The history of Palermo, indeed the history of all of Sicily, is a record of by whom they were conquered and when. Palermo is believed to have been settled by the Phoenicians sometime the eighth century BCE. The name is a derivation of the Greek, 'Panormus,' meaning 'all ports.'

Phoenicians and Romans

    Palermo remained under Phoenician rule until the First Punic War, around 250 BCE, when all of Sicily was conquered by the Romans and ruled with Syracuse as the center of provincial power. This lasted for about eight hundred years with few disruptions except for attacks by various barbarian tribes. Palermo then fell under control of the Byzantine Empire, the former East Roman Empire.

Arab Rule

    In the 9th century  the Arabs arrived from North Africa to aid the Sicilian ruler, Euphimius, and took over rule of Palermo from him when he died shortly after their arrival. By 900, the Arabs had conquered most of the island and had moved the center of power in Sicily to Palermo. The period under Arab rule is generally considered to be one of great prosperity in which significant improvements were made in the arts as well as the city's economy. The Arab influence can still be seen in some of the mosques surviving from this period.

11th - 14th Centuries

    After a twelve-year siege by the Normans, Palermo was successfully taken by them in 1072. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II took up residence in the city when Palermo fell under Roman rule in 1194. In the 13th century, the city was in the hands of French king Charles of Anjou. During this period, the Sicilians revolted against French rule in an insurrection known as the Sicilian Vespers.

15th - 19th Centuries

    The fifteenth century saw the beginning of a long period of Spanish rule on the island, first under the house of Aragon, and later under a united Kingdom of Spain. Relative peace reigned on the island, and a number of churches and convents were set up by various religious orders. The clergy and aristocracy enjoyed a period of affluence, while the hoi polloi suffered under poverty. For a brief period in the 18th century, Sicily fell under control of Austria, but was returned to the Spanish who then allowed Sicily to be unified with the autonomous Bourbon-ruled Kingdom of Naples. Palermo rebelled against Neapolitan rule and finally won independence in 1860. In 1870, Sicily was annexed into the Kingdom of Italy.

20th Century

    Palermo was unscathed in World War I, but suffered heavy damage when Allied forces invaded in 1943. Sicily became an autonomous region in 1947, with the center of power residing in Palermo.