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Catania Guide Italy

History and culture

History and culture

Katane was founded by the Calcidesi people in 729 B.C. in a fertile plain at the foot of Etna. In 476 B.C. the city was conquered by Gerone, the fierce Siracusa tyrant who threw out the inhabitants replacing them with people from Siracusa, and it was renamed Aitna. The Calcidesi reclaimed the city after the tyrant was defeated, and gave it back its original name. However, this period of autonomy was short-lived: in 403 B.C. another Siracusa tyrant conquered Katane and sold the city’s inhabitants as slaves. The city remained under Siracusa rule until the beginning of the 3rd century. Rome took over from Siracusa in 263 B.C. During the first Punic war, they invaded the city and stayed there for about seven centuries, a period in which Katane developed its culture and economy greatly.

After the fall of the Empire, the ex-Roman colony was conquered by Belisarius (535 A.D.) and was ruled by the Byzantine Empire for about three centuries.
The Arabs landed in Sicily in 827 A.D., and later the Normans took over from them in 1071 and entered the city of Catania guided by Count Ruggero. The city lost its autonomy under the Normans, that in part it had managed to keep in spite of the continuous changes in rulers, and it became a feudal city to all effects.

In 1169, the city was destroyed by a terrible earthquake that struck the whole of Eastern Sicily. Thirty years later, while the city was still working on reconstruction, Catania supported the Altavilla against Henry VI, the son of Barbarossa: the imperial reaction was very violent, culminating in a fire that destroyed part of the city, including the Cathedral.
Under Frederick II (1240), Catania was finally freed from its feudal condition: it was recognized as a Borough and became quite independent. There is little remaining evidence of this medieval period, however.
The Spanish were extremely important for the economic, cultural and demographic growth of Catania. Frederick III of Aragon was crowned King of Sicily and set up some important political seats in Catania.
The cultural growth that took place in the city is symbolized by the founding of the University (1434), the first in Sicily.

The second half of 1600 was an extremely tragic period in Catania’s history: in 1669 there was a violent eruption of Etna and it covered everything with lava. Less than thirty years later (1693), when the city was still nursing its wounds, an earthquake destroyed anything that was still left.
Catania managed to react to these natural calamities, and started a huge building project that foresaw wide use of black lava and light-colored limestone. The city was one huge, busy building site for decades and slowly the Baroque aspect that still characterizes the city began to form.

During the Risorgimento period, Catania rebelled against the Bourbons in 1837 and in 1848, freeing itself permanently in 1860, when the Thousand conquered Palermo. Catania was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
The town and industrial growth of the city of Catania continued at a fast rate, only slowing down during the Second World War. In the last few decades, Catania has become a center for the technology sector, earning itself the name of European Silicon Valley.

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