisted by discord among the Saracens and strengthened
by wide support among Sicilians, the Byzantine forces first captured
Messina, then Syracuse. In a four-year campaign Maniaces swept across
the island to threaten Palermo [Panormus] itself.
greatest enemy, however, was not in Sicily but in his own capital
of Constantinople. Intrigue at the Byzantine court led to recall of
Maniaces in 1042, to be replaced by the brother-in-law of the Byzantine
emperor. The tide of war immediately turned, and the Byzantine army
was pushed back across the island. Only Messina eluded the Saracen