Centre for Continuing Education

Medieval Sicily Course: Byzantines, Arabs and Normans

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

Sicily is located in the centre of the Mediterranean and has always been a cross roads of various cultures. In late antiquity the island was ruled by the Vandals, Goths and then the Byzantine Empire. In mediaeval times Sicily was invaded by Muslims from North Africa who created a dynamic multi-cultural society. Their ‘Emirate of Sicily’ was conquered in 1061 by the Norman Dukes Robert Guiscard and Roger I. Roger II subsequently created a tolerant and sophisticated society which saw a fusion of cultures. Rule of the island passed to Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty in the early 13th Century before it was taken over by the Kings of Aragon.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • understand how the Normans came to conquer Sicily
  • examine the multi-cultural society of 12th Century Sicily
  • comprehend the chronology of medieval Sicily
  • explore the influence of Muslim culture in Sicily on medieval Europe.


Vandals, Goths and Byzantines

The Vandals took Sicily under King Genseric in AD 440 and went on to sack Rome in 455. Not long afterwards the Ostogoths asserted their power. In the 6th Century Sicily came under the control of the Byzantine Empire and was made a province.

Arab Sicily

Sicily came under the control of the Arabs (the Aghlabid Dynasty) from the 9th Century but was only fully conquered by the Arabs in 965. The Emirate of Sicily ruled the island from Palermo and Sicily became a dynamic multicultural society.

Norman Sicily

By the 11th Century mainland southern Italy hired Norman mercenaries. Arab Sicily would be conquered by Roger I with just 700 knights. The entire island came under Norman control from 1072. Admiration of the Muslim language, literature and dress saw the Normans create a brilliant centre of culture which attracted scholars from all over Europe and the Middle East.

Roger II and the Kingdom of Sicily

Roger II was able to raise the status of the island to that of a kingdom in 1130 incorporating into it southern Italy and Malta. During this period the kingdom was prosperous and powerful, becoming one of the wealthiest kingdoms in Europe.

Frederick II and his Heirs

Control of Sicily passed from the Normans to the Holy Roman Empire. The most fascinating ruler of the early 13th Century was Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty who viewed himself as the heir of the ancient Roman Emperors. Rule of the island later subsequently passed to the Kings of Aragon.

Delivery style

This course will be delivered as a face-to-face, interactive lecture where questions and open discussions will be encouraged.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

What others say.

  • A well planned lecture which covered a good chunk of material delivered at a good pace. Filled in a whole lot of blanks in my historical knowledge...well done!

What others say.

  • This presenter is an outstandingly knowledgeable lecturer - I'm a fan! Have attended several of these courses over the years and am never disappointed.
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