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    It is hard to find an island on the map more central than Sicily. It has rarely been governed as an independent, unified state. Nonetheless, the island has always occupied a front-row seat to some of the most important events in history, and nowhere is this more obvious than during antiquity.

    After the Punic Wars, Sicily would remain a Roman domain, and affairs on the island dramatically affected the Romans at home. The First Servile War (135-132 BCE) and Second Servile War (104-100 BCE) both took place in Sicily, and they were perhaps the largest (and temporarily successful) slave revolts in antiquity, demonstrating a great unease in the early stages of Roman imperialism.

    Over 1500 years later, the largest island of the Mediterranean remains a complicated place with a fraught relationship to the Italian mainland. Separated by only the narrow Strait of Messina, Sicily feels like a different country in many ways, and the differences between Sicilians and Italians are much vaster than the tiny geographical separating them might intimate.

    There is also an ethnic difference between Sicilians and Italians. Most notably, many Sicilians have bright red hair and light eyes, which is usually thought to be a result of the Norman invasions, although today some historians believe it is because of the strong presence of the British during the Napoleonic Wars, as well as the Anglo-American occupation of Italy during World War II. Even Sicilian cuisine varies from the Italian mainland - Sicily is celebrated for having 72 different kinds of bread, and Sicilians often eat ice cream (gelato) for breakfast.

    However diverse Sicily might be, it is also paradoxically considered to be an emblem of Italy itself, a paradox it shares with Naples. No writer put it more aptly than the great Romantic poet Goethe. In an April 13, 1787 letter from Palermo, published in Journey to Italy, Goethe made the following declaration: “To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.” As Goethe’s words suggest, Sicily is unquestionably unique thanks to its turbulent and rich history, but it shares the same qualities as the Italian nation overall, from its beautiful scenery, delicious cuisine, dazzling sunshine, and unparalleled cultural production to its problems with law and order, and its seeming impenetrability to outside visitors. Through it all, Sicily has been a true cultural melting pot, one that is responsible for some of the greatest contributions to Western culture.

    Modern Sicily: The History and Legacy of the Mediterranean Island Since the Middle Ages looks at one of the world’s most important and contested territories. You will learn about Sicily like never before.

    ©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

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