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The Invention of Sicily: A Mediterranean History

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A fascinating cultural history of this most magical of islands. Sicily has always acted as a gateway between Europe and the rest of the world. Fought over by Phoenicians and Greeks, Romans, Goths and Byzantines, Arabs and Normans, Germans, Spanish and French for thousands of year, Sicily became a unique melting pot where diverse traditions merged, producing a unique heritag A fascinating cultural history of this most magical of islands. Sicily has always acted as a gateway between Europe and the rest of the world. Fought over by Phoenicians and Greeks, Romans, Goths and Byzantines, Arabs and Normans, Germans, Spanish and French for thousands of year, Sicily became a unique melting pot where diverse traditions merged, producing a unique heritage and singular culture. In this fascinating account of the island from the earliest times to the present day, author and journalist Jamie Mackay leads us through this most elusive of places. From its pivotal position in the development of Greek and Roman mythology, and the beautiful remnants of both the Arab and Norman invasions, through to the rise of the bandits and the Cosa Nostra, The Invention of Sicily charts the captivating culture and history of Sicily. Mackay weaves together the political and social development of the island with its fascinating cultural heritage, discussing how great works including Lampedusa’s masterpiece The Leopard and its film adaptation by Visconti, and the novels of Leonardo Sciascia, among many others, have both been shaped by Sicily’s past, and continue to shape it in the present.


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A fascinating cultural history of this most magical of islands. Sicily has always acted as a gateway between Europe and the rest of the world. Fought over by Phoenicians and Greeks, Romans, Goths and Byzantines, Arabs and Normans, Germans, Spanish and French for thousands of year, Sicily became a unique melting pot where diverse traditions merged, producing a unique heritag A fascinating cultural history of this most magical of islands. Sicily has always acted as a gateway between Europe and the rest of the world. Fought over by Phoenicians and Greeks, Romans, Goths and Byzantines, Arabs and Normans, Germans, Spanish and French for thousands of year, Sicily became a unique melting pot where diverse traditions merged, producing a unique heritage and singular culture. In this fascinating account of the island from the earliest times to the present day, author and journalist Jamie Mackay leads us through this most elusive of places. From its pivotal position in the development of Greek and Roman mythology, and the beautiful remnants of both the Arab and Norman invasions, through to the rise of the bandits and the Cosa Nostra, The Invention of Sicily charts the captivating culture and history of Sicily. Mackay weaves together the political and social development of the island with its fascinating cultural heritage, discussing how great works including Lampedusa’s masterpiece The Leopard and its film adaptation by Visconti, and the novels of Leonardo Sciascia, among many others, have both been shaped by Sicily’s past, and continue to shape it in the present.

30 review for The Invention of Sicily: A Mediterranean History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    Sicily really was the crossroads of empires, some expected (Greeks, Romans, Muslims), some much less so (I had no idea that the Normans ruled Sicily for a while). I also had no idea what a regional power Sicily was for long stretches, compared to it's relative standing today. The long history also helps make sense of the present, particularly centuries of playing off and development of different regions for political gains which has contributed to the impoverishment of the south of Sicily. I als Sicily really was the crossroads of empires, some expected (Greeks, Romans, Muslims), some much less so (I had no idea that the Normans ruled Sicily for a while). I also had no idea what a regional power Sicily was for long stretches, compared to it's relative standing today. The long history also helps make sense of the present, particularly centuries of playing off and development of different regions for political gains which has contributed to the impoverishment of the south of Sicily. I also know little about the formation of the nation of Italy and the decision the new nation made to prioritize industrial development in the north and agriculture in the south, which have had ruinous consequences for Sicily. The book also does a good job covering the rise and fall and rise and current status of the mafia, framing them as a quasi-governmental actor that takes advantage of political and economic chaos to profit on drugs, corruption, and misery. On the whole a fascinating and well written book I learned a ton from.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    I will admit it - in reading about Italy and trying to prepare for when travel there is finally permitted, I have tended to favor the north, especially Florence and Tuscany. Why? It is sometimes hard to tell. There is so much interesting in Florence. Rome has extraordinary history too, perhaps so much that it is overwhelming. I am also interested in the south, but relative to the rest I know much less. …and then there is Sicily. Sicily pops up in history but never seems to present a unified singl I will admit it - in reading about Italy and trying to prepare for when travel there is finally permitted, I have tended to favor the north, especially Florence and Tuscany. Why? It is sometimes hard to tell. There is so much interesting in Florence. Rome has extraordinary history too, perhaps so much that it is overwhelming. I am also interested in the south, but relative to the rest I know much less. …and then there is Sicily. Sicily pops up in history but never seems to present a unified single history rather than a long mixture of different conquests, cultures, and stories. The Athenians ran afoul of the Sicilian Greeks in Syracuse. They in turn ran afoul of the Romans. Subsequent rulers included the Normans, the different Caliphates, the Bourbons, until Sicily finally became part of a unified Italy (sort of …). Throw in fine eating, Mt. Edna, the Mafia, and Libyan refugees, and it is not surprising that a unified picture of Sicily seems hard to find. Is Sicily one place or many? Is it part of Italy or separate? Is it a destination or a crossroads? Jamie Mackey is a journalist and a translator who has written a fairly short one volume history of Sicily. He writes well and has written an accessible history of Sicily that begins around 800 BCE and concludes in the present. He ties together the various strands of Sicilian history into a relatively coherent whole and adds enough additional tidbits of knowledge and trivia that readers may actually want to visit the place. He even tries to explain the Sicilian Vespers uprising of the 13th century and he identifies a number of historical sites worth seeing, such as the Cathedral Church of Montreal. More illustrations and perhaps a few more maps may have helped with the book, but it was not a big problem, since I have my tablet nearby.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daniela Arena

    This book focuses on the cultural history of Sicily as well as the current issues that the small island faces. As an American born child of Sicilian parents, I found it especially interesting to listen to. I have family that lives in Sicily and when we visited, I saw many of the places discussed. This account includes the different people that inhabited the island at different times and created the heritage and culture. The author also addresses the current political and social issues that the S This book focuses on the cultural history of Sicily as well as the current issues that the small island faces. As an American born child of Sicilian parents, I found it especially interesting to listen to. I have family that lives in Sicily and when we visited, I saw many of the places discussed. This account includes the different people that inhabited the island at different times and created the heritage and culture. The author also addresses the current political and social issues that the Sicilians face today.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    While reading these Sicilian stories, I noted many American correlates, such as: 1) A group of rich-world residents establish a colony in a foreign land; 2) The colonizers co-opted, pushed back, or killed the prior inhabitants; 3) A large empire with an extensive trading network absorbed the original colony; 4) The ruling families of France and Spain alternately ruled parts of it; 5) British warships bombarded its cities; 6) Bandits created havoc in the dry, sparsely populated interior; 7) The inhabita While reading these Sicilian stories, I noted many American correlates, such as: 1) A group of rich-world residents establish a colony in a foreign land; 2) The colonizers co-opted, pushed back, or killed the prior inhabitants; 3) A large empire with an extensive trading network absorbed the original colony; 4) The ruling families of France and Spain alternately ruled parts of it; 5) British warships bombarded its cities; 6) Bandits created havoc in the dry, sparsely populated interior; 7) The inhabitants achieved local-rule after a bloody revolution; 8) The U.S. Army conducted a military campaign across much of its territory; and 9) A secretive criminal organization infiltrated its commercial, governmental, and social institutions. As the American-educated, long-time Italian resident, George Sanayana, famously said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." I plan to visit some of these storied, historical sites soon.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    Mackay provides a good introduction to Sicily's complicated past, including its rich linguistic heritage. The chapters covering its various settlers, colonizers, traders, and kings offer a window into Europe's complex power struggles. Mackay analyzes Sicily's art, architecture, and literature as evidence of its people's struggles to gain some measure of autonomy. I wish the Kindle edition had included what academic histories do: timelines, maps, and reproductions of the art and architecture Mack Mackay provides a good introduction to Sicily's complicated past, including its rich linguistic heritage. The chapters covering its various settlers, colonizers, traders, and kings offer a window into Europe's complex power struggles. Mackay analyzes Sicily's art, architecture, and literature as evidence of its people's struggles to gain some measure of autonomy. I wish the Kindle edition had included what academic histories do: timelines, maps, and reproductions of the art and architecture Mackay discusses. Maps are essential, especially of its early settlements and cities; likewise the art objects analyzed. Mackay uses details of these cultural artifacts as support for the thesis of the book, that Sicily is a rich, diverse land that deserves better attention to its people.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John Sinclair

    BOOK REVIEW ⭐️⭐️⭐️ So this book was interesting to me. I knew about Sicily’s ancient and early modern past, but nothing after the 15th C. This book made up for that. It’s a fascinating look at a place largely shrouded in mystery for me, and on my bucket list to visit. #bibliophile #book #bookish #booklover #books #books2021 #booksofinstagram #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookstagrammers #bookworm #goodreads #homelibrary #instabook #instabooks #reader #readers #reading #readingroom #readersofinstag BOOK REVIEW ⭐️⭐️⭐️ So this book was interesting to me. I knew about Sicily’s ancient and early modern past, but nothing after the 15th C. This book made up for that. It’s a fascinating look at a place largely shrouded in mystery for me, and on my bucket list to visit. #bibliophile #book #bookish #booklover #books #books2021 #booksofinstagram #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookstagrammers #bookworm #goodreads #homelibrary #instabook #instabooks #reader #readers #reading #readingroom #readersofinstagram #bookreview 2021📚 54/84

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Johnson

    An entertaining read for me. Having lived in Palermo for about six months in 2005, and spent a year and a half in Calabria and the Puglia regions around that same time, I found this book provided great context regarding the history and culture of the area. One can't help thinking that the author's grasp of modern politics is not as firm as it should be. Some of the author's conclusions lack support, and the author is plainly an open borders proponent. However, despite these drawbacks, this book An entertaining read for me. Having lived in Palermo for about six months in 2005, and spent a year and a half in Calabria and the Puglia regions around that same time, I found this book provided great context regarding the history and culture of the area. One can't help thinking that the author's grasp of modern politics is not as firm as it should be. Some of the author's conclusions lack support, and the author is plainly an open borders proponent. However, despite these drawbacks, this book is a worthy effort, and I'm glad I took time to read it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melisende

    To be totally honest, I only read this one for selected chapters that covered the period from 826AD to 1693AD to enhance my already sound knowledge of this period in Sicily's history (and to pick up any nuggets I may have missed elsewhere). Overall, it was an easy to read primer that flowed well; it was well researched and informative. It will provide an ample launching pad for someone who is interested in Sicily, its history and its diverse cultures and population. To be totally honest, I only read this one for selected chapters that covered the period from 826AD to 1693AD to enhance my already sound knowledge of this period in Sicily's history (and to pick up any nuggets I may have missed elsewhere). Overall, it was an easy to read primer that flowed well; it was well researched and informative. It will provide an ample launching pad for someone who is interested in Sicily, its history and its diverse cultures and population.

  9. 4 out of 5

    R.J. Gilmour

    Mackay's look at the history of the island of Sicily is a fascinating, albeit short book. He traces all of the different groups and communities that have called the island home and how each group left traces of their presence both architecturally and culturally. An enjoyable read that made me want to visit the island. Mackay's look at the history of the island of Sicily is a fascinating, albeit short book. He traces all of the different groups and communities that have called the island home and how each group left traces of their presence both architecturally and culturally. An enjoyable read that made me want to visit the island.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jim Lane

    first half appears to be well researched. Last chapter is a bit too opinionated in my view and certainly very optimistic. Well worth the read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    Clear, readable, enjoyable history of the island.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Received an ARC

  13. 5 out of 5

    Plato

    I listened to the audio book while I went for walks playing Pokemon go. It's a good book, a pretty engaging mediterranean history. Quite short and aimed at general readers. I listened to the audio book while I went for walks playing Pokemon go. It's a good book, a pretty engaging mediterranean history. Quite short and aimed at general readers.

  14. 5 out of 5

    NormaJean

    TNY 8-2-21 review

  15. 5 out of 5

    John Bitrick

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

  17. 4 out of 5

    Roy Martin

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christos Mel

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jon

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karolis Jonutis

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Pierson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jiayuan

  23. 5 out of 5

    John L. Coulehan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elena

  25. 5 out of 5

    James

  26. 5 out of 5

    Miriam McRoy

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fachrul Roji

  28. 5 out of 5

    robert a coscarello

  29. 5 out of 5

    Fiona Stewart

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bensmomma

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