The History of Sciacca
Sciacca was formerly situated in the territory of Selinus, which included the famous “Baths” known since antiquity as the “Thermae Selinuntiae” and “Aquae Selinuntiae”, located about twenty miles east of Selinus. We don’t know with absolute certainty when Sciacca was born, but the most likely hypothesis is that it was a place founded or rather “repopulated” by the inhabitants of “Selinunte” after their city was destroyed by the Carthaginians in 409 BC. Many of those who managed to escape the massacre, says Diodorus [90-27 BC], sought refuge in Agrigento, but when the Carthaginian storm passed, most of them returned to rebuild their town or to find a new place in the surrounding area, creating a new village which was called “Sciacca”. Turning to historical data, we see that the antiquity of Sciacca is attested to by writers such as Pomponius Mela (first century AD), who wrote that “inter Pachynum et Lilybaeum Agragas est et Heraclea et Thermae”, namely that “between Pachino and Lilibeo there were three cities, that is “Agragas”,”Heraclea”and “Thermae” (“Terme=Sciacca”) and by Strabo (58-25 BC) who mentioned the “Thermà Selinoùntia”, (“Baths of Selinunte”). After the destruction of Selinunte many took refuge to “Thermae”, which became more populous. Since it is a border town (see etymology below – the name probably refers to ‘The Separating”), it was for a long times fought over among the Greeks, the Carthaginians, and finally by the Romans, who conquered it after the First Punic War. With the Roman conquest, Sciacca became an important city, a role it held through the centuries, as the main “post office” town in Sicily. The fall of the Roman Empire also marked the end of the prosperity of Sciacca, who suffered destructive invasions by the Vandals and the Goths. Defeated by Justinian, Sicily come under the dominion of the Byzantines. During the Byzantine rule some hermit monks settled in the territory of Sciacca, including San Calogero, who christianized some people in several places of Sicily. He stayed in Sciacca as a hermit in a cave on Mount Kronio, now also known as Mount San Calogero. However it was the Arabs that marked forever the history (other than the name) of Sciacca. Since the 9th century they had began a policy of expansion in the Mediterranean and in 827 conquered Mazara and finally, with a widespread penetration in eastern Sicily, in 840 they also conquered “Thermae”, which became under their rule “As Saqqa” or Sciacca. The Arabs later fortified the city with massive walls and a tower, which were further strengthened under the Normans and Frederick II (1194-1250). Count Roger (1031-1101) built the famous “Old Castle”. Sciacca was dominated by the Normans and their descendants for many years. In particular, it was ruled by the descendants of Giliberto Perrollo, a Burgundian who came to Sicily in the wake of Count Roger, whose daughter he married. From 1208 Sciacca and Sicily was ruled by the powerful figure of Frederick II and then by his descendants, until the advent of Charles of Anjou (1226-1285). Sciacca also participated in the so called “War of the Vespers” against the rule of Anjou. Then the city was ruled by Guglielmo Peralta, who was responsible for the construction of the “New Castle”. Throughout the 16th century Sciacca was the center of the struggles between the powerful local families of Peralta, Perollo and Luna. Between the 17th and much of the 18th and 19th centuries the city was ruled first by the Spanish and then by the Bourbons, until the unification of Italy in 1861.