History of Messina Italy

Interested in the history of Messina Italy? Our guide gives you historical facts & information you want to know.

In the language of Sicily, they call this 3rd largest Sicilian city Missina. It is the capitol of the Messina province and there are more than 750,000 people who call this area home. Messina, Italy can be found in the north eastern corner of Sicily.

Messina is an ancient city having been founded by the Greeks in the 8th century BC. The original name of the city was Zancle. It was a native word that meant scythe, and was so named because of the natural shape of the harbor.

The city has long been a place of blood and battle. In 396 BC, Messina was sacked by the Carthaginians only to have Dionysius I of Syracuse reconquer it. Another bloody chapter in the history of Messina, Italy was when the Mamertines in 288 BC took the city and killed all the men. They then took the women and made them their wives. The Mamertines used Messina as a base from which they could ravage the neighboring countryside.

During the time of the Roman Empire, Messina was known as Messana. The lighthouse or pharos was important to the sailors who wanted to enter the harbor. Once the Roman Empire fell, the Goths were one of the first conquerors of the city. They were soon followed in 535 by the Byzantine Empire, in 842 by the Arabs and the brothers Robert and Roger Guiscard who were Normans in 1061.

The Harbor of Death

It is thought that Messina’s harbor was the one in which the Black Death entered into Europe. The year was 1347 and the era was known as the Middle Ages. It is thought that the Genoese ships returning from Jaffa, Palestine were the vessels in which the bacteria traveled to Europe.

Other Notables

Messina can also boast the first college for Jesuits which was founded here by St. Ignatius in 1548. The Christian victors of the Battle of Lepanto that was waged in 1571 are said to have left from Messina’s harbor. Cervantes who gained fame as a Spanish author was also in the battle and is said to have recovered for a period of time at the Grand Hospital.

One of Europe’s Finest

The 17th century is said to be when Messina was at its most splendid. It was thought to be one of Europe’s ten greatest cities while it was under the rule of the Spanish. But it was in 1674 that the Messina natives decided that foreign rule would have to go and with the help of Louis XIV, they were able to gain independence for a time.

There is much history to explore when you visit the harbor town of Messina. Important in the past, it is still a vital part of Sicily today that has matured and grown with the times.

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