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HISTORY
 

From the Sican reign of King Kokalos to the county of the Peralta family (13th century BC – 14th century AD), Caltabellotta, one of the most ancient towns of Sicily, lies on mount Kratas, in the southern section of the Sican Mountains. Its unique strong position on the mountain has made it a significant and strategic place for over two thousand years, throughout which Caltabellotta has been the protagonist of the history of a territory that goes from the river Belice to the river Platani. Fought over, dominated, sacked and destroyed by the peoples that occupied Sicily in the subsequent ages, Caltabellotta has always managed to survive and regenerate itself, sometimes changing its location and even its name. Two caves, located on the summit of Mount S. Pellegrino, bring us back to the prehistoric origins of Caltabellotta. The four necropolises that surround the town bear witness of a Sican presence back to the ancient Bronze age. The first settlement on the nearby Mount Gulča dates back to the protohistoric age; then it extended to the adjacent S. Benedetto terrace first, and to the nearby villages later, generating the town of Inycon. Initially the acropolis was founded on top of Mount Gulča, but the royal site was moved around the 13th century BC to the nearby rock called Camico, today Gogāla, the eponym of its illustrious king Kokalos. The town, which became legendary for resisting a siege which lasted five years, is today listed among the most famous acropolises of ancient times, together with the contemporary Mycene, Pergamon of Troy and Cadmea of Thebes. In the 6th century BC, Caltabellotta achieved a high development level but, after its Hellenization, it had to change its Sican name Inycon, recalled by Herodotus and Plato for the last time (5th century BC), into the Greek name Triokala, mentioned for the first time by Philistus of Syracuse (5th century BC). The new place-name was the synthesis of three beneficial properties: abundance of water, fertility of the soil and a strong defence system (Diodorus). In 258 BC, during the first Punic war, the town was destroyed by the Romans. However, unlike all the other Sicilian fortified settlements whose memory has been lost, Triokala had a revival because its inhabitants refounded Trokalis (the New Triokala) in the vicinity of the village of Sant’Anna, today called Contrada Troccoli. The history of Gogāla had the same course of the old town, but its history did not finish in the 3rd century BC because it was later called to witness more extraordinary events. During the Second Servile War (104-99 BC), the slaves’ leader, Salvius Tryphon, decided to avoid the town as he thought it was a cause of inertia and sloth (Diodorus), and with his men settled on the San Benedetto terrace and Gogāla rock, giving a new life to the town destroyed by the Romans. This lasted for only five years, because the clash was concluded with the defeat of the insurgents. The thousand surviving slaves were led to Rome in chains by Satirus and preferred suicide rather than fighting against the wild beasts in the arena, thus marking an important page of history with their sacrifice. Under the Roman rule first and the Byzantine rule later, Trokalis had to live as a tributary town for over ten centuries. With the triumph of Christianity, the settlement became the seat of a Sicilian diocese, whose borders were once again marked by the rivers Platani and Belice. The story goes that its first bishop was San Pellegrino, who had come from Lucca of Greece. In the 9th century AD, the population, threatened by Saracen raids, was forced to go back again on Mount Kratas top, where a new settlement was founded in a corner of the Gogala, today called Terravecchia, and was called Balateta (R. Pirro). When the Arabs arrived (860-1091), the village adopted the name Qalat al Balat, which meant fortress built on the balate, the way the local flat stones were called (Edrisi), and from which today’s name Caltabellotta derives. The Muslims were chased away by Count Roger in 1091 and moved to the nearby Sciacca, where they settled in a neighbourhood that is still called Rābato. The Arabs were followed by the Normans who closed the access way to Qalat al Balat with a city wall and two gates (Salvo Porto and San Salvatore). The Normans remained until December 29, 1194, when William III, the last heir to the Norman throne, and his mother, Queen Sibyl, were taken by fraud from the Castle of Caltabellotta, where they had took refuge, and were accused to have plotted against Henry VI of Swabia, were arrested and led to Germany as prisoners. This event inspired Wolfram von Eschenbach at mid 1200… the castle of Caltabellotta in his Parsifal. The Normans were replaced by the Swabian dynasty. The return of Guy d’Ampierre from the crusade led by the French king Louis IX was celebrated in the same castle in 1270 with a rich banquet whose noble participants were cheered up by the most renowned minstrel of the time, Adam le Roi. When the Vespro Revolution burst out (March 31, 1282), Caltabellotta followed the example of the Palermitans. The war between Angevins and Aragonese ended on August 29, 1302 with a peace treaty signed in Caltabellotta and Frederick III of Aragon who had come to help the Sicilians became king of Sicily with the title of Frederick II. The Spanish domination marked a period of decadence of the central political and administrative role of Caltabellotta and its territory was divided into counties. In 1338, by will of the king, Peter II of Aragon, the Admiral of the reign, Raimondo Peralta, was designated as the first count of Caltabellotta. In the summer 1400, after the marriage between Artale de Luna and Margherita Peralta Chiaramonte, the daughter of William, the county passed under the Luna family, who received the lands and castles of Bivona, Cristia, Giuliana, Poggio Diana and Sciacca as dowry.
The Spanish remained until 1713, when Sicily was assigned ot the Piedmontese Amadeus II and, after a short period of Austrian rule, in 1734 it was annexed to the Borbone reign of Naples. The rest of its history is recent. Obviously, today Caltabellotta no longer holds the political and administrative power it had once as a capital city of the Sican reign of Kokalos, but it has preserved the privilege of (virtually) ruling all the surrounding towns from the top of its Castello Luna (the Luna Castle). In summer nights, the lights from all these villages and towns mark the border of the entire area where once massive castles rose. Today, what remains is its wonderful position, at about 900 meters of altitude, with a valley sloping down towards the coast, as a European observatory on Africa. “The extraordinary aerial beauty of Caltabellotta”, as W. Goethe wrote. This enchanting town that cuddles the stars lies at the same latitude as Tunis: it is sometimes covered with snow in the winter or is wrapped up in a thick fog, but the sun makes it always look as a charming fresh and ventilated town at only 20 km from the African sea. Its historic centre consists in a network of small Medieval streets, yards and squares with many signs of its Arab past and houses that, after fine restoration works, are the ideal place for a long stay, made even more pleasant by the friendliness of its residents, by the genuine goodness of its products, by the richness of its cultural and entertainment events.

 

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