History of Randazzo, Italy


See Randazzo guide for highlights and historic monuments

The first settlements in the Alcantara Valley date back to the late Copper and Bronze Age. Further down this page you can read the interesting story of whether Randazzo can also be identified as the ancient city of Tiracia.

However, beyond the possible antiquity of the site of Randazzo, contemporary scholars agree that the current town is of medieval origin and presumed to have a foundation dating to Byzantine times, and therefore to the 9th century AD. With the advent of the Arabs, the people of Latin origin searched for safer sites, and founded a village called "Randazzo".

With the end of the Ancient World, there was an increase of settlements in the area; some necropolis of Christian communities arose during the Byzantine and Arab times.

Foundation of modern Randazzo

Certainly we know that the name of Randazzo is clearly mentioned for the first time in a diploma of Roger II (1095-1154) datng from 1144:

"in which was granted to the Basilian Abbot of St. Angelo di Brolo the privilege of fishing in the Randazzo river" [9].

With the advent of the Norman era, a large group of “Lombardi was added to the ancient core of Greek and Latin populations. They moved into Sicily with the army of the Great Count Roger (1031-1101) when he married the Countess Adelasia (1074-1118). Protected by Adelasia, the “Lombardi” formed a colony in Randazzo, which preserved the local customs, language and its privileges. Thanks to the “Lombardi”, Randazzo became a large fortified medieval town.

The walls, reinforced with towers, were completed by Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250) and the construction of several churches took place - Randazzo remained a state property, directly under the authority of the royal demesne.

The kings of Aragon, Peter III (1282-1285) and Frederick III (1296-1337) chose it as their favourite residence:

"During the reign of Frederick III, the city received numerous benefits to reward its loyalty, especially for resisting, in 1299, the attempted the siege by Robert of Anjou, Duke of Calabria and son of Charles II, who, having failed to penetrate in Randazzo, devastated much of the cultivated fields. Under the Angevins the city had an intense economic growth and an unprecedented period of construction development" [10].

Decline of Randazzo from the late middle ages

According to studies, in the 16th century the decline of Randazzo began:

"Since the end of 1500, the city was affected by a period of decline. The signs of economic decline had already begun to emerge in the late 15th century. It is attributed to several factors: the tax burden ... the movement of traffic on coastal roads and those south of Etna, and the  economic development  of nearby Bronte" [11].

In the mid-16th century Randazzo suffered serious damage to its artistic and architectural heritage because of earthquakes and lava flows, which also appeared again in the early 1980s. Nevertheless, today the town offers a remarkable cultural heritage to tourists.

Identifying Randazzo with a more ancient city

The reconstruction of the ancient history of Randazzo gave scholars a lot of problems, because the various theories about its origins were very diverse and in many ways not sufficiently supported by documents.

The settlers from Chalcis and Naxos founded the first Greek colony in Sicily; then in time, other settlers established themselves along the banks of the river and the surrounding hills, giving rise, as evidenced by the issuance of coins of cities, to towns including like Piakos, Teirakion (Trinakria-Tiracia) and Tissa.

Some local historians such as Plumari, De Roberto and Vigo, suggested that the city belonged to a Pentapolis (a group of five cities) including Tiracii, Alesa, Triocala, Tissa, Demena, and that the town's former name was "Tiracia" or Trinakria, which was later destroyed by the Syracusans.

A theory that the ancient Tissa was situated where now stands the modern Randazzo was supported by several historians from the 16th century onwards.

Tissa, among other things, was mentioned by ancient authors such as Ptolemy (90-168 AD), Cicero (106-43 BC) and Pliny (23-79 AD). However, identifying Randazzo as Tissa was not accepted by other scholars such as G. E. Rizzo, who, on the basis of  assumptions made by Santo Mazzarino, the great historian of antiquity, tended to identify Tiracia-Tissa with a city called Piakos in the district of the Mendolito, on the south-western slopes of Etna and a few kilometers from Adrano.

According to Rizzo, referring to the studies by Santo Mazzarino,"it should be advisable to identify Trinakie and Piakos." [1]. The issue about the identification of Tiracia with Piakos, which "seems" indubitable, was very well explained by S. N. Consolo Langher:

"The hypothesis is validated by the beautiful bronze coinage of Piakos, of classic style. It was the work of the so-called 'Master of the Leaf', who worked in Katane [Catania] in the late classical period, a little before 430 BC (…) ... the town was destroyed in 440 BC (...) Therefore, we can surely identify Trinakie with Piakos (...) the strongest among the cities of the Sikels.” This city became so powerful as to force Syracuse to take action against it "with a ruthless aggression that, after an arduous struggle, ended with the victory of the Syracusans" [2].

However, the identification proposed by Santo Mazzarino, at first accepted, was subjected to an extensive review by subsequent studies. In 1970 G. Kenneth Jenkins intervened in the issue:

“Mazzarino [4], has suggested (...) a further argument (…) concerning the case of Piakos, which (rather than Palike) he takes to be the Sikel stronghold destroyed in 440 BC; the Piakos bronze coins, he argues, must therefore date from before 440 BC, suggesting comparably early dates for the similar catana pieces. This is also fallacious, as we now have a later coin of Piakos which proves that other coins of Piakos need not be before 440” [3].

Of the same opinion is E. Manni, who notes that:

"Seminerio rejects the opinion of Santo Mazzarino, who identified Trinakria with Piakos" [5].

Origins of the name Randazzo

The same uncertainty that applies to the ancient origins of the town also applies to the etymology. According to F. de Roberto, from Trinakria or " ‘Tiracia’ or ‘Trinacia’, according to some etymologists, we would derive the modern toponym of Randazzo, with the following order: Trinacium > Rinacium > Randacium (...) The Arab geographers spoke of a city called 'Tassah-Randah', which means precisely 'Tissa-Randazzo' [6].

Michele Amari, however, starting from ‘Tiracia’= Randazzo said that it would be of Byzantine origin:

"In both manuscripts of Ibn-el-Athlr I find a name [that] I interpret as 'Tiracia', which, according to some scholars,  would correspond to Randazzo. "Tiracia" is a Byzantine term, probably derived from 'Rendàkes' or 'Rendàkios', nickname of a patrician Sisinnio in the time of Leo the Isaurian (...) The ‘Chronicle of Cambridge’ in the year 934 mentions a Rendàsci as Governor of Taormina. Rhentacios was also the name of a mountain of Macedonia, which is mentioned in the wars of Patzinaci, towards the middle of the eleventh century. " [7].

The ancient city of Tiracia

As we referred so often to "Tiracia" or “Trinakria”, perhaps some more information would be interesting even if we can not be certain that it stands in the same location as modern Randazzo. N. Scorcia, writing in the 19th century about the ancient city of "Tiracia-Trinakria", observed that:

"Stephen of Byzantium [6th century AD] recalls this Byzantine city, calling it a ‘small town’, but a very rich town, adding that the historian Alexander Milesius, also known as Cornelius Alexander because he was a slave to Cornelius Lentulus, who lived in Rome in time of Sulla, described the city of 'Tiraceno', then called 'Tiracine' (…) the  inhabitants of which Pliny recalled as the 'Tiracienses' ...

... It was also mentioned by Diodorus, who spoke of Tiracia, a famous city for its (…)  magnanimous and strong citizens. Before  Syracuse became the most important city of the island, Trinacria was the first city among the cities of the Sikels, and it retained its independence until all the other Sicilian cities put up fierce resistance to the great power of Syracuse...

... The Syracusans,  fearing that in time Tiracia would dominate all the Sikels, attacked it with their allies. The inhabitants of Tiracia [Trinacria] heroically resisted the armies of Syracuse, preferring to die rather than surrender (...) No more we can say about Tiracia, except that (...) the tradition placed it in the location of the modern Randazzo [8].

See the Randazzo guide for more information if visitiing.

References

1. See F. Rizzo, “La repubblica di Siracusa nel momento di Ducezio”, 1970, p. 170 ff.

2. See S. N. Consolo Langher, “Contributo alla storia della antica moneta bronzea in Sicilia” , Giuffrè, 1964, Vol.  I, p. 104 and p. 139  note 9 and B. Heldring," Sicilian plastic vases ", Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht, 1981, pp. 65-66)

3. See G. Kenneth Jenkins, “The Coinage of Gela”, 1970, p. 67

4. Mazzarino in 'Anthemon', 'Scritti in Onore di Carlo Anti' (Florence 1955) 41 ff.,

5. See E. Manni, “Sikeliká kaí Italiká: scritti minori di storia antica della Sicilia e dell'Italia meridionale”, Rome , 1990, Vol.  I, p. 359

6. See F. De Roberto," Randazzo e la Valle dell’ Alcantara ...", 1909, p. 38

7. See M. Amari, “Storia dei Musulmani di Sicilia”, Le Monnier, 1854, Vol.  I, p. 350 note 2

8. See N. Scorcia, “Delle antiche città di Sicilia”, in “Rendiconti della Accademia di archeologia, lettere e belle arti”, 1868, p. 202

9. See G. Lo Giudice, “La fondazione della cassa rurale di Randazzo”, in  “Rivista internazionale di storia della banca”, Librairie Droz., 1984, p. 133 note 3

10. D. Palermo, “La rivolta del 1647 a Randazzo”, in “Mediterranea”, 2006,  p. 488, note 13

11. See D. Palermo, pp. 486-487